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Tuesday, 23 June 2015

What happened to Napoleon's carriage?

The capture of Napoleon's carriage after the Battle of Waterloo  from Ackermann's Repository (1816)
The capture of Napoleon's carriage after the Battle of Waterloo
from Ackermann's Repository (1816)
How Napoleon’s carriage came to London

Napoleon’s carriage was captured by Major Von Keller at Genappe on the night of 18 June 1815 as Napoleon fled the battlefield of Waterloo. The Prussian Major “reserved the carriage as his own booty” and “brought it to England to gratify the curiosity of the people of this country, who have now an opportunity of viewing it at the London Museum, Piccadilly”. (1)

It is not clear whether the carriage was sold to the British government by the Prussians or sent as a present to the Prince Regent.

According to the Literary Panorama (1815):
“The splendid carriage taken at the battle of Waterloo which was fitted up in a most magnificent style, for Buonaparte, was taken while waiting for the Ex-Emperor: the driver was killed by a Prussian general and Major. It was sent as a present to the Prince Regent, with the four horses which were attached to it, and a French driver accompanied it.” (2)
However, the Monthly Magazine (1816) said: 
“It was taken by the Prussians, sold to Government, and re-sold,—lent to Mr Bullock as a Prussian trophy. Mr Bullock’s room constantly filled with company, and at least a hundred thousand persons have already gratified themselves by sitting in the very chariot which once held Napoleon le Grand.” (3)
Mr Bullock's London Museum, Piccadilly  from Ackermann's Repository (1815)
Mr Bullock's London Museum, Piccadilly
from Ackermann's Repository (1815)
Either way, the carriage came to England and was sold (or lent) to Mr Bullock. It went on display at his London Museum, at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, and then, at the Prince Regent’s desire, went on tour throughout England, Scotland and Ireland. The carriage excited a good deal of interest and it was estimated that Mr Bullock made in excess of £26,000 from the exhibition!

The popularity of the exhibition at Bullock’s Museum was caricatured in Rowlandson’s print, shown below. 

Exhibition at Bullocks Museum of Bonepartes Carriage taken at Waterloo by Thomas Rowlandson, published by  R Ackermann (1816)  © The Trustees of the British Museum
Exhibition at Bullocks Museum of Bonepartes Carriage
taken at Waterloo
by Thomas Rowlandson, published by
R Ackermann (1816)  © The Trustees of the British Museum
What was the carriage like?

There was a detailed description of the carriage included with the print shown at the top of this post which appeared in Ackermann’s Repository (1816) (1):

The exterior
“The exterior of the carriage is, in many respects, very like the modern English travelling chariots. The colour is a dark blue, with a handsome bordure ornament in gold; but the Imperial arms are emblazoned on the pannels of the doors. It has a lamp at each corner of the roof, and there is one lamp fixed at the back which can throw a strong light into the interior.”
It claimed that “the pannels of the carriage are bullet-proof” and stated that “the under-carriage and wheels are painted in vermillion, edged with the colour of the body, and heightened with gold”.
“On the outside of the front windows is a roller-blind made of strong painted canvass: when pulled down, this will exclude rain and snow, and therefore secure the windows and blinds from being blocked up, as well as prevent the damp from penetrating.”
The interior
“The interior deserves particular attention; for it is adapted to the various purposes of a kitchen, a bed-room, a dressing-room, an office, and an eating-room.”
“Among the gold articles are a tea-pot, coffee-pot, sugar-bason, cream-ewer, coffee-cup and saucer, slop-bason, candle-sticks, wash-hand-bason, plates for breakfast, &c. Each article is superbly embossed with the Imperial arms, and engraved with his favourite N.; and by the aid of the lamp, any thing could be heated in the carriage.
Beneath the coachman’s seat is a small box about two feet and a half long, and about four inches square; this contains a bedstead of polished steel, which could be fitted up within one or two minutes.”
Other items in the carriage included “a small mahogany case” containing “the peculiar necessaire of the ex-emperor” - “nearly one hundred articles, almost all of them solid gold”; a liquor-case; and a writing desk.

Exhibited at Madame Tussaud’s

After the tour, the carriage and its contents were sold by auction and bought by someone who wanted to exhibit them in America. Unable to realise his intentions, it was sold again and then taken by a coach maker as part payment of a bad debt! In 1842, this company sold it to Madame Tussaud and Sons where it formed part of a special exhibition about Napoleon.

An advertisement in The Times (1843) stated:
“Napoleon’s celebrated military carriage, taken at Waterloo, room magnificently fitted to show the decorations of his period, engravings of his history, splendid bust by Canova, the cloak he wore at Marenge, the sword of Egypt, the standard given to his guards, his watch, gold snuff box, ring, one of this teeth, the instrument that drew it, tooth-brush, Madras worn in exile, dessert service used by him at St Helens, counterpane stained with his blood: the greater part late the property of Prince Lucien – Madame Tussaud and Son’s Exhibition, Bazaar, Baker-Street: open from 11 till dusk, and from 7 till 10. Great room, 1s; Napoleon relics and chamber of horrors, 6d.” (4)
Napoleon from The Life  of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke  of Wellington by WH Maxwell (1852)
Napoleon from The Life 
of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke
 of Wellington by WH Maxwell (1852)
The end of the road for Napoleon’s carriage

The carriage was exhibited at Madame Tussaud's until 18 March 1925 when fire swept through the waxworks. A report in The Times declared that:
“Madame Tussaud’s, the famous waxworks exhibition, which for generations has had a great fascination for visitors from every land, is no more.”
“Of the most treasured possessions of the exhibition, the Napoleonic relics, only scrap iron remains to suggest the coach in which the Emperor rode at Waterloo.”
The owner, John Tussaud, commented that:
“You cannot put a price on the Napoleonic relics…which cannot be replaced. I consider many of the most valuable things in the collection have been destroyed. They include Napoleon’s three coaches—the Waterloo coach, the carriage he used at St Helena, and the coach he is said to have used on the occasion of his coronation at Milan.”(5)
And so Napoleon’s carriage met a sad end, consumed by flames, 110 years after the Battle of Waterloo at which it was captured.

