1st (Royal) Dragoons - The Adjutant’s Charger ‘The Butt’, 1884
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Overall: 57cm (22in) x 71cm (28in)
Oil on canvas. Equestrian portrait of a chestnut charger equipped with the full dress horse furniture of the Royals for the period 1883-1896, comprising hunting pattern saddle with regulation blue girth over Ukrainian black lambskin edged in regimentally specific red scalloped cloth, over the dragoon style shabraque of authorised pattern, being bullion embroidered with the Guelphic crown, Royal crest encircling Garter and designation ‘1’ ‘D’ at the hindquarters and crowned VR cypher at the forequarters covering the wallets, complete with officers’ pattern bridle fitted with regimental ear and bit bosses, and head chain; set in a stable with horse blanket left initialled ‘BM’, indicating the ownership of Captain John Francis Burn-Murdoch, Adjutant, 1st (Royal) Dragoons. Inscribed verso, ‘’The Butt’ January, 1884’. Canvas size: 46cm (18in) x 61cm (24in). Contained in gilt wood frame
Major-General Sir John Francis Burn-Murdoch KCVO, CB, CMG, DSO (1859-1931) was educated at Eton and commissioned into the 1st (Royal) Dragoons in 1878. He saw active service in the Second Afghan War (1878-1880) and the Egyptian War (1882) at Tel-el-Kebir. He afterwards commanded the Royals seconded to the Camel Corps for the Gordon Relief Expedition (1884-85) during which he was present at the Battles of Abu Klea and El Gubat. At Abu Klea, where Dervish fanatics broke the British square, he was trapped beneath a wounded camel and saved himself by shooting four spear-wielding Fuzzy-Wuzzies with his revolver at uncomfortably close range.
He was a noted amateur jockey. He rode his first winner in 1882 in the Sligo Hunt Cup. Later victories included two winners of the Grand Military Gold Cup at Sandown: Larva in 1884 and Midshipmite in 1893. Between 1891 and 1894 he was he was Brigade-Major of Cavalry at Aldershot whence he was appointed to the command of the cavalry under Lord Kitchener, then Sirdar of the Egyptian Army. He took part in the 1896 reconquest of territory lost to the Khedives of Egypt during the Mahdist War (1884-85) by participating in the Dongola Expedition of 1896. In June of that year he commanded his cavalry with distinction at the rout of Sudanese Mahdists at the Battle of Firket (or Ferkeh) - the first significant gain in Kitchener’s plan to retake the Sudan which culminated in 1898 at the Battle of Omdurman. General Burn-Murdoch afterwards served in South Africa and was present at the Relief of Ladysmith. During the First World War he was twice mentioned in despatches.