A series of dramatic trophies made up of weapons from the battlefield at Waterloo were offered in our recent Waterloo Bicentenary Sale on the 24 June 2015 (lots 638-640). The first, lot 638, is a magnificent trophy that hung for many years in the Officers' Mess of the Coldstream Guards sold for £21,250. It is comprised of radiating blades of French and British light cavalry sabres, in the shape of a palm frond which were taken from the battlefield.
This trophy once held the regimental colours of The Coldstream Guards. The Coldstream Guards form part of the Brigade of Her Majesty's Foot Guards in the Household Division. They are the oldest regiment in the British Army in continuous active service, originating in Coldstream, Scotland in 1650 when General George Monck founded the regiment. They are also one of two regiments of the Household Division that can trace their lineage to the New Model Army, the other being the Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons).
The 2nd, or Coldstream Guards saw extensive service in the wars against the French Revolution and Napoleon. They fought in the Egyptian campaign, and subsequently in Portugal and Spain, under the Duke of Wellington. At Waterloo they were part of the 2nd Guards Brigade, under the command of Major-General Sir John Byng and stationed on the right wing of Wellington's position. Famously, their light company, along with that of the 3rd Scots Guards, under the overall command of Lieutenant-Colonel James Macdonell of the Coldstream, defended the chateau of Hougoumont on Wellington's extreme right flank. With the aid of units of Nassau and Hanoverian light infantry, and the two light companies of the 1st Guards (see autograph letter, Lot 649) - the Guards' defence of Hougoumont pinned down an entire French army corps of 15,000 men for the whole of the day.
At one point the French, led by the gigantic Lieutenant Legros, nicknamed 'l'enfonceur', 'the smasher', managed to get into the Chateau farmyard through the North Gate. Lt Col Macdonell, leading a party of men from the Coldstream and Scots Guards, managed to close the gates before turning on the French intruders, of whom only a drummer boy would be spared. The defence of the chateau is still commemorated in the ceremony of "Hanging the Brick", held annually in the Sergeants' Mess of the Coldstream.
Wellington himself declared after Waterloo that "the success of the battle turned upon closing of the gates at Hougoumont".
Until recently, these trophies formed part of the Forbes Collection and hung on the walls of the entrance hall of the Cañon House on the Blanca Trinchera Ranch which was acquired by Malcolm S. Forbes in 1981.