What About Ronald?

Horses have been our companions through the centuries. We’ve used their services for work, pleasure, ceremonial, sporting and military purposes. Some achieve almost mythical fame, for many and various reasons, due to their association with a particular event or circumstance. Some are fictional like Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, or Toy Story’s Bullseye. Then there’s Silver, real, yet enhancing the reputation of the fictional Lone Ranger, or Trigger who accompanied the clean-cut ever-singing cowboy character Roy Rogers. Pegasus sprouted wings, Champion was a streak of lightnin’ flashin’ ‘cross the sky and Red Rum won the National. Then there are the forgotten ‘hero’s’. For example, very few people remember the name of Tonto’s horse Scout and what about Ronald? Yes: Ronald. Born and raised on a country estate at Deene, near Corby, Ronald, chestnut in colour with white socks and standing 15.2 hands-high, along with his master, were destined for great things. Here was a horse known to millions throughout modern history as the dashing steed that entered the gates of hell and returned carrying his master back to safety. Ronald, along with Lieutenant General James Thomas Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan, led the ill-feted attack during the Balaclava campaign that swiftly entered legend as the Charge of the Light Brigade. Lord Cardigan, having received his orders, had warned his superior officer in the field of battle that to charge into the valley would put his entire brigade at great risk. “Certainly, sir” He’d said, then added “but allow me to point out to you that the Russians have a battery in the valley to our front, and batteries and riflemen on each flank”. He was told that there was no choice and that the action was necessary. The Earl turned Ronald to take up their position on the front line. The charge began at a trot as the brigade of 673 men and horses moved to the enemy line. The light brigade was soon being bombarded from three sides as the Earl had predicted. The Russians let loose on the cavalry. One shot narrowly missed Ronald which spurred Cardigan to lead a full charge through the Russian troops after which the Earl and Ronald turned and led what was left of the brigade back along the valley to safety. Following the charge only 195 men and horses survived, including Cardigan and Ronald. When finally the pair returned to Deene Park they found that their exploits in the Crimea had made them both hero’s of the people, greeted by cheering crowds who would reach out to try and pull little pieces of Ronald’s hair as a memento. When the Earl finally died it was Ronald who followed the funeral cortege, outliving his master for a further four years. When Ronald finally passed away, the Brudenell family preserved his head and tail, to be kept and displayed at his Northamptonshire home. What a shame that Alfred, Lord Tennyson didn’t think to mention the true unwitting hero’s of Balaclava: the horses like Ronald.

An envelope signed 'Brudenell' Monday 24th October 1831. Commander of the Light Brigade ofthe British Army during the Crimean War and member of Parliament for Fowey 1830–1832. 'Fowey' is written on the reverse.

Ronald, the Charger of Lord Cardigan - A Circlet of Tail Hair, fixed with bands of silver wire bordering a silver plated roundel engraved "Part of the tail of `Ronald' Lord Cardigan's Charger which jumped the Russian Guns at Balaclava October 25th 1854", all set into a walnut plaque with leaf carved ebony border, displayed in a glazed frame, 46cm by 38cm overall.

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  1. Pingback: Last of the Light Brigade…? | cavalrytales blog

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