THE HON. KATHERINE ARDEN’S ACCOUNT OF WATERLOO

This post was originally published here on June 11, 2011
 This April, Number One London Tours will be hosting the 1815: London to Waterloo Tour, offering an unprecedented opportunity to experience life during these times, from Fashionable London to the Battlefield at Waterloo, we will be visiting sites related to both worlds and to both countries, meeting many of the people involved in the Battle and it’s aftermath on both sides of the Channel. One of these people will be the Honourable Katherine Arden, who has left this first hand and heartfelt record of life in Brussels before and after the Battle. She attended the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball and was on the ground, as it were, in the days following the Battle.

The following letter was written by the Hon. Katherine Arden, daughter of the first Lord Alvanley (Richard, 1744-1804) and sister of William Arden, 2nd Lord Alvanley (1789-1849) , the famous dandy who squandered his fortune and died unmarried; the title went to their younger brother. With her mother and sister, she was resident in Brussels at the time of the great battle, and took an active part in nursing the wounded. The letter is addressed to her aunt, Miss Bootle Wilbraham, afterwards, Mrs. Barnes. It is franked from Windsor to Ormskirk in Lancashire by Miss Arden’s uncle, Mr. E. Bootle Wilbraham (afterwards Lord Skelmersdale), July 17, 1815. The letter was later published in the Cornhill Magazine in 1891.

Brussels, Sunday 9th (July)

My Dearest Aunt, I can assure you most truly that I did not require reminding, to fulfill the promise I made you of writing, and every day since our return from Antwerp I have settled for the purpose, but what with visiting the sick, and making bandages and lint, I can assure you my time has been pretty well occupied. As my patients are, thank goodness, most of them now convalescent, I think the best way I can reward my dear Aunt’s patience, is by giving her a long account of our hopes, fears, and feelings from the time the troops were ordered to march down to the present moment. (If you are tired with my long account, remember you expressed a wish in Mama’s letter to hear all our proceedings.)

On Thursday the 15th of June, we went to the great ball that the Duchess of Richmond gave, and which we expected to see from Generals down to Ensigns, all the military men, who with their regiments had been for some time quartered from 18 to 30 miles from this town, and consequently so much nearer the frontiers; nor were we disappointed, with the exception of 3 generals, every officer high in the army was to be there seen.

Though for nearly ten weeks we had been daily expecting the arrival of the French troops on the Frontiers, and had rather been wondering at their delay, yet when on our arrival at the ball, we were told that the troops had ordered to march at 3 in the morning, and that every officer must join his regiment by that time, as the French were advancing, you cannot possibly picture to yourself the dismay and consternation that appeared in every face.

Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond by Hoppner

Those who had brothers and sons to be engaged, openly gave way to their grief, as the last parting of many took place at this most terrible ball; others (and thank Heaven ranked amongst that number, for in the midst of my greatest fears, I still felt thankfulness, was my prominent feeling that my beloved Dick (her brother) was not here), who had no near relation, yet felt that amongst the many many friends we all had there, it was impossible that all should escape, and that the next time we might hear of them, they might be numbered with the dead; in fact, my dear Aunt, I cannot describe to you my mingled feelings, you will, however, I am sure, understand them, and I feel quite inadequate to express them.

We staid at the ball as short a time as we could but long enough to see express after express arrive to the Duke of Wellington, to hear of Aides de Camp arriving breathless with news, and to see, what was much more extraordiniary than all, the Duke’s equanimity a little discomposed. We took a mournful farewell of some of our best friends, and returned home to anything but repose.

The morning (Friday June 16) dawned most lovelily, and before seven o’clock we had seen 12,000 Brunswickers, Scotch, and English pass before our windows, of whom one third before night were mingled with the dust. Mama took a farewell of the Duke as he passed by, but Fanny and myself, at last wearied out, had before he went, retired to bed. The first person that we saw in the morning brought us the news, that the advanced guard of the French had in the night come on as far as Genappe, 18 miles off, and had had several skirmishes with the Prussians.

This intelligence, as you may suppose, did not tend to compose us, but still everything went on in quiet calmness, when (Gracious heavens, never never shall I forget it), at three o’clock a loud cannonading commenced, which upon the ramparts was heard nearly as plain as we do the Tower guns in London; it went on without intermission till 8 o’clock, when it was thought to appear more distant, and therefore hopes were entertained that the French had retreated; nothing certain was known, but it was reported that the Prussians had been principally attacked, and were rather giving way when the Highlanders and the regiments who had marched from here in the morning joined them, and compleately repulsed the French.

So far the news was good, but still the English had fought, and what our loss was, nobody knew; however, we bore up pretty well till above twelve o’clock, a gentleman (Mr. Leigh, of Lyme in Cheshire) came from off the field of battle, where he had been looking on, with the intelligence that there had been a dreadful battle, the Duke of Brunswick was killed, and that the Brigade of 1st Guards and the Highlanders were literally cut to pieces. I will not attempt to say what we felt, for it would be quite vain.

The Duke of Brunswick, killed at Quatre Bras

I must only tell you that that Regiment of Guards contained all our greatest friends, independent of our having to regret them as Englishmen. The next morning by six o’clock, Saturday 17th numbers of Belgians and others of our brave Allies came flying into the town, with the report that the French were at their heels, but this intelligence occasioned but a temporary fright, as a bulletin was published officially saying that we had gained a great victory, and the French were retreating (neither of which was true). About ten o’clock the real horrors of war began to appear, and though we were spared hearing cannonading, yet the sights that we saw were infinitely more frightful than anything we had heard the day before. I mean the sight of wounded.

Sir James Gambier, 1st Baron Gambier

I must tell you before I proceed, that Sir James Gambier (the Consul General to the Paysbas, who is the best man that ever was) came to us about eight o’clock, and told us that there really had been a severe engagement, but that we had the advantage, that though the Guards had suffered most dreadfully, yet that their loss was not quite so great as had been reported, but that the Highlanders were literally nearly annihilated, after having performed prodigies of valor; and very good proof had we how dreadfully they had suffered, by the numbers who were brought in here, literally cut to pieces. Our house being unfortunately near the gate where they were brought in, most of them passed our door; their wounds were none of them drest, and barely bound up, the wagons were piled up to a degree almost incredible, and numbers for whom there was no room, were obliged, faint and bleeding, to follow on foot; their heads being what had most suffered, having been engaged with cavalry, were often so much bound up, that they were unable to see, and therefore held by the wagons in order to know their road. Everybody, as you may suppose, pressed forward, anxious to be of some service to the poor wounded Hero’s but the people had orders that those who could go on should proceed to Antwerp, to make room for those who were to follow (dreadful idea), and therefore we could be of no further use to them than giving them refreshments as they passed.

In the middle of the day, we heard further particulars of the last night’s battle, and if all danger had been removed far from us, which Heaven knows was very far from being so, we still should have felt nervous at the danger that had nearly befallen us. Conceive it having been run so near, that the French were within ten minutes of getting possession of the road to Brussels, which had they once gained, in all probability they would have reached the town in three hours.

Providence, however, ordered it otherwise, and the Guards, who had marched from Enghien 27 miles off, arrived at the lucky moment, and got possession of the road. They were shortly afterwards joined by the Highlanders, who some of them fought with their knapsacks on, having marched 20 miles and accordingly were enabled to keep their ground against the French.