Fortunately, some of the items captured from Napoleon’s baggage train did survive and a number of them are on display at Windsor Castle in the Waterloo at Windsor 1815-2015 exhibition which runs until 13 January 2016.

Notes
(1) From Ackermann’s Repository (Feb 1816).
(2) From Literary Panorama (Dec 1815) as quoted in The Military Carriage printed for Madame Tussaud and Sons (1843).
(3) From the Monthly Magazine (July 1816) as quoted in The Military Carriage printed for Madame Tussaud and Sons (1843).
(4) From The Times Digital Archive for 8 Apr 1843 accessed 6 Feb 2015 © Times Newspapers Ltd – transcribed by me.
(5) From The Times Digital Archive for 20 Mar 1925 accessed 6 Feb 2015 © Times Newspapers Ltd – transcribed by me.

Sources used include:
Ackermann’s Repository (1815-1816)
The Military Carriage of Napoleon Bonaparte, taken after the Battle of Waterloo, printed for Madame Tussaud and Sons (1843)

British Museum website
The Times Digital Archive

A shorter version of this article first appeared in my newsletter in February 2015.

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Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Battle of Vitoria 21 June 1813 - a live report from the battlefield

The Battle of Vittoria - print by H Moses and FC Lewis after JM Wright  published by John Hassell (1814) © The Trustees of the British Museum
The Battle of Vittoria (2) - print by H Moses and FC Lewis after JM Wright
published by Hassell and Rickards (1814)
© The Trustees of the British Museum
“We have had a great day, and have been successful,” (2) wrote Major Augustus Frazer, commander of the Horse Artillery in Wellington’s army, at 9pm on 21 June 1813. The dust would still have been settling after a day of ferocious military action.

Frazer wrote a letter almost every day during his time in Wellington’s army, providing us with dramatic insights into military life during the Peninsula War. On this occasion he penned his correspondence from a site freshly contested, and no doubt still surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells that immediately followed a battle.

Reenactment at the Chalke Valley History Fair (2013)
Reenactment at the Chalke Valley History Fair (2013)
The confusion of victory
“The action began at eight am, in front of Subijana de Morillas, and lasted till dark; the enemy having been forced back at least four leagues. I write on the spot where the action ceased, ie, at a village a league and a half in front of Vitoria, and hardly know what have been the casualties of the day; from my own observation, however, they are very considerable: to-morrow you shall know more.”
While good communication was essential to an army's performance on the battlefield, even senior officers in the early nineteenth century struggled to keep up with what was happening beyond their immediate surroundings. In this letter from Vitoria, Frazer offers little description of the battle itself, but plenty of glimpses into the detail of the aftermath.

Illustration from The Life of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke of Wellington by WH Maxwell (1852)
Illustration from The Life of Field-Marshal
His Grace the Duke of Wellington
by WH Maxwell (1852)
The human cost of battle

Those who came through the battle unscathed had the task of dealing with their less fortunate companions.

Frazer wrote:
“At daybreak I shall perform the last sad offices to George Thelusson, who was killed in an unsuccessful charge of cavalry at the entrance of this village. His head was split with a sabre cut, and he received a stab just above the heart. I shall write to Lord Rendlesham on the melancholy subject.”
The following day Frazer oversaw the burial of “poor George Thelusson”, taking from his body his watch, ring and locket, which he implied would be passed on to the family.

Reenactment at the Chalke Valley History Fair (2013)
Reenactment at the Chalke Valley History Fair (2013)
Differences between combatants were laid aside in the aftermath of battle. “I had an opportunity of solacing the agonies, and probably the last moments, of the French general of division, Sarrut, whom I helped out of the road, and laid against a bank, under charge of Bombardier Smith."
“I got the poor general some brandy, and sent him a surgeon. He said he was grateful, but dying. He was sadly wounded with case shot.”

“The action being just over I know no particulars, nor what friends may be lost. I have great reason to be thankful, having escaped unhurt. My mare was shot through the neck early in the day. We have taken many guns. I know not how many, nor how many thousand prisoners; tomorrow at daybreak will tell us all.”
More than 5,000 troops under Wellington’s command were casualties in the battle, compared to 8,000 for the French.

The death of Colonel Cadogan at the Battle of Vittoria  from the History of the present war in Spain and Portugal by Theophilus Camden (1813)
The death of Colonel Cadogan at the Battle of Vittoria
from the History of the present war in Spain and Portugal
by Theophilus Camden (1813)
Living on the battlefield
“We are in a house gutted: furniture strewed about, the inhabitants of course fled. The enemy behaved well. His artillery was more than usually well served. I imagine he must have lost much the greater part of it. The road was in many places blocked up with the guns, and with ammunition and other carriages. Adieu: tomorrow you shall have a connected account. All now is hurry, bustle, and the strange sensation which succeeds the active scenes of the day.”
Frazer was right that the French had lost most of their artillery. In total over 150 guns were captured by the British, comprising most of the French arsenal.

