Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria, to include the Brian Ritchie Collection (Part II) (2 March 2005)

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Date of Auction: 2nd March 2005

Sold for £14,000

Estimate: £12,000 - £15,000

The important Third Mahratta War medal specially sanctioned to Sir Richard Jenkins, G.C.B., Resident at Nagpore 1810-27, who was present at the battle of Seetabuldee and the capture of Nagpore, and later a Director and Chairman of the Honourable East India Company

Army of India 1799-1826, 1 clasp, Seetabuldee & Nagpore (Rd. Jenkins. Esqr. Rest. at Nagpoor) short hyphen reverse, officially impressed naming, fitted with contemporary silver ribbon buckle, very fine, a rare and important medal £12000-15000

Footnote

Only 19 clasps for Seetabuldee & Nagpore issued to European recipients, this being unique to a civilian.

In announcing the Queen’s assent to the award of the “India Medal” to the Government of India in March 1851, the Hon. Court of Directors specified at Clause 7 that ‘It is our intention to present the Medal granted for Kirkee and Poona to the Honourable Mount Stuart Elphinstone, and the Medal for Seetabuldee and Nagpoor to Sir Richard Jenkins, G.C.B., in testimony of their services during the military operations in those actions respectively.’ Elphinstone’s medal was sold at Glendining in October 1981, and at Spink in March 1997.

Richard Jenkins was the eldest son of Richard Jenkins of Bicton Hall, Shropshire, and was born at Cruckton, near Shrewsbury, on 18 February 1785. He was nominated a Writer on the Bombay Establishment in 1798 and arrived in India in 1800. Having made his mark at the Company’s College at Fort William, he entered the Governor-General’s office and, in 1804, was appointed First Assistant to Webbe, the British Resident at the court of Doulat Rao Scindia of Gwalior. At about this time he became a close friend of the young Resident at Nagpore, the scholar and bon viveur Mountstuart Elphinstone, whose ‘love of literature and sport’ he shared. Without necessarily referring to his linguistic abilities Elphinstone wrote: ‘Jenkins understands all languages perfectly.’

In 1804, amid British concern over the power struggle for control the Mahratta Confederacy, Webbe was taken ill and died, whereupon the responsibility for British interests at Scindia’s court devolved on Jenkins, who was duly appointed Acting Resident, pending the arrival of Webbe’s successor, Colonel Close from Poona. At length Scindia’s hostile posturings forced Jenkins to sever diplomatic relations, and he prepared to withdraw his embassy. But Scindia prevaricated and at the end of January 1805, before Jenkins could depart, a body of the Scindia’s Pindarries rendered him and ‘his associates virtually prisoners’. They were released nine months later on the demand of Lord Lake as a condition to the opening of the negotiations which led to the treaty of November 1805.

In 1807, Jenkins was appointed to take charge of the Residency at Nagpore, when Elphinstone was despatched on a mission to Afghanistan, and later became Resident on Elphinstone’s appointment to Poona in 1810. At this time Jenkins first suggested, in several communications to Lord Minto, the annihilation of the predatory Pindarry gangs who, issuing ‘like wild dogs from between the feet of their nominal masters’, the Mahratta princes, laid waste great stretches of countryside. Jenkins’ design was later adopted by the Marquis of Hastings who invited the Mahratta princes to join in the suppression of the Pindarries. Naturally, this step was viewed with dislike in the Mahratta capitals and ultimately led to the start of the Pindarry, or Third Mahratta War in 1817.

Earlier that year at Nagpore, Appa Sahib, the regent of the Berar and Nagpore, seized the throne after murdering his ward. Initially Appa Sahib, the Bhonsla, proved friendly to the British and entered into a subsidiary treaty but his intrigues with the Peshwa at Poona naturally aroused Jenkins’ suspicion. As had happened with Elphinstone at Poona, the tension mounted intolerably at Nagpore, and for many weeks Jenkins lived under the shadow of the Bhonsla’s decision to throw in his lot with the Pindarries which might be announced at any moment with an attack on the Residency and his own death. On 23 November 1817, Appa Sahib informed Jenkins that he intended to publicly receive a ‘khelut’, or honorary dress, from the Peshwa, with all the ceremony befitting the Bhonsla, and requested that the Resident or a deputy should mark the event with his presence and that a salute be fired in the British cantonment. Jenkins promptly reminded the Bhonsla that his country was at war with the Peshwa and to accept the khelut would prove highly offensive to the British. In spite of Jenkins’ clarification of the British standpoint, the Bhonsla, mounted on his elephant, next day proceeded in great state to a parade of his troops at Suckurdurra and was duly invested with the offending garment. Furthermore, he used the occasion to accept the Peshwa’s commission as Commander-in-Chief of the Mahratta armies. The Zireeputka, or royal standard, was displayed, salutes fired and sabres rattled.

