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Gift from Queen Victoria to General Sir George Bowles KCB - RECOMMENDED gmic


Owen
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Still working in Palestine and apologies for my long absence, but it has just been full on for so long now. Anyway, I though I would re-engage by sharing a post I made on the Napoleonic Wars forum some time ago. Hopefully, it is of interest here too. This was a bit of a random purchase, but one which nevertheless appeals to two of my main interests, the Napoleonic Wars and collecting period silver.

Anyway, I thought I would share it with you like it or not!

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And, this is the reason for buying it:

th_Inscription_zps2e3ab90c.jpg Inscription reads: "PRESENTED TO GENERAL SIR GEORGE BOWLES, K.C.B. BY HER MAJESTY QUEEN VICTORIA"

So, here we have a large and quite heavy (nearly 16 ounces) mid Victorian silver chamber candlestick (made by the highly regarded silversmiths Charles Thomas Fox and George Fox, in 1848). The connection to this forum period is that it belonged to General Sir George Bowles KCB, who served through the Napoleonic Wars (from the third coalition).

So, who was General Sir George Bowles? Well, I have been doing a bit of research into the man and, whilst it remains very much a work in progress, I would like to share what I have discovered so far about this remarkable man. His memoirs of service at Copenhagen (1807), the Peninsula and Waterloo are captured in the book A Guards Officer in the Peninsula and at Waterloo - The Letters of Captain George Bowles, Coldstream Guards 1807-19 (http://www.garethglovercollection.com/CaptainGeorgeBowles.htm).

Born in 1787, Sir George was successively an officer in the 1st & 2nd Battalions of the Coldstream Guards, with whom he earned the MGSM (with 6 clasps) and the Waterloo Medal. Later, as a Colonel and then Major General he was appointed (reputedly upon the recommendation of the Duke of Wellington) to be Master of the Royal Household (to Queen Victoria), followed by appointment as Lieutenant of the Tower of London and Colonel of the 1st West India Regiment (by then a full General).

Sir George died in his 90th year, one of the last surviving officers of Wellingtons Peninsula army. All in all, not a bad innings!

Potted History of George Bowles (one of the last of Wellingtons surviving Officers):

1787 - George Bowles was born 2nd son of William Bowles (once High Sheriff of Wiltshire) of Heale House, Wiltshire. Heale house was sold in 1813 to pay Williams debts as a bankrupt, but was famously where Charles II hid for a week (in disguise), in October 1651, before he left for France.

1804 On 20th December, aged about 17 years, George Bowles, Gentleman, entered the army as an Ensign in the Coldstream Guards.

1805 to 1806 Ensign George Bowles cut his operational teeth in the north of Germany, as part of the British force under Lord Cathcart (Third Coalition). On 30th August 1805, Ensign George Bowles marched with 1st Battalion from Chatham to Deal...then to Dover and then on to Ramsgate, where they embarked on 23rd October 1805 (Ensign Bowles is included in a Return of Officers for 1st Bn on that date). Despite embarking on 23 October, the Battalion did not set sail from Dover until 4th November. They disembarked at Cuxhaven (N. Germany) and then marched to Bremen. However, on this occasion, Bowles did not see action as, on 2nd December, the French were resoundingly victorious at the Battle of Austerlitz (effectively ending the Third Coalition). As a consequence, they returned to England (from Bremen) and the Battalion disembarked at Ramsgate on 23 Feb 06 (from where it marched back to Deal Barracks).

1807 Ensign George Bowles was back on the continent; at the siege, bombardment and capitulation of Copenhagen. On 9th August 1807, Ensign Bowles arrived at Elsinore Roads (having embarked with 1st Battalion at Chatham). Ensign Bowles is included in a Return of Officers for 1st Bn Coldstream at Copenhagen. It seems that an unfavourable wind prevented the transports from reaching Copenhagen itself, so the Battalion were landed, in boats, at the village of Welbeck (mid way between Copenhagen and Elsinore), arriving in the early hours of 16th August. They waited on the beach until the evening and then marched, in 3 columns, for Copenhagen (making a halt that night, until daybreak).

