Miniature of an Officer of the Royal Bucks King’s Own Militia, c. 1800 by William Dudman

Dudman, a well-known miniature portraitist, who died in 1803, would have been commissioned presumably to undertake the work by the unknown officer himself. The regiment had been granted the title of Royal Bucks King’s Own in September 1794 for its services whilst guarding King George III at Weymouth where the King had gone for bathing. There was concern that the French might try to spirit the King away and the presence of French prisoners of war nearby was also worrying. Embodied from December 1792 until the beginning of the short-lived Peace of Amiens in April 1802, the regiment had served in a number of garrisons and camps in coastal areas but also in Dublin during the Irish Rebellion of 1798. It was stationed at Chelmsford from May to November 1800 before being sent to guard French prisoners of war at Norman Cross in Huntingdonshire, which the Marquis of Buckingham, claimed was the worst quarter, the unhealthiest place, and the heaviest duty in England. 

Officers of the militia were required to meet a property qualification from 1757 until 1869. Initially it was set at land worth £50 annually for ensigns up to land worth £400 or an inheritance worth £800 for colonels, although these requirements were often reduced and ignored. Religious tests were also applied to ensure officers were Anglicans until 1796. Property qualifications were halved for subalterns in 1769 – an ensign now required only an estate of £20 or personal effects of £500 – but there was also a high turnover as younger officers began to use the militia as a route to a regular commission without purchase. In turn, unemployed regulars entered the militia but they were often those too old or poor to have achieved high rank, or those who had retired to manage an estate with little time to devote to the militia. Many junior officers possessed only smaller states while some qualified by virtue of non-landed property.

Buckingham as Lord Lieutenant was in nominal overall command of the regiment in 1800 but his lieutenant colonel in actual command was Benjamin Way (1740-1808) of Denham Place, who succeeded to the appointment in 1794. Way had sat as MP for Bridport from 1765 to 1768 although apparently he never spoke in the House of Commons. He had also been High Sheriff of Bucks in 1777.


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