Tale of 'colourful' General is retold at museum's new military exhibition
PUBLISHED: 15:34 05 July 2018
It’s one of the more curious chapters of British history. A raid on the Chinese capital, a dog for Queen Victoria – appropriately named Looty – and a Sidmouth connection.
A new exhibition at the town’s museum highlights the life and times of General Sir John Hart Dunne who retired after an illustrious career to a house in Fortfield Terrace.
The display was the brainchild of John McCarthy who has a keen interest in local military history.
“I’m pleased that the museum has designed such an attractive display. In his time the General was one of Sidmouth’s most colourful characters and this tells his story well,” he said.
The display includes a reproduction of the portrait of the famous Pekinese from the Royal Collection. It also includes a large silver key used by the General when he opened the Service Men’s Club, now the 1922 Club, opposite the museum.
Photos come from a variety of sources, especially the Wiltshire Regiment museum. A copy of the General’s diary From Calcutta to Pekin is also on show.
Hart Dunne is credited with introducing the Pekinese dog to Britain. The dog was part of the plunder when the Summer Palace in Peking was ransacked and it was later presented to Queen Victoria. It became an instant favourite.
Hart Dunne served in the Crimean War, seeing action at Alma, Balaclava and Inkerman as well at the siege of Sabastapol. It was then that he transferred to the 99th Regiment of Foot in India which was sent to join Franco-British forces in the Second Opium War with China in 1860.
Looty was one of five lapdogs brought back to England after the raid. Two went to the Duchess of Wellington, two to the Duchess of Richmond and Looty was presented to Queen Victoria in April 1861 by the then 26-year-old Captain Hart Dunne.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Looty preferred boiled rice with chicken and gravy to the food given to the Queen’s other dogs.
The Queen had a portrait of the dog painted by Friedrich Keyl at Windsor in 1861. A facsimile was released to newspapers and magazines fuelling a national interest in the little dog.
Looty also enjoyed interest in the States with Harper’s Weekly reporting that the other royal dogs took exception to her ‘oriental habits’.