The conduct of the English soldiers on that day was perfect, and would have been sufficient to have immortalized them, without the addition of the Sunday’s battle, after which the Duke of Wellington said he should never feel sufficiently grateful to the Guards for their conduct on both days, which from the Duke means more than it would from anybody else.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Our Hero, Wellington, who had been deceived with the intelligence given him (for it is said that Bony had bribed most of his outposts), and had no idea that the French were so near, nor advancing in such force, was so distressed when he discovered the truth, that as usual totally regardless of his personal safety, he was exposing himself in the most dreadful way (I am speaking of the Friday’s business at Quatre Bras, so named from four roads meeting), and already a party of French horse, having marked him out, were rushing on him with the greatest violence, when the Highlanders, who saw his danger, and it is said he never was in so great before, rushed between him and the French, and with the lives of hundreds, saved his still more precious one. On coming off the field, the Duke told some whom he met with, that their conduct had been noble and he should make a good report of them; of the 92nd regiment, out of seven hundred men, but one hundred and fifty remain to share the glory.

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

But to resume my narrative. We remained the whole of Saturday, in great suspense, to know that the armies were about, and whether the French were really retreating as had been reported; about four o’clock in the day, we were dreadfully undeceived, by being told from very good authority that instead of the enemy it was Lord Wellington who had retreated, and who with his whole army were within ten miles of the town; the reason given for his doing so, was that the Prussians had been attacked on the Friday evening whilst they were quietly cooking, and that having lost a tremendous number of men, Blucher had judged it prudent to retire, which being the case, he had left Lord Wellington’s left flank so exposed, that it was impossible for him to remain where he was, and that he had therefore retreated to a strong position near Waterloo, whilst our cavalry were engaged in playing before them, to hide, as much as possible, their retreat from the French.

It was likewise added, that it was to be hoped that the Prussians would rejoin the English, as at that present time, the armies were near nine miles asunder, and that orders had been issued by the Duke for all baggage to be sent from the army through this town, and for the wounded, if possible, to be moved from it. All this looked so like retreating on the town, that we were told we must have horses ready, and everything prepared to go at an instant’s notice, which accordingly we commenced doing, and from that hour 4 o’clock till eight in the morning (Sunday June 18) when we were fairly in Antwerp, were, I hope, the most harassing 16 hours I ever passed, or ever shall.

From that time the baggage wagons passed in such quick succession, that they formed cavalcades through the town, as not only those who were ordered to go, but those who desired to stay with the army, passed through, a general panic having seized all the officers’ servants, by which means many have lost all they had, and everybody is minus something.

Field Marshall Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher

About every half-hour a man was heard scampering down the street calling out that the French were coming; some, indeed said they were at the gates, and though we knew that that could not be true, yet it was impossible to know how much foundation there was for saying so. About seven o’clock (Saturday June 17) our friend Sir James Gambier arrived to say that he hoped our things were nearly packed up, as though it was not necessary to go immediately, yet that he begged our things might be put to the carriage as we might be obliged to start at an instant’s notice, for it was known that the Prussians were not joined, and if Buonaparte were to attack that night, there was no knowing what the event might be. (We have since heard, that if he had done so, the tide of affairs would in all probability have turned completely for him instead of being as it is now).

Lady Charlotte Greville

After Sir James went, we went out to see what our friends intended doing; we found that some were gone, others going, and all were prepared for the worst. We accordingly agreed, that at the time Lady Charlotte Greville went, we would accompany her, as everybody told us if we waited for the worst we could never get away; and as we knew for certain that Buonaparte had promised his soldiers after he had drawn 20,000,000 francs from the town, that they should have three days pillage of it, which, as the enraged French soldiery are not the most kind hearted possible, and as the English could expect no mercy for them, we though it madness to put ourselves in such danger, and accordingly everything was got ready. To increase the horror and noise, about ten o’clock, a most horrible storm of wind and rain came on, which lasted without intermission till three o’clock, when the wind abated, but the rain continued at intervals, the whole of Sunday, to which the whole of our poor soldiers were exposed with the additional hardship of having very little to eat, as they had been so continually changing their place for the last two days, that the officers have since told us, that for nearly eight and forty hours, they had barely two pounds of bread to eat; luckily, the Sunday morning, after the dreadful night they passed, the common men had a double supply of spirits, which enabled them to fight as they did.

The baggage wagons and fuyards [fugitives] continued passing, without intermission, and what with being deafened with the noise, and worn out with anxiety, we were in a terrible state of fatigue, when at half past two (Sunday the 18th) Lady Charlotte sent to say the Mayor of the town had sent to advise all the English to quit the town, and that she was waiting for us. We accordingly joined her, and though we were very much impeded by the road being blocked up with wagons in which were numbers of the wounded, lying exposed to all the inclemency of the weather, and were several times in danger of being overturned, yet providentially we arrived safe at Antwerp about eight o’clock (Note: The distance from Brussels to Antwerp by road is about twenty-seven miles). We found the greatest difficulty in getting a hole to put our heads in, but at last succeeded: Lady Charlotte proceeded on the Hague immediately, but we remained to wait the event. We were told by many people that the rain would prevent them fighting, which gave us ease for the time, and though we spent the day in great suspense, yet we were saved the dreadful indescribable anxiety of those who remained here; never can I be sufficiently thankful that we left this place. For the first time for three nights, Fanny and myself were enabled to sleep, and the next morning, Monday (the 19th) we were awoke, with the delightful news, that a decisive victory had been obtained, and that the French were retreating in disorder. The account of killed and wounded which we then heard made us shudder; how much more dreadful was it, when the whole list was made out! There are 724 English officers killed and wounded, and nearly 11,000 common men, without Hanoverians.

The conduct of the English infantry in the battle of Sunday was something so extraordinary, that Cambaceres, Buonaparte’s A.D.C. who was taken, said Buonaparte himself had said that it was useless to fight against such troops, nothing could make them give way. They were formed into hollow squares, upon which the French cavalry, particularly the Cuirassiers, who wear complete armour, poured down, but without any avail, not one of their squares were ever broken, though perhaps from being six or eight lines deep, they came at last to only one.

 

Hougoumont, pre-renovation

There is a little wood and a farm-house in the midst of the field of battle, which is called Hougemont, and which it was necessary for the English to maintain possession of: 500 of the Guards under Lord Saltoun and Co. Macdonnell were put into it, to defend it, and though they were attacked by above 10,000 French, and the Farm-house was set fire to, and burnt to the ground, yet our Invincible countrymen still maintained possession of it, and finally repulsed the enemy. Do not you feel, while you hear these accounts, that your national pride increases every instant, and that you feel more thankful than ever that you are English born and bred? I have that sort of enthusiasm about me, that I almost feel inclined to shake hands with every soldier I meet walking in the streets. The light cavalry, I am sorry to say, for the first time in their lives, did not behave like Englishmen; the 7th Hussars and 23rd dragoons refused to advance when they were ordered, and poor Lord Uxbridge, who is as brave as a lion, and doats upon his regiment (the 7th) went up to Lord Wellington in the midst of the engagement, and said in the bitterness of his heart, My cavalry have deserted me! The heavy dragoons behaved admirably, and the horse Guards and Blue’s who though they have been in Spain, were never before personally engaged, performed prodigies.—The Duke of Wellington has since said, that he never exerted himself in his life as he did on that day, but that notwithstanding, the battle was lost three times; he exposed himself in every part of the line, often threw himself into the squares when they were about to be attacked, and did what it is said he never had done before, talked to the soldiers, and told them to stand firm; in fact, I believe without his having behaved as he did, the English would never have stood their ground so long, till the arrival of 30,000 fresh Prussians under Bulow finished the day, for as soon as the French saw them, they ran.

