Unknown - portrait of The Hon Augustus Henry Archibald Anson VC

This miniature portrait on ivory was acquired in 2001 and has sat since posted on this site in 2006, as unsigned, with the sitter unidentified.

It is rare to be able to identify a sitter, but now in late October 2007, almost exactly 150 years to the day since he earned the Victoria Cross, it has been possible to identity the sitter from his clothing, i.e. his uniform and two medals, the Victoria Cross and the Indian Mutiny Medal.

Research has determined that the sitter is the Hon. Augustus Henry Archibald Anson VC (5 Mar 1835-17 Dec 1877), a son of the Earl of Lichfield. In 1863 when he was aged 28, he married Amelia Maria Claughton (4 Jun 1843-4 Jan 1894). Amelia was the daughter of the future Bishop of St Albans, the Right Rev. Thomas Leigh Claughton. They seem not to have had any children.

It is likely the two colours of woven hair on the reverse side of the miniature are those of Anson and of Amelia. Possibly this hair could be used to confirm the sitter's identity using DNA analysis.

Anson's father the Earl of Lichfield was Postmaster-General from May 1835 to Sep 1841 and during his administration the universal penny-postage system was brought into operation. This featured the first ever postage stamp, the Penny Black, and was championed by Sir Rowland Hill. For more see Penny Black - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

However, when Augustus was only seven years old in 1842, the Earl of Lichfield fell into serious pecuniary difficulties. His magnificent mansion in St James Square was dismantled and its contents dispersed by the hammer of Mr George Robins, as were those also of his country seat at Shugborough where the same official held a sale for twelve days. The Earl had earlier been a "warm supporter of the turf" and in 1836 his horse Elis won the St Ledger.

The logic behind the attribution of the miniature is as follows. The sitter is an army officer wearing both the Victoria Cross and the Indian Mutiny medal. His rank badges appear to be those of a Lieutenant-Colonel. His age in the portrait could well be 28 and thus fit with this being a miniature painted at the time of his marriage in 1863.

The miniature must be one of the very early, if not the earliest, contemporary painted portrait of a winner of the Victoria Cross wearing his medal. As such it is of considerable rarity, although obviously not in the class of a Victoria Cross medal itself, as they usually sell for an average of around GBP150,000.

The Victoria Cross was created in 1856 and the first Victoria Cross investiture was carried out in June 1857, when 62 winners were invested. The Indian Mutiny medal is also shown here, with this example having the Lucknow clasp.

A kind visitor has pointed out that Anson won three clasps, although only one is shown in the miniature. This was probably artistic licence, to enable the colour of the ribbon to still be seen. For much more about the Victoria Cross, see; The History of the Victoria Cross, The Victoria Cross Society for enthusiasts , and Victoria Cross Research - - Designed ...

A total of 182 Victoria Crosses were awarded during the Indian Mutiny and the recipients are recorded along with other Victoria Cross winners in the book "The Register of the Victoria Cross" published in 1997.

In almost all cases, pictures of the winners of the VC are included in the book. By a process of elimination, the 182 winners in the Indian Mutiny were reduced to about 50 recipients who had a VC won in the Indian Mutiny and who subsequently achieved an army rank of Lieutenant-Colonel or higher during their career. However, of the 50, there were only three or four whose highest rank achieved during their military career was Lieutenant-Colonel.

While this does not make it certain it was the highest rank this sitter achieved, it does make it more likely. Additionally, the book contains the photograph shown below of Hon Augustus Henry Archibald Anson, which is remarkably similar to the miniature, although he appears a little older. Anson died in France in 1877 when he was only 42. The cause of death is unknown, but being in France and at such an early age, one might suspect it was possibly at a tuberculosis sanatorium?

Anson seems to have entered the army as an ensign in 1853 in the 44th Foot via purchase of the rank. He served in the Crimea 1854-56 and also in China 1857-1860. Being from a wealthy family he would not have needed to pursue an army career for his whole life and when he retired, he had achieved the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the 84th Regiment (later the York and Lancaster Regiment). He appears to have resigned his commission around the time of his marriage, possibly due to ill health. He became MP for Bewdley from 1869-1874.

The citation for his VC is as follows; "On 28 September, 1857 at Bolandshahr, India, the 9th Light Dragoons had charged through the town and were reforming on the Serai, when the enemy tried to close the entrance by drawing their carts across it. Captain Anson, taking a lance, dashed out of the gateway and knocked the drivers off their carts. Owing to a wound in his left hand, he could not stop his horse and rode into the middle of the enemy who fired upon him. At Lucknow, on 16 November 1857 he again showed great gallantry when he entered with a storming party on the gates being burst open; his horse was killed and he was slightly wounded."

