Medal News

Volume 57, Number 5, May 2019

Auction Battle

Volume 57, Number 5, May 2019

A homeless pair LIKE many of you, I suspect, I have “alerts” set up on my computer so that I’m told when there are mentions on-line about areas of interest to me and also, through a couple of specialist services, when items of interest come up for auction. Through and I am alerted, via email, when an auction house is selling anything related to chaplains, reverends, clergy, etc. Despite having sold my collection I still like to know what the market is doing and, if I’m brutally honest I always forget how to stop them coming in. . . . As a consequence once a day I get a number of emails telling me what’s on offer in the auction rooms of the UK. This means not only do I get to keep an eye on the market (you know: just so I can really, really regret selling everything as I see the prices continue to rise) but also I get to see what sort of things are around, and inevitably kick myself when something I had been searching for for ages but had given up hope of seeing, goes under the hammer. But it also means I get to see when things come up the first time, and the second and the third. This, coupled with my attendance at various shows across the country, means that every so often I notice one or two medals and groups that don’t seem to want to stay with one custodian for very long. Just recently I received an alert telling me about a pair of medals that I have seen before, a number of times. These medals are a double issue, one bearing “Defence of . . .” clasp, the other a “Relief of . . .” clasp. Now clearly the gentleman in question can’t have been both at the siege and a part of its relieving force so clearly a mistake has been made at some point. Every time I have seen these medals they have been clearly and correctly described; the good Reverend was, it appears, part of the relieving force and the “Defence of . . .” clasp issue seems to be a mistake. This makes perfect sense and at no point have any of the sellers every tried to claim that the medals should both have been awarded. It is clear that the “Relief of . . .” medal is the correct one, whereas the “Defence of . . .”, whilst an original medal and contemporarily named in the correct style, was simply issued in error. These things happen. Evidently the Chaplain in question decided to keep both medals, probably just because they were curios to him and nothing more. A private soldier might well have sold the duplicate to raise funds or, fearful of getting into trouble, simply handed it back. A man of the cloth, who was the personal chaplain to a senior officer (a knight of the realm no less), would have feared no such recriminations nor would have necessarily needed the funds and so he kept both. I can see him now, delighting his parishioners or dinner party guests with tales of how he was the only man to be present both at a siege and in its relieving force. Whatever the story, it is clear that there is more to the history of these medals than to most that grace our collections and yet they never seem to find a home for long. To the best of my knowledge there is nothing wrong with either medal, they are perfectly genuine, no problems with naming and any collector would be proud to own them and yet here they are again, being offered for sale once more and I just don’t understand why. Surely such stories as double issues, mistakes, errors et al are all part of the history are they not? Surely that this gentleman had not one but two identical medals awarded to him makes it all the more interesting, not less so, and thus I cannot understand why they are for sale once again. It might, of course, be that they haven’t actually come up more than other medals, and it’s just that because it’s such an unusual story I remember them more than others but I’m not sure that’s the case. I have a pretty good memory and also used to log chaplain’s medals when they came up for sale, so I think I would probably remember others just as well as I remember these. I genuinely believe that, for whatever reason, this interesting pair simply hasn’t found the right home yet. I hope they do this time, there’s undoubtedly a fascinating story behind them and I wish I had bought them when I first saw them for sale. Sadly, as a mere publisher, I didn’t have the means to make them welcome in my collection, but I hope one of you will. If you do, then please tell me if you find out more about them, I would love to know they’ve found a home at long last and would love to know more about the story. After all, it’s the story behind the medals not the bits of metal and silk that is the real fascination is it not?

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