Hougoumont today

The conduct of the French cavalry is represented as having been most beautiful, and nothing could have withstood them but our soldiers. The day after the battle, when the Duke had leisure to consider the loss he had sustained in both officers and men, he was most deeply affected, and Mrs. Pole, who breakfasted with him said the tears were running down upon his plate the whole time. How much more noble the Hero appears when possessed of so much feeling!

You ask how we like the Duke, and whether he is haughty? To men, I believe he is, very often, but all his personal staff are extremely attached to him, and towards women his manners excessively agreeable and very gallant; we like him vastly. We went a few days since to see the field of battle, and everything offensive was removed, a most interesting visit; we went with an A.D.C. of Gen. Cooke, (who poor man, the General, has lost his arm), and who explained to us all about the battle.—I am quite ashamed, my dear Aunt, to think how much I have written; pray forgive me.  END

If you’d like to experience Waterloo first hand, to travel through history with us as we return to the year 1815, please click the link below to be taken to the Tour website.

The 1815 London to Waterloo Tour, April 2018 – find complete details here.

A VISIT TO THE FIELD OF WATERLOO

Kristine and Ian Fletcher, Waterloo, May 2017

Back in May, I revisited the Battlefield at Waterloo with author and battlefield guide Ian Fletcher, accompanied by one of my favourite travel mates, Denise Costello. Ian and I were on a mission to put together a different kind of Waterloo Tour. He is experienced in battlefield tours and can bring every moment of the Battle to life in a way that is both engaging, educational and exacting – which regiments were where, who was leading the charge, why were certain geographic points chosen by the French and Allied armies, what went wrong . . . . and what went right?

Denise Costello and Ian Fletcher overlooking the Battlefield at Waterloo.

On the other hand, my tours are focused more upon social history – which English families were living at Brussels during the Battle, who attended the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball, how did the civilians fare before, during and after the Battle and what wide ranging impact did the Battle, and the victory, have upon life in London and England at large?

In an effort to blend these two views of Waterloo, Ian and I hit upon the idea of doing a tour that focuses on the year 1815 as a whole, instead of focusing on the Battle alone. And so the 1815 London to Waterloo Tour was born.  Before the Tour heads for Belgium, our group will explore the London of 1815, including Apsley House and the many clubs, houses, streets and sites that have a connection with the campaign, including the house in St. James’s Square where Henry Percy delivered the captured French Eagles to George IV after the Allied victory. Author Louise Allen will speak to our group on the subject of her book, To The Field of Waterloo: The First Battlefield Tourists 1815 – 1816. Once in Waterloo, we will walk the key sites on the Battlefield and also visit a host of museums and related sites including the superb new Waterloo Memorial with its high-tech exhibits and 3D cinema, the famous Lion Mound and panorama, the wonderful presentation at refurbished Hougoumont and the headquarters of both Wellington and Napoleon.

Speaking of Waterloo tourists, below is an account of Dr. Samuel Butler’s visit to the Battlefield a year after the Allied victory. His vivid impressions take in all of the sites we’ll be seeing on the Tour, complete details of which can be found here.

The Forest of Soignes

From: The Life and Letters of Dr. Samuel Butler: Headmaster of Shrewsbury School

July 9th. 1816 —From Brussels through Waterloo to the field of battle, about fourteen miles, through the Forest of Soignies, almost all the way a most detestable pavi full of holes. Waterloo is a miserable village of about twenty houses; its small red brick church, designed in segments of ellipses, is about twenty-five or possibly thirty feet in diameter. Here are monumental inscriptions to the memory of many of our brave country men. In about half a mile from Waterloo we quit the Forest of Soignes, and the ground becomes an elevated plain with some moderate undulations. In about two miles more we come to a place where a bye-road crosses the principal road. Here is an elm of moderate size on the right-hand side of the road, some of whose branches have been torn off by cannon balls; this is the famous Wellington tree, where the Duke was posted during the greater part of the battle, and is somewhat nearer the left wing than the centre of the battle. Close to the cross-road opposite this runs La Haye Sainte, a broken stumpy hedge. Directly opposite this tree, on the road-side, lay the skeleton of an unburied horse, and near the tree itself I picked up a human rib. The whole field of battle is now covered with crops of wheat and rye, which grow with a rank and peculiar green over the graves of the slain and mark them readily. About one hundred and fifty yards below the Wellington tree, which itself stands on the top of Mount St. Jean, in the hollow, is the little farm of La Haye Sainte, where the dreadful slaughter of the German Legion took place; they defended the place till they had spent all their ammunition, and were then massacred to a man, but not till they had taken a bloody revenge. The house and walls, the barn doors and gates, are full of marks from cannon and musket balls. In the barn are innumerable shot holes, and the plaster is still covered with blood, and the holes which the bayonets made through their bodies into it are still to be seen.

La Haye Sainte

“In a hollow near this scene of carnage lie the bodies of two thousand French Cuirassiers in one grave, and about twenty yards farther is the spot to which Bonaparte advanced to cheer the Imperial Guard for their last charge; it is scarcely possible but that he must have exposed himself greatly in so doing. The little valley between the undulation of Mount St. Jean, where the British were posted, and that of La Belle Alliance, which was occupied by the French, is not more than about a quarter of a mile across; the Duke of Wellington and Bonaparte, whose general station was on this hill, cannot have been more than that distance, or a very little more, from each other. On going to the station of Bonaparte we had a fine view of the whole field, and, though quite ignorant of military affairs, could not but see the superiority of the British position. The undulation on their side being a little more abrupt than that of the French, they were themselves protected in some measure, and their force considerably concealed, while that of the French was perfectly distinguishable. The right wing of the British was at Hougoumont [rather Goumont], a chateau of great importance and of very considerable strength. Their left wing was at the end of La Haye, about a short half-mile or less from the farm of St. Jean, which was almost of the same importance for its protection as Hougoumont for that of the right. The whole line could not extend more than a mile and a quarter. The French were posted on the opposite eminence, and here in this small space three hundred cannon, independent of all other weapons, were doing the work of death all day. Our guide, a very intelligent peasant, told us that the whole ground was literally covered with carcasses, and that about five days after the stench began to be so horrid that it was hardly possible to bury them on the left of the British, and of course on the right of the French position. At less than a mile and a half is the wood from which the Prussians made their appearance. La Belle Alliance is about half a mile or a little less from Mount St. Jean; here we turned off to see the chateau of Hougoumont, which was most important to secure the British right and French left wing, and was therefore eagerly contested; four thousand British were posted here, and withstood with only the bayonet and musketry all the attacks of an immense body of French with cannon. The French were posted in a wood, now a good deal cut down, close to the wall of the garden at Hougoumont. The British had made holes in the wall to fire through, and the French aimed at these holes. The whole wall is so battered by bullets that it looks as if thousands of pickaxes had been employed to pick the bricks. The trees are torn by cannon balls, and some not above eight inches in diameter, being half shot away on one side, still flourish.

 

Hougoumont

“Passing round the garden wall to the gates, the scene of devastation is yet more striking. The front gates communicate with the chateau, a plain gentleman’s house, the back ones (which are directly opposite) with the farmer’s residence. This was occupied three times by the French, who were thrice repulsed; but the English were never driven from the chateau. The tower, or rather dovecote, of the chateau was burnt down, but a chapel near it, about twenty feet long, was preserved in the midst of the fire; the flames had caught the crucifix and had burnt one foot of the image, and then went out. This was of course considered a great miracle. From the chapel we went into the garden. Its repose and gaiety of flowers, together with the neatness of its cultivation, formed a striking contrast with the ruined mansion, the blackened, torn, and in some parts blood-stained walls, and the charred timbers about it. In a corner of this garden is the spot where Captain Crawford and eight men were killed by one cannon ball, which entered opposite them by a hole still there and went through the house and lodged in another wall; I have seen the ball in the Waterloo Museum.

