THE highlight of the specialist arms and armour sale conducted by Sworders from their Sudbury rooms on April 7 was an important part medal group awarded to Sir Halliday Macartney (1833-1906), a soldier-turned-diplomat with a long official connection with China.
Born in Galloway, and educated as a medical student at the
University of Edinburgh, Macartney answered a call for volunteers
in 1858 and first saw service with the medical staff of the
Anglo-Turkish contingent in the Crimea.
After graduation, he joined the army as MD attached to the
Lanarkshire 99th Regiment of Foot, and saw service in India and
China where, according to his obituary in The British Medical
Journal, "he found his destiny".
He commanded Li Hung Chang's force when helping to crush the
Taiping Rebellion and in Nanking founded the first ever arsenal in
China, commanding it for ten years. He then entered the diplomatic
service and was created KCMG in 1885 during a period of more than
30 years as British Secretary and Counsellor to the Chinese
Legation in London.
His medal group was testimony to an exotic career: a Turkish
Crimea Medal, a Second China War Medal with 1860 Peking bar
together with a Chinese Order of the Precious Star and Chinese
Order of the Double Dragon II Class, 1st Grade.
The latter were traditionally made as a pair: the Precious Star
fashioned by a Chinese goldsmith to be worn round the neck, the
Double Dragon, a much finer quality breast badge with Moscow
hallmarks. They were very rarely awarded to Westerners and indicate
the high regard in which Sir Halliday Macartney was held by the
Although estimated at just £400-600, such a rare and historic
group - consigned by a private source with no family connections -
attracted many interested parties from both the UK and
Underbid by a British collector, the lot sold to a Continental
collector at a house record £33,000 (plus 17.5 per cent buyer's
By Roland Arkell
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