Published 17th April 2014
All too often the pages of the press are filled with embarrassing stories of celebrities, but a ‘nobody’ in a similar situation is unlikely to achieve much of a stir. So how did the hapless Lieutenant Hugh Munroe become the subject matter of the most desirable piece of Staffordshire pottery ever made? Answering an ill timed ‘call of nature’ rather too close to a nine foot tiger is unfortunate, but hardly front page news in India, even in 1792.
The Death of Munroe a Staffordshire group by Obadiah Sherratt
Lt. Munroe was the son of General Hector Munroe who twelve years previously had defeated Sultan Tipu’s father in the Second Anglo-Mysore War. As the self styled ‘Tyger of Mysore’ the Sultan was big on big cats, even making his army wear striped jackets, he saw Munroe’s demise as divine intervention and celebrated by commissioning, from local makers and the French (who we were also warring with), a fantastical wailing and roaring automaton depicting a prostrate figure being consumed by a tiger.
A Staffordshire group The Death of Munroe, the tiger in it's natural habitat
Tipu’s Tiger, as it became known, was captured by the British after the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War in 1799 and was transported back to the East India Company’s museum in London where it was exhibited to rapturous crowds, eventually ending up in the Victoria & Albert Museum. It proved such a sustained attraction, that nearly thirty years after Munro got caught with his pants down, Obadiah Sherratt an enterprising maker of high end Staffordshire pottery immortalised the macabre event in his ‘Death of Munrow’ group; probably utilising parts from previous groups he had made – hence the rather stiff standing to attention (or lying in this case) posture of Munroe.
The hapless Lieutenant a detail of The Death of Munroe Staffordshire group
I’m sure you will agree it is a dramatic piece, even if the choice of subject matter is questionable. The irony is that Munroe may have been spending a penny, but to own the group will cost you £1000’s.