Victorian intrigue at DNW
The extraordinary story of how Queen Victoria turned down a soldier for the Victoria Cross because she considered that his decision to overpower and kill his Russian captors, during the Crimean War, was of, “doubtful morality,” is revealed by a group of medals to be auctioned by Dix Noonan Webb on 28 February to 1 March 2018.
Private Patrick McGuire of the 33rd Regiment was feted as a hero after he snatched back his musket and shot one of the Russians, who had captured him during the siege of Sebastopol, before clubbing the other to death with the butt. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the French Medaille Militaire as well as receiving the Crimea Medal with clasps for ‘Alma’, ‘Inkermann’ and ‘Sebastopol’ and the Turkish Crimea Medal. These four decorations and medals are expected to fetch £4,000 to £5,000 at the Dix Noonan Webb auction.
However when Lieutenant Colonel Johnstone, commanding officer of the 33rd Regiment, recommended him for a Victoria Cross, the application received an unexpected Royal rebuff when it was forwarded to the Queen. Lord Panmure, the Secretary of State for War, was informed: ‘There is only one case which the Queen thinks had better be omitted, viz Private P. Macguire (sic) of the 33rd. His deed, although publicly praised and rewarded by Lord Raglan, was one of very doubtful morality, and if pointed out by the Sovereign as praiseworthy, may lead to the cruel and inhumane practise of never making prisoners, but always putting to death those who may be overpowered for fear of their rising over their captors.’
McGuire was greeted as a hero when he returned to the British positions and Lord Raglan immediately authorised a gratuity of £5. In England, three different prints were produced depicting the incident, and he received one of the first Distinguished Conduct Medals and the French Medaille Militaire. The Queen however, was not amused by the recommendation for the decoration named after her. Lord Panmure replied: ‘Lord Panmure presents his humble duty to Your Majesty and has the honour to inform Your Majesty that, with the concurrence of the Commander-in-Chief, he has removed the name of Private P. McGuire, 33rd Regiment, from the list.’
McGuire served on in the 33rd until November 1861 when he was discharged on medical grounds. He returned to Manchester and died there on 28 October 1862.
Catch up on militaria news, order a back issue of The Armourer, or pick up the latest issue, in either print or digital format. Like what you see? Why not take out a subscription, save money and have it delivered to your door.