The History of the Stanhope Medal
The Stanhope Medal (or Gold Medal) is awarded annually in memory of the romantically named Chandos Scudamore Scudamore Stanhope (1823-1871).
It is presented annually to an existing medal winner nominated by the following humane societies:
A direct descendant of the first Earl of Chesterfield, Stanhope joined the Royal Navy as a boy and achieved the rank of Commander.
In 1851, Stanhope had won a Royal Humane Society Silver Medal for saving the life of a seaman.
It seems he may have saved other lives, too. His obituary in The Times (10 July 1871) recalled that "on several occasions he showed readiness to risk his own life for others."
He died from smallpox in 1871, at the age of 48. A group of his closest friends set up a memorial fund and raised several hundred pounds.
His friends decided to give the money raised to the Royal Humane Society on condition it would "agree to give annually a gold-medal for the case of the greatest gallantry during the year, to be called the "Stanhope Medal".
The first Stanhope Medal was awarded in 1873 to Captain Matthew Webb, who had attempted to rescue a sailor who had fallen from the rigging of a ship into the Atlantic Ocean. Webb swam for more than half-an-hour but found only the young man's cap.
Two years later, Webb would become the first person to swim the English Channel.