The Waterloo Musuem, Wellington’s former headquarters

Going along the green alleys of the garden, quite overarched with hornbeam, we see the different holes broken by the English to fire on their enemies, and a gap on the northeast angle of the garden is the gap made by the French, who attempted to enter there, but were repulsed. Had they gained entrance the slaughter would have been dreadful, as we had four thousand men in the garden, which from its thick hedges has many strongholds, and they were greatly more numerous. The English also lined a strong hedge opposite the wood in which the French were, which they could not force, but the trees are terribly torn by cannon. The loss of Hougoumont would probably have been fatal to us. From the gap above mentioned, looking up to the line of the British on Mount St. Jean, is one small bush; here Major Howard was killed.

La Belle Alliance

“Leaving Hougoumont, we returned to La Belle Alliance, where we once more reviewed the field of battle, and found some bullets and fragments of accoutrements among the ploughed soil. The crop is not so thriving on the French side, but it was still more richly watered with blood; in fact the soil, which on the British position is rather a light sand, is here a stiffish clay. From La Belle Alliance we proceeded to Genappe, another post, passing by a burnt house called la maison du roi; here Napoleon slept on the eventful eve of the battle. Following the course of the French in their retreat, we proceeded to another post, to Quatre Bras. Here was the famous [stand ?] made by the Highlanders against the whole French Army on the 16th. It is a field a little to the left at the turning to Namur. Hence we proceeded, having Fleurus on our right, to Sombreffe, where was the severe battle of the Prussians on the 16th, and thence to Namur, where the French continued their retreat.

 

The tourqoise circle upper right marks Genappe

“At Genappe, which is a straggling village, with narrow streets, dreadful slaughter was made by the Prussians on the night of the 16th; here Bonaparte’s carriage was taken, and he narrowly escaped himself. From hence to Namur the road was strewed with dead, the Prussians having killed, it is thought, not less than twenty thousand in the pursuit. Nothing can be more detestable than the paved roads, more miserable than the villages, or more uninteresting in the natural appearance of the country than the whole course from Brussels to Namur, about forty-seven miles, the scene of all these great historical events in the present and past ages.”

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: WATERLOO 2017 – PART 4

What better place to spend Waterloo Day than in London? More precisely, at Apsley House. Well before the day, I had planned to meet my old mates Dawn Wood and Andrew Clark at Apsley House, where they were slated to do a series of talks on Regency dress and Napoleonic uniforms over the two day weekend.

Upon walking through the front door of the House, I saw one of the house guides, Alex, who I’ve known for some time now. We chatted for a few minutes and then I headed up the stairs to the Striped Drawing Room.

Upon reaching the landing, I spied a bloke in full Napoleonic uniform – it was my pal, Michael Paterson, who is a part of the City of London Portsoken Volunteers re-enactment group.

“Michael?”

“Kristine? What are you doing here?”

“Where else would you expect me to be on Waterloo Day?”

“Ah, right. Silly question.”

It would have been handy had I snapped a photo of Michael to insert here, but I didn’t. This is John Mead, also with the Portsoken, and an historical tailor who makes all of the Regiments’ uniforms. Michael was on hand to present a talk on Napoleonic soldiers, which was fabulous. He had the crowd enraptured.

Before long, Dawn found me and we caught up for a bit before it was time for her talk.

                                      

Into the Striped Drawing Room we stepped and Dawn launched into her costume presentation, enthralling the crowd with details of exactly what it took to dress a Regency lady – from the inside out. Beginning in her chemise, Dawn then described each garment she donned, giving us the history of each, detailing the materials that would have been used and the care involved in each piece.

I first met Dawn a few decades ago when she was with a re-enactment group called The Salon, now disbanded, who put on a Regency soiree for one of my tour groups at Gunnersby Park. She and I, and her husband, Andrew, have been friends ever since and they will be on hand in Bath for Number One London’s Georgian Tour, April 2018. Dawn is a modiste who recreates historic costume and dress, while Andrew is an expert on uniforms and all forms of military weapons and accouterments. Here he is in full Napoleonic kit as Captain Clark.

And here he is in mufti as Mr. Clark. Very versatile is Our Andrew.

                                      

Once the presentations were over with, I nipped off to the Waterloo Chamber, where in honour of the Waterloo Anniversary they had set a dinner table with the Prussian Dinner Service commemorating the achievements of Wellington’s life, as it would have been at one of Wellington’s annual Waterloo Banquets.

copyright Getwestlondon

You’ll find an article on the china here. Upon entering the Chamber, who did I run into again but Alex, who asked me about Wellington’s relationship with the young Queen Victoria. As I was telling him about William IV’s fateful birthday dinner, at which the King stood up and gave spleen to the Duchess of Kent in front of all the guests at table, including Wellington, a gentleman came to stand beside us and listened to my story. Then he interjected something. Then he became a part of our conversation and we chatted about Wellington for about fifteen minutes. Then the man said, “I suppose this is the point in the conversation where I should mention that I’m Graham Wellesley, 8th Earl Cowley.”

Naturally, this pronouncement caused Alex and I to look at one another like two deer caught in the headlights. What a turn up. Oh, dear.

“You’re Henry’s grandson then,” said I. He’s actually Henry’s eight or ninth great grandson, but why split heirs.

“Yes,” replied the Earl. “Fancy your knowing that.” Alex shot me a look, but kept silent. Wise man.

“May I ask you a question?” I asked the Earl.

“Of course.”

“Why has no one elaborated on the story of Henry and Anne and the kidnapping?”

And we were off again. The conversation lasted at least another fifteen minutes before the Earl excused himself and left Alex and I alone once more.

“I didn’t refer to Wellington as ‘Artie’ in front of the Earl, did I?”

“No. Not in front of the Earl. I don’t think,” Alex semi-reassured me. Really, I must stop doing that. Obviously, one never knows who one may run into at Apsley House. Speaking of which, upon returning once more to the Striped Drawing Room, who did I find but my mate, Loretta Chase. You can just see the top of her beautiful blonde head in the photo below.

Loretta and I had already seen each other several times in London during this trip and I’d invited her to join me at Apsley House on the day. Imagine my surprise when she told me that she’d never been to the House in all her visits to London. I had promised to take her on a Cook’s Tour.  I suggested we start on the ground floor and so we sashayed our way downstairs. Where I again ran into Alex.

“Leaving?” he asked.

“No, no, just giving my friend Loretta a tour of the House.”

“Oh, right then.”

“Don’t they think it’s strange that you’re giving me a tour of Apsley House?” Loretta asked as we turned a corner.

“Nope. Not in the least. I suppose they’re used to it by now.” We saw the entry hall –

and the inner hall –

and the statue of Napoleon –

and the upstairs hallway –

and several other rooms before we found ourselves in the Waterloo Chamber.

Where I showed Loretta a secret feature of the room. I wish I could share it with you, but I’ve promised Loretta that she can use it as a plot device in an upcoming book, so I can’t talk about it until that’s published. (Sorry!)

At the end of the day, I left Apsley House replete after seeing old friends and making a few new ones and headed off to dinner in the company of Dawn and Andrew, who both agree with my sentiment – where else would anyone spend Waterloo Day?

