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    Sale 14139

    Out of the Ordinary

    14 September 2016, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 541

    MAJOR GENERAL SIR HECTOR ARCHIBALD MACDONALD ('FIGHTING MAC'), K.C.B., D.S.O., A.D.C., LL.D (4 MARCH 1853 - 25 MARCH 1903)
    A BRITISH OFFICER'S SWORD

    BY HENRY WILKINSON, PALL MALL, LONDON, SERIAL NO. 28048 FOR 1887

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    MAJOR GENERAL SIR HECTOR ARCHIBALD MACDONALD ('FIGHTING MAC'), K.C.B., D.S.O., A.D.C., LL.D (4 MARCH 1853 - 25 MARCH 1903)
    A BRITISH OFFICER'S SWORD
    BY HENRY WILKINSON, PALL MALL, LONDON, SERIAL NO. 28048 FOR 1887
    With straight spear-point blade, nickel-plated hilt of Pattern 1821 type, and wire-bound fishskin-covered grip, the grip-strap engraved with a dedication 'PRESENTED BY LADY MACDONALD AND HER SON HECTOR AS A MOMENTO OF THEIR LATE HUSBAND AND FATHER TO MR. WILLIAM MACDONALD J.P., ROOTFIELD. APRIL 1904'; with leather outer
    40 ½ in. (103 cm.) overall


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    Major General Sir Hector MacDonald rose from the ranks to become one of the most famous military figures of the day. The son of a Black Isle crofter, he joined the 92nd Gordon Highlanders in 1870 at the age of 17 as a private soldier. Through study and diligence to his duty MacDonald enjoyed rapid promotion becoming Colour-Sergeant by the age of 24. Following conspicuous leadership in action during the Afghan Campaign of 1878-80 he was commissioned from the ranks as a Subaltern. MacDonald saw action during the First and Second Anglo-Boer Wars, and during the Mahdist War in the Sudan. His personal courage and ability to command led not only to numerous medals and decorations, but also to rapid promotion by the standards of the late Victorian army. Of all his military engagements it was MacDonald's actions at the Battle of Omdurman in 1898, one of the decisive actions of the Mahdist War that pitted British and Egyptian armies under Kitchener against a force over twice their strength, that made MacDonald famous throughout the Empire. Despite the vastly superior weapons employed by the British and Egyptians, the overwhelming numbers of the Mahdist forces threatened to overcome Kitchener's right flank and it was recognised that disaster was only averted by MacDonald's rapid and skilful deployment of his Sudanese Brigade. MacDonald's reward was a promotion to Colonel in the British Army and an appointment as an aide-de-camp to Queen Victoria. Following the cessation of the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) MacDonald was given the temporary rank of Major-General and command of British forces in Ceylon. It was here that rumours and then outright accusation and scandal hit MacDonald. He stood accused of inappropriate behaviour with local boys and was recalled to Great Britain in an attempt to contain the story but he was eventually ordered back to Ceylon to face a Court Martial. It was whilst he was stopped in Paris at the Hotel Regina on his return to Ceylon that on the morning of 22 March 1903, Macdonald calmly read the papers over breakfast, returned to his room and shot himself. The public and political ramifications of these unproven accusations coupled to such an ignoble end to a hero of the Empire rumbled on for years. After his death it became known that Macdonald had secretly married Christina MacLouchan Duncan in 1884 and, despite only having seen each other on a handful of occasions during the intervening years, Sir Hector and Lady MacDonald had a son, Hector Duncan MacDonald. This news came a shock to both Horse Guards and his family, neither having any knowledge of the marriage. The dedication on the present lot is from Lady MacDonald and her son Hector gifting the sword to MacDonald's favourite brother William.

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    Provenance

    Christie's, South Kensington, 1 February 1991, lot 26 (part).


    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from the Collection of David Gainsborough Roberts