An Historic Gold-Inlaid 120-Bore Three-Barrelled Flintlock Box-Lock Tap-Action Pocket Pistol Present

This lot has been removed from the website, please contact customer services for more information

Lot 396
An Historic Gold-Inlaid 120-Bore Three-Barrelled Flintlock Box-Lock Tap-Action Pocket Pistol Presented In 1802 By Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Thornton To Napoleon Bonaparte As First Consul
By Durs Egg, London, Circa 1800

Sold for £ 38,400 (US$ 47,670) inc. premium
An Historic Gold-Inlaid 120-Bore Three-Barrelled Flintlock Box-Lock Tap-Action Pocket Pistol Presented In 1802 By Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Thornton To Napoleon Bonaparte As First Consul
By Durs Egg, London, Circa 1800
With blued turn-off barrels each inlaid with an engraved gold foliate band around the muzzle and breech, and numbered from '1' to '3', the top barrel in gold, blued border engraved breech-block signed in gold beneath and inlaid with three engraved gold stars and a gold starburst on each side, blued tap inlaid en suite, blued border engraved action inlaid in gold with Thornton's engraved coat-of-arms and motto on one side, and with a scroll engraved with the battle honour 'Marengo' against a martial trophy on the other, blued gold-inlaid cock engraved with a dolphin highlighted in gold on each side, blued thumbpiece safety-catch also locking the blued steel and each inlaid with engraved gold foliage, blued border engraved trigger-guard inlaid with an engraved gold martial trophy on the bow, figured flat-sided butt inlaid with gold wire scrollwork and engraved gold foliage involving a quiver of arrows on each side, and in fine condition retaining much of its original blueing
3.1 cm. barrels

Footnotes

  • Literature:
    Colonel Thornton, A Sporting Tour Through Various Parts Of France, In The Year 1802, 1806, pp. 68, 75-76 and 126, pl. 20.A. 'Three-barrelled pistol, presented to the First Consul by the author'
    Wilfrid Ward, 'The Under And Over Pistols Of Durs Egg And Joseph Egg', Man at Arms, volume eight, number six (November/December 1986), pp. 27 (for two illustrations of the pair to this pistol) and 34-5
    Arthur G. Credland, 'Colonel Thornton's coach gun and other weapons, with notes on the career of a great Yorkshire Sportsman', Arms & Armour, volume 2, number 2 (2005), p. 169

    Thomas Thornton (1757-1823), self-styled Prince of Chambord and Marquess de Pont, is famous for being one of the most dedicated and flamboyant sportsman of the 18th and 19th centuries, dividing his time between hunting, racing, shooting, angling and hawking. In the shooting field he was certainly the best equipped - in his words he had 'a greater quantity of sporting apparatus of the most valuable and curious manufacture than any other sporting gentleman in England' - and he favoured air weapons and multi-barrelled guns and rifles, including examples with seven, twelve and fourteen barrels (the second of these depicted in the portrait of him painted in 1790 by Philip Reinagle and Sawrey Gilpin, the last preserved in the Arms Museum, Liège, no. Ael/5866). He was also a significant patron of sporting artists, his collection including pictures by Rubens and Van Dyck was auctioned to pay his debts in London in 1817

    In 1794 a dispute arose at Roborough Camp, near Plymouth, between Thornton and some of his officers. This was to lead to Thornton's court-martial and subsequent resignation as described in his pamphlet entitled 'An Elucidation of a Mutinous Conspiracy entered into by the officers of the West York Regiment of Militia against their Commanding Officer in year 1794'

    A Francophile, Thornton visited France with his mistress before the revolution and again in 1802 on a sporting journey afforded during the brief peace created by the Treaty of Amiens following Napoleon's brilliant defeat of the Austrians at the Battle of Marengo, fought on 14 June, 1800. It seems entirely probable that the incident with his regiment (of which his father, an MP for York, had financed and commanded before him) which deeply affected him, acted as the incentive for Thornton to make his presentation to Napoleon in an effort to gain support to establish his version as the truth and thereby regain his reputation. In his Sporting Tour Through France Thornton describes writing to General Duroc, Napoleon's aide-de-camp, gaining an interview and 'After some conversation relative to my friend Beaumont and his introductory letter, I produced the pistols designed for the First Consul. The general then enquired the name of my regiment, with the particulars of which I acquainted him, as well as the manner of my quitting it; after which we parted mutually satisfied with each other.' He goes on to say 'In a few days I was favoured with a letter from General Duroc, containing the thanks of the First Consul for the pistols, which had been very graciously accepted; and also informing me that both he (the general) and Bonaparte, had perused my "Statement of Facts" [almost certainly his pamphlet (see above) describing his court-martial and subsequent resignation from his regiment]. The gold-inlaid decoration was clearly intended to confirm Thornton's feeling of admiration for the First Consul to whom he was presented at the Tuileries together with the Portuguese ambassador and several English naval and military gentlemen. Their meeting was to provide a further opportunity of explaining the virtues of the men once under his command and all the implied regret caused by the untimely separation from them. 'He (Napoleon) noticed my medallion, and enquired the meaning of it. I told him, the legend was Triumph of Truth and that the medallion had been presented to me by the soldiers of the West York. Militia, when I was Lieutenant Colonel of that regiment, as a testimony of their esteem for myself and family'

    Thornton is also famous for his succession of mistresses, the first being Alicia Meynell or Massingham known as the 'Norwich Nymph' and famous in her own right for her horse race against Captain Flint at York racecourse in 1804, and again in 1805 on the Knavesmire when she beat Edward Buckle the crack jockey of his day

    For a full account of Thornton's career see the new edition of The Dictionary of National Biography
An Historic Gold-Inlaid 120-Bore Three-Barrelled Flintlock Box-Lock Tap-Action Pocket Pistol Present
Auction information

This sale is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future sales, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this sale, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories, buyer's premium excluding Cars, Motorbikes, Wine and Coin & Medal sales, will be as follows:

Buyer's Premium Rates
27.5% on the first £2,500 of the hammer price;
25% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £2,500 up to and including £300,000;
20% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £300,000 up to and including £3,000,000;
and 13.9% of the hammer price of any amounts in excess of £3,000,000.

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

For payment information please refer to the sale catalog.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.