Sword from 1790s presented to Francis Douglas
From around 1640, light swords with short, flexible, pointed blades appeared in response to new fencing techniques that emphasised thrusting at speed. They were worn increasingly with civilian clothes as 'small swords', offering a means of self-defence but largely denoting status for the well-dressed gentleman.
Small swords were items of male jewellery. By the 1750s, their elaborate gold and silver hilts, mounted with precious stones and fine enamelling, were the products of the goldsmith and jeweller rather than the swordsmith. They made fitting rewards for distinguished military and naval service. With their blades tucked away inside scabbards, it was their ostentatious and expensive hilts that carried their thrust.
This sword is inscribed: 'PRESENTED by the Committee of Merchants &c OF LONDON to LIEUT.T FRANCIS DOUGLAS for his Spirited and active conduct on board His Majesty's Ship the REPULSE. Ja.s Alms Esq.r Commander during the MUTINY at the NORE in 1797. Marine Society Office, May 1o 1798 } Hugh Inglis Esq.r Chairman'
Francis Douglas was rewarded for his role in suppressing a violent mutiny among sailors at the Nore, a Royal Navy anchorage in the Thames Estuary in 1797. According to an account by an eyewitness, published in The Sheerness Guardian 70 years later, the ship, Repulse, made a 'miraculous' escape from the mutineers reaching shore despite receiving 'as was calculated two hundred shot'.
James Morisset, one of London's most celebrated makers of enamelled gold dress-swords and boxes, was commissioned to produce this sword.