                                      

 

 

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: WATERLOO 2017 – PART 2

 

                                      

One of the reasons I wanted to return to Waterloo was to see the new museum and exhibits that were put in place for the celebrations of Waterloo 200. The photos above in no way do justice to the scale and scope of the exhibits. The huge hall in the top photo displays a soldier from all of the British regiments on the right, the French on the right, and goes on for quite a ways.

In addition, the 4D film of the Battle was incredible – the closest any of us will ever get to the sights and sounds of the day. As you’ll see by the photo above, the design of the theatre puts you right in the middle of the action, complete with surround sound. Denise, Ian and I were the only ones in the theatre, in fact we had the whole place to ourselves. I knew we’d be seeing a 4D film, I understood this when I put the special viewing glasses on, and I anticipated the action when I took my seat. Still, I jumped a foot when the horse seemed to come charging directly at me. I think I may have even screamed a little.

 

Our next stop was the museum at Wellington’s Headquarters, the house Wellington returned to directly after the Battle and where he discovered his ADC Alexander Gordon laying mortally wounded. Gordon remains a touchstone of the personal losses attached to Waterloo, but there were many others who died or were horribly wounded that day, whom Wellington knew on a personal level. Waterloo cost Britain the best of its Army and exacted a toll on Wellington that will never be fully known.

From Wikipedia: “Gordon received brevet promotions to Major and Lieutenant-Colonel as a reward for carrying to London despatches announcing victory, first at the Battle of Corunna and then at Ciudad Rodrigo. After Bonaparte’s exile to Elba in 1814, Gordon was made a KCB. He was mortally wounded at Waterloo while rallying Brunswickers near La Haye Sainte, and died in Wellington’s own camp bed (above) in his headquarters during the night.

“The following is an account by John Robert Hume who was visiting the Duke of Wellington after the Battle of Waterloo –

“I came back from the field of Waterloo with Sir Alexander Gordon, whose leg I was obliged to amputate on the field late in the evening. He died rather unexpectedly in my arms about half-past three in the morning on the 19th. I was hesitating about disturbing the Duke, when Sir Charles Brooke-Vere came. He wished to take his orders about the movement of the troops. I went upstairs and tapped gently at the door, when he told me to come in. He had as usual taken off his clothes but had not washed himself.

“As I entered, he sat up in bed, his face covered in the dust and sweat of the previous day, and extended his hand to me, which I took and held in mine, whilst I told him of Gordon’s death, and of such of the casualties as had come to my knowledge. He was much affected. I felt tears dropping fast upon my hand and looking towards him, saw them chasing one another in furrows over his dusty cheeks. He brushed them suddenly away with his left hand, and said to me in a voice tremulous with emotion, “Well, thank God, I don’t know what it is to lose a battle; but certainly nothing can be more painful than to gain one with the loss of so many of one’s friends.”

On the wall of the bedroom in which Gordon died is a typed transcript of the letter Wellington wrote to Lord Aberdeen the day after his brother’s death –

My Dear Lord,

You will readily give me credit to the existence of extreme grief with which I announce to you the death of your gallant brother, in consequence of a wound received in our great battle of yesterday.

He had served me most zealously and usefully for many years, and on many trying occasions; but he had never rendered himself more useful and had never distinguished himself more, than in our late actions.

He received the wound which occasioned his death when rallying one of the Brunswick battalions which was shaking a little; and he had lived long enough to be informed by myself of the glorious result of our actions, to which he had so much contributed by his active zealous assistance.

I cannot express to you the regret and sorrow with which I look round me, and contemplate the loss with which I have sustained, particularly in your brother. The glory resulting from such actions, so dearly bought, is no consolation to me, and I cannot suggest it as any to you and his friends; but I hope that it may be expected that this last one has been so decisive, as that no doubt remains that our exertions and our individual losses will be rewarded by the early attainment of our just object. It is then the glory of the actions in which our friends and relations have fallen will be some consolation for their loss.

— Believe me &c Wellington, Bruxelles, 19th June, 1815,

P.S. Your brother has a black horse given to him I believe by Lord Ashburgham which I will keep till I hear from you what shall be done with it.

 

                                      

 

In Part 3, we’ll continue on to the farmhouse at Hougoumont.

 

 

THEY PAVED PARADISE . . . . AND MADE HOUGOUMONT INTO A B&B

The Duke of Wellington Describing the Field of Waterloo to HM George IV 

by Benjamin Robert Haydon

  • Date painted: 1840 – Royal Hospital, Chelsea

Duke of Wellington showing the field of battle of his greatest victory over the French to the young Queen Victoria

A DIALOGUE AT WATERLOO

“The most infamous army I ever commanded…”
-The Iron Duke on his troops at Waterloo.

Engraved By T.H. Atkinson after Sir Edwin Landseer. London Ca.1851

As immortalized in the paintings above, the Duke of Wellington did indeed return to the field of battle at Waterloo, often accompanied by prestigious guests. When he saw the Lion’s Mound for the first time, he lamented, “They have ruined my battlefield.” I don’t think that the Duke objected to the Mound itself, but rather to the fact that much of the dirt needed for the Mound was taken from the famous ridge behind which Wellington had placed his troops at a critical point in the battle. Ordered to lay down, the massive lines of British troops could not be seen by the advancing French, who believed that they had managed to catch Wellington unprepared and that victory would soon be theirs. As the French cavalry advanced, Wellington bided his time until the very last moment, when it is said that he ordered, “Up, men and at them!” Suddenly, the French found themselves confronted by the Long Red Line, fully armed with weapons cocked. Wellington had studied the ridge long before the Battle ever began and came prepared to use it to his advantage should the opportunity arise. The ridge was integral to the British victory at Waterloo and the construction of the Mound had diminished the scale of the ridge. Thus, Wellington was perturbed. 
I was also perturbed, to say the least, when I first heard rumours of the plans to turn Hougoumont into a B and B. Victoria and I had visited Hougoumont together in 2010 – you can read that blog post here
Throughout the Battle of Waterloo, Wellington was committed to British forces maintaining control of the farmhouse of Hougoumont, a strategic battle postition. From Wikipedia:
Wellington recorded in his despatches “at about ten o’clock [Napoleon] commenced a furious attack upon our post at Hougoumont” Other sources state that this attack was at about 11:30. The historian Andrew Roberts notes that, “It is a curious fact about the battle of Waterloo that no one is absolutely certain when it actually began”.
The initial attack by Maréchal de Camp Bauduin’s 1st Brigade of the 6th Division emptied the wood and park, but was driven back by heavy British artillery fire and cost Bauduin his life. The British guns were distracted into an artillery duel with French guns and this allowed a second attack by Maréchal de Camp Baron Soye’s 2nd Brigade of the 6th Division. They managed a small breach on the south side but could not exploit it. An attack on the north side by elements of the 1st Brigade of the 6th Division was more successful.
This attack led to one of the most famous skirmishes in the Battle of Waterloo — Sous-Lieutenant Legros, wielding an axe, managed to break through the north gate. A desperate fight ensued between the invading French soldiers and the defending Guards. In a near-miraculous attack, Macdonell, a small party of officers and Corporal James Graham fought through the melee to shut the gate, trapping Legros and about 30 other soldiers of the 1st Legere inside. All of the French who entered, apart from a young drummer boy, were killed in a desperate hand-to-hand fight.
Today, Hougoumont stands as a monumount to British bravery and to those who fought and died on the field as the Battle raged. As Paul Bray wrote in a Telegraph article in July 2014: 
Most of the farms are private and only visible from the outside. The glorious exception is Hougoumont, where three Guards regiments secured Wellington’s right flank throughout the battle.
In danger of collapse a few years ago, it is now being restored – thanks in part to a surprise £1million grant from the UK Treasury – and its official public opening will be a centrepiece of next June’s bicentenary celebrations.
Hougoumont, the farmhouse that played a significant role