The French general, Sarrut, died, as Frazer had anticipated. The following day Frazer wrote:
“Poor man!! I wish now I had taken his decoration of the Legion of Honour, but though I saw it, the general thanked me so warmly, and squeezed my hand with such earnestness, that I felt it would have been ungenerous to have taken the prize.”
Note
(1) The modern spelling is Vitoria but it was sometimes spelt with two 't's in the 19th century.
(2) All quotes from The Letters of Colonel Sir Augustus Simon Frazer.

Sources:
Camden, Theophilus, The History of the Present War in Spain and Portugal from its commencement to the Battle of Vittoria (1813)
Encyclopedia Britannica 1994 edition, Micropedia Vol 12, p405
Frazer, Sir Augustus Simon, The Letters of Colonel Sir Augustus Simon Frazer, KCB, written during the Peninsular and Waterloo campaigns edited by Major-General Edward Sabine (1859)

British Library images on Flicker
British Museum website

Thursday, 18 June 2015

In the shadow of the Battle of Waterloo - three days in June: part 3 - 18 June 1815

The Battle of Waterloo in The wars of Wellington, a narrative poem  by Dr Syntax illustrated by W Heath and JC Stadler (1819)
The Battle of Waterloo in The wars of Wellington, a narrative poem
by Dr Syntax illustrated by W Heath and JC Stadler (1819)
For two days, Friday 16 and Saturday 17 June 1815, the population of Brussels, including many visitors from England, had endured painful uncertainty. They could hear the sounds of cannon to the south and knew that Wellington's army was engaging the French under Napoleon. But it was far from clear who had the upper hand.



What these thousands of civilians feared most was that victorious French troops would enter, and ransack, the city.

An anonymous observer of events in the city later published an account of their experience, offering us a vivid insight into what it was like for civilians during the Battle of Waterloo.

Decisive charge at Waterloo by A Cooper engraved by P Lightfoot  from The Life of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke of Wellington  by WH Maxwell (1852)
Decisive charge at Waterloo by A Cooper engraved by P Lightfoot
from The Life of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke of Wellington
by WH Maxwell (1852)
Day 3: Sunday 18 June 1815

“On Sunday the terror and confusion reached its highest point.” After two uncomfortable nights for Brussels, probably sleepless for many, “news arrived of the French having gained a complete victory, and it was universally believed”. (1)

Panic swept through the baggage train at the rear of the British army, and a torrent of frightened people fled into Brussels, leaving a trail of “broken and overturned waggons – heaps of abandoned baggage – dead horses, and terrified people”.

Surrounded by this chaos, everyone in Brussels was desperate for news. “Ladies accosted men they had never seen before, without preface or apology, with eager questions. Strangers conversed together like friends – every body addressed each other without hesitation, and English reserve seemed no longer to exist.”

Despite all the questions, there were no answers. The dreadful overture of battle, the distant rumble of cannon fire, again played in the background throughout the day. Their nerves shredded by three days of suspense, “constant agitation and fluctuating hopes”, the population who chose to stay, or could not flee, had no choice but to wait. Just a few miles away, one of the most celebrated battles in European history was being fought in the fields, woods and hedgerows of Waterloo.

Finally, at around 9pm, “some wounded officers arrived on horseback from the field, bringing the dreadful news, that the battle was lost!” This prompted a fresh exodus away from the city, and the sense of foreboding deepened as carriages filled with wounded rolled into the city.

Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Picton  - one of the officers who died at the Battle of Waterloo  from The Life of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke of Wellington  by WH Maxwell (1852)
Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Picton
- one of the officers who died at the Battle of Waterloo
from The Life of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke of Wellington
by WH Maxwell (1852)
Reliable news at last!

Finally, at around 3am on Monday 19 June 1815, an official message arrived from Waterloo, “containing a brief account of the victory. A party of wounded Highlanders, who had found their way on foot from the field of battle, no sooner heard the news, than, regardless of their sufferings, they began to shout and huzza with the most vociferous demonstrations of joy”.

The ‘near observer’ who recorded this account soon paid a personal visit to the battlefield. “Every tree in the wood of Hougoumont is pierced with cannon-balls – in one alone, I counted the holes, where upwards of twenty had lodged.”

The mixture of relief and disgust engendered by a trip to the battlefield so soon after the conflict is hard to imagine.

“Wild flowers are still blooming, and wild raspberries ripening beneath their shade; while huge black piles of human ashes, dreadfully offensive in smell, are all that now remain of the heroes who fought and fell upon this fatal spot.”

Horse Guards at the Battle of Waterloo from Historic, military and   naval anecdotes of particular incidents by E Orme & illustrated   by Heath & Dubourg (1819)
Horse Guards at the Battle of Waterloo from Historic, military and 
naval anecdotes of particular incidents by E Orme & illustrated
 by Heath & Dubourg (1819)
A summary of the events on Sunday 18 June

Following two days of smaller military engagements, Napoleon and Wellington faced one another on the battlefield for the first and only time. The Battle of Waterloo began at around midday and continued into the long June evening, both sides bitterly contesting the battlefield in a bid to break the other. Many of those present later recorded that it was the most ferocious battle they had ever experienced.

