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Mediterranean Fleet - A Royal Navy Wardroom Cigar Lighter, 1894
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Mediterranean Fleet - A Royal Navy Wardroom Cigar Lighter, 1894

Measurements: Height: 8.5cm (3.4in)

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Silver. Of spherical form on three ball feet, the central wick rising from a flared stopper to the internal resevoir, flanked by two removeable ‘matches’ with pineapple finials, the body engraved with the armorial crest of Admiral Sir Michael Culme-Seymour, Bart. (viz:-  On a naval crown, two brands in saltire in-flamed at the ends ppr., thereon an eagle rising, also ppr., gazing at the sun). Hallmarked 1894.

Admiral Sir Michael Culme-Seymour, 3rd Baronet (1836–1920) is described by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as ‘a fearsome martinet with a mania for order’. Possessed of immense reserves of physical energy, he was known in the Navy for winning running races as an Admiral. He is rembered to history for restoring the reputation of the Mediterranean Fleet after the battleship H.M.S. Victoria was accidentally rammed and sunk by H.M.S. Camperdown off Tripoli in 1893 - a time when Britain's international position was intimately identified with the Mediterranean Fleet, and any sign of weakness would encourage the newly formed Franco-Russian alliance to challenge British pre-eminence at sea, upon which rested the whole fabric of the empire.

Educated at Harrow, he entered the Navy in 1850 and saw early active service in the Burmese War (1852) and the Crimean War (1854-55), participating in Baltic and Black Sea operations, and serving ashore with the Naval Brigade at the Siege of Sebastopol. While serving as flag-lieutenant to his uncle during the Second Opium War (1860), he was present in a desperate boat action in Fatshan Creek; at the capture of Canton and the Peiho forts. Promoted Captain in 1865, he was appointed naval A.D.C. to Queen Victoria. He commanded the ironclad Monarch, and in 1877 Temeraire in the squadron that Admiral Sir Geoffrey Phipps Hornby led up the Dardanelles in 1878. Having attained flag rank he was successively C-in-C Pacific station and of the Channel Fleet from 1890 to 1893.

Following the Victoria disaster, Seymour remained in the Mediterranean until 1897, restoring the morale and setting many officers in his fleet on the path to future high commands during the First World War - Jellicoe being among them, but he also reversed the radical tactical thinking of his predecessor and reverted to methods that failed at the Battle of Jutland (1916). Culme-Seymour’s career benefitted from a long and close family connection with the Royal Family, which in relation to the sailor-prince, later George V, had a curious consequence. An unfounded rumour held, that George, then Prince George, had in 1890 in Malta married Mary, Culme-Seymour's elder daughter. In February 1911, a republican activist Frederick Mylius was prosecuted for perpetrating this libel. Culme-Seymour gave evidence in the King's favour, and Mylius was imprisoned for twelve months.

 

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