The date of 16 November, 1857 is significant as this is the day when the most ever awards of the Victoria Cross were made on one day, with 24 recipients. Thus Anson was one of these 24. His Victoria Cross is located at Shugborough estate, Milford, see Location of Augustus Anson's Victoria Cross

Contained within the National Portrait Gallery in London there is a large oil painting titled "The Relief of Lucknow, 1857" painted by Thomas Jones Barker in 1859. Purely for convenience, the central part of it is shown here, with more information being on the MOD website at

A number of those involved in the Relief of Lucknow and shown in the painting, are identified in the record of the painting as held by the NPG, including Major Hon A H Anson who by then had been promoted from Captain, see Major Hon. A. H. Anson

However, as the NPG does not show birth/death dates for Major Anson, nor does it refer to his award of the VC, it appears their research department has not yet made the connection. Two other VC winners in the painting also seem not to have not yet been identified by the NPG; Major Probyn (Sir Dighton MacNaughton Probyn (1833-1924) and Captain Watson (Sir John Watson (1829-1919) , see below.

Interestingly, a comparison of the names of the 29 men depicted in the painting, against the names of winners in the Register of the Victoria Cross, shows that only five of those depicted won the Victoria Cross during the campaign, despite 182 being awarded. Thus, the qualification for inclusion in the painting appears to be mainly birth, rather than gallantry.

The VC winners depicted in the painting and their affiliation are believed to be;

Hon Augustus Henry Archibald Anson (1835-1877) of the 84th Regiment
Thomas Henry Cavanagh (1821-1882) of the Bengal Civil Service
Sir William Peel (1824-1858), of the Royal Navy, although he won his VC in 1854 during the Crimean War
Sir Dighton MacNaughton Probyn (1833-1924) of the 2nd Punjab Cavalry
Frederick Sleigh Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts (1832-1914) of the Bengal Artillery
Sir John Watson (1829-1919) of the 1st Punjab Cavalry

One other VC winner not in the painting, but who may cause confusion is Sir Henry Marsham Havelock VC. The painting is said to include Sir Henry Havelock Bt (1795-1857) who died of dysentery at Lucknow on 24 November, a week after the Relief. However Sir Henry Marsham Havelock (1830-1897) won a VC at the Relief of Lucknow. Closer inspection of the painting should confirm it is the elder of the two who is actually depicted.

From the above analysis, it appears that Anson was the only infantry officer to both win a Victoria Cross, and be depicted in the painting, "The Relief of Lucknow".

For more about Anson, see Augustus Anson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia He is buried in France, see Augustus Henry Archibald Anson (1835 - 1877) - Find A Grave Memorial

Later - A very kind visitor has shared this miniature portrait and comment about; "Amelia Maria Claughton who married Anson in 1863 and, following his death, remarried in 1881 becoming the Duchess of Argyll. The attached image is a scan from a photograph of a miniature portrait of her. I can confirm that she did not have any children from either this or her subsequent marriage. The wedding veil she is wearing in the minature is Honiton lace."

How wonderful is the Internet, in enabling the reuniting of the portraits of husband and wife! The wedding seems more likely to be her first marriage. Thus it is possible some of Amelia's hair is inside the miniature. After the death of her husband in 1877, Amelia became on 13 Aug 1881, the second wife of the 8th Duke of Argyll. She died on 4 Jan 1894. 444

Later - A kind visitor has provided me with this newspaper reference:
"The Times - 22 Nov 1877