The trees here are still bark-scarred by grapeshot, doors are riddled by musket balls – testimony to the more than 6,000 men killed or wounded in its attack and defence.
According to Graeme Cooper, founder of the Guild of Battlefield Guides: “The story here is most vivid. I have seen many visitors with tears in their eyes, not just because Hougoumont is a shrine to the British Guards but because the atmosphere is so heart-rending. If Hougoumont fails to engage one’s imagination with history, nowhere else will.”
Hougoumont 1915
Hougoumont today and in 1815
Thanks to Robbie MacNiven
Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall visiting the Battlefield and Hougoumont 2015


Several years ago, Project Hougoumont, supported by the late and present Dukes of Wellington, had undertaken the monumental mission of restoring Hougoumont and the surrounding land in order to preserve this most important site. You can visit the Project Hougoumont website here and watch a very informative video regarding the site featuring historian and presenter Peter Snow.  We have had a link to the Project in the left hand sidebar of this blog for over a year now and we applaud their efforts to save the site for future generations to appreciate. 

All was right with world until I read this blurb by the Landmark Trust several months ago: “Just before Christmas it was announced that the Landmark Trust, working with Project Hougoumont, had submitted the only viable tender for the lease of the apartment on the first and second floors of the gardener’s house.  So, our dream of creating a place where people can stay and study the battlefield by day and night and in all kinds of weather has come true. The windows of the light and airy apartment look into the courtyard in one direction and towards the position of the French line in the other. The Landmark Trust assures us that it will be furnished and ready for occupation by 17 June.”

To repeat, upon learning of plans to turn Hougoumont into a B and B, I was perturbed. Okay, outraged might be closer to the mark. How could anyone be allowed to turn this sacred site into a money making venture? What was next – Waterloo Land? Wellington World? How had such a venture passed through the scrutiny of such a venerable restoration committee? 

Recently, I put my displeasure aside and actually went to the Landmark Trust website for the accommodations at Hougoumont. From the website: 


The walls of the courtyard have been limewashed but the brickwork of the external 
elevations has been left exposed, as it was during the battle.


I had to admit, Hougoumont looks much improved and the massive restoration project seems to have been sympathetically done. Hhhmmmm . . . . but what would the interiors of the two bedroom guest accommodation look like? Again from the website: This simple first floor apartment in the former gardener’s cottage beside the south gates is furnished to evoke the Napoleonic era and looks out on ancient sweet chestnut trees that also witnessed the bravery and sacrifice here.


This is a unique place to ponder the famous Battle of Waterloo by day and night.


Unique, yes. And it’s just the gardener’s cottage that will house guest rooms. Very tastefully done guest rooms, at that. Perhaps I jumped the gun when I set my face the enterprise.  In fact, staying at Hougoumont for a few nights in order to “ponder the famous Battle of Waterloo by day and night” sounds like a capital idea. Heck, it even sounds like a plan. 

How do you feel about the idea?


THE NEWS FROM WATERLOO

Everyone who has an interest in either the Duke of Wellington or the Battle of Waterloo has heard of Henry Percy, above, the officer sent from Brussels to London on a mission to deliver Wellington’s Waterloo Despatch – the official report that would unquestionably confirm the Allied victory at Waterloo.

PERCY, HENRY (1785–1825), colonel, aide-de-camp to Sir John Moore and to Wellington, fifth son of Algernon Percy, baron Lovaine, who was created Earl of Beverley in 1790, and brother of Hugh Percy [q. v.], bishop of Carlisle, and of Vice-admiral Josceline Percy, was born on 14 Sept. 1785. He was educated at Eton, and on 16 Aug. 1804 appointed lieutenant in the 7th fusiliers. He became captain unattached 9 Oct. 1806, and captain 7th fusiliers on 6 Nov. following. He was aide-de-camp to Sir John Moore at Coruña. On 21 June 1810 he was transferred as captain to the 14th light dragoons. He was taken prisoner with a party of his regiment during the retreat from Burgos in 1812, and was detained in France until the peace. In 1815 he was appointed aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington. He brought home the Waterloo despatches, arriving post in London on the evening of 20 June with the despatches and captured eagles, and was next day made C.B., and a brevet lieutenant-colonel from 18 June 1815. He retired on half-pay in 1821, and was returned to parliament for Beeralston, Devonshire, in 1823. Once a gay, handsome young fellow, he prematurely lost his health. He died at his father’s house in Portman Square, London, 15 April 1825, in his fortieth year, and was buried in the cemetery of St. Marylebone. [Foster’s Peerage, under ‘Beverley;’ Army Lists; Gent. Mag. 1825, pt. i. p. 567.]



Percy’s ride was recently recreated for the 200th Anniversry of the Battle of Waterloo and many legends, romantic or otherwise, have arisen from the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball, the Battle of Waterloo and Percy’s famous ride. Below you’ll see the uniform Percy wore to the Ball, during the Battle and for the duration of his ride to London – more from the Waterloo200 website here.

“This wallet or sachet of purple silk velvet and crepe, maker unknown, is traditionally said to be a lady’s handkerchief sachet. It played a vital role after the Battle of Waterloo, as it was in this case that the Waterloo Dispatch travelled back to London from Belgium. The Dispatch, carried by Major Henry Percy, was the Duke of Wellington’s account of the battle, and was the first news received by the British government of the Allied victory. The case is photographed on Major Percy’s uniform in which he fought at Waterloo.”

What we have not heard before now are the details of Percy’s journey to London and of the many others who played a part in the delivery of the Despatch. I’ve just finished reading Brian Cathcart’s excellent account of the story behind Percy’s ride and the many ways in which the Allied victory impacted Britain, English society and Europe as a whole.

The News from Waterloo: The Race to Tell Britain of Wellington’s Victory 
by Brian Cathcart

From the publisher:

“This is a tragi-comic midsummer’s tale that begins amidst terrible carnage and weaves through a world of politics and military convention, enterprise and roguery, frustration, doubt and jealousy, to end spectacularly in the heart of Regency society at a grand soirée in St James’s Square after feverish journeys by coach and horseback, a Channel crossing delayed by falling tides and a flat calm, and a final dash by coach and four from Dover to London.


“At least five men were involved in bringing the news or parts of it to London, and their stories are fascinating. Brian Cathcart, a brilliant storyteller and historian, has visited the battlefield, travelled the messengers’ routes, and traced untapped British, French and Belgian records. This is a strikingly original perspective on a key moment in British history.”
Cathcart uses Percy’s ride as a platform to write about all manner of subjects related to Regency England – road travel, the telegraph, channel crossings, newspapers and banking, society and politics. The News From Waterloo is a vivid, entertaining read and should be a part of every Waterloo/Wellington/Regency library. 
George the IV famously promoted Percy on the spot at the Boehm residence in St. James’s Square once he’d delivered the Despatch and placed the French Eagles at the King’s feet. What is lesser known is that Wellington himself acknowledged his debt to Percy by gifting him with a Breguet pocket watch. I urge you to read the full article on the watch which can be found here. 
This is a pocket watch that belonged to Major Henry Percy, a British officer who fought at the Battle of Waterloo, and was chosen to deliver the Duke of Wellington’s dispatch back to London. Carrying news of the Allied victory at Waterloo to the British government was a vital task. In recognition of his work, the Duke of Wellington gave Major Percy this watch – made by the Parisian clockmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet, one of the most famous artisans of his time.