In early evening the Prussian army under Blucher, defeated by the French two days earlier, arrived to support the struggling Allied army led by Wellington. Napoleon made a final assault with his Imperial Guard, undefeated in all their previous engagements. They were broken and their defeat signalled the end to the French, who fled the battlefield.

The meeting of Wellington and Blucher at La Belle Alliance in  The wars of Wellington, a narrative poem  by Dr Syntax illustrated by W Heath and JC Stadler (1819)
The meeting of Wellington and Blucher at La Belle Alliance in
The wars of Wellington, a narrative poem
by Dr Syntax illustrated by W Heath and JC Stadler (1819)
While not the last battle between the French and the Allies, Waterloo was effectively the end of Napoleon's campaign. He raced back to Paris, but discovered he had little support and on 15 July, at Rochefort on the French coast, he gave himself up to a British warship. He hoped to be allowed to travel to America, or make a quiet home in England, but was instead exiled to the distant island of St Helena. 
List of dead and wounded at the Battle of Waterloo  from The Life of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke of Wellington  by WH Maxwell (1852)
List of dead and wounded at the Battle of Waterloo
from The Life of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke of Wellington
by WH Maxwell (1852)
Note
(1) All quotes from The Battle of Waterloo by a near observer (1815).

Sources used include:
Booth, J (publisher), The Battle of Waterloo by a near observer (1815)
Maxwell, William Hamilton, Life of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke of Wellington in three volumes (1852)

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

In the shadow of the Battle of Waterloo - three days in June: part 2 - 17 June 1815

The Battle of Waterloo  from Historic, military and naval anecdotes of particular incidents by E Orme & illustrated by JA Atkinson (1819)
The Battle of Waterloo from Historic, military and naval anecdotes
of particular incidents by E Orme & illustrated by JA Atkinson (1819)
On Friday 16 June 1815, the city of Brussels listened in fear and awe to the sound of distant cannon fire. The British and their allies had marched from the city in the early hours to face the advancing French under Napoleon.


All day rumours and reports from the nearby battlefields reached the increasingly nervous inhabitants, who feared that a French victory would see their city sacked by the French. Few went to bed easily that Friday night.

An anonymous observer of events in the city later published an account of their experiences, offering us a vivid insight into what is was like for a civilian during the three days of the Waterloo campaign.

Napoleon from The Life of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke of Wellington by WH Maxwell (1852)
Napoleon from The Life 
of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke
 of Wellington by WH Maxwell (1852)
Day 2: Saturday 17 June 1815

Not long after midnight, the population of Brussels, mainly Belgian but swollen by the many British who accompanied the army, was disturbed once more. This time it was by “the rolling of heavy carriages, in long succession, passing rapidly through the Place Royale”. (1)

Rising to enquire what was happening, the ‘near observer’ who recorded an account met a panic-stricken chambermaid, who insisted that the French were within half an hour of taking the city. “At the bottom of the stairs, a group of the affrighted Belgians were assembled - consternation pictured on their faces.”

The alarm subsided, for now, when they realised the wagons were artillery heading towards, not away, from the battlefields to the south of the city. But fresh panic swept in at 6am when Belgian cavalry galloped through the streets “at full speed, as if the enemy were at their heels”.

“The doors of all the bed-rooms open - the people flew out with their night-caps on, scarcely half dressed and looking quite distracted, running about pale and trembling.”

Retreat from Waterloo by J Gilbert engraved by AW Warren  from The Life of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke of Wellington  by WH Maxwell (1852)
Retreat from Waterloo by J Gilbert engraved by AW Warren
from The Life of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke of Wellington
by WH Maxwell (1852)
Flight from the fight

The nervous made hasty preparations to flee. “In the court-yard below, a scene of the most dreadful confusion ensued; the scuffle that took place to get at the horses and carriages it was impossible to describe; the squabbling of masters and servants, ostlers, chambermaids, coachmen and gentlemen.”

Yet again, this disorder was followed by news, from an aide-de-camp of the Duke of Wellington, that the British army was in good order and more fighting was to be expected.

Illustration from The Life of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke of Wellington by WH Maxwell (1852)
Illustration from The Life of Field-Marshal
His Grace the Duke of Wellington
by WH Maxwell (1852)
The grim reality of war soon became evident on the streets, as wagons filled with injured troops began to arrive, along with the bodies of those who had died during the journey. “Numbers of wounded who were able to walk, were wandering upon every road; their blood-stained clothes and pale haggard countenances looking most dreadful.”

These terrible sights were accompanied by accurate reports that Wellington had retreated towards Brussels, as part of a tactical game of cat and mouse with the enemy. But “nobody could convince the Belgians that a retreat and a flight were not one and the same thing; and firmly convinced that the English had been defeated, they fully expected every moment to see them enter Brussels in the utmost confusion, with the French after them”.

The sense of panic intensified on what must have been a sultry afternoon. “Every hour only served to add to the dismay.” The fearful were offering huge sums of money for a horse on which to escape the city, and many left on foot or in canal boats.

The weather broke later that day, with a “violent thunderstorm”. As night fell, the frightened city and the armies in the field were lashed by “torrents of rain”.
Illustration from The Life of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke of Wellington by WH Maxwell (1852)
Illustration from The Life of Field-Marshal
His Grace the Duke of Wellington
by WH Maxwell (1852)
A summary of the events on Saturday 17 June

After the battles of Friday, the French and British armies spent Saturday positioning themselves for another fight the following day. The heavy rain that soaked the ground at Waterloo, making movement difficult, is considered to be one of the factors turning the final battle in favour of the British.

