THE WELLINGTON CONNECTION: CREEVEY AND WATERLOO

The following is diarist Thomas Creevey’s account of his meeting with the Duke of Wellington after the Battle of Waterloo originally published in The Creevey Papers (1909):

“About eleven o’clock, upon going out again, I heard a report that the Duke (of Wellington) was in Bruxelles; and I went from curiosity to see whether there was any appearance of him or any of his staff at his residence in the Park. As I approached, I saw people collected in the street about the house; and when I got amongst them, the first thing I saw was the Duke upstairs alone at his window. Upon his recognising me, he immediately beckoned to me with his finger to come up.*

Arthur Blundell Sandys Trumbull Hill, 3rd Marquess of Downshire

“I met Lord Arthur Hill in the ante-room below, who, after shaking hands and congratulation, told me I could not go up to the Duke, as he was then occupied in writing his dispatch; but as I had been invited, I of course proceeded. The first thing I did, of course, was to put out my hand and congratulate him [the Duke] upon his victory. He made a variety of observations in his short, natural, blunt way, but with the greatest gravity all the time, and without the least approach to anything like triumph or joy. —’ It has been a damned serious business,’ he said. ‘Blucher and I have lost 30,000 men. It has been a damned nice thing—the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life. Blucher lost 14,000 on Friday night, and got so damnably licked I could not find him on Saturday morning; so I was obliged to fall back to keep up [regain ?] my communications with him.’

“Then, as he walked about, he praised greatly those Guards who kept the farm (meaning Hugomont) against the repeated attacks of the French; and then he praised all our troops, uttering repeated expressions of astonishment at our men’s courage. He repeated so often its being so nice a thing—so nearly run a thing, that I asked him if the French had fought better than he had ever seen them do before.—’ No,’ he said, ‘they have always fought the same since I first saw them at Vimeira.’ Then he said:—’By God! I don’t think it would have done if I had not been there.’

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington c.1815 by Sir Thomas Lawrence

“When I left the Duke, I went instantly home and wrote to England by the same courier who carried his dispatch. I sent the very conversation I have just related to Bennet.  I think, however, I omitted the Duke’s observation that he did not think the battle would have been won had he not been there, and I remember my reason for omitting this sentence. It did not seem fair to the Duke to state it without full explanation. There was nothing like vanity in the observation in the way he made it. I considered it only as meaning that the battle was so hardly and equally fought that nothing but confidence of our army in himself as their general could have brought them thro’. Now that seven years have elapsed since that battle, and tho’ the Duke has become—very foolishly, in my opinion—a politician, and has done many wrong and foolish things since that time, yet I think of his conversation and whole conduct on the l9th—the day after the battle—exactly the same as I did then: namely—that nothing could do a conqueror more honor than his gravity and seriousness at the loss of lives he had sustained, his admission of his great danger, and the justice he did his enemy.

“I may add that, before I left him, I asked whether he thought the French would be able to take the field again; and he said he thought certainly not, giving as his reason that every corps of France, but one, had been in the battle, and that the whole army had gone off in such perfect rout and confusion he thought it quite impossible for them to give battle again before the Allies reached Paris.”
* It may seem improbable that the Duke should have made himself so accessible to a mere civilian on such a momentous morning; but there is ample confirmation of Mr. Creevey’s narrative from the Duke’s own lips. In 1836 he described the circumstance to Lady Salisbury, who noted it in her journal  as follows:
“‘ I was called,’ said the Duke, ‘about 3 in the morning by Hume to go and see poor Gordon’ (in the same inn at Waterloo),’ but he was dead before I got there. Then I came back, had a cup of tea and some toast, wrote my dispatch, and then rode into Brussels. At the door of my own hotel I met Creevey: they had no certain accounts at Brussels, and he called out to me :—” What news?” I said :— “Why I think we’ve done for ’em this time.”
The dispatch was begun at Waterloo and finished at Brussels, evidence of which remains in the draft of the original now at Apsley House, which is headed first “Waterloo,” that is struck out and “Bruxelles ” substituted.