At the same time that Wellington bought Percy’s watch, he also purchased one for himself. Wellington had his watch fitted with an extra cover that held a minature portrait. The lady in the miniature is Marianne Patterson. You can read more here

 You can read the full Waterloo Despatch as it appeared in the London Gazette here. 

You’ll also find the link to Hugh Grant reading the Waterloo Despatch in the lefthand sidebar of this blog. 


WATERLOO'S AFTERMATH, PART THREE: RESTORING A GOVERNMENT TO FRANCE

RESTORING KING LOUIS XVIII AND THE  GOVERNMENT OF OCCUPATION

The Duke of Wellington by George Dawe


After completing the despatches and sending them off on June 19th,  the Duke of Wellington returned to Brussels to see some of the wounded and report to the King of the Netherlands. British troops crossed into France June 21, as did the Prussians. 

Lord Castlereagh


To make up for Wellington’s losses, Castlereagh promised reinforcements as more troops returned from North America.  But resistance was light on the part of the French.

On June 22, Wellington’s troops attacked Perronne, which soon surrendered; the French troops were sent home and replaced with a Dutch garrison.

General Sir Charles Colville
Sir Charles Colville commanded the far right of Wellington’s troops at Halle during the Battle of Waterloo, so far to the west of the main action that his troops did not take part in the fighting. Wellington thus sent his troops to storm Cambrai on July 24, the only French fortress that did not surrender immediately. Sir Charles and his troops suffered only a few dozen casualties in taking the town.  Cambrai became Wellington’s headquarters for the occupation of France.

Farther west, the Prussians advanced toward Paris, reportedly plundering as they went, in retribution for former defeats at French hands.

Various engagements were fought with troops under French Generals Grouchy and D’Erlon, as the Prussians and Anglo-Allies approached Paris and commissioners of the Provisional French government sought a cessation of hostilities.

Louis XVIII


Blücher and the Prussians agreed with Wellington: Napoleon’s abdication made no difference; the only way in which the French could end the fighting was to restore the government of King Louis XVIII, the legitimate ruler, the king Napoleon had driven out.

Joseph Fouché, Minister of Police

Two men who changed sides repeatedly — from the time of the French Revolution through the Napoleonic Wars, the restoration, the Hundred Days, and now, choosing to work for another restoration of the Bourbon monarchy – spoke for the French at this crucial moment.  Whether either Talleyrand or Joseph Fouché had any bedrock principles (other than self-preservation) has long been debated.  But at this point, they were both clever enough to have played the game successfully.

Fouché (1763-1820)  early in the Revolution was an eager Jacobin who voted for the execution of Louis XVI. He later became a powerful advocate for centralized power as Minister of Police. Napoleon appointed him head of Internal Security, but alternatively distrusted, then re-appointed him. Fouché had dangerous networks of secret informants and spies.
      When Napoleon first abdicated and went to Elba, Fouché served the restoration government but maintained contact with Napoleon. During the Hundred Days, he again served Napoleon as head of security. Upon Napoleon’s second fall, Fouché acted for the provisional government in negotiation with the Allies for the second restoration. However, once the monarchists were in power again in 1815, he was sent off to Saxony as an ambassador, where his networks were no longer useful.

Talleyrand


Talleyrand managed to make himself necessary to almost every faction that temporarily had power in France for the last twenty years. Though his influence declined during the second restoration, he remained in Paris, freely giving his opinions on policy,  After the July Revolution of 1830, King Louis-Philippe made him French Ambassador to Great Britain for the years 1830-34.

Wellington and Blücher ordered the French army to evacuate Paris and withdraw below the Loire River. Paris resistance collapsed July 5 and King Louis XVIII was again on the throne of France.

Pont d’Iena


Wellington kept Blücher from blowing up a Pont d’Iena, a bridge over the Seine (now near the Eiffel Tower), built to commemorate Napoleon’s victory over the Prussians in 1806.  Reportedly Wellington – the ultimate practical man —  said, “A bridge is a bridge.”



Duc de Richelieu by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1817, © The Royal Collection


After elections were held in France in August 1815, Armand Emmanuel,  Duke of Richelieu  (1766-1822), gained power as Prime Minister of France, succeeding Talleyrand.  Richelieu officially signed the peace treaties on behalf of his nation in November 1815. He was instrumental in negotiating the end of the occupation of France in 1818.

“Mopping up” took place elsewhere in France and abroad.  British troops retook Martinique and Guadaloupe in the Caribbean.  Even more important were the British actions in the Mediterranean, where the naval ports of Marseilles and Toulon were subdued in July 1815. The last hold-out, on the Luxembourg frontier, surrendered on September 13.


The Treaty of Paris of 1815 was finally signed on November 20, 1815.  The territorial terms were similar to those of the first treaty, signed after Napoleon’s first abdication, but included more sever reparations payments. Signatories were France, Great Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia. Additional agreements covered claims by individuals, the neutrality of Switzerland, and most importantly, banning the slave trade: “abolition of a Commerce so odious, and so strongly condemned by the laws of religion and nature.”

 Marshall Ney (1769-1815) by Charles Meynier

Execution of Marshall Ney by firing squad;
painting by Jean-Leon Gerome, 1868


In November, Marshal Ney was tried for treason:  deserting Louis XVIII for Napoleon during the Hundred Days. Despite his heroism in leading the French troops at Waterloo, having several horses shot out from under him, Ney was executed by firing squad, declining a blindfold a
nd declaring his patriotism as the squad took aim — the Bravest of the Brave to the end.

In late 1818, the Four Allies met at Aix-la-Chapelle to discuss the withdrawal of the Army of Occupation of France. Agreement was reached and the foreign troops left French soil by the end of November, 1818. A number of other issues were discussed as well, regarding various problems in Europe. The conference set a new standard for the conduct of international affairs.

Congress Memorial in Aix-la-Chapelle (aka Aachen)

 French history in the 19th and 20 centuries saw many changes of government.  Louis XVIII died in 1824, succeeded by his brother, Charles X (1757-1836), from 1824 until 1830. Charles X had been long known as Comte d’Artois, youngest brother of Louis XVI. He spent a large part of his life in exile from France, and lived in Mayfair on South Audley Street from 1805-1814. After he was deposed in 1830, he again spent part of his exile in Britain before dying in Austria in 1836.

Charles X by Pierre-Narcisse Guerin
After only six years on the throne, the July Revolution brought Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orleans, into power as the King of France. Louis-Philippe was part of a “cadet” branch of the Bourbons, a cousin of Louis XVIII and Charles X.  He had been in exile during the Napoleonic era, traveling extensively including in the US.  He was proclaimed King by the Chamber of Deputies in August 1830. Two years later in 1832, Louise-Marie, his daughter, married Leopold I of Belgium 

King Louis-Philippe (1773-1859)
by Francis Xavier Winterhalter
During the February 1848 revolution in France, part of the revolutionary movement that swept Europe that year, Louis-Philippe abdicated and fled to England (where he lived at Claremont House, Surrey, once the home of his son-in-law King Leopold o Belgium when he was married to the late Princess Charlotte).

Claremont House, Surrey
Om France, the Second Republic began, and who should they elect as President but Louis Napoleon, son of Napoleon’s brother Louis and Hortense, daughter of Napoleon’s first wife Josephine.  (Are you keeping score??).  In 1852, Louis Napoleon dissolved the elected Republic and declared himself Napoleon III, thus establishing the Second Empire, which lasted until the Franco Prussian War in 1870-71. Napoleon III followed repressive policies and limited freedoms, but it is his reign that gave us most of the beauties of Paris we enjoy today, a legacy we can appreciate without admiring his other policies. 