Read about the Battle of Waterloo in the final post of the series.

Note
(1) All quotes from The Battle of Waterloo by a near observer (1815).

Sources used include:
Booth, J (publisher), The Battle of Waterloo by a near observer (1815)
Maxwell, William Hamilton, Life of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke of Wellington in three volumes (1852)

Monday, 15 June 2015

In the shadow of the Battle of Waterloo - three days in June: part 1 - 16 June 1815

The Battle of Waterloo from The wars of Wellington, a narrative poem by Dr Syntax, illustrated by W Heath & JC Stadler (1819)
The Battle of Waterloo from The wars of Wellington, a narrative poem
by Dr Syntax, illustrated by W Heath & JC Stadler (1819)
According to many who where there, the Battle of Waterloo was the most ferocious engagement of its time. But what was it like for the thousands of civilians living in the nearby city of Brussels? Within earshot of the engagement, they knew that the outcome of the battle would have an immediate impact on their own lives. Should the French win, they would ransack the city.

“An open town like Brussels, within a few miles of contending armies, is subject to perpetual alarms, and scarcely an hour passed without some false reports occurring to spread general terror and confusion.” (1)

So wrote a ‘near observer’, author of one of the many published accounts of the greatest and final battle in the Napoleonic wars. The writer opens their work with a firsthand experience of life just a few miles from the epic engagement, portraying a city in a febrile condition, undergoing convulsions of panic as, for three days, the sounds, sights and smells of war filled the streets of a town hoping desperately to remain free from the ravages of a French occupation.

Prelude: Thursday 15 June 1815


On this long, early summer evening, Brussels saw probably the most famous of all Regency social gatherings – the Duchess of Richmond’s ball. The Duke of Wellington and almost all his officers attended, as did many of their wives and daughters, who were travelling with them.

The glittering occasion was a stark contrast to the grim reality of war that would follow. There was “dismay and consternation” on every face, as news spread that the army would march out in the morning. Many young officers took their final leave of loved ones that night, never to return.

The Duke of Wellington from The Life of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke of Wellington by WH Maxwell (1852)
The Duke of Wellington from The Life of Field-Marshal
His Grace the Duke of Wellington
by WH Maxwell (1852)
Day 1: Friday 16 June 1815

In the early hours, the city was roused “when suddenly the drums beat to arms, and the trumpet’s loud call was heard from every part of the city”. Very quickly the “whole town was one universal scene of bustle”. Wellington had ordered his army out to meet the swift advance of Napoleon.

The troops gathered in Place Royale, “with their knapsacks on their backs, some taking leave of wives and children; others sitting down unconsciously concerned upon the sharp pavement, waiting for their comrades”.

It being mid-June, dawn came early, bringing with it a procession of carts coming in from the country for the market. Old Flemish women came into town with poles of cabbages, green peas and potatoes and gazed in surprise at the bright array of soldiers assembling around them.

By 4am the regiments were formed up and began marching south out of the city. Many had little experience of battle, the core of the army who had fought in the recent wars having been sent to fight in other conflicts.

Just four hours later, at 8am, the streets of Brussels were empty and the Place Royale deserted. A convoy of wagons had been assembled, in preparation to move the wounded, but its Flemish drivers dozed as they waited to be called to action.

Illustration from The Life of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke of Wellington by WH Maxwell (1852)
Illustration from The Life of Field-Marshal
His Grace the Duke of Wellington
by WH Maxwell (1852)
A long and uncertain day

After a restless night, the people of Brussels waited anxiously to discover their fate. The day wore on without much expectation of news, when at around 3pm the sound of nearby cannon fire rocked the city. It came from the south, from the direction of Waterloo, which was just 13 miles from the heart of Brussels.

“Had our troops then encountered the French before they had joined the Prussians? Were they separately engaged? Where? When? How?”

Keen for news, many people took horses or carriages in the direction of the sound, to find out what was going on. The reports they brought back were confused. Some said the French had been defeated, others that the English were fleeing. Finally, late in the afternoon, an officer brought news that the British had met, and resisted, the French. “In the words of this officer, ‘all was well’.” 

The sound of distant guns continued to rattle the city and its inhabitants, into the long summer twilight. “Unable to rest, we wandered about the place the whole evening, or stood upon the ramparts listening to the heavy cannonade, which towards 10 o’clock became fainter, and soon afterwards entirely died away.”

A summary of the events on Friday 16 June

What the residents of Brussels overheard that Friday were the twin battles of Quatre Bras and, more distantly, Ligny. At Quatre Bras, the French army led by Marshal Ney, was beaten back by Wellington as they tried to secure a strategic crossroads. Napoleon, leading another French army, was more successful at Ligny, where the Prussians under Field Marshal Blucher were defeated.

With the Prussians beaten back, Napoleon prepared to defeat Wellington and march victoriously into Brussels.

Windmill at Quatre Bras during the Battle of Waterloo
by Carle Vernet (c1815-36) © Trustees of the British Museum
See how the story progressed - read about Day 2: Saturday 17 June 1815

Read about Day 3: The Battle of Waterloo - Sunday 18 June 1815

Note
(1) All quotes from The Battle of Waterloo by a near observer (1815).

