British Historical Medals from the Collection formed by Robert Thomas

Date of Auction: 7th December 2015

Sold for £360

Estimate: £200 - £300

Cambridge University, Head of the River, 1864, a glazed silver award medal by Peters, Cambridge, silver rim band named (C.W. Dilke, Trinity Hall, No. 3, 1864), 51mm; Royal Society of Arts, a silver award medal by L.C. Wyon, named (The Right Hon. Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke, Bart., MP, for his Paper on “The Century in our Colonies”, Session 1899-1900), 56mm (BHM 2794; E 1567) [2]. Extremely fine, first with lunettes held with silver rim, in polished ebony fitted case with silver shield listing the Head of the River Crew for 1864 and their weights, second in original maroon case £200-300


Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke, 2nd Bt (1843-1911), son of Sir Charles Dilke, 1st Bt (see Lot 504); b London; educ. privately and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he was twice president of the Cambridge Union, 1865-6; called to the Bar, April 1866; undertook a world tour, 1866-7; Liberal MP for Chelsea 1868-86; under-secretary of State for Foreign Affairs 1880-2; admitted to Privy Council 1882; president of the Local Government Board 1882-5. An oft-controversial figure who in his early years as an MP had suggested that the UK became a republic, Dilke’s status was such that by the mid-1880s he was being thought of as the Liberal party successor to William Gladstone and as a future prime minister, but his private life was about to spectacularly unravel. His first wife Katherine had died in childbirth in 1874 and Dilke had subsequently begun an affair with Ellen, wife of the Liberal politician Thomas Eustace Smith (1831-1903) and mother-in-law of his younger brother Ashton Dilke (1850-83). The affair continued after Dilke himself married Emilia Strong (1840-1904), widow of the rector of Lincoln College, Oxford, in 1884, and in July 1885 Dilke was accused of seducing the Eustace Smith’s 22-year old daughter Virginia (1862-1948), herself married to the MP Donald Crawford (1837-1919). What became known as the Crawford scandal, a spectacular divorce suit played out in front of a packed gallery in February 1886, resulted in Dilke refusing to give evidence. The judge dismissed the suit and awarded Dilke costs, but Dilke sought to clear his name and had the case re-opened. Under cross-examination by the tenacious lawyer and former MP Henry Matthews (1826-1913), Dilke proved an unconvincing witness, the Crawford decree absolute was granted and Dilke’s reputation, tarnished by lurid rumours about his love life and sexual depravity, ruined. The scandal resulted in Dilke losing his parliamentary seat in the 1886 General Election, while Matthews, the former member for Dungarvan, secured Birmingham East for the Conservatives and, reportedly on the strong recommendation of Queen Victoria, was promptly appointed Home Secretary in Lord Salisbury’s cabinet. The Queen, like most of London society, had followed the Crawford scandal with great interest and asked that Dilke be stripped of his membership of the Privy Council at the same time that Matthews joined it, but her request was declined. Largely exonerated by an inquiry in the early 1890s, Dilke rejoined Parliament as MP for the Forest of Dean in 1892 and served until his death. Sold with extensive detail on the Crawford scandal