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Painting by Tenniel of the distribution of Crimean Medals on Horse Guards Parade, 18 May 1855

Sir John Tenniel: The distribution of Crimean Medals on Horse Guards Parade, 18 May 1855.


Queen Victoria presented Crimea medals to 678 [?] men at a ceremony on the Horse Guards Parade on the 18th of May 1855. These men are listed in a number of places, including the Nominal Roll (now in the National Archive), the "London Gazette", a similar roll which appeared in the United Services Magazine for June 1855, and the "Illustrated London News" of the 26th of May 1855.

On the 22nd of March 1855 the Queen had written to Lord Panmure:

"The value of this medal would be greatly enhanced if she were to personally deliver it to the officers and certain men (specially selected for the purpose). The valour displayed by our troops, as well as the sufferings they have endured - have never been surpassed - perhaps hardly equalled: and as I have visited them in their hospitals would like to give them personally the award they have won so well, and will value so much."

A date was fixed and recipients informed:

[To] Officer Commanding the Cavalry Depots

Horse Guards,

16th May 1855.

Sir, - Referring to my letter of the 10th inst, I have the General Commanding-in-Chief's command to desire that all officers entitled to receive the Crimean medal and now with their Depots to be ordered to attend in London for the purpose of being present on the parade on Friday the 18th of May 1855 at 10 o'clock precisely. Be pleased to acknowledge its receipt.

I am, etc. etc.,

G.A. Weatherall, AAG.

On the occasion, the Queen and Prince Albert and their attendants were stationed on a dais, the Queen in a lilac blue dress and white bonnet. Members of the Royal family watched from the balcony of the central window of the Horse Guards.

As each officer and man arrived at the left hand side of the dais he handed to Major General Weatherley, DAG, a card containing his name, rank, if wounded, and each battle he had served in. This detail was then read out for the information of the Queen and her Court. On Her Majesty's right hand stood the Minister for War, who handed 768 medals successively to Her Majesty from baskets at his feet, the whole ceremony lasting two hours.

In her Journal the Queen wrote:

"I was profoundly moved by the occasion which united high and low and brought all equally together as heroes... All touched my hand, the 1st time that a simple Private has touched the hand of his Sovereign & that - a Queen."


Two pictures were executed of the scene: one a watercolour by John Tenniel (later Sir John) [above], the other an oil painting by George Housman Thomas.

Tenniel (as well as illustrating Lewis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland, and Through the Looking Glass) also painted two pictures of the Queen and Prince Albert at the Fort Pitt Military Hospital Brompton in March 1855. All three pictures are in the Royal Collection at Windsor.

After her visit the Queen wrote to Lord Panmure criticising the general conditions in the Hospital:

"Most of the wards are so small, that there is hardly space between the beds. There is no dining room or hall, so the poor men must have their meals in the same room in which they sleep and in which some may be dying or at any rate suffering, whilst others eat their meals.'

It was partly because of her complaint that a New Military Hospital was built at Netley, of which she laid the foundation stone in 1856.

Painting by G H Thomas of the Presentation of Crimean Medals by Queen Victoria

George Housman Thomas: The Presentation of Crimean Medals by Queen Victoria on Horse Guards Parade, 18 May 1855.

An oil painting, some 38 by 70 inches, commissioned by Queen Victoria at a cost of 300 and painted by George Housman Thomas, was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1858 and again at Leeds in 1868. It is now (1998) on the wall of the 1855 or Household Dining-Room at Buckingham Palace. This was the first of a number painted by this artist of Royal presence scenes, another being the First Presentation of the Victoria Cross in Hyde Park in 1857.

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