Sources used include:
Booth, J (publisher), The Battle of Waterloo by a near observer (1815)
Maxwell, William Hamilton, Life of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke of Wellington in three volumes (1852)

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852)

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington  © Rachel Knowles - own collection
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
© Rachel Knowles - own collection
Profile

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1 May 1769 – 14 September 1852), was the British military commander famous for defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. He was also a Tory politician and British Prime Minister from 1828-30 and in 1834.

Family background

Arthur Wellesley was born in Dublin on 1 May 1769 (1), the third surviving son of Garret Wesley, 1st Earl of Mornington, and his wife Anne Hill, daughter of the 1st Viscount Dungannon. His elder brother Richard adopted the variation Wellesley as his surname in 1789 and Wellington followed suit by 1798.

Wellington’s father died when he was 12 and his domineering mother thought him inferior to his elder brothers. He played the violin and was good at arithmetic, but made little academic progress during his time at Eton College (1781-4). 

In 1785, he went to Brussels with his mother and learnt French from their landlord. His mother decided that all he was fit for was the army and accordingly sent him to the Academy of Equitation at Angers in France to prepare him for his future career.

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
by Robert Home oil on canvas (1804)
© NPG 1471 (2)
Military career

Through his eldest brother’s influence, Wellington gained his first commission in the army as an ensign in March 1787. After a series of promotions, he sailed to India as a brevet-colonel in the 33rd Foot in June 1796, where he was soon joined by his eldest brother Richard who had been appointed Governor General and his younger brother Henry who was his secretary. 

He returned to England in 1805 having been made a Knight of the Bath for his service in India and with a personal fortune of £42,000 amassed through his campaigns. In January 1806, he became Colonel of the 33rd Foot on the death of Lord Cornwallis.

Wellington served in the Peninsular War (1807-1814) against France under Napoleon and won significant engagements including those at Ciudad Rodrigo, Salamanca and Vitoria, after which he was promoted to the rank of field marshal. Vastly outnumbered by the French forces, he gained a reputation as a master of defence. He ensured that the civilian population was treated well which led to good information about the movements of the French forces—a critical part of his military strategy.

After Napoleon’s abdication, Wellington was appointed British ambassador in Paris, and served at the Congress of Vienna. When Napoleon escaped from his exile on Elba in February 1815, Wellington led the allied forces against him, culminating in his most famous victory at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815.

Duke of Wellington statue, Threadneedle Street, London
Duke of Wellington statue,
Threadneedle Street, London
Life in the army

Wellington was a sociable man, a prolific letter writer and a great conversationalist. Whilst serving in the army, he would often get up at six and write letters for three hours before breakfast. He would spend time with his staff officers in the morning and visit his troops or other places as necessary in the afternoon. He was surrounded by a loyal band of young gentlemen—his aides-de-camp—mostly from aristocratic families. He encouraged his officers to arrange balls and concerts and enjoyed their conversation over dinner though he had little interest in food. During the winter he hunted with his own pack.

Showered with praise

With successive victories, Wellington was awarded more and more honours. He was made Baron Douro and Viscount Wellington of Talavera (4 September 1809), Earl of Wellington (28 February 1812), Marquess of Wellington (18 August 1812) and finally Marquess Douro and Duke of Wellington (3 May 1814).

Various monuments were erected in his honour including the Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner, London.

Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner, London
Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner, London
The Duke’s residences

In 1814, the House of Commons granted Wellington £400,000 to buy an estate to support his new rank and in November 1817, Stratfield Saye near Basingstoke in Hampshire was purchased for the Duke.

In the same year, Wellington bought Apsley House from his brother Richard at a generous price. He later employed the architect Benjamin Wyatt to remodel it to house all the trophies and other gifts that had been showered upon him. 

Apsley House, London (2017)
Apsley House, London (2017)
Political career

Before Wellington went to India, he was MP for Trim in the Irish parliament (1790-7) through his family’s influence. After his return, he became a British MP in order to be able to defend his brother Richard who stood accused of maladministration and fraud during his time in India. It was when lobbying the government in this cause that Wellington had his one and only meeting with Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson.

Wellington was MP successively for Rye (1806), Mitchell (1807) and Newport on the Isle of Wight (1807-09), during which time he was Chief Secretary for Ireland.

From cabinet office to Prime Minister

When he returned to England in 1817, Wellington was made Master General of the Ordnance—the only cabinet office of a military character. But when Canning became Prime Minister in 1827, Wellington refused to serve under him and resigned. When Canning died just a few months later, Viscount Goderich replaced him, but his government did not last much longer and in 1828, Wellington was made Prime Minister.

Wellington opposed reform but yielded on the matter of Catholic emancipation in order to secure stability. However, in so doing, he alienated some of his more extreme supporters and in the face of widespread support for parliamentary reform, Wellington resigned in November 1830. 

Despite Wellington’s opposition, Lord Grey’s government passed the Reform Act in 1832. Wellington was again Prime Minister for a few months in 1834 before stepping aside for Sir Robert Peel and taking on the role of Foreign Secretary instead.

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
by William Salter (c1839)
© NPG Photograph © Andrew Knowles
A duel

Wellington’s speech in favour of Catholic emancipation particularly outraged the Earl of Winchelsea who accused the Duke of introducing Popery into the government. The Duke challenged Winchelsea to a duel which took place on Battersea fields on 21 March 1829. Winchelsea did not fire; the Duke missed, but whether he deloped on purpose or missed because he was a bad shot, nobody really knows. Winchelsea apologised and the matter was closed.

