Northern Ireland

Rare pardon granted by Queen Victoria to Irish rebels set to be auctioned

A rare Royal Pardon believed to have been issued by Queen Victoria is set to go under the hammer in Belfast (Bloomfield Auctions/PressEye/PA)
A rare Royal Pardon believed to have been issued by Queen Victoria is set to go under the hammer in Belfast (Bloomfield Auctions/PressEye/PA)

A rare Royal Pardon issued by Queen Victoria to Irish rebels convicted of high treason is set to be sold at auction in Belfast.

It is one of a wide range of historical items to be sold, which also includes a PSNI peaked cap believed to have been worn by former Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan and a treaty with notes written by Irish unionist leader Edward Carson.

The pardon is believed to have been issued by the monarch in 1869, and includes Queen Victoria’s personal signature and seal.

Royal Pardons allow monarchs to withdraw or provide alternatives to death sentences or exile to those convicted of crimes against the crown.

One of the key individuals referenced in the pardon is JFX O’Brien, an Irish nationalist revolutionary who participated in a rising against British rule in 1867, and was tried for high treason, convicted and sentenced to death.

O’Brien was released in 1869 with Queen Victoria’s pardon and went on to become the President of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and an MP for Cork City.

Managing director of Bloomfield Auctions Karl Bennett described the pardon as having been granted in unique circumstances.

“Traditionally, in the mid to late nineteenth century, convictions of high treason and felony for Irish republicans were expected to be met with the death sentence or exile to Australia, which is what makes this royal pardon of unique historical importance,” he said.

“This pardon from Queen Victoria offers an insight into the English criminal justice system, showing the important role Queen Victoria played in the exercise of mercy.

“Following her beloved Prince Albert’s death, Queen Victoria began to gain a new public image as a compassionate Queen, which earned her the affectionate nickname ‘the grandmother of Europe’.

“The royal pardon we have on sale at our auction house is demonstrative evidence of her shift towards a more benevolent reign.”

Among the many other items set to go under the hammer is Carson’s hand-annotated copy of the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty Between Great Britain and Ireland, a gun taken from a soldier of the 5th Battalion Irish Volunteers, who was killed in action during the 1916 Easter Rising and a Colour used by the Ulster Volunteer Force in the campaign to defend Home Rule.

Mr Bennett said Carson’s annotated copy of the treaty offers a “first-hand insight into the inner workings of one of the leading political figures in early twentieth century Ireland”.

The sale will take place on Tuesday June 6 both online and in Bloomfield Auction House in east Belfast. For more information, visit: