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Dighton Macnaghten Probyn, 1833-1924

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1833.01.21
Place of Birth: Marylebone, London
Date of Death: 1924.06.20
Place of Death: Sandringham, Norfolk


General the Right Honourable Sir Dighton Macnaghten Probyn, V.C., G.C.B., G.C.S.I., G.C.V.O., I.S.O., P.C., was the Knight General Officer of the Royal Household, Secretary to the Prince of Wales and General and Keeper of the Privy Purse.


Probyn entered the Bengal Army in 1849, serving with the 6th Bengal Light Cavalry and the 2nd Punjab Cavalry, gaining a Victoria Cross for his service in the Indian Mutiny (1857-9). In May 1860 he took command of the 1st Regiment of the Sikh Irregular Cavalry, which became the 11th Bengal Cavalry and later 11th King Edward's Own Lancers (Probyn's Horse), leading it in the Second China War of 1857-60. He became Commandent of the Central India Horse in 1869.

Louis Desanges painted Probyn's portrait about 1860 for the Victoria Cross Gallery (National Army Museum). There is also a sketch of him leading a charge at the Battle of Chang-Tsia-Wan on 18 September 1860 by Henry Hope Crealock. On 26 June 1867, whilst on furlough in London, Probyn also sat to the fashionable Scottish portrait painter James Rannie Swinton. The resultant portrait is the most stunning and also accurate representation of Probyn (exh. R.A. 1868; National Army Museum). Indeed, he was described by his contemporaries as 'one of the handsomest men in London' and 'the most dashing cavalry officer in the army'.

Probyn served for 54 years in the Royal household. From 1870 he was Equerry to Queen Victoria's son Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, and from 1872 Equerry to the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII). In 1877 he was appointed Comptroller and Treasurer to the Prince's Household and in 1901 Keeper of the Privy Purse and an Extra Equerry to the King. On the death of the King in 1910 he became an Extra Equerry to King George V and Comptroller of the Household of Queen Alexandra. He was made a General in 1888, G.C.V.O. in 1896, P.C. in 1901, G.C.B. (civil) in 1902, I.S.O. in 1903, G.C.B. (military) in 1910 and G.C.S.I. in 1911. He was promoted Colonel Sir Dighton Probyn in 1893.

His letters are held in the British Library, Bodleian Library, Cambridge University Library, National Army Museum.

Probyn's name appears in a list composed by JW, possibly a guest list for the private view of JW's Pall Mall exhibition of 1874, or a subscription list for JW's Venice etchings as proposed in 1876 (#12714). Probyn certainly appears to have been socialising with JW in the late 1870s (#12486, #09003).

In 1887 Probyn was in correspondence with JW, on behalf of the Prince of Wales, concerning a visit to the 64th annual exhibition of the Society of British Artists, for which JW was seeking to obtain a Royal Charter (#05052). He was also among those invited to a dinner organised by W. C. Symons to congratulate JW on becoming an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Munich, a dinner which was to be held at the Criterion in Piccadilly on 1 May 1889 (#05635).

JW, who talked of 'the charming kindness shown to me, by Lady Probyn and yourself in former days', was once again in contact with Probyn in 1898, inviting the Prince of Wales to the opening exhibition of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers in Knightsbridge in May, which unfortunately the Prince was unable to attend (#05055, #05056, #09349).


A Foreign Resident [George Washburn Smalley], Society in London, Lepizig, 1885; Times, London, 28 June 1893; Birdwood, Vere, 'General the Rt Hon. Sir Dighton Probyn', Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research vol. 55, 1977, pp. 32-34; Armstrong, Emma, '"The Most Dashing Cavalry Officer in the Army": A Portrait of Colonel Dighton Macnaghten Probyn, VC.', Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research vol. 79, 2001, pp. 101-07; Burke, E., The Peerage and Baronetage of Great Britain and Ireland, London; Obituary, The Times, 11 June 1924, p. 13.