Luxury seagoing silver dressing case for the real life captain of Jack Aubrey’s HMS Boadicea « My Family Silver

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Luxury seagoing silver dressing case for the real life captain of Jack Aubrey’s HMS Boadicea

Martyn Downer on the subject of Listed for sale at My Family Silver. Posted on July 30th, 2015.

01lr

A George III brass bound mahogany travelling dressing case with fitted red morocco interior with matched silver mounted accessories comprising: a 3 1/2in circular box and cover maker’s mark I.E (not traced), Dublin 1810, retailed by William Hamy; two small circular boxes and covers by William Parker, London 1810; a rectangular glass box with a silver pierced cover, same maker and date; a shaving brush, same maker, London 1811; three square glass bottles with stoppers and silver caps (unmarked); an ivory mounted cut throat razor and three other ivory mounted blades; articles variously engraved with a crest beneath a viscount’s coronet and within the motto “Ne Vile Velis”, the mahogany case with brass edges, name and key plates, the velvet interior of the cover concealing a mirror. See sale listing.

Overall approx: 33.5cm (13 1/4in) long

HIGHLY RARE DOCUMENTED SEAGOING DRESSING CASE FOR AN OFFICER IN NELSON’S NAVY

This dressing case belonged to Captain Ralph Viscount Nevill (1786-1826) who fought as a volunteer in HMS Victory at the battle of Trafalgar. Nevill was the second son of Henry Nevill, 2nd Earl of Abergavenny  (1755 – 1843), a politician and secretary to the Treasury. As a boy Nevill entered the Royal Navy as a volunteer joining HMS Amphion under Captain Thomas Masterman Hardy in 1802. Nevill’s patron was Horatio Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford (1723-1809) whose niece had married Nevill’s older brother the Hon, George Henry Nevill, heir to the Abergavenny earldom.

Ralph Nevill's patron and Admiral Lord Nelson's godfather: Horace Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford (1723-1809)

Ralph Nevill’s patron and Admiral Lord Nelson’s godfather: Horace Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford (1723-1809)

It was under Walpole’s interest that Nevill moved with Captain Hardy to Lord Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory in July 1803. He then served in the long blockade of Toulon and the pursuit of the combined enemy fleet to the West Indies. Despite his lowly status in Victory, Nelson was very mindful of Nevill as Lord Walpole, for whom the admiral had been named, was his own godfather. Writing to Walpole from Victory “off Toulon” on 29 December 1804 Nelson, presumably in response to an enquiry, reports that “Young Nevil  [sic] is a very excellent Young Man and his good conduct has not escaped my observation and you may rely, My dear Lord, not only upon this but upon any occasion which may offer that I shall be truly happy to meet your wishes …”

$_57

Letter from Lord Nelson to Lord Walpole, Victory, off Toulon, 29 December 1804 discussing "Young Nevil". Published Nicolas "Dispatches and Letters of Lord Nelson" Vol. VI, p.305

Letter from Lord Nelson to Lord Walpole, Victory, off Toulon, 29 December 1804 discussing “Young Nevil”. Published Nicolas “Dispatches and Letters of Lord Nelson” Vol. VI, p.305 (courtesy: Julian Bowning / HistoricalAutographs.co.uk )

Nevill remained in Victory for the battle of Trafalgar benefiting perhaps from the wave of promotions which followed the famous action as he was made lieutenant in January 1806 although, as a volunteer, he received the same prize money (£1.17s.6d) and government grant (£4.12s.6d) as a fifth class, or ordinary seamen. Shortly afterwards, with the early death of his brother George, Nevill, now heir to his father’s earldom, assumed the courtesy title of viscount.

As lieutenant, Nevill now transferred to the HMS Ocean, 98 guns, the flagship of Admiral Lord Collingwood (1748-1810) who had assumed command in the Mediterranean after nelson’s death. After his promotion to commander on 30 May 1808, Nevill assumed command of HMS Acteon, a captured 16 gun brig in which he assisted in the capture off the Scilly Isles of the French privateer Le Lezard in November 1809. Acteon then joined the fleet under Admiral Bertie for the Mauritius campaign 1809-11: a series of amphibious operations and naval actions fought, ultimately successfully, to gain possession of the French Indian Ocean territories of Isle de France and Île Bonaparte.

Attack on St. Paul's Island of Burbon Sept. 21 1809 By the British Squadron under Commodore Rowley consisting of HM Ships Raisonable, Boadicea, Sirius, Mereide, Otter & E.I.C. Schooner Wasp and the Land Forces under Lt. Col. Keating 56th Regt. The advanced British Frigate is the Sirius, Capt Pym raking the French Frigate La Caroline. The first Battery, was taken by Lt Cottel, commanding R Marines & Lt Knight 56th per Orders of Lt Col Keating. This print shows one of the main events of "The Mauritius Command" (thedearsurprise.com)

Attack on St. Paul’s Island of Burbon Sept. 21 1809
By the British Squadron under Commodore Rowley consisting of HM Ships Raisonable, Boadicea, Sirius, Mereide, Otter & E.I.C. Schooner Wasp and the Land Forces under Lt. Col. Keating 56th Regt. The advanced British Frigate is the Sirius, Capt Pym raking the French Frigate La Caroline. The first Battery, was taken by Lt Cottel, commanding R Marines & Lt Knight 56th per Orders of Lt Col Keating.
This print shows one of the main events of “The Mauritius Command” (thedearsurprise.com)

The campaign was portrayed by Patrick O’Brian in The Mauritius Command, his fourth installment in the famous Aubrey-Maturin series of naval historical novels. In the novel, Aubrey assumes command of the real life 38 gun frigate HMS Boadicea – the same ship posted to Nevill when he was made captain on 16 February 1811.

Eldridge Park, near Tunbridge Wells, circA 1840, seat of the earl of Abergavenny

Eridge Castle, near Tunbridge Wells, circa 1840, seat of the earl of Abergavenny

On 2 February 1813, Viscount Nevill married Mary Elcock (1796-1828). He died childless at Boulogne in May 1826 when his younger brother the Reverend John Nevill (1789-1845) succeeded as heir to the earldom, becoming 3rd Earl of Abergavenny on the death of their father in 1843.

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Although unsigned, this rare provenanced seagoing dressing case was purchased by Viscount Nevill from one of several specialist manufacturers of military and naval campaign furniture then active in London, possibly  J.Wells of Cockspur Street who, after partnering John Lambe in 1815, promoted his business as “Pocket Book Portable Desk, Dressing Case & Copying Machine” makers. The lock is signed “BARRON STRAND” for Francis Barron , “Brazier and Ironmongers to his Majesty” who was at 476 Strand ,London in this period. The variation of makers for the silver mounted articles in the box suggest that these may have been purchased separately and fitted. Nevill was promoted captain soon after he acquired the box; nevertheless his cabin quarters on board Actaeon then Boadicea would have been cramped affording space only for his cot, some shelving for books, a desk and a washstand similar to a surviving example belonging to Admiral Lord Nelson.

Admiral Lord Nelson's wash stand from HMS Victory (Sothebys)

Admiral Lord Nelson’s wash stand from HMS Victory (Sothebys)

 

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