Nelson & His World

Trafalgar sword for sale
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Author:  tycho [ Thu Mar 02, 2017 6:46 am ]
Post subject:  Trafalgar sword for sale

The Times (I March) carries a half-page colour spread about the sale in the USA of the Trafalgar sword of Captain William Rutherford, the American-born captain of HMS Swiftsure. No link, I'm afraid as the Times has a paywall. The sword has an estimate of £200,000.

23 swords were awarded by Lloyds Patriotic Fund, according to the article (but there were more than 23 British ships, so were any captains left out?). 'Of the 23, the whereabouts of 2 are unknown and most of the others are in museums.'

Rutherford was relegated to shore service, owing to ill-health, in 1814, died in 1818 and is buried in St Margaret's Westminster.

Edited to add P.S. More from the Daily Mail. His portrait shows him to be a very handsome fellow!

Author:  Phil [ Thu Mar 02, 2017 1:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Trafalgar sword for sale


I was intrigued too, to read only 23 swords were awarded at Trafalgar.

A little bit of research has led me to an interesting website, which could give us the explanation. In a sub section entitled 'Background' on the site, it lists the various sword types/values produced and the £100 Trafalgar sword is recorded at 23 as stated. (It lists in total 165 swords produced and which were awarded for other actions). It goes on to say that officers could receive a piece of plate instead of a sword or indeed an award of cash. In some cases this was for charitable purposes such as distributing to wounded crew members or just to keep the money themselves. I presume then that this choice was made by some of the captains at Trafalgar.

However a little further down on the site there is another table with a more detailed breakdown which slightly contradicts the figure of 23. It states that 25 were Awarded, 23 Recorded, with 2 Not Presented. (It also advises that 21 have been traced). Perhaps awards were made in advance of actually producing the sword, giving time for the recipient to choose an alternative.

It's an interesting site which I will certainly return to when more time allows.

I hope this explanation is helpful.



Author:  tycho [ Fri Mar 03, 2017 9:09 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Trafalgar sword for sale

Many thanks for that interesting post, Phil.

I know of, and have see in its home, one of the swords in private hands but was asked not to make it public because of the risk of theft, I suppose. It was an exquisite thing to behold.

Author:  Phil [ Fri Mar 03, 2017 3:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Trafalgar sword for sale


What a privilege for you to view one of these swords still in private hands.

It will be interesting to see what Captain Rutherford's sword finally fetches at the auction. Whilst searching for the information on these, I looked through my copy of the Bonhams catalogue for their Nelson & The Royal Navy sale in 2005. Two Patriotic Fund Trafalgar swords (to Cpt. Charles Tyler of the Tonnant & Cpt. John Conn of the Dreadnought) were auctioned. Cpt. Conn's fetched £134,400, his sword lacking it's belt. Cpt. Tyler's was complete with belt & case and fetched a then world record auction price of £179,200. I think this may still be the highest price and was of course achieved at a bicentenary sale.


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