Bonhams to sell naval sword presented by 'The Sailor Prince', later King William IV,to a hero of Trafalgar buried in St Paul's Cathedral alongside Nelson

Antique Arms and Armour
31 Jul 2013
London, Knightsbridge

Bonhams next sale of Antique Arms and Armour in London Knightsbridge on July 31st offers two particularly interesting and historic bladed weapons.

The first is an extremely rare 1805 pattern Naval Officer's sword presented by the Duke of Clarence to Admiral William Carnegie, 7th Earl Of Northesk who was the third most senior officer at Trafalgar. The sword made by Prosser, manufacturer to His Majesty and H.R.H. The Duke Of Clarence, is estimated to sell for £5,000-8,000.

The weapon has a tapering 82.5 cm blade that is double-edged at the point, engraved with the crowned arms of the Duke of Clarence within the belt of the Order of the Garter, and on the other side with a gilt plaque engraved with the arms of the recipient incorporating 'Trafalgar', in original black leather scabbard.

The Duke of Clarence, later King William IV, known as the 'Sailor Prince' entered the Navy in 1779, attained the rank of Captain in 1786 and was best man at Nelson's wedding in 1787. He gave a number of swords to naval officers who had distinguished themselves in various ways. At first, the swords he gave were similar to those carried by certain cavalry regiments from the early 1790s and are sometimes referred to as 'coffin pommel swords'. Later, the Duke gave swords which adhered to the 1805 and the 1827 patterns. These swords had gilt plaques set into their grips engraved with the arms of the Duke on one side and those of the recipient on the other, as in this case

Admiral William Carnegie GCB, 7th Earl of Northesk (1758-1831) followed his father into the navy at the age of thirteen. He first served in the American War of Independence aboard the frigate HMS Beaulieu and the ship of the line HMS Sandwich, being involved in the Battle of Martinique in 1780 under Admiral Rodney.

Due to his good conduct Rodney promoted him to Commander and aided his rise to Post Captain in 1782, whereupon he was given command of the frigate HMS Enterprise. In 1792 he acceded to the earldom and in 1796 was given the command of HMS Monmouth. The following year he was caught up in the Nare Mutiny but was released by the mutineers to take their demands to London.

At the Battle of Trafalgar, Northesk was the third most senior officer present after Nelson and Collingwood. During the battle he was heavily engaged with the enormous Spanish 130 gun ship Santissima Trinidad, the Brittania suffering 52 casualties. He was greatly rewarded for his service in action, including a silver vase of £300 value from the Patriotic Fund at Lloyds, however he never served at sea again. He was initiated into the Order of the Bath, eventually reaching the position of Knight Grand Cross. He also attained the rank of full admiral, the ceremonial post of Rear Admiral of Great Britain and was made Commander-in-chief, Plymouth. He is buried alongside Nelson and Collingwood in the crypt at St. Paul's Cathedral, where his tomb can be seen to this day.


Another fascinating bladed weapon in this Bonhams sale is a rare and historic knife carried by Captain John Frederick Giles and relating to 'Operation Archery', a raid on Norway. Made by Wilkinson Sword Co. Ltd., London it is dated Xmas '41 and the scabbard has a handwritten inscription 'Vaagso Norway Xmas '41, 3 Commando, H.M.S. "Prince Charles", Capt. Giles Bill'. It is estimated to sell for £1,000-1,500.

Captain John Frederick Giles (b. 1917) was Captain of 3 Troop, 3 Commando at the time of Operation Archery. He was educated at Kelly College, Tavistock and received his first commission in the Gloucestershire Regiment. During his time with the battalion he won the heavyweight boxing championship of the army for the West of England, and played rugby football for Clifton. He joined the Commando in the summer of 1940, promoted Captain on 9 December the same year, and was prominent in all its activities including the first raid on the Lofoton Islands, off the coast of Norway

Operation Archery was planned by Mountbatten following his appointment as Combined Operations Adviser in October 1941. His idea was that a raid of sufficient size would tie down the German troops in Norway thereby denying their use on the Russian Front. The target was also selected as it offered the chance to attack German military establishments on Vaagso and Maaloy.

The raid took place on 27 December and Captain Giles's part in the action is described in James Ladd's Commandos and Rangers of World War II as follows: 'South Vaagoa lies on a narrow strip of shoreline beneath a sheer rock face several hundred feet high, the town's unpainted wooden buildings struggling along the three-quarters of a mile of main road running parallel to and some 50 yards from the shoreline.

Down this road No. 3 Troop were led by their Troop officer, a giant of a man, making a series of wild charges. They had taken several houses when the Troop officer Captain Johnny Giles - was working his way room by room through another. He and his men had killed three Germans in this house when he burst into the back room he was probably killed by a fourth German hiding here, although he may have been hit from across the street. Such is the confusion of street fighting that bullets can appear to come from anywhere and everywhere'. He was buried at sea.


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 valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to

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