|Wearing his medals awarded for service in Egypt and the Sudan the Egypt Medal with three clasps, 4th Class Order of the Osmanieh and the Khedive's Star, along with the Badge of a
Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George & (GCMG) at his neck and the star for the same honour on his breast. This photograph was in all
likelihood taken at the time of his investiture of the GCMG in 1892.
Elliott & Fry - Photographer
55 Baker Street, London, West, England
During all that time Sir Claude Macdonald, splendidly assisted by the wife who survives him, bore with a courage and unfailing cheerfulness, which he imparted to all around him,
the tremendous responsibility that had devolved upon him of organizing the defense and of providing for the maintenance, as well as for the safety, of the hundreds of refugees, many
of them women and children, who had taken sanctuary in the Legation compound. He was a relatively young man—only forty-eight years of age at the time—and happily he survived
to do admirable work at Tokio as His Majesty's representative during the eventful years when the foundations of our Alliance with Japan were laid, but no man can pass altogether
unscathed through such an ordeal as that which he then lived through. He was only sixty-three when he died last week. - I am, Sir, & c., V. C.”
It was probably MacDonald’s previous military and diplomatic experience coupled with an apparent winning personality and tact that led him to be selected by the other consuls and
diplomats in Peking to lead the legation’s defense. Certainly with the military/political rivalries that existed between some of the other defenders – France and Germany or Russia and
Japan – Britain was probably looked upon and the most neutral of parties. Britain also had the largest (along with Russia) contingent of troops in Peking (79) and while the United
States had the second largest force in the legations (53 U.S. Maries) it was probably considered a junior partner, being a relatively new player in the colonial game.
Interestingly the roll for the 1900 China War Medal specifically mentions H.M. Minister Sir Claude MacDonald being entitled medal along with the “Defense of Legations” clasp but
again the 1908 issue of Hart’s Army List while incorrectly mentioning him as being a member of the China Expeditionary Force fails to mention his award of the China Medal and
clasp. MacDonald was also promoted Colonel in the Reserve of Officers for his service during the siege.
After China, MacDonald was appointed Consul-General to Japan (October 1900) and then Ambassador when the mission in Japan was upgraded to embassy status. He presided over
an era of outstanding relations between Japan and Britain which culminated in the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902.
After his return to Britain MacDonald was made Privy Councilor to the King in 1906. He died at London on 10 October, 1915 of heart failure. MacDonald had married Ethel
Armstrong in London on 17 December 1892. The couple apparently had no children.
*In one of the interesting quirks of history, actor David Niven who would portray Claude MacDonald under the fictitious name of Sir Arthur Robertson in the 1963 production of 55
Day at Peking, also attended Sandhurst and was commissioned into the 2nd Battalion, the Highland Light Infantry in 1930.