A bevy of appointments

Wellington was also appointed to other roles including Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire (1820), Constable of the Tower and Lord Lieutenant of the Tower Hamlets (1826), Commander-in-Chief of the Forces (1827-8 and 1842-52), Constable of Dover Castle and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports (1829) and Chancellor of Oxford University (1834).

A miserable marriage

The story of Wellington’s marriage is very sad. In 1793, the young Wellington proposed to Lady Catherine Pakenham but his offer was refused by her family because of his lack of prospects. In a dramatic gesture, he burnt his violin and devoted himself to his military career.

Whilst serving in India, Wellington did not communicate at all with his erstwhile love, although they heard of each other through a mutual friend, Lady Olivia Sparrow. Lady Catherine, known as Kitty, clearly thought the relationship was over as she had become engaged to someone else, although she had later broken it off. However, Lady Olivia persuaded Wellington that it was his duty to marry Kitty.

Without even seeing her, Wellington proposed to Kitty by letter in November 1805 and was accepted. They were married in Dublin on 10 April 1806 and had two sons Arthur (1807) and Charles (1808), but it was a most unhappy marriage. Kitty was no longer the lively girl that Wellington had fallen in love with. He wanted a socially able hostess, but Kitty proved to be insecure and tactless and his behaviour towards her was not kind. It was not until Kitty was dying in 1831 that Wellington finally softened towards her. 

The Duchess of Wellington, engraved by J Thomson   after JR Swinton from Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap  Book (1849) Courtesy of Ancestryimages.com
The Duchess of Wellington, engraved by J Thomson
 after JR Swinton from Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap
Book (1849) Courtesy of Ancestryimages.com
Friends and lovers

Wellington had relationships with numerous women including the famous courtesan Harriette Wilson. He may have had an affair with Lady Charlotte Greville, but rumours of an affair with Lady Frances Webster were groundless (3).

He also had many platonic friendships with women. He enjoyed the company of Lady Shelley, the young marchioness of Salisbury and his elder son’s wife, Lady Douro, and most especially, Mrs Arbuthnot. It was rumoured that Harriet Arbuthnot was his mistress, but this was not so and her husband went to live with the Duke after her death.

Mrs Arbuthnot from La Belle Assemblée (1829)
Mrs Arbuthnot from La Belle Assemblée (1829)
Other friendships were fuelled by letter writing. He sent nearly 400 letters to Miss Jenkins between 1834 and 1851 and over 800 letters to Angela Burdett-Coutts.

Nicknames

Wellington was called the Beau by his officers and later the Peer, but by his less respectful troops, he was referred to as Atty (for Arthur) or Nosey (making reference to his prominent aristocratic nose).

But perhaps the most famous epithet applied to Wellington is that of the Iron Duke. The name is said to originate, not from his unemotional public demeanour, but from the iron shutters that he installed at Apsley House after pro-reform rioters broke his windows in 1831.

Illness and death

In November 1839, Wellington suffered a stroke whilst at Walmer Castle. More strokes followed with the final one proving fatal. He died on 14 September 1852 at Walmer Castle and after his body had lain in state, it was transported to London by train.

On 18 November 1852, Wellington was given a state funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral. The procession followed a route from Horse Guards to St Paul’s via Constitution Hill and was said to have been witnessed by one and a half million people.

Wellington's funeral car at Stratfield Saye
Notes
(1) There appears to be some doubt as to the exact date of Wellington’s birth. A christening record for the 30 April suggests that he may have been born on the 29 April, but his parents both confirmed the date of 1 May and this was the date that Wellington himself celebrated as his birthday.
(2) This picture is © National Portrait Gallery and is displayed under a Creative Commons licence.
(3) From Gash's entry in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (see source below).
(4) Wikipedia says 1827.

Sources used include:
Alexander, James Edward, Life of Field Marshal, his Grace the Duke of Wellington (1840) 2 volumes
Courthope, William, editor, Debrett's Complete Peerage of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1838)
Gash, Norman, Wellesley, Arthur, 1st Duke of Wellington, (1769-1852), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn Jan 2011, accessed 2 Jul 2013)
Maxwell, William Hamilton, Life of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke of Wellington in three volumes (1852)
History of Parliament online (accessed 09-06-15)

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Georgians celebrated in London statues

Trafalgar Square, London
Trafalgar Square, London
Although I live down by the sea in sunny Weymouth in Dorset, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to visit London on a regular basis as my parents live a short train journey away from the capital. Walking through the streets of London, I always try to spot things with a Georgian connection and my husband, Andrew, obligingly takes lots of photos for me.

This post takes a look at some of the statues in London that commemorate Georgian royalty and other prominent figures. It is by no means an exhaustive list and no doubt I will discover more in the future.

George III and George IV

Let us start with royalty. There are impressive equestrian statues in London of both George III (1738-1820) and George IV (1762-1830) situated within a short distance of each other. George III, by the sculptor Matthew Cotes Wyatt, is on Cockspur Street—a two minute walk away from Sir Francis Legatt Chantrey’s statue in Trafalgar Square, where George IV sits astride his horse in front of the National Gallery.