1808 31st December, Ensign Bowles (later Lieutenant and Captain with effect from 01 Feb 1810, by purchase see Army List for 1810 (London Gazette has date as 03 Feb 1810) embarked with 1st Bn for the Peninsula. George remained in the Peninsula until the end of the war in 1814 (except for the Winters of 1810 & 1811, according to Harts Army List of 1870, Page 358) and was present at the passage of the Douro, the battles of Talavera, Salamanca, and Vittoria, the capture of Madrid, the sieges of Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajos, Burgos, and San Sebastian, the passages of the Nive, Nivelle, and Adour and the investment of Bayonne.

Ensign George Bowles was wounded at Talavera whilst carrying the Coldstream Colours. However, he also had a lucky escape when half a loaf of bread, stashed in his pocket, stopped a musket ball from killing him!

The six clasps to Georges MGSM: Talavera, Ciudad Rodrigo, Salamanca, Vittoria, Nivelle and Nive.

1815 Captain George Bowles served at the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo and then the occupation of Paris. Captain George Bowles attended the Duchess of Richmonds Ball (he was included in the official guest list, but may also have been there in his capacity as an ADC to the Duke of Richmond...as well as being a Regimental Officer at the time) and famously relates, in a later memorandum, the moment when Wellington and the Duke of Richmond discussed how Napoleon had humbugged Wellington... describing the scene at the ball: Wishing him goodnight, (Wellington) whispered to ask him if he had a good map in the house. The Duke of Richmond said he had, and took him into his dressing room, which opened into the supper room. The Duke of Wellington shut the door and said, Napoleon has humbugged me (by God), he has gained twenty-four hours march on me. The Duke of Richmond said, What do you intend doing? The Duke of Wellington replied, I have ordered the army to concentrate at Quatre Bras: but we shall not stop him there, and if so I must fight him here (at the same time passing his thumb-nail over the position of Waterloo.). George claims his account was based on what the Duke of Richmond told him just minutes after his conversation with Wellington.

Captain George Bowles was also present, at Quatre Bras on the morning of the 17th June, when Wellington received news of Bluchers withdrawal, from Ligny to Wavre. In one of his often quoted letters, Captain Bowles described the scene and the moment: On the morning of the 17th, my company being nearly in front of the farmhouse at Quatre Bras, soon after daybreak the Duke of Wellington came to me, and being personally known to him he remained in conversation for an hour or more, during which time he repeatedly said he was surprised to have heard nothing of Blucher. At length a staff officer arrived, his horse covered with foam, and whispered to the Duke, who without the least change of countenance gave him some orders and dismissed him. He then turned round to me and said. Old Blucher has had a damned good licking and gone back to Wavre, eighteen miles. As he has gone back we must go too. I suppose England they will say we have been licked. I cant help it, as they are gone back we must go too.

At the battle of Waterloo itself, Captain George Bowles was with the 7th Company; the 7th & 8th Companies stayed on the ridge, above Hougoumont, to guard the Colours. Captain Bowles was awarded a Brevet-Majority for Waterloo.

1818 to 1820 Major George Bowles served as Military Secretary to the Duke of Richmond in Canada (Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond). In 1819, the Duke was bitten by a pet fox and died of rabies on 28th August.

1821 to 1825 Lt Colonel George Bowles served as Deputy Adjutant-General in Jamaica.

1838 During the rebellion of Lower Canada, Lt Colonel Bowles went with his Battalion (2nd Coldstream) to Canada. The revolt had been brewing, but broke in open revolt in November 1837. 800 men of the Coldstream Guards were sent as re-enforcements to Canada (together with 2nd Bn Grenadiers). They set sail from Plymouth on 17th April and arrived on 11th May. However, the rebellion was effectively over and the Coldstreams were not involved in action.

1843 30th May, Colonel George Bowles retired on half-pay and took up duties as comptroller of the Vice-Regal household in Dublin.

1845 4th April, Colonel George Bowles was appointed Master of the Queen's household (his appointment was reputedly at the recommendation of the Duke of Wellington). On 9th November 1846, Colonel George Bowles was promoted to Major General .

