Medal News

Volume 39, Number 2, February 2001

A rich seam

Volume 39, Number 2, February 2001

THIS YEAR sees the one hundredth anniversary of the death of one of Britain's greatest Monarchs and so the end of the age that bore her name. The Victorian era which covered the greater part of the nineteenth century (1837-1901) will be chiefly remembered for two things-the Industrial Revolution and the expansion of the Empire. When Victoria came to the throne Great Britain was, like other European powers, searching for new colonies across the globe, however with the loss of the New World not too long before it seemed that her influence was waning. By the time Victoria died "Imperial Pink" covered half the globe and Britain was once again a feared and respected nation. A nation keen to continue expanding and ready to reward those who helped it do so; whether Generals or foot soldiers the Queen was always keen to show her appreciation of those who served her and invariably those rewards were of a medallic nature. A quick glance at the MEDAL YEARBOOK and the date of institution at the start of each medal entry shows us that seven of the orders of chivalry, 13 decorations, 20 long and meritorious service awards, 11 lifesaving medals and seven of the "miscellaneous" medals came into existence during Victoria's reign, many as a direct result of the Queen's intervention. However, it is with the campaign medals that the true legacy to our hobby is seen, with no less than 55 of the awards in this section instituted during the Victorian age, awards for campaigns as far afield as China, Canada, South Africa and India. Whilst the jewel in the crown of any collection would be the most famous Victorian medal of all, the Cross that bears her name and remains the premier award for gallantry in this country, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, or even the lesser but still eagerly sought (and more affordable) Albert Medal, it is to the campaign medals that most of us find ourselves turning. The campaigns of the Victorian era have provided us with a rich seam of medals the like of which had never been seen before, but it must be remembered that each of those campaigns was a bloody conflict in which many paid the ultimate price and with that in mind it must also be hoped that we never again find ourselves in a situation where countless wars give the collectors of tomorrow such "rich pickings". John Mussell

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