Sword from 1790s presented to Francis Douglas
James Morisset, one of London’s most celebrated makers of enamelled gold dress-swords and boxes, was commissioned to produce this sword.
Sword, Mark of James Morisset, 1798-9. Museum no. 274-1, 2-1869
From around 1640, light swords with short, flexible, pointed blades appeared in response to new fencing techniques that emphasised thrusting at speed. They were worn increasingly with civilian clothes as ‘small swords’, offering a means of self-defence but largely denoting status for the well-dressed gentleman.
Small swords were items of male jewellery. By the 1750s, their elaborate gold and silver hilts, mounted with precious stones and fine enamelling, were the products of the goldsmith and jeweller rather than the swordsmith. They made fitting rewards for distinguished military and naval service.
Francis Douglas was rewarded for his role in suppressing a violent mutiny among sailors at the Nore, a Royal Navy anchorage in the Thames Estuary in 1797.