1851 16th July, Major General George Bowles resigned his appointment in the royal household, on account of ill-health. He was made KCB same year (nominated on 22 Jul 1851 Army List for 1853 refers) and appointed Lieutenant of the Tower of London (Army List for 1853 List of Maj Generals shows him as Lt of the Tower).

1854 On 20th June, Major General Sir George Bowles KCB promoted to Lieutenant General.

1855 On 9th September, Lieutenant General Sir George Bowles, KCB appointed Colonel of the 1st West India Regiment.

1862 On 9th November, Lieutenant General Sir George Bowles KCB (Col of the 1st WI Regt & Lt of Tower) promoted to full General.

1876 On 21st May, Sir George Bowles (unmarried) died at his residence in Berkeley Street, Berkeley Square, London, in his ninetieth year.

Sources used:

1. The History of the Bowles Family Compiled and published by Thomas M. Farquhar in 1907

2. Army Lists & Harts Army Lists 1804 to 1876.

3. The Coldstream Guards by Charles Grant.

4. London Gazettes (1804 1876).

5. Origins and Services of the Coldstream Guards Vol II, by Col MacKinnon, London 1833.

6. A Series of Letters of the First Earl of Malmesbury, His Family and Friends, from 1745 to 1820, Volume 2, by The Earl of Malmesbury, London 1870.

7. Gentlemens Sons The Guards in the Peninsula and at Waterloo, by Ian Fletcher and Ron Poulter, Spellmount Ltd, 1992

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Owen - again, a welcome back on this Forum.

The silver candlestick makes a great introduction for you to give a history for General Sir Charles Bowles.

He was an interesting person and his exploits make extraordinary reading. The gift would have been - from your dates,

a few years after he joined the Queen's Household. Perhaps it was an anniversary - or, perhaps he complained about

how dark the Palace was when he went to bed ?

Certainly makes a good start to - hopefully - further articles from you. Mervyn

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Owen - again, a welcome back on this Forum.

The silver candlestick makes a great introduction for you to give a history for General Sir Charles Bowles.

He was an interesting person and his exploits make extraordinary reading. The gift would have been - from your dates,

a few years after he joined the Queen's Household. Perhaps it was an anniversary - or, perhaps he complained about

how dark the Palace was when he went to bed ?

Certainly makes a good start to - hopefully - further articles from you. Mervyn

Thanks Mervyn, an interesting character indeed...someone you just know you would have liked to have known and probably a great dinner guest! Also makes me feel a bit inadequate....I need to buck up on the exploits front!

Now, if I could just add his medals to the chamberstick...if anyone has a spare few thousand pounds they don't need! I had actually assumed that the chamberstick was a parting gift i.e. whilst it was made/hallmarked in 1848, it could have been engraved and presented later. Of course, you could be right on it being to mark an anniversary or similar....also, perhaps to mark (finally) the long awaited/overdue issue of the MGSM to recipients (of which he was one) in 1848....not something I had considered until your post!

Owen

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  • 2 months later...

A fellow collector, who holds the Waterloo and Peninsular war medals for George Bowles, very kindly sent me a copy of a picture he has of General George Bowles, wearing his Order and decorations. It's great (for me) to finally put a face to the name...particularly having trawled every available source I could think of, in vain...just shows, don't give up!

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Regards,

Owen

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Thanks Chris, yes pleased to have his Chamberstick and to be able to use it. Although shame it wasn't his Queen Vic Chamberstick on the table in the picture! That would really have made my day....

Owen

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Hi Mervyn, now there's a thought! Shame I am still so 'Janet and John' with IT! The great thing is that the owner of his medals is in Australia - the power of the Internet has brought us together on a common purpose....we are in touch and will hopefully get together for a beer in London at the RWC next year.

Yes, settled as much as it's possible to be settled in the Palestinian Territories...tricky times here and all around us. But, looking forward to Christmas...I am here for Christmas and New Year, but hopefully will make the Christmas Eve service in Bethlehem...always good to have a direct line to the Him at this time of year! I will say a few words on behalf of you and the good folk on the forum.

Take care and Merry Christmas!

Owen

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