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Brazil & Admiral Sir Sidney Smith - Toleware Snuffbox, 1810
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Brazil & Admiral Sir Sidney Smith - Toleware Snuffbox, 1810

Measurements: 7.7cm (3in) x 4.6cm (1.75in) x 2cm (0.75in)



Painted tin, decorated with the portrait of Sir Sidney Smith beneath the words ‘The Brazils & Sir S. Smith’. The present box commemorates Smith’s evacuation of the Portuguese royal family and fleet to Brazil after France and Spain concluded a pact to divide Portugal between them. Smith was further involved in planning an attack on the Spanish colonies in South America, in combination with the Portuguese, contrary to his orders, and was recalled to Britain in 1809 before any of the plans could be carried out. He received great popular acclaim for his actions and was treated as a hero, but the Government which was generally suspicious of him, denied him any official honours.

Admiral Sir Sidney Smith (1764-1840) liked to think of himself as a second Nelson, and there are certainly parallels between the two. Most notably Smith and Nelson shared the credit for ending Napoleon’s dream of eastern conquest: Nelson at the Battle of the Nile and Smith by his defence of Acre in 1799.  Moreover, Napoleon reminiscing late in his life, said of Smith: ‘That man made me miss my destiny’.

Smith’s long and active career was shaped by a willingness to act on his initiative. He distinguished himself in action at a young age during the American Revolutionary War, but was put on shore with the Peace of Versailles. He undertook intelligence gathering missions in France, Spain and Morocco, before entering Swedish service and leading King Gustav’s fleet to victory with destruction of sixty-four Russian ships in the 1780s. For this he was rewarded with the Grand Cross of the Svärdsorden, but was mocked by fellow British officers as ‘the Swedish knight’.  He travelled to the Grande Porte where his brother was the British envoy and established good relations with the Ottoman court. Following the outbreak of war with Revolutionary France he appeared as a volunteer at burning of the French fleet at Toulon, and was later captured on the northern French coast during a cutting out expedition. He later escaped from the Temple prison in Paris. In 1806 he was in Italy and led land forces to victory over the numerically superior French at the Battle of Maida, In 1815 he was at Brussels during the Battle of Waterloo and afterwards negotiated the uncontested entry of the British Army into Paris.