The Crimean War (1853-56) was subject to much public criticism because of the way in which some of its battles were conducted and the amount of British soldiers that lost their lives lost during the conflict, especially in disastrous events such as the Charge of the Light Brigade (20 October 1854). John Harris’s painting highlights the suffering of the war widow. Kneeling next to her husband’s sword, and with the battlefield and troops in the background, Michael – the archangel of battle – appears and reminds her that her husband’s last thoughts were of her, and that he died an honourable death for his country:
Alas! Here he lies.
Yes, but he died in the cause of his country.
His spirit has gone hence.
And his last earthly thought was of thee.