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Gordon's Star: CM.1236-2009

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Object information

Current Location: In storage


Mint: Khartoum
Issuer: Gordon, Charles George, General Sir
Artist: Abdel Molak, Bishara
Ruler: Victoria (1837-1901) (Inferred)




The serious weakening of Ottoman Egyptian power under foreign influence led to increasing attempts to shed Egyptian dominion in the Sudan, where in 1881 Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad ibn al-Sayyid 'Abd Allah was proclaimed as Mahdi (the legendary final redeemer of Islam). He and his allies soon threatened to remove the Sudan entirely from the Khedive's control. Several serious defeats of Egyptian forces in 1884 led to a concerted British campaign in defence of Egyptian claims, but control could not be recovered. The British withdrew their forces to Khartoum, where General Gordon defended the city whilst awaiting a relief column that, beset by Mahdist attacks, arrived too late.
This heavy silver-gilt star was manufactured in the besieged city by order of General Gordon by a city jeweller, in an attempt to raise the morale of his beleaguered troops. The design was a copy of the Turkish Order of the Medjidie. Payne reported a story which suggests that owners of these stars became particular targets of the Mahdi's vengeance.
The stars were issued numbered, but not named, and were available for purchase by anyone in the city, military or not. It is not known to whom this one was presented. It was one of the last pieces that Lester Watson acquired, buying it from the London dealer Spink in 1936.


History note: Gift of L. Hoyt Watson; ex Lester Watson Collection, bt Spink 1936.

Legal notes

Given by Lester Watson through Cambridge in America, 2009

Measurements and weight

Diameter: 56.9 mm
Weight: 55.85 g

Place(s) associated

  • Khartoum

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Given (2009) by Watson, Lester


Production date: AD 1884


Gilded, crude, heavy

Materials used in production


Techniques used in production


Inscription or legends present

Inscription present: Seven-pointed star with points figured like ears of corn, star in crescent between each, central boss in circle with three Arabic inscriptions enclosed in chevrons between

  • Text: [The Siege of / Khartoum / AH 1301]
  • Location: Obverse
  • Type: Design
  • Text: No. 1287
  • Location: Reverse
  • Type: 47

References and bibliographic entries

Related exhibitions

Identification numbers

Accession number: CM.1236-2009
Primary reference Number: 141330
Watson Catalogue: 134
Ordering: M-0119
Previous object number: LW.0119
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Monday 15 January 2024 Last processed: Monday 15 January 2024

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Coins and Medals

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "Gordon's Star" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-04-20 15:01:15

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