Original British Napoleonic Named Naval Dirk and Oil Painting by Sir William Beechey R.A

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This is truly extraordinary and a wonderful set of artifacts from a member of a leading British Naval family of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The family is the "GARDNER" family. This concerns Rear Admiral FRANCIS FARINGTON GARDNER (1772-1821), son of Admiral of the Red Lord Alan Gardner and brother to the second Lord Admiral Alan Hyde Gardner.

The set consists of a quality Midshipman's dirk in a brass mounted leather scabbard, hilt of checkered Ivory, curved blade showing traces of it blue and gilt decorations. The blade shows signs of severe pitting from long storage without the removal of seawater that was a common occurrence. On the scabbard's brass top mount, originally gilt, is the engraving:

Francis Farrington Gardner. R.N.

The Midshipman's dirk was the first weapon given to a young Naval Cadet, often by his family, usually at the age of about 13 that he would have carried until achieving his lieutenancy often 6-8 years later.

Accompanying this lovely dirk is an Oil Portrait of Rear Admiral Francis Farrington Gardner painted about 1814 together with his wife and four year old son by Sir William Beechey R.A. a renowned portrait painter of the day.

Painting measures 16 inches by 22 inches. It is framed in a silvered wood and bears a hand written paper label on the rear written by the Admiral's son identifying the characters.

An envelope bearing a red wax seal to the reverse and the name of the man who wrote the inscription on the back of the portrait "Alan Hyde Gardner Esq" is included.

Alan Hyde Gardner was the third son of the couple in the portrait (1814-1858). The portrait bears a small silver plaque that reads:


His Wife Catherine and his son Charles Gardner 1814


Sir William Beechey R.A. ( 1753-1839 )

The Gardner family history is extremely interesting:

Rear Admiral Francis Farington Gardner

A very old handwritten note attached to the back of the portrait reads

Portrait of rear Admiral the Honble

Francis Farington Gardner (2nd son

Of the first Lord Gardner) his

Wife (the daughter of C.S.V. Straubenzie

Esqre) and their eldest son Francis

Charles, b. 25 March 1810 d 1836.

Admiral Gardner died in 1821

Aged 51—He was father to the late

owner of this picture, Alan Hyde Gardner,

Commdr xxx—who died 11 June 1858

The subject of this portrait is Rear Admiral of the Red Francis Farington Gardner, his wife Catherine, and oldest son Francis Charles. Francis Farington was the second son of the famous Admiral of the Red Alan Gardner, first Lord Gardner. Alan Gardner’s first son, Alan Hyde Gardner, also had a successful career in the Royal Navy and became the second Lord Gardner.

Francis Farington married Catherine Van Straubenzee, daughter of Charles Spencer Van Straubenzee, and the couple had a total of five children, three sons and two daughters:

Francis Charles Gardner, b. 25 March 1810, d 1836

Stewart William Gardner, b. 18 July 1812,

Alan Hyde Gardner, b. in 1814, d. 11 November 1858

Catherine Georgiana Gardner

Susannah Amelia Gardner

Francis Farington Gardner had quite a successful career in the Royal Navy, ending up in the third level of flag officers, as a Rear Admiral of the Red Squadron. His dates of service and his commands are as follows:

Entry Discharge Rate Event

19 June 1791 Seniority as Lieutenant

01 Mar 1794 Sl Captain, HOUND (Sloop), 1790-1794

07 May 1794 Seniority as Captain

02 June 1794 14 Sept 1796 5 Captain, IPHIGENIA, 1780-1801

09 Apr 1801 02 May 1803 5 Captain, PRINCESS CHARLOTTE, 1799-1812

27 May 1803 18 Oct 1803 3 Captain, RUBY, 1776-1821

19 Oct 1803 22 May 1804 3 Captain, GELYKHEID, 1797-1814

23 May 1804 19 Sept 1805 5 Captain, PRINCESS CHARLOTTE, 1799-1812

19 Sept 1805 Invalided

20 Aug 1807 28 Feb 1810 Captain, Sea Fencibles, Chepstow to Bristol Channel

12 Aug 1812 Promoted Rear Admiral, Blue

04 June 1814 Promoted Rear Admiral, White

12 Aug 1819 Promoted Rear Admiral, Red

01 July 1821 Died

His thirty-year career in the Royal Navy spanned the most dangerous and most exciting of times, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.

