A Collection of Medals to Members of the Nobility and The Royal Household

Date of Auction: 8th December 2016

Sold for £300

Estimate: £200 - £240

The mounted group of seven miniature dress medals worn by Lieutenant-Colonel the Honourable M. V. B. Brett, Royal Highlanders, late Coldstream Guards, who served as Aide-de-Camp to General Sir John French and married Zena Dare, a star of the stage and screen

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, O.B.E. (Military) Officer’s 1st type breast badge, silver-gilt; The Royal Victorian Order, M.V.O. Member’s 5th Class breast badge, silver and enamel; 1914 Star, with clasp; British War and Victory Medals, with M.I.D. oak leaves; Coronation 1902, silver; Coronation 1911; France, Third Republic, Legion of Honour, 4th Class breast badge, gold and enamel, lacking reverse central medallion, with rosette on riband, mounted as worn, generally very fine (8) £200-240


The Honourable Maurice Vyner Baliol Brett was born on 24 April 1882, the second son of the 2nd Viscount Esher and his wife Eleanor, daughter of Mr. Sylvain Van de Weyer, Belgian Minister to the Court of St. James, and was educated at Eton and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, where he received the Sword of Honour in 1902. Commissioned into the Coldstream Guards as a Second Lieutenant in 1902, he served as Aide-de-Camp to the Inspector General of the Forces at the Service of Thanksgiving for the conclusion of the Boer War at St. Paul’s Cathedral in November of that year, and was appointed a Member of the Royal Victorian Order for performing that role (London Gazette 9 November 1902). Promoted Lieutenant on 9 October 1904, he was appointed Aide-de-Camp to Lieutenant-General Sir John French (later Field Marshal the Lord French, Earl of Ypres), General Officer Commanding-in-Chief at Aldershot, on 7 March 1905; his appointment as Aide-de-Camp may have owed something to the fact that his father, Lord Esher, had described French as ‘the outstanding soldier of his generation, both as a field commander but also as a thinker’ when recommending him for the newly created role of Chief of the General Staff in the Esher Report of 1904, which recommended radical reform of the Army. He stayed with French for the next seven years, until the latter’s eventual appointment as Chief of the Imperial General Staff in March 1912. Promoted Captain on 8 February 1911, he subsequently transferred to the 6th (Perthshire) Battalion, Royal Highlanders, and served as Aide-de-Camp to Lieutenant-General Sir John Ewart, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Scottish Command, from February 1914 until the outbreak of the Great War. He served throughout the Great War on the Staff in France from 19 October 1914, and was appointed temporary Lieutenant-Colonel on 1 October 1916. He was four times Mentioned in Despatches (London Gazettes 1 January 1916, 4 January 1917, 11 December 1917, and 20 May 1918); was awarded the 4th Class of the French Legion of Honour (London Gazette 1 May 1917); was created an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (London Gazette 7 June 1918). He transferred to the Territorial Army Reserve with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel on 25 February 1919.

Brett married Miss Zena Dones, the daughter of Arthur Dones Esq., on 23 January 1911, with whom he had one son and two daughters. He was appointed Deputy Keeper and Librarian of the London Museum in 1919, and died in the museum’s library from a heart attack on 18 August 1934. His wife, under the stage name Zena Dare, had been a star of the London musical stage prior to her marriage, and served during the Great War with the French Red Cross. She resumed her stage career in 1926, and played a number of leading roles, staring and working alongside such luminaries of the West End as Noël Coward, Ivor Novello, and John Gielgud.

For the recipient’s full size medals, see Lot 98.

For the medals to Zena, the Hon. Mrs. Maurice Brett, see Lot 125.