The sale of items from the legendary late collector set new participation records for a Sotheby’s UK auction.
The Victoria Cross is Britain’s highest award for gallantry.
Before this, the only award which recognised gallantry within the British Armed Forces was the Order of Bath but this was only awarded to senior officers. To remedy this, the Distinguished Conduct Medal was instituted in 1854 and was awarded to NCOs and privates.
Though this medal was highly valued, there was a growing awareness of the need for a military decoration which was open to all, regardless of rank2.
On January 29th 1856, Queen Victoria issued a Royal Warrant that officially constituted the Victoria Cross, an award for gallantry that was open to all military personnel, regardless of rank.
It wasn’t long after their introduction that Victoria Crosses began to find their way into collections. In May 1884, Sotheby’s held an auction containing ‘The Choice Collection of Military and Naval Medals and Decorations formed by Major J Lawson Whalley of Lancaster’, which contained two Victoria Crosses.
Two more Victoria Crosses appeared at auction two years later in February 1886. Both of these medals have found their ways into museums. One is in the British in India Museum in Colne, Lancashire; and the other is on the York and Lancaster Museum in Rotherham3.
Lord Ashcroft’s collection
Lord Michael A. Ashcroft is the owner of the world’s largest collection of Victoria Crosses.
Lord Ashcroft began collecting the medals in 1986 when he bought his first Victoria Cross at a Sotheby’s auction in London.
As his collection grew, Lord Ashcroft set up a trust to care for and protect the medals. Today the collection contains more than 40 Victoria Crosses4.
Main article: List of notable medals
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