This highly important silver basket hilted sword forms part of a very small group of race prize swords presented for the Huntly Races. Currently the prizes known to survive are a thistle cup by William Scott of Banff 1695 (National Museums of Scotland), a basket hilted sword by William Scott of Elgin 1701 (National Museums of Scotland), another basket hilted sword by William Scott of Elgin 1713 (Royal Collection), a cup and cover by Robert Cruickshank of Old Aberdeen circa 1725 (Private Collection Mount Stuart) and a basket hilted sword by the same maker 1727 (Royal Collection).
The Huntly Races were held between 1695 and 1749 under the tenure of the 1st and 2nd Dukes of Gordon, after being granted the right by the Scottish Parliament. Termed the 'Charles Fair' this seems to have been in commemoration of King Charles II, and therefore a thinly veiled support of the Stuart/ Jacobite cause. That said the Races followed a form common throughout Scotland of race meetings 'sponsored' by the local council of gentry. As well as adding to the social and sorting calendar they were a means of attracting business and money to the area in the form of big-spending aristocrats and gentry who owned and ran the horses. From the outset it was clear that the Races were intended to appeal to a far-flung constituency.
Prizes were most commonly supplied by the organisers and often took the form of silver or gold plate rather than cash, the plate being made by one of the most highly regarded makers in the area. The fact that so few have actually survived in Scotland suggests they were often converted back into hard cash.
Although the knuckle guard has now been erased as well as the original presentation inscription, and disappointingly the marks have been worn, there is no doubt this sword forms part of this important group. The form of the basket, cipher, crown and bars are unique to this group. It seems highly likely this sword is by William Scott rather than Robert Cruickshank. It fits far more comfortably within his surviving examples with the obvious gadrooned bars and identical construction.
This Wednesday, 14 August, we are delighted to bring this important piece to auction at our Scottish Silver & Applied Arts sale in Edinburgh.
AUCTION | Scottish Silver & Applied Arts | Wednesday 14 August at 10:00AM | Edinburgh
VIEWING | Sunday 11th August 12 noon - 4pm | Monday 12th & Tuesday 13th August 10am -17pm | Morning of sale
LOCATION | 33 Broughton Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3RR