The portrait of the Rear Admiral would have been painted around 1814 as his first son, Francis Charles Gardner, looks about four years old in the painting, and he was born in 1810. The painting shows a handsome father, a very lovely and fashionable wife, and Frances Charles, who is engaged in drawing his father’s sword as he looks the artist right in the eye. Altogether, it is a very attractive family.

The artist, Sir William Beechey, had already painted Admiral Lord Alan Gardner, Francis Farington’s father, and also Admiral Alan Hyde Gardner, Francis’s older brother. Beechey was popular among Great Britain’s ruling elite, being the favorite portraitist of both King George and Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, the hero of Trafalgar.

The Gardner family had a fascinating tangled web of relationships. Francis Farington was named after his grandmother, Frances ffarington. His father Alan, the first Lord Gardner, was brother to Valentine Gardner, who made a career in the Army and was posted to the American Colonies in the years before the Revolution. Here Valentine met an American girl, Alida Livingstone, got married, and had a son named William Linnaeus Gardner. William Linneaus was born in Brunswick, New Jersey. Along came the Revolution, and Valentine Gardner stayed loyal to Britain and fought with his regiment until the end, at which point he was repatriated to England, but without his family.

His family, Alida and William, followed later and all three lived with Valentine’s brother Alan. William Linnaeus and Francis Farington grew up playing together. The boys also played with Edward Gardner, Francis’s younger brother.

Francis, or Frank, as William called him, went into the navy while William joined the Army and went to India, where he met and married a fourteen-year-old Indian princess and had countless dangerous adventures which have become the stuff of legend. His real-life adventures read like a combination of Sir Harry Flashman and of Richard Sharpe of Sharpe’s Rifles.

Edward grew up and went into the Civil Service of the East India Company. There he encountered his cousin William Linneaus again, and they began a correspondence that lasted for years. This correspondence provides some of the very scarce information about Francis Farington. (It seems that there is a wealth of information about the other Gardners, but little about Francis.)

One of our sources is Lady Nugent’s Journal, written by Maria, Lady Nugent, a contemporary of the Gardner’s. While her husband is posted in Jamaica, she meets both Admiral Alan Gardner, who was the commander of the Royal Navy in the West Indies, and she meets Francis Farington, a captain at the time. She tells us that on one of their meetings, she was uncomfortable because she had heard of a scandal in which Francis’s older brother Alan Hyde had been involved. But she tells us that Francis was comfortable talking about it, and told her and her friends what had happened. It was as juicy a scandal as any Hollywood writer could conjure up, involving a gorgeous young wife, infidelity, scandal, a child out of wedlock, and et cetera.

Later, in one of those uncanny coincidences, she meets Edward Gardner, younger brother to Alan Hyde and Francis, in Calcutta and gives us a vivid image of him. He is eventually posted to Nepal as the first Permanent Resident (ambassador) from Great Britain. While there, he maintains his correspondence with William Linnaeus, leading to the bulk of the information we have about William, published in the 1950s in Gardner of Gardner’s Horse. William Linnaeus had had such an impact in India that a current armored regiment of the Indian Army is named Gardner’s Horse.

But we must return to the painting. The mischievous little Francis Charles Gardner died quite young, at age twenty-six. We find what happened from a fragment of the autobiography of Stewart William Gardner, Francis Farington’s second son. He tells us that Francis Charles having lost his leg; having been forced to have it amputated twice, the second time by Sir Ashley Cooper, the Duke of Clarence put him in Somerset House. Also, perhaps not surprising, he spends time with his uncle Edward Gardner and with William Linnaeus.

On the surface, it just looks like a charming portrait of a very attractive family group; behind the surface is enough material for a dozen novels. And even more important, it is a heretofore unknown painting by one of England’s premier artists, Sir William Beechey.

An extraordinary set from a time of Britain's Naval greatness!

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