Napoleon III by Alexandre Cabanel


When Napoleon III was a captive of Prussia, deputies in Paris declared a government of national defense, which tried to continue the war against Prussia, but within a few months, capitulated and ended the war. The Third French Republic was declared but stiff war reparation payments and other issues led to the Paris Commune.


The two-months of the Paris Commune in 1871, one of many uprisings of Paris workers and socialists during the century, was defeated by the regular army by the end of May 1871. Its short life became an inspiration to communist leaders such as Lenin and Mao. It was not until the 1880’s that the quarrels over re-establishment of a monarchy with competing claims of various pretenders was overcome

The Third French Republic continued until the Fall of France in 1940 and the establishment of the Vichy government. We leave Postwar France to the contemporary historians.

Roses blooming in Josephine’s gardens
Malmaison, 2014

THE SEARCH FOR PAGET'S LEG

This post was originally published here on June 19, 2011

Wellington comforts Paget after his surgery at Waterloo

I am so glad, for so many reasons, that my very good friends are Jo Manning and Victoria Hinshaw, not least because we share the same historic interests and the same mania for researching, and visiting, little remembered facts and places in British history. Recently, Victoria kept Jo and I in thrall with the minutae of her research itinerary whilst in England via a series of rapid fire emails – where she was going, what she was researching, the research matrix she’d prepared, who her contacts were at various archives, what the train timetable was and where she’d be eating lunch. And Jo and I swooned at the prospects. In addition to shared interests, all three of us have our own, unique historic quests and we support each other fully in these, no matter how crazy they seem. Last year, my particular quest was something the three of us termed “The Search for Paget’s Leg.” 
Being an avowed Wellington afficianado, you wouldn’t think that I’d spare much energy worrying about either Henry Paget, Lord Uxbridge (created Marquis of Anglesey by Geo. IV five days after the Battle of Waterloo) or his leg, as Paget had earlier run off with Wellington’s sister-in-law, his brother Henry’s wife, Lady Charlotte. At the time, Paget was also married – to Lady Jersey’s daughter, Lady Caroline Elizabeth Villiers, by whom he’d sired eight children. (Yes, eight – the bounder! He went on to have TEN more with Charlotte). Wellington felt the impact of this desertion as well, as it threw Henry into a decline from which he was slow to recover and, in the meantime, Wellington and his wife, Kitty, had to take care of Henry’s two young children, as Henry was incapable of doing so himself.
You’ll recall that last year Victoria and I embarked on a whirlwind London/Waterloo tour, during which I was most looking forward to seeing the spot in Waterloo where Paget’s leg was buried. Yeah, yeah – totally nuts. But you have to bear in mind that Victoria, Jo and I are the Lucy Ricardos of historical research.
I realize that I’m writing this blog as if you already know the story behind Paget’s leg. If for some odd reason you’re not familiar with it, click here for the condensed version of the story. So . . . all along the route of our tour, from London to Waterloo, I’d sigh at intervals and tell Victoria, “I can’t wait to see Paget’s leg.” After the re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo itself, Paget’s leg was to be the highlight of the tour for me. I’ve already admitted that this notion of mine was strange, but it becomes stranger still when you realize that Paget’s leg isn’t even at Wellington’s headquarters in Waterloo any longer. It was disinterred and shipped back to England when Paget (Anglesey) died in 1854 and was  buried along with the rest of him in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Yes, Paget and Wellington are buried in the same place. Poor Artie couldn’t shake this guy loose, even in death.
So . . . . the very last stop on the Waterloo portion of our tour was the Wellington Museum (formerly Wellington’s headquarters), where, out in the back garden, stands the spot where Paget’s leg (once) was. Even though the Heavens didn’t direct rays of sunight onto the grave whilst I was there, nor did a choir of angels sing whilst I gazed upon it, I was in alt.

The (rather smallish) back garden

The (once) final resting place of Paget’s leg


The sign by the (former) grave
Of course, the grave itself was not the Holy Grail, rather it had become to me the symbol of all that was the Battle of Waterloo – the tragedy, the drama, the irony, the heartbreak and the heroics. I could have as easily fixated upon the site of the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball, which would have been just as fitting, as that no longer exists, either.
So . . . what’s next on my 19th century bucket list? The decoupage screen Beau Brummell was toiling away on and which was meant to be a present to his great good friend Frederica, Duchess of York.  Brummell stopped working on it when news of her death reached him in France. Trouble is, I have no idea where to begin looking for it. If you’re an aged aristocrat living in the back of beyond who happens to have the screen in your attic, email me. Heck, email me even if the screen only used to be in your attic.  Victoria, Jo and I will then embark on what we shall no doubt call “The Quest for Brummell’s Screen.”

WHAT WE SAW IN BRUSSELS IN JUNE, 2010

Victoria here, telling you about how Kristine and I began our visit to the Battlefield of Waterloo in June 2010. We took the Eurostar from London to Brussels, an easy trip. After we checked into the Hotel Bedford (note very British name), our bus took us to Evere Cemetery, where we walked to the British Waterloo Monument, a huge memorial set atop a crypt.

It was commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1870, said to be the “first to honor the dead of a campaign, as opposed to the many memorials that commemorate a victory.”  Seventeen officers remains are buried here. It was dedicated in 1890.
Col. Sir William Howe de Lancey  and Lt. Col. the Hon Sir Alexander Gordon, ADC to the Duke of Wellington, are the highest ranking men buried here.
The pictures above and below were taken in the fall, with fewer leafy trees in the way.
Above you can see the door leading into the crypt. This was reached via very steep steps leading down from the lawn surrounding the monument.
The monument was designed by Belgian sculptor Count J. De Lalaing, whose talent is obvious in the life-like representations of the lions guarding the tombs and the way the fabric seems to flow as it drapes the tomb.
The inscription reads: “In memory of the British officers non-commissioned officers and men who fell during the Waterloo Campaign in 1815 and whose remains were transferred to this cemetery in 1889. This monument is erected by Her Britannic Majesty Queen Victoria, Empress of India, and by their countrymen on a site generously presented by the City of Brussels.” 
In 1815, this park in the upper town in Brussels would have been full of British and Allied soldiers. In fact, it is the very park through which the diarist Creevey used to pursue the Duke of Wellington in hopes of gaining some news of the expected battle. Time and again, the Duke confounded Creevey with his nonchalance about upcoming events and his apparently carefree attitude, prompting Creevey to write that he thought the Duke must be either mad or drunk. It never occurred to Creevey that the Duke wouldn’t dare tell him anything, as Creevey was well kno
wn to be a gossip who simply couldn’t keep his mouth shut.
A few years later, in 1830, some of the fighting for Belgium’s  independence from the Netherlands took place here in this lovely park.
Above is what we saw of the Duke of Wellington’s Headquarters in Brussells which was undergoing renovations during our visit. We couldn’t get a clue as to what the building looked like — unless it was a twin of the building on the left.
The two above photos above show the City Hall in the Grand Place in Brussels. Below is an image from the web which show’s the building’s location within the Plaza.
The entire Grand Place is surrounded by elegant buildings and filled with strollers and tourists rubber-necking at their baroque splendor.

Although we visited the site of the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball, it now contains an ordinary office building and I didn’t even bother to take a picture. The painting above hangs at Goodwood House, country home of the Dukes of Richmond.

 Unfortunately, the modern world has obscured many of the features of the city from the 18th and early 19th centuries, but we were certainly thrilled to have stood in these places and to cast our minds’ eye back to what it must have been like in 1815.