These two magnificent equestrian portraits in silhouette represent regiments that were engaged in the famous charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava on 25th October 1854 which was immortalised by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in his poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” written just over a month later on 2nd December 1864.
Russia, France and Britain had been competing for influence in the Middle East for several years, particularly with the Ottoman empire. Religious differences were a catalyst. Access to religious sites in the Holy Land caused tension between Catholic France and Orthodox Russia. In 1853 there was rioting in Bethlehem. Some Orthodox monks were killed in fighting with French monks. Tsar Nicholas I blamed the Turks for the deaths. Russia attacked the Ottomans in 1853 calling them the “sick man of Europe”. When they sank the Turkish fleet at Sinope on the Black Sea, the French and British decided to go to war with Russia, ostensibly to protect their trade routes from an expansive Russia whilst believing their Navies would quickly win a short war.
The Crimean War (1854-56) was fought by an alliance of Britain, France, Turkey and Sardinia against Russia. It was the only major European conflict the British Army engaged in between 1816 and 1914. For the British, the campaign was symbolised by serious military and logistical incompetence alongside the bravery and endurance of its soldiers. It is also remembered for the role of Florence Nightingale.
These prints were drawn by John Mollo [1931-2017] who was responsible for our prints of Uniforms of the Royal Navy and Knights of the Middle Ages. Mollo had been a military historian and was an adviser to the director, Tony Richardson, when making the film The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968). He subsequently won 2 Oscars: in 1978 for costume design of Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope (directed by George Lucas) and another for Gandhi in 1983 (Directed by Richard Attenborough). He also won 5 BAFTAs and 3 Primetime Emmys.