Thos. Creevey and Life at the Royal Pavilion – Part Three

 

Mrs. Fitzherbert
A Letter from Mrs. Creevey to Mr. Creevey in London.
“. . . Oh, this wicked Pavillion! we were there till past one this morng., and it has kept me in bed with the headache till 12 to-day. . . . The invitation did not come to us till 9 o’clock: we went in Lord Thurloe’s carriage but the Prince did not come out of the dining-room till 11. Till then our only companions were Lady Downshire and Mr. and Miss Johnstone—the former very goodnatured and amiable. . . . When the Prince appeared, I instantly saw he had got more wine than usual, and it was still more evident that the German Baron was extremely drunk. The Prince came up and were in fear of being too late; sat by me—introduced McMahon to me, and talked a great deal about Mrs. Fitzherbert—said she had been ‘delighted’ with my note, and wished much to see me. He asked her ‘When?’—and he said her answer was —’ Not till you are gone, and I can see her comfortably.’ I suppose this might be correct, for Mac told me he had been ‘worrying her to death’ all the morning.

 

“It appears to me I have found a true friend in Mac* He is even more foolish than I expected; but I shall be disappointed if, even to you, he does not profess himself my devoted admirer.
“Afterwards the Prince led all the party to the table where the maps lie, to see him shoot with an air-gun at a target placed at the end of the room. He did it very skilfully, and wanted all the ladies to attempt it. The girls and I excused ourselves on account of our short sight; but Lady Downshire hit a fiddler in the dining-room, Miss Johnstone a door and Bloomfield the ceiling. … I soon had enough of this, and retired to the fire with Mac … At last a waltz was played by the band, and the Prince offered to waltz with Miss Johnstone, but very quietly, and once round the table made him giddy, so of course it was proper for his partner to be giddy too; but he cruelly only thought of supporting himself, so she reclined on the Baron.”

Sunday, Nov. 3, 1805. “And so I amuse you by my histories. Well! I am glad of it, and it encourages me to go on; and yet I can tell you I could tire of such horrors as I have had the last 3 evenings. I nevertheless estimate them as you do, and am quite disposed to persevere. The second evening was the worst. We were in the diningroom (a comfortless place except for eating and drinking in), and sat in a circle round the fire, which (to indulge you with ‘detail’) was thus arranged. Mrs. F(itzherbert] in the chimney corner (but not knitting), next to her Lady Downshire—then Mrs. Creevey— then Geoff—then Dr. [erased]—then Savory—then Warner—then Day, vis-a-vis his mistress, and most of the time snoring like a pig and waking for nothing better than a glass of water, which he call’d for, hoping, I think, to be offered something better. . .
Last night was better; it was the same party only instead of Savory, a Col. or Major Watley [?] of the Gloster Militia, and the addition of Mrs. Morant, an old card-playing woman. . . . Mrs. Fitz shone last night very much in a sketch she gave me of the history of a very rich Russian woman of quality who is coming to Lord Berkeley’s house. She has been long in England, and is I suppose generally known in London, though new to me. She was a married woman with children, and of great consequence at the court of Petersburgh when Lord Whitworth was there some years ago. He was poor and handsome—she rich and in love with him, and tired of a very magnificent husband to whom she had been married at 14 years old. In short, she kept my Lord, and spent immense sums in doing so and gratifying his great extravagance. In the midst of all this he return’d to England, but they corresponded, and she left her husband and her country to come to him, expecting to marry him—got as far as Berlin, and there heard he was married to the Duchess of Dorset.
“She was raving mad for some time, and Mrs. F. describes her as being often nearly so now, but at other times most interesting, and most miserable. Her husband and children come to England to visit her, and Mrs. F. says she is an eternal subject of remorse to Lord Whitworth, whom she [Mrs. F] spoke of in warm terms as ‘a monster,’ and said she could tell me far more to make me think so. The story sometimes hit upon points that made her blush and check herself, which was to me not the least interesting part of it. . . . She laughed more last night than ever at the Johnstones—said he was a most vulgar man, but seem’d to give him credit for his good nature to his sister and his generosity. The Baron is preparing a phantasmagoria at the Pavillion, and she [Mrs. F] laughs at what he may do with Miss Johnstone in a dark room.”
* The Right Hon. John Macmahon, Private Secretary and Keeper of the Privy Purse to the Prince of Wales. Died in 1817.

Number One London’s 2019 Queen Victoria Tour will be visiting the Brighton Pavilion – find details here.

