Great Britain, 73rd Foot Regiment, 1800s, officer's shoulder belt plate attributed to Sir Maurice Charles O'Connell (from 1838 Commander of New South Wales Forces), with an incuse fleur-de-lis on reverse. Very fine.
Ex Christies Sale, Melbourne, 31 March 1998, lot 410.
Sir Maurice Charles O'Connell, the elder (1768-1848) commander of forces and lieutenant-governor of New South Wales, was born in County Kerry, Ireland. He entered military school while in France and in 1792 he was appointed a captain in the French emigre forces serving on the French frontier under the Duke of Brunswick. After several years of service in various units with distinguished service, in 1806 he transferred to the 73rd Regiment attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel in May 1809.
In December 1809, the 1st Battalion of the 73rd Regiment under the command of Lieutenant Colonel O'Connell arrived at Port Jackson in Sydney accompanying Governor Lachlan Macquarie. The next month Lieutenant Colonel O'Connell was commissioned lieutenant-governor. Almost immediately, O'Connell began courting widowed Mary Putland, daughter of former Governor William Bligh. After a short courtship, and despite Bligh refusing to endorse O'Connell's request to marry his daughter, the couple were married at Government House on 8 May 1810.
During Governor Macquarie's absence in Tasmania in the latter part of 1812 O'Connell administered government in New South Wales. On his return, Macquarie arranged for the 73rd Regiment to be relieved and transferred it to Ceylon. O'Connell sailed with his regiment in March 1814 subsequently leading it in the war against the King of Kandy in 1815 and put down an uprising of the Kandians in 1817. In August 1819 he was promoted to colonel and in 1821 the regiment was recalled to Ireland. In July 1830 he was promoted to the rank of major general and in 1835 was knighted, being appointed Knight Commander of the Royal Guelphic Order (Military).
In December 1838 he returned to Sydney as the commander of forces in New South Wales. In November 1841 O'Connell was appointed lieutenant general, in December 1842 appointed colonel of the 81st regiment and in January 1844 colonel of the 80th Regiment. When Governor George Gipps left office on 11 July 1846, Sir Maurice O'Connell was acting-governor of New South Wales from 12 July to 2 August until the arrival of Governor Charles Fitzroy who took over on 3 August. In 1847 he was succeeded as commander of the forces in New South Wales by Major General Edward Buckley Wynyard. Sir Maurice was about to leave for England when he died suddenly at Darlinghurst on 25 May 1848.