Portrait Miniature of Major-General John Vaughan, 1925
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Overall: 12.5cm (in) x 10cm (in)
Oil on ivorine. Portrait miniature of Major-General John Vaughan. Contained in 9 carat gold frame by The Goldsmiths’ & Silversmiths’ Co. Ltd., 112 Regent Street, London. Hallmarked London 1915.
The sitter of the present portrait became well-known in the 1920s as the manager of Craven Lodge, a fox hunting club at Melton Mowbray, favoured the Prince of Wales and his set from 1923 to 1929. Ideally placed for the Quorn, Belvoir and Cottesmore hunts, Craven Lodge was bought in 1922 by General Vaughan’s stepson Captain Michael Wardell of the 10th Hussars, who was destined to loose an eye in a hunting accident in 1925. During the season Craven Lodge provided for 62 loose boxes, 6 saddle rooms and accommodation for a handful of well-heeled sportsmen at the centre of a unique and cosmopolitan hunting scene that attracted a Americans from the famed hunts in the eastern US, a sprinkling of Indian princes, and ladies whose pursuit of the fox was only matched, according to the Duke of Windsor, ‘by a pursuit of romance’. Together with ‘retired Admirals and Generals; cavalrymen and guardsmen’ they hunted with ‘yeoman farmers in ‘rat catchers‘ whose land was often a dismal scene after the ‘field’ had galloped over their farms, smashing the fences and leaving the gates open for cattle to stray.’
Major-General John Vaughan, CB, CMG, DSO, DL, JP, (1871-1956 ) was of ancient Welsh lineage. Educated at Eton and Sandhurst, he was commissioned into the 7th Hussars in 1891; served in Matabele (1896), Mashonaland (1897) and the Sudan (1898), where he participated in the charge of the 21st Lancers at Omdurman made famous by Winston Churchill’s reportage. With characteristic modesty Vaughan later recalled ‘Personally I don’t remember much about it except that I snatched out my .450 Webley and cleared a way for my Arab pony through the crowd. When I pulled up on the far bank of the Wadi, there was my dear old Troop Sergeant at my elbow, but the men were pig-sticking after the enemy all over the plain and it was the devils own job to collect them again.’
In 1899 Vaughan was seconded for special service in South Africa and became as ADC to Lord French (then the commander of the Cavalry Division). By March 1902, he was an Intelligence Officer with a column consisting of the 7th Hussars and Queen's Bays. On 1 April he personally captured Commandant Pretorius as he was trying to escape - ‘I put my Colt pistol in the driver’s face and said in my best Africaans, ‘Ik sal ye dood schiet’’. His immediate DSO was won for a gallant cavalry action near Boschmanskop in April 1902, when, owing to casualties, he took command of a squadron of the Queen’s Bays, prior to leading a charge of the 7th Hussars in which he was seriously wounded. - ‘My left leg let me down and I found that I had been hit in the knee and not the foot as I imagined. My poor little mare then flopped to the ground and died. She had been shot through the lungs as we turned round.’ Conan Doyle’s history commented Vaughan’s men galloped with such dash that some of them got among the Boers with their swords.
In 1904, Vaughan transferred to the 10th Hussars, and in 1908 was given command of the regiment. At this time he was a noted polo player and was one of a select group of commanding officers that played in their regimental team. Vaughan was addicted to fox hunting, and when he was Commandant of the Cavalry School, he included it on the syllabus under the pretext ‘memory training’. He married in 1913 a widow, Louisa Wardell. At the start of the First World War Vaughan was Chief of Staff to Edmund Allenby, then commander of the 1st Cavalry Division. In September 1914 he succeeded Hubert Gough to the command of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade (4th Hussars, 5th and 16th Lancers) during a period he later described as the ‘toughest part of the war with very few men, very few shells and no reserves.’
In 1917 he commanded the 3rd Cavalry Division in the Battle of Arras. Vaughan retired from the Army in 1920, and thrice won the Army Open point-to-point on a favourite hunter Merrie England. During the 1926 General Strike he formed a mounted police unit in London and was active in keeping militant strikers in check. In 1936 he took a contingent of Welsh war veterans on a reconciliation visit to Nazi Germany. Such visits were strongly encouraged by the Nazis but they failed to hoodwink Vaughan into any false impression of German intentions. He returned to the Army during the Second World War as a Zone Commander in the Home Guard. He died after a fall from his horse on his Welsh estate on in 1956. He was 84 and much lamented by tenants and his butler.
Mahala Theodora 'Dora' Webb (1886-1973) was a successful portrait miniaturist who lived in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. She received ten commissions for Queen Mary’s Dolls House, the 1:12 scale project that fulfilled George V’s Queen Consort’s fascination for all things miniature and that provided a showcase for British artists and craftsmen. Dora Webb’s contribution included, a 3.9cm x 2.7cm portrait of Edward, Prince of Wales. She was an Associate of The Royal Miniature Society and was also known as an animal and landscape painter.