A Pair of Signed Royal Portraits Presented to Arctic Explorer Captain E.A Inglefield, R.N., 1852
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Mezzotint engravings by Thomas Herbert Maguire (1821-1895) after Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-1873) of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the former signed ‘Victoria’ and dated ‘1852’ in ink in the Queen’s hand in the mount, the latter signed ‘Albert’ in ink in the Prince Consort’s hand. Each contained in original gilt gesso glazed frames, surmounted by a tasseled cushion and respectively a St. Edward’s crown for Victoria and a Guelphic crown for Albert, each frame further fitted with gilt wood slips inscribed 'Presented by the QUEEN to Captn. Inglefield, R.N.’.
Admiral Sir Edward Augustus Inglefield (1820-1894) was born into a family of distinguished naval stock - it was his uncle Ben Hallowell who gifted Nelson the coffin made from the mainmast of the French ship L’Orient at the Battle of the Nile. Inglefield entered the Royal Naval College at Portsmouth and joined the Royal Navy at fourteeen, serving in South America, North Africa and the West Indies. Promoted Commander, he was appointed to lead the British Franklin Search Expedition of 1852, sponsored by public subscription and the efforts of the irrepressible Jane, Lady Franklin. Nothing had been heard of her husband nor his quest for the fabled Northwest Passage since 1845, and it was Inglefield’s mission to search Jones Sound and along the west coast of Baffin Bay and Davis Strait.
Sailing from Peterhead in July 1852 the steam-yacht Isabel, Inglefield stopped at west Greenland to obtain dogs before proceeding north and entering Smith Sound, which he penetrated to 78° 28 minutes North. During his surveys around the entrance to Smith Sound, Inglefield charted about 1,000km of new coast and he later made a brief examination of Jones Sound, reaching 84° 10 minutes West before turning back. On the return voyage, he continued the search for Franklin along the east coast of Baffin Island as far as Cumberland Sound before the approach of winter forced him to sail home. Despite finding no trace of the Franklin expedition, Inglefield was fêted on his return home in November 1852 and was awarded the Royal Geographical Society Patron's Medal ‘for his enterprising survey of the coasts of Baffin Bay, Smith Sound and Lancaster Sound.’ His narrative of the expedition ‘A Summer Search for Sir John Franklin ~ with a peep into the Polar Basin’ was published in 1853.
Inglefield also made a favourable impression in royal circles, and appears to have met Queen Victoria on a number of occasions. In 1853 one of the Queen’s maids of honour at Windsor Castle recorded ‘Captain Inglefield came here this afternoon, and brought all his drawings and sketches of the Arctic scenery; quite beautiful and wonderfully clever, enormous for sketches, some of them 3 feet long and 18 or 20 inches wide, and though slight, not too rough, and with the most pleasing truthfulness about them. They were all arranged in the corridor, for the Queen to see after lunch, and we took the liberty of examining them till she came. He was there himself and explained them to her, an intelligent, active looking youngish man, with very dark hair and eyes; he is one of very few who are still sanguine about poor Franklin. It was awful to see how slight and small the ship (not a very large one in reality), looked among the gigantic icebergs and in the ‘pack’.’
In 1853, Inglefield was given command of H.M.S. Phoenix on the British Naval Supply Voyage, sent by the Admiralty to deliver supplies and dispatches to the five vessels under the ill-tempered martinet Sir Edward Belcher who had been sent in search of Franklin in 1852. Sailing in company with the transport vessel H.M.S. Breadalbane, Inglefield reached Beechey Island, Barrow Strait where North Star, one of Belcher's vessels, was anchored. By this time however it appears that the British public, the press and indeed the Admiralty was losing interest in yet another attempt to find Franklin, and Inglefield found himself under strict orders to simply carry out the re-supply of Belcher’s squadron. However, Inglefield’s mission encompassed two unfortunate incidents; the loss of Joseph-Ren Bellot, a French lieutenant and volunteer in Phoenix, who drowned in a fifteen foot wide fissure opened up in the frozen in Wellington Channel, while delivering messages to Belcher. Later in the same month, H.M.S. Breadalbane was nipped in the ice and sank off Beechey Island. After relieving Belcher's expedition, Inglefield returned home in October 1853 and was promoted Captain. Returning with Phoenix and H.M.S. Talbot to Beechey Island in 1854 to re-supply Belcher's ships, Inglefield succeeded in bringing home most of the personnel of H.M.S. Investigator and the four abandoned vessels of Belcher's expedition.
Later the same year he presented Queen Victoria and Prince Albert with a collection of photographs taken by himself of his squadron and of people and scenes in and around Sisimiut or Holsteinsborg in Greenland. According to the Royal Collection his photographs were arranged into an album by Prince Albert himself (https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/2906210/my-squadron-greenland). Besides being a talented artist and photographer, Inglefield was noted as the inventor of a hydraulic steering system and the Inglefield anchor (patented in 1851), and as a gifted after dinner speaker. His relative successes in the Arctic regions no doubt gave the royal couple a genuine reason to show continued polite interest in the Admiralty’s endeavours.
After the 1854 voyage, Inglefield received orders to join the naval operations in the Crimean War. He later served as British naval attaché in Washington in 1871. In 1872, he was appointed Rear Admiral of the dockyard at Malta and second in command of the Mediterranean fleet, later Vice-Admiral and Commander-in-Chief of the North America and West Indies Station between 1878 and 1879. He was knighted in 1877 and retired as Admiral in 1885, after which he devoted much of his time to painting. His watercolours of Arctic landscapes were exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Naval Exhibition at Chelsea in 1891.