A magnificent silver gilt bowl presented by King William IV to the Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS) is back in England thanks to a maritime antiques dealer.
Charles Wallrock of Wick Antiques in Lymington, Hants, who is a keen yachtsman, believes it is the missing trophy from the squadron’s annual race in 1835; the King’s Cup.
That year the winner was Irishman John Smith-Barry in his 90-ton yacht Columbine.
An account from the time stated how ‘his gracious majesty’s beautiful cup will for the first time find its way to the sister isle, and grace the sideboard of the hospitable and liberal proprietor of Cove Island in Cork Harbour’.
The bowl includes the royal coat of arms and has the inscription ‘The Gift of His Most Gracious Majesty William the Fourth to the Royal Yacht Squadron, 1835’.
The annual race was the precursor of the world-famous Cowes Week held on the Isle of Wight and the bowl will now be offered at the Chelsea Antiques Fair with a price tag of £78,000.
The Royal Yacht Squadron was founded in 1815 – two weeks before the Battle of Waterloo – and it remains the most prestigious and exclusive yacht club in the world.
It is based at Cowes Castle on the Isle of Wight and members have included some of the most famous and privileged people in the world.
The Queen remains patron and the late Prince Philip was an Admiral and active participant.
William IV, the so-called ‘Sailor King’, a friend of Admiral Lord Nelson, was a member and from 1830 until his death seven years later presented a trophy.
How and when the 1935 trophy ended up in America remains uncertain, but there is huge excitement that it has returned home and is up for sale.
Charles Wallrock, a member of the Royal Thames Yacht Club, said: “This is a superb and outstanding silver gilt bowl presented by the king to the Royal Yacht Squadron.
“For me it does not get any better and I am very proud to have brought it back home. It is an important part of our nautical heritage.
“Although his younger brother had been a member, King William IV can be considered the squadron’s first Admiral because it was he who changed its name from the Royal Yacht Club to the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1833.
“He had served in the Royal Navy in his youth and 1827 he was appointed as Lord High Admiral, three years before he inherited the throne and presented the first of his cups.
“Research strongly suggests this is the bowl won in 1835 by John Smith-Barry of Fota House, a stunning regency mansion situated on an island in Cork Harbour.
“We know he was a keen sailor and a member of the Royal Cork Yacht Club.
“The mansion was sold by the family to University College, Cork, in 1975 and has since been restored and is open to the public.
“How and when the trophy ended up in the US is unclear but when I saw it for sale I realised its importance.
“Yachts of the RYS fly the Royal Ensign and it has always had a close relationship with the Royal Navy.
“Its first Commodore, Lord Yarborough, assured King Willian IV that ‘it will ever be our most earnest wish and desire to promote, in every way in our power, naval science and architecture’.
“The squadron is also responsible for the America’s Cup after inviting the New York Yacht Club to a race in 1851.
“The bowl has two handles in the form of a ship’s prow, one with a crowned lion and the other with a unicorn wearing a chain of office.
“It was made by the top silversmith William Bateman II and is of supreme quality.
“There are many collectors and institutions who would love to add this to collections.”
An account from just before the race in August 1835 said: “His Majesty has presented the RYS with his customary splendid Silver Gilt Bowl, value 100gs, manufactured by Messrs. Rundell, Bridge and Co., with great taste, which will be contested for on his Majesty’s Birthday, the 21st inst., and is expected to be a very interesting race, from the well-known qualities of the Yachts that have entered.”
The bowl, as well as having the maker’s mark of William Bateman, includes the inscription ‘Rundell Bridge et Co, Aurifices Regis Londoni.’