On the 25th, Jenkins found his messengers barred from the Mahratta camp and the markets shut against Company troops and camp followers. Towards noon, a party of 2,000 Mahratta horse approached the Residency and Pindarries were reported close by. Though anxious to avoid precipitating hostilities, Jenkins, being responsible for the lives of his staff and their ladies, instructed at 2 p.m. Lieutenant-Colonel Hopetoun Scott, the senior officer on the spot, to move his meagre forces of 1,500 men from the British cantonment at Telincary, three miles distant, to a defensible position above the Residency in the Seetabuldee hills. From dawn on the 26th, the British force watched the Mahrattas bring up their guns and deploy, but dared not to interfere in the hope that hostilities could still yet be avoided. At sunset, the Bhonsla sent two of his ministers to state his grievances and while they were in conference with Jenkins the action, accidentally it is believed, commenced ‘without the knowledge of the ministers in the residency.’

The Bhonsla’s army of 20,000 men attacked Scott’s position in force for eighteen hours and ultimately it seemed that the severely depleted force of Company troops on Seetabuldee hill would be overwhelmed and destroyed. At that moment, Captain FitzGerald (Ritchie 1-36) made his epic charge and turned the tide of the battle, securing an astonishing victory. Jenkins, who actively encouraged the troops throughout, was noticed in despatches, and later was named in a speech made in the House of Commons by George Canning, the President of the Board of Control, who said: “At Nagpore, as at Poona, an attack was suddenly made on the British residency while the attention of the Governor-General was supposed exclusively occupied with the Pindarry war. A similar resistance was successfully opposed to this attack, by the resident, Mr Jenkins, who affords another instance of the happy union of military qualifications with diplomatic skill, and whose courage and constancy had been heretofore displayed under very trying circumstances, when after the former Mahratta war, he held the office of resident at the court of Scindia.”

General Orders written shortly after the Battle of Seetabuldee record: ‘The Rajah sent in vakeels to sue for a suspension of hostilities, but the Resident, Mr. Jenkins, refused to communicate with him until all the troops were withdrawn from the vicinity of the residency, which was accordingly done. Reinforcements are on their march to Nagpore from several quarters, and a considerable British force will shortly be assembled there. His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief is to direct a royal salute be fired from the artillery park. By command of his Excellency the Governor-General.’ Before the reinforcements arrived, however, Jenkins demanded the immediate surrender of the Bhonsla and the disbandment of his army, but it proved necessary to await the arrival of the three brigades under Brigadier-General Doveton and the successful outcome of the Battle of Nagpore on 16 December before these conditions could be exacted. Later, although deposed, Appa Sahib continued his intrigues with the Peshwa, compelling Jenkins to arrest and imprison him on 15 March 1818. Rahuji, an infant grandson of Rahuji II, was set up in his place under British tutelage, and Jenkins became the virtual ruler of the kingdom of Nagpore until December 1826, when its future was determined under a treaty drawn up by himself.

Jenkins returned to England in 1828 and went to live on his estate at Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury. On 20 July 1838 he was created a Knight Grand Cross of the Bath, which as the Marquess of Wellesley pointed out in a letter to Jenkins was the first occasion that it had been conferred on an Indian Civil Servant below the rank of Governor. He was chosen as Deputy-Chairman of the H.E.I.Co. in 1839, and represented Shrewsbury in the Conservative interest between 1830 and 1841. The University of Oxford made him a D.C.L., and he served as a Deputy-Lieutenant for Shropshire and as a J.P. for Middlesex. He died on 30 December 1853, at his residence, Gothic Cottage, Blackheath.

Refs: Dictionary of National Biography; East India Military Calendar; Medals and Decorations of the British Army & Navy (Mayo).