Sunday, March 14, 2010

Miniature portrait of Scots naval hero goes on sale

Miniature portrait of Scots naval hero goes on sale

The miniature is expected to fetch up to £15,000 at auction

A tiny portrait of a Scottish naval officer who helped set the White House ablaze is estimated to fetch up to £15,000 at auction next month.

The miniature of Sir Pulteney Malcolm (1768-1838), from Dumfriesshire, measures just 10cm in height.

In August 1814 Sir Pulteney was third in command of a fleet which set fire to several public buildings in Washington, including the White House.

The miniature portrait has been in the Malcolm family since 1806.

The fire also raged through other buildings at the heart of US government, housing the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The attack was said to be in retaliation for the American looting of York, Upper Canada, now known as Toronto, in 1813.

High rank

The third son of George Malcolm, Sir Pulteney was born at Douglan, near Langholm, on 20 February 1768.

He went on to command a squadron in the North Sea during The Hundred Days' War, and achieved the rank of Admiral of the Blue in 1837.

He also served with the Duke of Wellington and Horatio Nelson.

In 1816, Sir Pulteney was appointed Commander-in-Chief on St Helena, guarding Napoleon Bonaparte.

He died in 1838, aged 70-years-old.

'Fierce battle'

The sale features a miniature of his younger brother, Sir Charles Malcolm, who was also a naval officer.

This lot is estimated at up to £12,000 and both miniatures are by George Engleheart.

Camilla Lombardi, of auction house Bonhams, said: "The miniatures of the two Malcolm brothers are superb examples of Engleheart's work from the pinnacle years of his career.

"Fresh to the market and with the provenance of having remained in the sitters' family since 1806, we look forward to a fierce battle to secure them on the day of the sale."

Both works will go under the hammer in the Fine Portrait Miniatures sale at Bonhams in London on 8 April.


On June 12, 1812, the United States of America declared war on Great Britain. There had been a long period of simmering disputes between the nations, including Northwest Territory land disputes, the British impressment of American sailors, and British blockades of American commerce with France during the Napoleanic wars. It was the War of 1812.

In August of 1814, the British landed to the south of Washington, D.C., and marched inland. The only resistance the British Army encountered as they marched towards Washington was the brief Battle of Bladensburg in Maryland, a last ditch attempt to defend the city. Because the organized American Army was well to the north near Canada, only a hastily organized militia was available to defend the capital. For the British, this allowed a quick victory after which they were free to enter the city.

The King's Own was one of the units who marched into Washington. In retaliation for the torching of the Canadian capitol of York (now called Toronto), and to disgrace President Madison, they set fire to the president's residence on August 24, 1814, burning down the White House.

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