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That they were bidding for a knife that had not been crafted for a pioneer of the West, but a colonialist of the East, should only testify to their enduring love of such weaponry; for although the 13in (33cm) steel blade of this knife could readily be mistaken for the multi-purpose, single-bladed tools popularised by the myth of James Bowie, the coronet and Prince of Wales feathers carved to the ivory hilt would have been most out of place in a country that had fought for its independence from the British crown.

Moreover the blade was covered with etchings of elephants, a detail which seemed to tally with the Cornish vendor’s account of its Indian provenance.

The knife accompanied his family on their return from the colony in the 1920s and although it played no part in the hunting of elephants, apparently it had been rather useful for skinning tigers.

The knife had been consigned in good condition, having been housed in its silver-mounted leather scabbard, the formal opulence of which, combined with the insignia to the hilt and the Indian provenance, suggested that it may have originally been commissioned by an Army officer serving in the Raj with the Prince of Wales division of a regiment.

As far as the bidding went, the American collectors were in the hunt until £6000-7000, but the knife eventually fell to a collector in the Midlands who was prepared to pay £12,000 (plus 10 per cent premium).