Equestrian statue of George III, Cockspur Street, London
Equestrian statue of George III,
Cockspur Street, London
Equestrian statue of George III, Cockspur Street, London
Equestrian statue of George III,
Cockspur Street, London
Equestrian statue of George IV, Trafalgar Square, London
Equestrian statue of George IV,
Trafalgar Square, London
Detail from equestrian statue of George IV, Trafalgar Square, London
Detail from equestrian statue of George IV,
Trafalgar Square, London
Two commemorative columns

At the top of his column in Trafalgar Square is the famous naval hero of the Battle of Trafalgar, Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson (1758-1805). But perhaps lesser known is the Duke of York column, just off The Mall, supporting a statue of Frederick, Duke of York (1763-1827), George III’s second son, who was Commander in Chief of the British Army 1795-1809 and 1811-1827.

Nelson's Column, Trafalgar Square, London
Nelson's Column, Trafalgar Square, London
Statue of Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson on Nelson's Column, Trafalgar Square, London
Statue of Admiral Horatio Lord
 Nelson on Nelson's Column,
 Trafalgar Square, London
Duke of York Column, The Mall, London
Duke of York Column,
The Mall, London
Statue of Frederick, Duke of York, at top of Duke of York Column, The Mall, London
Statue of Frederick, Duke of York,
on Duke of York Column, The Mall, London
Artists and architects

Appropriately, there is a statue of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), the first President of the Royal Academy, in the courtyard of Burlington House on Piccadilly, home to the Royal Academy since 1874.

Statue of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London
Statue of Sir Joshua Reynolds,
Burlington House, Piccadilly, London
On the outside of the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours on Piccadilly, you can see the busts of famous artists including JMW Turner (1775-1851) and Paul Sandby (1731-1809), one of the founder members of the Royal Academy.

Bust of Turner, Piccadilly, London
Bust of JMW Turner, Piccadilly, London
Bust of Paul Sandby, Piccadilly, London
Bust of Paul Sandby, Piccadilly, London
In 1956, a bust of the architect John Nash (1752-1835) was erected outside All Souls Langham Place—a church that he had designed.

Bust of John Nash, outside All Souls Langham Place, London
Bust of John Nash, outside
All Souls Langham Place, London
Fashionable Regency figures remembered

The statue of Beau Brummell (1778-1840) on Jermyn Street is relatively new—it was only erected in 2002. It seems a fitting site for Beau—looking down the Piccadilly Arcade with its superior shops selling everything for the gentleman of fashion, from made-to-measure suits and footwear to jewellery and grooming products.

Statue of Beau Brummell, Jermyn Street, London
Statue of Beau Brummell,
Jermyn Street, London
Statue of Beau Brummell, Jermyn Street, London
Statue of Beau Brummell, Jermyn Street, London
Statue of Beau Brummell, Jermyn Street, London
Statue of Beau Brummell,
Jermyn Street, London
Statue of Beau Brummell, Jermyn Street, London
Statue of Beau Brummell, Jermyn Street, London
Statue of Beau Brummell, Jermyn Street, London
Statue of Beau Brummell,
Jermyn Street, London
The famous Romantic poet, Lord Byron (1788-1824), is commemorated by a somewhat isolated statue in a very unromantic position on a traffic island on the hugely busy Park Lane.

Statue of Lord Byron, Park Lane, London
Statue of Lord Byron, Park Lane, London
An economist and an explorer

Adam Smith (1723-1790) was a Scottish economist and philosopher. He wrote The Wealth of Nations in 1776—it was still on the reading list when I studied economics at university! You can find his statue on the rear of Burlington House.

Statue of Adam Smith, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London
Statue of Adam Smith,
Burlington House, Piccadilly, London
Captain James Cook (1728-1779) was a naval captain, explorer and cartographer. His statue was erected on The Mall in 1914.

Statue of Captain James Cook, The Mall, London
Statue of Captain James Cook,
The Mall, London
Politicians

An equestrian statue of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), military hero of the Battle of Waterloo and British Prime Minister stands on Threadneedle Street, outside the Bank of England.

Equestrian statue of 1st Duke of Wellington, Threadneedle Street, London
Equestrian statue of 1st Duke of Wellington,
Threadneedle Street, London
Equestrian statue of 1st Duke of Wellington, Threadneedle Street, London
Equestrian statue of 1st Duke of Wellington,
Threadneedle Street, London
Another Georgian Prime Minister, George Canning (1770-1827), stands in Parliament Square along with several of his successors, including Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850).

George Canning, Parliament Square, London
George Canning, Parliament Square, London
Sir Robert Peel, Parliament Square, London
Sir Robert Peel,
Parliament Square, London
A statue of the Whig politician Charles James Fox (1749-1806) stands in Bloomsbury Square Gardens. He holds a copy of the Magna Carta in his hand, signifying his role as the 'Man of the People'.

Statue of Charles James Fox, Bloomsbury Square, London
Statue of Charles James Fox,
Bloomsbury Square, London
A philanthropist and an evangelical

Thomas Coram (1668-1751) set up the Foundling Hospital in 1741. His statue is outside the Foundling Museum on Brunswick Square, London.

Statue of Thomas Coram, Brunswick Square, London
Statue of Thomas Coram,
Brunswick Square, London
John Wesley (1703-1791) was an evangelical Anglican minister who, together with his brother Charles and George Whitefield, founded the Methodist movement. His statue stands in the gardens of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Statue of John Wesley, outside St Paul's Cathedral, London
Statue of John Wesley,
outside St Paul's Cathedral, London
All photographs © Andrew Knowles - see more of Andrew's photos of London on Flickr.