Being always interested in the colourful array of Napoleonic yeomanry, I recently noticed a striking painting up for sale. It’s a contemporary oil painting of an officer of the Surrey Yeomanry Cavalry which I thought pleasing enough to share.
In the distance can be seen the whole regiment lined up as well as a separate group nearby. They wear white over red plumes while the officer wears red. One of this group is presumably intended to be a trumpeter wearing a darker (navy?) coloured coat, a Tarleton possibly with its crest being topped with red, and also being mounted on a grey. His instrument might possibly just be discerned being held in his right hand.
From the heavy pall of smoke to the left distance, a significant battle seems to be in progress – a fanciful invention for a regiment whose duties were principally limited to policing civil unrest!
I was initially unsure of the year it was painted but the sale description suggested the officer has drawn a Pattern 1822 Light Cavalry Sword. This trusty weapon was to remain in use in the British army up until 1896 and in some yeomanry regiments well into the 20th century.
The regiment was disbanded briefly at the end of the 1820s. Given the sword pattern, the Napoleonic-era uniform and Tarleton helmet, it seemed likely that it must have been mid-1820s, prior to any subsequent uniform change. Yeomanry could be slow to adopt changes in military fashion from the regular forces as the cost of adopting new uniforms would usually come from the regiment’s own colonel and benefactor. A portrait of a quartermaster from the Leicestershire Yeomanry, for example, shows him still wearing a Tarleton helmet in the 1850s!
A little research soon threw up another Boult painting of a Surrey Yeomanry Cavalry officer. This portrait is dated 1823. Presumably both the paintings being commissioned together and is therefore likely the same date as the first canvas. This painting depicts the officer in a more dynamic pose, firing his pistol, seemingly as he rides hurriedly back towards his lines away from the enemy! To the distance right, another line of light blue Surrey yeomen can be seen. Notably, the trouser on this officer is of a light blue or blue-grey colour rather than the apparent black in the first portrait.
Also in the saleroom is this 100mm Die-Cast figure of Colonel Lord Leslie of the Surrey Yeomanry Cavalry, the regiment’s founder. Dying in 1817, this is not the same as the officer in the painting.
And the painting of the Surrey Yeomanry continues to this day as seen on this pub sign (depicting a later incarnation of the regiment). On Dorking High Street is a pub which was named in honour of Lord Leslie back in the early 19th century, the Lord being a former neighbour.
About the artist:
I can’t find much information about the artist Augustus S. Boult beyond what appears on auction sites. It appears that he specialised in painting equestrian, country and hunting subjects and painted at least some other cavalry portraits. It appears that he had a relation (possibly a son), Francis, who followed in the same tradition, painting very similar subjects but seemingly non-military. Augustus Boult died in 1853.