He was Colonel of the Berkshire Rifle
Volunteers. At the request of its Captain-General, the Prince of Wales, Loyd-Lindsay
commanded the Honourable Artillery
Company from 1866 to 1881 and attempted,
largely unsuccessfully, to modernise it. He
encouraged closer relationships between
regulars and volunteers.
Loyd-Lindsay was a good shot, an
enthusiast for rifle shooting and a prominent
member of the National Rifle Association
(which was closely associated with the
volunteers). He presided over the
Association’s move from Wimbledon
to Bisley in 1890.
Retaining his interest in military matters,
Loyd-Lindsay spoke on the subject as an MP.
He was appointed Financial Secretary to the
War Office by Disraeli in 1877 and worked
on preparations for a possible war with
Russia. In 1891 he was appointed chairman
of a committee reviewing terms and
conditions of service in the army. The report
of this Wantage Committee recommended
improved pay and conditions for soldiers,
but the government failed to introduce most
of its recommendations.
Having himself experienced the appalling
lack of medical treatment in the Crimea,
where he had escaped cholera but nearly died
of dysentery, Loyd-Lindsay was interested in
establishing a scheme of voluntary aid for the
relief of sick and wounded soldiers.
A fellow volunteer, John Furley, was
an early advocate of a new organisation,
the Red Cross, promoted by the Swiss
businessman, Henri Dunant. When the
Franco-Prussian War began in 1870, Furley
approached Loyd-Lindsay to help raise
public awareness of this idea.
Loyd-Lindsay wrote to The Times and
provided initial funds for the National Society
for Aid to the Sick and Wounded, which later
became the British Red Cross Society. His
involvement was critical in gaining royal
patronage, with Queen Victoria becoming
Patron and the Prince of Wales its President.
Loyd-Lindsay was created KCB in 1881
for services to the volunteer movement and
was raised to the peerage in 1885, taking the
title Baron Wantage of Lockinge.
Amongst Loyd-Lindsay’s many interests
was science and astronomy. He was a fellow
of the Royal Society and at one stage
President of the Astronomical Society.
Loyd-Lindsay had become a Freemason
in Malta on his journey to the Crimea and
was initiated, passed and raised in the Union
of Malta Lodge No. 588 (now No. 407), in
March-April 1854. In England, he joined
Windsor Castle Lodge No. 771 in 1860 and
Abbey Lodge No. 945 in Abingdon in 1863.
He remained a member of this latter Lodge
until his death, serving as Master in 1899. In
1891 he was appointed Senior Grand Warden
of the United Grand Lodge of England and
served as Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire
from 1898 until his death in 1901. A meeting
of the Provincial Grand Lodge was held at
Lockinge in July 1900 and his portrait in regalia
hangs in the Masonic hall at Wantage.
Shortly after the institution of the Victoria
Cross, the artist Louis William Desanges
(1822-1887) decided to produce a series of
paintings (56 in all) to illustrate the military
actions in which the winners had been
involved. The series was financed by the artist
himself, apparently in a desire for recognition
as a painter of important national subjects.
The Prince of Wales took an interest and
Loyd-Lindsay’s picture was begun whilst he
was equerry to him. According to the artist,
he “painted each scene from the description
given by the gallant sitters themselves,
assisted by the friends and companions-inarms,
many of them eye witnesses of the
Desanges was initiated in November
1863 in Globe Lodge No 23 in London,
and remained a member until 1865. On
16 January 1874 he joined the Lodge of
Friendship No. 6, was Junior Warden in
1879 and Senior Warden in 1880 but never
became Master. He was nominated as the
Lodge’s Grand Steward in 1880 and regularly
attended Lodge meetings until 1885. His son
was initiated in the lodge in March 1883 and
remained a member until his death in 1892.
In 1877, Desanges painted a portrait of the
Prince of Wales in his Masonic regalia for the
Lodge and this was presented, on behalf of
the Lodge, to Grand Lodge. The original
painting was destroyed in a fire at
Freemasons’ Hall in 1883, but Desanges was
commissioned to paint a copy of it, together
with copies of the portraits of the Duke of
Manchester and the Earl of Zetland, and this
copy is currently on display in the Grand
Officers’ Robing Room.
Desanges’ Victoria Cross paintings
were exhibited first at the Egyptian Hall
in Piccadilly and then, for many years after
1862, at the Crystal Palace in Sydenham,
south east London, one of the most popular
leisure attractions of the Victorian period.
Eventually they were put up for sale. Loyd-Lindsay purchased, for about Ł1,000, 46 of
the paintings shortly before his death in 1901.
An 1876 lithograph of
Lord Wantage by ‘Spy’
– Sir Leslie Ward
One, of the first Canadian-born VC,
Alexander Dunn, was bought by the
Government of Ontario, and it is believed
that the remainder were bought by families of
the recipients. He presented them to the
town of Wantage, where they were exhibited
in a room in the Corn Exchange known as
the Victoria Cross Gallery. The paintings
remained on display until 1941, when the
building was requisitioned as a cooking depot
for the war effort.
The paintings had to be removed, but it
was difficult to find adequate alternative
storage for them due to their large size. By
the early 1950s both the paintings (still in
store) and the Gallery needed restoration.
Despite an appeal by John Betjeman at a
public meeting in 1952 for the pictures to be
retained, the costs were considered too high
for the local ratepayers to bear and the
collection was dispersed.
Four paintings were destroyed as their
condition following storage put them
beyond restoration. Loyd-Lindsay’s picture
was retained by the Town Council, others
were passed to military museums and
other military authorities but the current
location of a significant number of others
is now unknown.
In his biography, written by his wife,
Loyd-Lindsay’s belief in duty is summarised
in his words “I must do something to justify
my existence”. He was tall and handsome
and much admired by contemporaries,
including Julia Margaret Cameron, who
took his photograph and claimed that he
was nearest to her ideal of King Arthur,
Florence Nightingale who wrote of him
“All are better than if he had not lived” and
the Masonic Illustrated which described him
in its obituary as “a man of mark”. The
biography includes a poem by Lady Wantage
entitled “VC” from which the title of this
exhibition has been drawn.
Diane Clements is Director of the Library &
Museum of Freemasonry at Grand Lodge
Thanks to Granville Angell (Prestonian Lecturer for 2006), Robin White, Librarian and Curator of the
Berkshire Library and Museum of Freemasonry and Irene Hancock (especially her booklet on the Victoria
Web site created by Mark Griffin