THOMAS CREEVEY AND LIFE AT THE ROYAL PAVILION – Part Two

Originally published April 2011

“I suppose the Courts or houses of Princes are all alike in one thing, viz., that in attending them you lose your liberty. After one month was gone by, you fell naturally and of course into the ranks, and had to reserve your observations till you were asked for them. These royal invitations are by no means calculated to reconcile one to a Court. To be sent for half an hour before dinner, or perhaps in the middle of one’s own, was a little too humiliating to be very agreeable.

“. . . Lord Hutchinson* was a great feature at the Pavilion. He lived in the house, or rather the one adjoining it, and within the grounds. … As a military man he was a great resource at that time, as we were in the midst of expectations about the Austrians and Buonaparte, and the battle which we all knew would so soon take place between them. It was a funny thing to hear the Prince, when the battle had taken place, express the same opinion as was given in the London Government newspapers, that it was all over with the French—that they were all sent to the devil, and the Lord knows what. Maps were got out to satisfy everybody as to the precise ground where the battle had been fought and the route by which the French had retreated. While these operations were going on in one window of the Pavilion, Lord Hutchinson took me privately to another, when he put into my hand his own private dispatch from Gordon, then Secretary to the Commander-in-Chief, giving him the true account of the battle of Austerlitz, with the complete victory of the French. This news, unaccountable as it may appear, was repeated day after day at the Pavilion for nearly a week; and when the truth began at last to make its appearance in the newspapers, the Prince puts them all in his pockets, so that no paper was forthcoming at the Pavilion, instead of half-a-dozen, the usual number. . . . We used to dine pretty punctually at six, the average number being about sixteen. . . . Mrs. Fitzherbert always dined there, and mostly one other lady—Lady Downshire very often, sometimes Lady Clare or Lady Berkeley or Mrs. Creevey. Mrs. Fitzherbert was a great card-player, and played every night. The Prince never touched a card, but was occupied in talking to his guests, and very much in listening to and giving directions to the band. At 12 o’clock punctually the band stopped, and sandwiches and wine and water handed about, and shortly after the Prince made a bow and we all dispersed.

“I had heard a great deal of the Prince’s drinking, but, during the time that I speak of, I never saw him the least drunk but once, and I was myself pretty much the occasion of it. We were dining at the Pavilion, and poor Fonblanque, a dolorous fop of a lawyer, and a member of Parliament too, was one of the guests. After drinking some wine, I could not resist having some jokes at Fonblanque’s expense, which the Prince encouraged greatly. I went on and invented stories about speeches Fonblanque had made in Parliament, which were so pathetic as to have affected his audience to tears, all of which inventions of mine Fonblanque denied to be true with such overpowering gravity that the Prince said he should die of it if I did not stop. … In the evening, at about ten or eleven o’clock, he said he would go to the ball at the Castle, and said I should go with him. So I went in his coach, and he entered the room with his arm through mine, everybody standing and getting upon benches to see him. He was certainly tipsey, and so, of course, was I, but not much, for I well remember his taking me up to Mrs. Creevey and her daughters, and telling them he had never spent a pleasanter day in his life, and that ‘ Creevey had been very great.’ He used to drink a great quantity of wine at dinner, and was very fond of making any newcomer drunk by drinking wine with him very frequently, always recommending his strongest wines, and at last some remarkably strong old brandy which he called Diabolino.
The 11th Duke of Norfolk

 

“It used to be the Duke of Norfolk’s custom to come over every year from Arundel to pay his respects to the Prince and to stay two days at Brighton, both of which he always dined at the Pavilion. In the year 1804, upon this annual visit, the Prince had drunk so much as to be made very seriously ill by it, so that in 1805 (the year that I was there) when the Duke came, Mrs. Fitzherbert, who was always the Prince’s best friend, was very much afraid of his being again made ill, and she persuaded the Prince to adopt different stratagems to avoid drinking with the Duke. I dined there on both days, and letters were brought in each day after dinner to the Prince, which he affected to consider of great importance, and so went out to answer them, while the Duke of Clarence went on drinking with the Duke of Norfolk. But on the second day this joke was carried too far, and in the evening the Duke of Norfolk showed he was affronted. The Prince took me aside and said—’ Stay after everyone is gone tonight. The Jockey’s got sulky, and I must give him a broiled bone to get him in good humour again.’ So of course I stayed, and about one o’clock the Prince of Wales and Duke of Clarence, the Duke of Norfolk sat down a dinner of broiled bones.

