28 Mar 2012
Bonhams is trying to find the family of a Spanish merchant who assisted Britain during the 1800's and who by way of thanks the Prince Regent presented with a set of dueling pistols. The guns are being sold in Bonhams sale of Antique Arms and Armor on April 18th in London for £4,000 to £5,000.
Lot 237 in the sale is a rare cased pair of 28-bore saw-handled flintlock dueling pistols "Presented To Don Francisco De Sayus From H.R.H. The Prince Regent Of Great Britain." They were made by H.W. Mortimer & Son, 89 Fleet St, London, Gun-Maker To His Majesty, circa 1812.
David Williams, Director of Bonhams Antique Arms and Armor Department, says: "It would be wonderful to be in a position to understand who this Spanish gentleman was as it would greatly add to the provenance and appraise of this pair of pistols. His actions to assist Britain must have been significant to have solicited a royal response of the kind made by the Prince Regent."
It appears likely that the recipient of these pistols was Don Francisco de Sayus of Santander, a Spanish merchant who is listed in directories of the period as supplying large quantities of flour to the American Isles, as well as in the administration of local justice and government. His role in aiding Britain is unclear, but it is possible that an act of passive resistance, such as diverting supplies to British forces or denying them to the French, would have earned him the appellation "Friend of Britain."
According to a handwritten note included with the lot, the pistols were given to Stephen R. Mallory Sec. of the Confederate States Navy, by Major Fitzpatrick of South Carolina – Maj. Fitzpatrick bought them from a Spanish army officer in Cuba sometime before the Civil War. Stephen R. Mallory (1812-1873) served as a Senator for Florida in the United States Senate between 1850 and 1861, during which time he was Chairman of a Committee on Naval Affairs. After the secession he followed his state, serving the Confederate States of America as Secretary of the Navy under Jefferson Davis throughout the life of the Confederacy. After the war he was held on charges of treason, but was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson in 1866, returning to his home state to practice law until his death.
The pistols have octagonal sighted. Inlaid on each side opposite the lock there is a silver scroll engraved To Don Francisco de Sayus - The Spanish Patriot - The Friend of Britain, and a silver roundel engraved with the royal arms above From H.R.H. The Prince Regent of Gt. Britain. It has 23.5 cm long barrels.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and appraisal services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com