Lady Florentia Sale


This portrait by Richard Thomas Bott was painted in 1844 when Lady Sale was a celebrity following her travels and captivity in Afghanistan, and the sensational Journal of her experiences that was published. Most of the contemporary prints of her are idealised but this portrait seems to be more lifelike and we can see from her face that she was a woman of great strength of character. She was born Florentia Wynch on 13 Aug 1790, in Madras, the daughter of George, a member of the Civil Service, and granddaughter of the Governor of Madras. She married Robert Sale in 1809 and accompanied him on his active service postings. They had nine children in all, the youngest being Alexandrina born on 2 Jan 1823. So in 1842 when they were prisoners of Akbar Khan, Florentia was 51 and her daughter was 21. At the time of her capture Florentia was wounded in the wrist by a bullet but this did not stop her writing her journal in captivity. She also wrote about her release and meeting up with her husband's regiment:

'On proceeding to where the infantry were posted, they cheered all the captives as they passed, and the men of the 13th pressed forward to welcome us individually, most of the men had a little word of hearty congratulation to offer, each in his own style, on the restoration of his Colonel's wife and daughter, and then my highly wrought feelings found the desired relief; I could scarcely speak to thank the soldiers for their sympathy, whilst the long-withheld tears now found their course. On arriving at the Camp, Captain Backhouse fired a royal salute from his mountain train guns; and not only our old friends, but all the officers in the party, came to offer congratulations, and welcome our return from captivity.'


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by Stephen Luscombe