* Brother of the 1st Earl of Donoughmore; a general officer, succeeded Sir Ralph Abercromby in command of the army in Egypt, and was raised to the peerage in 1801, with a pension of £2000. Died in 1832.

Part Three Coming Soon!

Number One London’s 2019 Queen Victoria Tour will be visiting the Brighton Pavilion – find details here.

THOMAS CREEVEY AND LIFE AT THE ROYAL PAVILION – Part One

Originally published April 2011

Thomas Creevey

 

“It was in 1804 when I first began to take a part in the House of Commons, at which time the Prince of Wales was a most warm and active partizan of Mr. Fox and the Opposition. It was then that the Prince began first to notice me, and to stop his horse and talk with me when he met me in the streets; but I recollect only one occasion, in that or the succeeding year, that I dined at Carlton House, and that was with a party of the Opposition, to whom he gave various dinners during that spring. On that occasion Lord Dundas and Calcraft sat at the top and bottom of the table, the Prince in the middle at one side, with the Duke of Clarence next to him; Fox, Sheridan and about 30 opposition members of both Houses making the whole party. We walked about the garden before dinner without our hats.

“The only thing that made an impression upon me in favour of the Prince that day (always excepting his excellent manners and appearance of good humour) was his receiving a note during dinner which he flung across the table to Fox and asked if he must not answer it, which Fox assented to; and then, without the slightest fuss, the Prince left his place, went into another room and wrote an answer, which he brought to Fox for his approval, and when the latter said it was quite right, tne Prince seemed delighted, which I thought very pretty in him, and a striking proof of Fox’s influence over him.

George IV as Prince of Wales by Reynolds

“During dinner he was very gracious, funny and agreeable, but after dinner he took to making speeches, and was very prosy as well as highly injudicious. He made a long harangue in favour of the Catholics and took occasion to tell us that his brother William and himself were the only two of his family who were not Germans—this too in a company which was, most of them, barely known to him. Likewise I remember his halloaing to Sir Charles Bamfyld at the other end of the table, and asking him if he had seen Mother Windsor lately. I brought Lord Howick  and George Walpole home at night in my coach, and so ended that day.

The Royal Pavilion, Brighton
“At the beginning of September,1805, Mrs. Creevey and myself with her daughters went to Brighton to spend the autumn there, the Prince then living at the Pavilion. I think it was the first, or at furthest the second, day after our arrival, when my two eldest daughters and myself were walking on the Steyne, and the Prince, who was sitting talking to old Lady Clermont, having perceived me, left her and came up to speak to me, when I presented my daughters to him. He was very gracious to us all and hoped he should see me shortly at dinner. In two or three days from this time I received an invitation to dine at the Pavilion. . . . Mrs. Fitzherbert, whom I had never been in a room with before, sat on one side of the Prince, and the Duke of Clarence on the other. … In the course of the evening the Prince took me up to the card table where Mrs. Fitzherbert was playing, and said—’ Mrs. Fitzherbert, I wish you would call upon Mrs. Creevey, and say from me I shall be happy to see her here.’ Mrs. Fitzherbert did call accordingly, and altho’ she and Mrs. Creevey had never seen each other before, an acquaintance began that soon grew into a very sincere and agreeable friendship, which lasted the remainder of Mrs. Creevey’s life. . . .
Mrs. Fitzherbert by Cosway

“. . . Immediately after this first visit from Mrs. Fitzherbert, Mrs. Creevey and her daughters became invited with myself to the Prince’s parties at the Pavilion, and till the first week in January—a space of about four months—except a few days when the Prince went to see the King at Weymouth, and a short time that I was in London in November, there was not a day we were not at the Pavilion, I dining there always once or twice a week, Mrs. Creevey frequently dining with me likewise, but in the evening we were always there.

“During these four months the Prince behaved with the greatest good humour as well as kindness to us all. He was always merry and full of his jokes, and any one would have said he was really a very happy man. Indeed I have heard him say repeatedly during that time that he never should be so happy, when King, as he was then.

Part Two Coming Soon!