Our obituary contained yesterday the notice of the death, at Cannes [on the 17th], of Col. the Hon. A. Anson, V. C., formerly member for Lichfield and for Bewdley, aged 42. It is now five years since, in the full swing of his active, energetic, useful public life, he was struck down by that complaint from which few, if any, recover, and which in his case first showed itself in a rupture of a vessel in the lungs, the consequence of a long-neglected cold. But, though thus compelled to retire from Parliament and to lead the life of an invalid, spending each winter in the South of France, his active interest in current politics, especially in Army questions, never flagged, as his frequent letters in our columns showed; nor did he relax in his endeavours to obtain better terms for his brother officers, whose claims as regards compensation and promotion he had so perseveringly advocated in the House of Commons in the course of the debates on the abolition of Army purchase. It was when already seriously ill that he originated and drew up the form of the petition to Her Majesty in which the grievances and claims of the officers in the matter of purchase were set forth. This petition, after being extensively signed alike by purchase and non-purchase officers, was in due form submitted for presentation through the Field-Marshall Commanding-in-Chief. The result was the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into their complaints. It is, indeed, mainly due to the ability and determination shown by Colonel Anson in his conduct of this question that the claims of the officers have been recognized and dealt with in a liberal spirit. But it was not only in matters connected with the Army, but in many others, that he took an active part while a member of the House of Commons. He was one of the leading spirits of the "cave" which led to the fall of the Russell-Gladstone Administration. It is not, however, to Colonel Anson's career in Parliament, nor even to his successful conduct of the case of his brother officers, that we would chiefly call attention, but to his singularly gallant career in the profession of which, though so young in years when he retired from active service, he was so distinguished a member. He entered the Army shortly before the outbreak of the Crimean War, and from the time when, as a mere boy, he found himself in command of a party told off to occupy some rifle-pits before Sebastopol, on which occasion nearly every man under him was killed or wounded, until he returned to England after the capture of Peking and the burning of the Summer Palace, he was on all occasions, whether in the Crimea, in India, or in China, distinguished by his coolness, judgment, and gallantry in the field. After the Crimean War he was appointed aide-de-camp to his uncle, General Anson, commanding-in-chief in India, on whose death, at the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny, he was attached to the 9th Lancers and to the Staff of Sir Hope Grant, serving as his aide-de-camp with great distinction through the whole of the Indian campaign, from the siege and storming of Delhi to the last shot on the borders of Nepaul. For these services he received a Brevet Majority. For acts of personal valour he received the Victoria Cross. It was accorded to him on the 24th of December, 1858, and his conduct was thus recorded in the Gazette:---
"Dates of acts of bravery --- 28th of September, and 16th of November, 1857. For conspicuous bravery at Bolundehaher, on the 28th of September, 1857. The 9th Light Dragoons had charged through the town and were reforming in the Serai. The enemy attempted to close the entrance by drawing their carts across it, so as to shut in the Cavalry and form a cover from which to fire upon them. Captain Anson, taking a lance, dashed out of the gateway and knocked the drivers off their carts. Owing to a wound in his left hand, received at Delhi, he could not stop his horse, and rode into the middle of the enemy, who fired a volley at him, one ball passing through his coat. At Lucknow, at the assault of the Secundra Bagh, on the 16th of November, 1857, he entered with the storming party on the gates being burst open. He had his horse killed, and was himself slightly wounded. He has shown the greatest gallantry on every occasion, and has slain many enemies in fight." (Despatch from Major-General Sir Grant Hope, K.C.B., dated the 12th of August, 1858.)
India, however, was not to be the close of his distinguished career in the field. When the China Expedition was organized under Sir Hope Grant he again accompanied his old chief as aide-de-camp, and was among the first, if not the very first, to force his way, sword in hand, into the Taku fort. On the taking of Pekin he was sent home with the despatches, and was offered, as a reward for his services, the choice of a Brevet Lieutenany-Colonelcy or an unattached substantive Majority. Unluckily for himself he chose the latter, the result being that he found himself shelved and shut out from further service, having failed to obtain permission to change back into a regiment after repeated application. Thus it was that he took to Parliamentary life; otherwise there is little doubt his name would have again been heard of, as he would eagerly have sought fresh distinctions in future campaigns. Especially would he have been anxious to offer his services to his old friend and fellow campaigner, Sir Garnet Wolseley. But although the services in the field of a most efficient and gallant soldier were thus practically lost to the country, his brother officers, as we have shown, have had no cause to regret the decision of the military authorities which put an end to his military career and led him into Parliament. It only remains to note that he was from the first a warm supporter of the Volunteer Force. Of this he became an active member, accepting a Majority in the London Scottish, of which Sir Hope Grant was at that time the Honorary Colonel, and he continued to serve in this regiment until he was stricken down by illness.
We have thus drawn attention to the prominent incidents of Colonel Anson's military and public life, in the belief that many of our readers, besides his personal friends and fellow officers, take a deep interest in the distinguished career of this gallant soldier, whose true heart, noble spirit, patient courage in sickness, and well-earned hounour have left to others a bright example and added fresh lustre to a well-known name."

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