British Dirk for a Member of the Egyptian Club, of Senior Naval Officer’s Type, c.1798
With curved blade double-edged towards the point, etched and gilt with flowers and foliage on a blued panel over half its length, gilt brass hilt comprising small outer-guard pierced and chiselled with a crocodile, knuckle chain, faceted back strap rising to form a lion’s head pommel, ribbed ivory grip bound with plaited copper wire. 43.2cm long; 1ft. 5in.
Two days after the battle of the Nile, on the night of 3rd August 1798, the Captains of the fleet met on board the Orion, and inaugurated the ‘Egyptian Club’. A document was then drawn up, and signed by all present, inviting Sir Horatio Nelson to accept the gift of a sword and to have his portrait painted for the club. Nelson’s gold sword was ordered through Rundell & Bridge. Little more is known of the ‘Egyptian Club’ who never seem to have met. The promised portrait was never completed although there was a story that a Neapolitan artist was invited to breakfast with the Captains but felt unworthy of the commission.
Nelson’s own sword was distinguished by an enamel plaque let into each side of the grip, one showing Lord Nelson’s arms and that on the reverse allegorical figures representing Brittania and Africa. On the guard was an enamel plaque representing the Battle of the Nile and a list of the captains that served: Captain Sir F.Berry, Vanguard; Captain T.Trowbridge, Cullodon; Captain R.W.Miller, Theseus; Captain A.J Ball, Alexander; Captain Thomas Lewis, Minotaur; Captain Sir T.B. Thompson; Leander; Captain B.Hallowel, Swiftsure; Captain Davidge Gould, Audacious; Captain John Peyton, Defence; Captain S. Hood, Zealous; Captain James Saumarez, Orion; Captain Thomas Foley, Goliath; Captain G. B. Westcott, Majestic; Captain H.D.E Darby, Bellerophon, Captain S. M. Hardy, Mutine. Captain Westcott had been killed at the action.
The present dirk forms part of a very small group of dirks that were almost certainly made for members of the Egyptian Club.