Number One London’s 2019 Queen Victoria Tour will be visiting the Brighton Pavilion – find details here.

ONCE AGAIN WEDNESDAY: THE DEATH OF NELSON IN LETTERS

Admiral Lord Nelson
(29 September 1758 – 21 October 1805)

Marianne Spencer-Stanhope to John Spencer-Stanhope.

November 20th., 1805. Farnely.
We begin to be impatient for more news. Think of poor Lady Collingwood—she was in a shop in Newcastle when the Mail arrived covered with ribbands, but the coachman with a black hat-band. He immediately declared the great victory, but that Lord Nelson and all the Admirals* were killed. She immediately fainted. When she heard from Lord Collingwood first he wrote in the greatest -grief for his friend, and said the fleet was in a miserable state. Perhaps that may bring him home.
Are you not pleased with his being created a Peer in so handsome a manner. Why has not Lady Nelson some honour conferred upon her? Surely the Widow of our Hero ought not to be so neglected.
Yesterday we drank to the immortal memory of our Hero. Mr Fawkes has got a very fine print of him.
* Lord Collingwood was a Vice Admiral in Nelson’s fleet.
Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood

A Letter from Mrs. Fitzherbert to Mrs. Creevey.

“Nov. 6, 1805.
“Dr. Madam,
“The Prince has this moment recd, an account from the Admiralty of the death of poor Lord Nelson, which has affected him most extremely. I think you may wish to know the news, which, upon any other occasion might be called a glorious victory—twenty out of three and thirty of the enemy’s fleet being entirely destroyed—no English ship being taken or sunk—Capts. Duff and Cook both kill’d, and the French Adl. Villeneuve taken prisoner. Poor Lord Nelson recd, his death by a shot of a musket from the enemy’s ship upon his shoulder, and expir’d two hours after, but not till the ship struck and afterwards sunk, which he had the consolation of hearing, as well as his compleat victory, before he died. Excuse this hurried scrawl: I am so nervous I scarce can hold my pen. God bless you.
The Prince of Wales, afterwards King George IV

Correspondence from Mrs. Creevey to Mr. Creevey.

“Nov. 7, 1805.
“. . . [The Prince’s] sorrow [for Nelson’s death] might help to prevent his coming to dinner at the Pavillion or to Johnstone’s ball. He did neither, but stayed with Mrs. Fitz; and you may imagine the disappointment of the Johnstones. The girl grin’d it off with the captain, but Johnstone had a face of perfect horror all night, and I think he was very near insane. I once lamented Lord Nelson to him, and he said:— ‘Oh shocking: and to come at such an unlucky time!’ . . .”
Emma, Lady Hamilton
“8th Nov.
“. . . The first of my visits this morning was to ‘my Mistress’ (Mrs. Fitzherbert) … I found her alone, and she was excellent—gave me an account of the Prince’s grief about Lord N., and then entered into the domestic failings of the latter in a way infinitely creditable to her, and skilful too. She was all for Lady Nelson and against Lady Hamilton, who, she said (hero as he was) overpower’d him and took possession of him quite by force. But she ended in a natural, good way, by saying:—’ Poor creature! I am sorry for her now, for I suppose she is in grief.'”
“Dec. 5,1805.
“. . . It was a large party at the Pavillion last night, and the Prince was not well . . . and went off to bed. . . . Lord Hutchinson was my chief flirt for the evening, but before Prinny went off he took a seat by me to tell me all this bad news had made him bilious and that he was further overset yesterday by seeing the ship with Lord Nelson’s body on board. . . .”
From an undated letter written by Vice Admiral Collingwood to Edward Collingwood –
My dear friend received his mortal wound about the middle of the fight, and sent an officer to tell me that he should see me no more. His loss was the greatest grief to me. There is nothing like him for gallantry and conduct in battle. It was not a foolish passion for fighting, for he was the most gentle of human creatures, and often lamented the cruel necessity of it; but it was a principle of duty, which all men owed their country in defence of their laws and liberty. He valued his life only as it enabled him to do good, and would not preserve it by any act he thought unworthy. He wore four stars upon his breast and could not be prevailed to put on a plain coat, scorning what he thought a shabby precaution: but that perhaps cost him his life, for his dress made him the general mark.
He is gone, and I shall lament him as long as I live.

Originally published October 21, 2011