Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (11 & 12 December 2013)

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Date of Auction: 11th & 12th December 2013

Sold for £35,000

Estimate: £20,000 - £25,000

An outstanding Peninsula group of three awarded to General Sir Robert Harvey, 53rd Foot, Deputy Assistant Quarter-Master General to the British Army, Quarter-Master General and Second-in-Command under Marshal Beresford of the Portuguese Army

Field Officer’s Gold Medal, for Orthes (Lieut. Coll. R. Harvey, Asst. Qr. Mr. Genl. Portug. Tps.) complete with gold ribbon buckle; Military General Service 1793-1814, 9 clasps, Busaco, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive, Toulouse (Sir R. J. Harvey, C.B. Major Portse. Serce. & A.Q.M.G.); Portuguese Gold Cross for Six Campaigns, English type of superior manufacture, hallmarked London 1819, by A. J. Strachan, the edges of the cross inscribed ‘Te. Corb. Sir Robt. Harvey A.Q.M.G.’, with gold bar suspension and gold ribbon buckle, extremely fine (3) £20000-25000


Robert John Harvey entered the 53rd (Shropshire) Regiment as Ensign in 1803; Lieutenant, 60th Regiment 1804; Captain, 53rd Regiment 1806; attended Military College at High Wycombe, 1807-09, and served briefly in Ireland as Aide de Camp to Brigadier General Lightburne. He rejoined his regiment in March 1809, it being ordered on foreign service.

Harvey accompanied the 53rd to Portugal and served as Assistant Quartermaster General of the British and of the Portuguese armies in Portugal, Spain, and France, from 1809 to the close of the war in 1814, and was present at the battles of the passage of the Douro and Busaco, second siege of Badajoz, siege and storm of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz (wounded 6 April), battle of Salamanca, siege of Burgos, battles of Vittoria, Pyrenees (slightly wounded), Nivelle, Nive, Orthes, and Toulouse, besides numerous minor affairs.

From 1809 to 1811 he was employed in procuring intelligence of the enemy in advance of the army, in organising no less than nine Portuguese Guerilla Corps, the officers of which presented him with an elegant sword in testimony of his services with them; and in resisting the attempt of the enemy’s passage of the Tagus at Chamusca.

From 1811 to 1814 he was the organ of communication between the Duke of Wellington and the Portuguese troops, of whom he was second-in-command under Marshal Beresford. For his conduct at the battle of Orthes, Harvey was thanked by name in the public orders of the Portuguese army, and was granted the Gold Medal. In addition he was made a Commander of St Benito d’Avis and a Knight of the Tower and Sword.

Harvey accompanied Wellington to Paris where the Duke acted as British Ambassador. His last service to his Commanding Officer was to carry despatches from Paris to Lord Beresford at Lisbon. ‘He performed the journey of nearly 1,400 miles, from Paris to Lisbon, on horse-back in fourteen days, a feat rarely accomplished by an equestrian, and one which may be truly considered of an extraordinary character, considering the season of the year, the nature of the country to be passed, and the danger to which he was exposed. That he should have been stopped by banditi who robbed him of everything but his despatches, and a few pieces of silver which he managed to save from them by pleading that he had “fought for their country”, is typical of Colonel Harvey’s extraordinary experiences in the Peninsula.’

On his return to England Harvey married, settled near Norwich, and took a prominent part in local affairs. Placed on half-pay in 1816, he was Knighted in 1817, and promoted to Colonel in 1830. He was made a Companion of the Bath in 1831, and received subsequent promotion in rank to Major-General in 1841, to Lieutenant-General in 1851, and to General in 1859. He was appointed Colonel of the 2nd West India Regiment in 1848.

During his no-less active civil career Sir Robert became a member of the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquaries; founding fellow and member of the Council of the Botanic Society; founding member of the United Service Club; promoter of the British Gas Light Company, consequently Norwich was one of the first cities in England to be illuminated by coal gas; Director and Deputy Chairman, Eastern Counties Railway; Director of the Norwich Fire and Norwich Life Offices; and founder member and Chairman of the General Reversionary Interest Society in London. General Sir Robert Harvey died at Norwich in June 1860.

Harvey was additionally awarded the Order of the Bath, C.B., in 1831, the Portuguese Orders of the Tower and Sword, Commander, and St Benedict of Aviz, Knight Commander, and the Portuguese Commander’s Cross for Ten Actions. His group was sold by Christie’s in April 1992 when it was also accompanied by a fine Iberian Presentation Sabre.

There is a note in the diary of Major-General Sir Alexander Dickson that at the King's levee on March 21st, 1821, Colonel Harvey wore his “cross, being of gold, VI in the centre, which he had had made at his own expense.”