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New Zealand Cross: CM.1394-2009

An image of New Zealand Cross

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Object information

Current Location: In storage

Maker(s)

New Zealand (State)
Bowen, George, Sir (Issuer)
Victoria (1837-1901) (Ruler)

Description

The institution of the Victoria Cross in 1856 as the supreme award of the British Empire for gallantry left members of the Colonial possession's armed forces at something of a disadvantage, as the new Cross was only issued to members of the Imperial services. In New Zealand, where the New Zealand Wars had been raging since 1840 as the Maori tribes of the islands resisted the take-over of their communal lands, this inequality provoked action on the part of the Governor-General, Sir George Bowen, who determined to issue a local equivalent to the VC. This was the New Zealand Cross, which was instituted in 1869, and in appearance is perhaps even more splendid than its British rival.
Perhaps as much because of this aesthetic one-up-manship as any other reason, Bowen was criticised in the UK for usurping a royal prerogative, but Queen Victoria eventually ratified the award, and 23 awards were made in the period between 1869 and 1881. It was officially discontinued in 1910, when Colonial recipients were made eligible for the Victoria Cross. A new issue was instituted in 1999, but the original New Zealand Cross is thus an extremely rare medal which holds very high value for collectors.
This example was awarded to Trooper Antonio Rodríguez de Sardinha, of the Taranaki Mounted Volunteers. Rodriguez was Portuguese, and went out to New Zealand on SS St Michael in 1851 with his sister Rita Mary and her husband Emmanuel de Castro. He died in spring 1905. His Cross was awarded, in the words of its citation, 'for noble and daring conduct assisting and carrying wounded men from the field under fire on several occasions, notably on the 2nd October 1863 at Poutoka and on 11th March 1864 at Kaitake, upon which latter occasion he was particularly mentioned in garrison orders after the engagement.'
The Lester Watson Collection retains the original citation, and an MS note in the hand of Robert Day who purchased the Cross from Rodríguez's family soon after the Trooper's death. It came to form part of the Hamilton Smith Collection, in the auction of which, at the London house of Glendining, 21 July 1927, Lester Watson bought it; it was lot 982.

Notes

History note: Gift of L. Hoyt Watson; ex Lester Watson Collection, bt Hamilton Smith auction (Glendining, 20-21 July 1927, lot 982) for £96; ex coll. Robert Day, Sotheby's sale 18.iv.1910, bt family of recipient spring 1905.

Legal notes

Given by Lester Watson through Cambridge in America, 2009

Measurements and weight

Diameter: 38 mm
Weight: 39.66 g

Acquisition and important dates

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

Dating

Production date: AD 1869

Note

Part gilt

Materials used in production

Silver

Techniques used in production

Struck

Inscription or legends present

Inscription present: Central boss with inscription around in gilt laurel wreath, four-armed Maltese-style cross with gilt star in lines on each arm, uppermost arm surmounted by gilt crown to which suspension attached

  • Text: NEW ZEALAND
  • Location: Obverse
  • Type: Design

Inscription present: Recipient's unit in centre of boss with name around, lines to each arm of cross

  • Text: ANTONIO RODRIGUEZ
  • Location: Reverse
  • Type: Design

References and bibliographic entries

Related exhibitions

Identification numbers

Accession number: CM.1394-2009
Primary reference Number: 141488
Watson Catalogue: 303
Ordering: M-0277
Previous object number: LW.0277
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Saturday 22 January 2022 Last processed: Sunday 23 January 2022

Associated departments & institutions

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

Citation for print

This record can be cited in the Harvard Bibliographic style using the text below:

The Fitzwilliam Museum (2022) "New Zealand Cross" Web page available at: https://data.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/id/object/141488 Accessed: 2022-08-17 13:52:18

Citation for Wikipedia

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{{cite web|url=https://data.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/id/object/141488 |title=New Zealand Cross |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2022-08-17 13:52:18|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

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https://data.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/api/v1/objects/object-141488

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<div class="text-center">
    <figure class="figure">
        <img src="https://data.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/imagestore/cm/cm53/large_CM_1394_2009_281_29.jpg"
        alt="New Zealand Cross"
        class="img-fluid" />
        <figcaption class="figure-caption text-info">New Zealand Cross</figcaption>
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