Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (3 December 2020)

Date of Auction: 3rd December 2020

Sold for £16,000

Estimate: £14,000 - £18,000

The Small Gold Medal for Talavera awarded to Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Seymour, who led the 23rd Light Dragoons in their infamous charge with Anson’s cavalry brigade; he was afterwards Serjeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons 1812-35

Field Officer’s Small Gold Medal, for Talavera 1809 (Lieut. Col: Hy. Seymour 23rd Lt. Dns.) completed with three-pronged gold ribbon buckle, extremely fine £14,000-£18,000


Henry Seymour was born in about 1776, only son of Lord Robert Seymour by his first wife Anne Delmé. He was commissioned Cornet in the 10th Light Dragoons on 20 February 1793, becoming Lieutenant on 26 February 1794; Captain, 13 May 1795; and Major, 31 July 1801. On 14 February 1805, Seymour became Lieutenant-Colonel of the 23rd Light Dragoons, and, as with his previous commissions, by purchase.

The 23 Light Dragoons arrived in the Peninsula in June 1809 joining Sir Arthur Wellesley’s little army in time for the Talavera campaign. At Talavera on 27-28 July, the 23rd under Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Seymour formed a brigade under Brigadier-General George Anson, along with the 1st Hussars of the King’s German Legion. Ordered to charge French infantry threatening the allied left flank, Anson’s brigade ran into serious trouble thanks to the unsuspected presence of a dry watercourse directly in its path. The K.G.L. Hussars avoided the worst of it, but the 23rd were badly disordered and, although Seymour rallied about half the regiment and led them on, these troops, unhorsed and injured in the ravine, were cut off and near-annihilated by a French counterattack. So badly were the 23rd broken by their misadventures at Talavera that the regiment was ordered home to be rebuilt, having lost 207 all ranks killed, wounded or missing out of a total of about 480. Seymour retired by the sale of his commission on 15 March the following year but not as a matter of disgrace. Napier, in his history of the Peninsula War, says that Seymour was severely wounded, but his name is not on the casualty list and it appears more likely that the cause of his resigning his commission was due to illness, as alluded to in a letter, barely four weeks after the battle, from Wellington to the Right Hon. John Villiers:

‘Badajoz, 26th September, 1809.

My dear Villiers.
Some time ago Colonel Seymour, of the 23rd Light Dragoons, who is still very unwell, and who has obtained leave to go to England, sent me the enclosed letter, and the resignation of his commission, which I likewise enclose. I can easily conceive the feeling which induced Seymour to resign at the moment he did; and I should certainly wish that his wife should enjoy all the advantage to be derived from this act; and I have acted in such a manner as to secure it to her. At the same time, I should consider it a great misfortune, in the event of Seymour’s recovery, if he were to be lost to the service, in a view both to himself and the public; and I have always determined, if he should recover before he left Portugal, to give him the option again, whether he would retire or not. I understand that he is not yet so well as I expected he would be; but it is more than probable that his health will be considerably re-established before his arrival in Lisbon, or, at all events, before his embarkation.
I wish you, therefore, upon his arrival at Lisbon, to tell him that I am willing to give him an option then to receive back his resignation; but if you should think him so ill as that he might die on the passage, and his wife might lose the benefit of his resignation if he were now to take it back, I beg you to tell him that he shall have the option of recalling his resignation when he shall arrive in England, and that I will take no steps upon it till I have heard from him after his arrival.
If he should not take back his resignation, or if he should be so ill as that you think it proper to leave it to his option to have it back when he shall arrive in England, I beg you to return the enclosed papers.

Believe me, &c.,

Despite Wellington’s determined efforts to avoid such an outcome, Lieutenant-Colonel Seymour duly resigned his commission on 15 March 1810. The award of his medal was announced in the London Gazette of 11 September 1810. After his retirement from the Army he was appointed Serjeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons, an office he held from 1812 to 1835.

He married Hon. Emily Byng (d. 1824), daughter of George Byng, 4th Viscount Torrington, on 1 July 1800. Colonel Henry Seymour died on 13 February 1843.