The Baird Jewels and Archive (19 September 2003)

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Date of Auction: 19th September 2003

Sold for £7,000

Estimate: £8,000 - £12,000

Sir David Baird’s rare and important Gold Medal for Seringapatam, 1799

Obverse, the British Lion subduing a tiger, the emblem of Tipu Sultan’s Government, with a banner above bearing the Union badge and an Arabic inscription ‘Assud otta-ul Ghaulib’ (‘The conquering Lion of God’), on the ground below the tiger the artist’s initials, ‘C. H. K.’, in the exergue ‘IV.MAY.MDCCXCIX’

Reverse, a representation of the storming of the breach at Seringapatam (based on a drawing that was made on the spot), with the meridian sun denoting the time of the storm, in the exergue, in Persian, ‘The Fort of Seringapatam, the gift of God, the 4th May 1799’

Soho Mint, Birmingham striking, 48mm. diameter, pierced at 12 o’clock and fitted with gold ring suspension,
edge bruising and contact marks, otherwise good very fine £8,000-12,000

Footnote

Just 30 original Gold Medals for Seringapatam were struck by Matthew Boulton’s Soho Mint in Birmingham. The later, Calcutta Mint issues, which were smaller and of inferior quality, were ordered by the Bengal Presidency several years later.

Mayo’s
Medals and Distinctions of the British Army and Navy states:

‘The Court of Directors of the East India Company on 24th September, 1799, resolved that the thanks of the Court be given to the Earl of Mornington, Governor-General; Lord Clive, Governor of Madras; Jonathan Duncan, Esq., Governor of Bombay; Lieutenant-General George Harris, Commander-in-Chief at Seringaptam; the Officers of the King’s and Company’s Armies engaged at Seringapatam on 4th May 1799; and Lieutenant-General Stuart, Commanding the Bombay Army, for their services in, and in connection with, the campaign which resulted in the capture of Seringapatam on 4th May 1799. On 13th November, 1799, the General Court of the East India Company passed identical resolutions.

These resolutions make no mention of a medal. In February 1801, orders were, however, given for the preparation of 30 gold medals, 185 silver gilt, 850 silver, 5000 copper bronzed, and 45,000 pure tin. The cost amounted to £3915, 13s. 11d.

This medal, like Davison’s for the Battle of the Nile, was designed by C. H. Küchler, and made by Mr. Matthew Boulton at the Soho Mint, Birmingham. The artist carried out the same idea on both medals, - viz. a representation of the action and an indication, by the position of the sun, of the time of day at which it took place. The use of different metals for the various ranks was an adaption of Mr. Davison’s idea in the case of the Nile Medal. The medals were made in 1801-2, but, for some reason not apparent, none were sent to India for distribution until 1808.

The Royal sanction for wearing the medal was accorded, in respect of the Company’s officers, in 1815. There does not appear to have been a similar sanction in regard to the Royal Army until 1851, when, in the Horse Guards General Order announcing the grant of the ‘India 1799-1826’ Medal, it was stated that the officers and soldiers of the Crown who had received the Seringapatam Medal, had Her Majesty’s permission to wear the same.

There is some uncertainty as to how, and with what ribbon, these medals were generally worn. There is no doubt that they were issued unmounted, and, as no directions had been given by the authorities, details as to ribbon and mountings devolved on the recipients, who exercised their own discretion and taste. It is, however, probable that the European officers wore them as the gold medals for the Peninsula and other campaigns were worn - i.e. round the neck, or at the button-hole, according to rank. Some added a clasp bearing the word ‘Seringapatam’.’

Note
This lateness of royal approval to wear the award while in the service of the British Army is not without interest, Baird having died a good 20 years before. Indeed, this would account for his Seringapatam Medal being conspicuously absent from all of his known portraits in uniform.

References

Mayo, J. H.,
Medals and Distinctions of the British Army and Navy (London, 1897), vol. 1, pp. 189-192

Joslin, E. C., Litherland, A. R., and Simpkin, B. T.,
British Battles and Medals (London, 1988)