In our forthcoming March Decorative Arts auction, we are delighted to be offering a fine Regency presentation sabre by John Prosser, presented to Thomas Potter Macqueen in 1819.
John Prosser was a Royal sword cutler, belt maker, and gunsmith of Charing Cross Road, London. He was principally a manufacturer, retailer and supplier of military arms and equipment. In addition to one patent for firearm manufacture, he also on occasion produced fine presentation swords, such as this example. Being one of the leading London craftsmen of the period, Prosser became sword cutler and gunmaker by Royal Warrant. He was appointed sword cutler and belt maker to King George III in 1795 and to George IV in 1827.
Examples of Prosser’s presentation swords and sabres can be found in important English collections including the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Collection, and occasionally on the secondary market. Most of these are of generally similar form and style, including such elements as an animal head pommel and gilt metal lockets and chapes to their leather scabbards. The richness of decoration on the Macqueen sabre is rare however, with its fully gilt hilt, fine cut steel blade, and intricate reticulated acorn and oak leaf design to the scabbard boldly set against a plush black velvet ground.
Thomas Potter Macqueen, Esp. M.P (1791-1854), born at Segenhoe Manor, Ridgmont, Bedfordshire, was a politician and colonizer. He represented East Looe in parliament from 1816-1826 and Bedfordshire from 1826-1830. During this period, English landowners were encouraged to acquire land in the young colony of New South Wales, to aid its development as a civil settlement. In 1823, after reading Commissioner John Thomas Bigge’s report on New South Wales, Macqueen acquired land from Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane and subsequently became a key figure in its colonization. He contributed to the agricultural development of land in the Hunter Valley, ‘Segenhoe’, named after his birthplace; he influenced emigration of free settlers, particularly being responsible for the first shipment of free emigrants to New South Wales in 1824 and he aided the establishment of the Bank of Australasia and the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney.
Before emigrating to New South Wales, Macqueen was Major Commandant of the Bedfordshire Yeomanry Cavalry from 1817 to 1820. It was during this tenure that the sabre was commissioned by the officers and privates of the Yeomanry and presented to him on July 3rd, 1819, just before his promotion to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1820. The forte of the sword is engraved with a fulsome presentation inscription recording the corps’ sincere regard, affection, and esteem for Macqueen as their commandant.
In addition to its fine craftsmanship and design, the Macqueen sabre has excellent provenance, having remained within Macqueen’s family since its presentation to him 204 years ago, a rare advantage for any serious collector. The sabre retains its original mahogany case bearing Prosser’s engraved label and set with a bronze roundel engraved with Macqueen’s name, rank, and address. It is also accompanied by a framed photographic reproduction of a mezzotint engraving after James Ramsay’s painted portrait of Macqueen standing beside his mount in his full military regalia with the Prosser presentation sword at his hip.
We look forward to sharing this fine sword and its history with you in the coming weeks.
CHIARA CURCIO / Head of Decorative Arts, Design & Interiors
Banner image: A fine Regency Cavalry Officer’s presentation sabre, presented to Thomas Potter Macqueen | $5,000-7,000