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.

THE WELLINGTON CONNECTION – TOURISTS

As many of you know, I always make time to visit Apsley House when I’m in London, either dropping in on my own or scheduling the visit as a stop on one of my tours. In April 2018, we’ll be visiting Apsley House as part of the 1815 Waterloo Tour, but our group will be far from the first tourists to pay a call in order to admire the stunning interiors and artwork. In fact, tourists have been trying to gain entry into Apsley House since the time when the first Duke still lived there. Oddly enough, it seems that people were commonly writing to the owners of various houses in the hopes of being allowed inside and of being given a tour of the premises. Horace Walpole was plagued by applications for admission to his Strawberry Hill and owners of other unique properties were also applied to for the same purpose.
In 1850, the Duke of Wellington replied to a letter written to him by Lady Salisbury inquiring as to how best she and Lord Salisbury should deal with those who applied to them with requests to see their home, Hatfield House. In other words, how best to deal with 19th century tourists. The Duke answered her thusly:
London, July 27, 1850
  ” . . . . . I permit my servants to show the House and Place to whom they please and as they please. But I avoid to give an order that anything should be shown to anybody. I enclose the Lithograph answer sent to every application. You will find some regulation of the same description very convenient to yourself and Lord Salisbury. . . . . . “
Copy of Lithograph
 
   Field Marshal The Duke of Wellington presents his 
compliments. He is not in the habit of giving orders 
to his Servants to show his House or its contents to 
Gentlemen with whom he is not acquainted. They 
are responsible for the good, cleanly and safe 
keeping thereof, and they must form their own 
judgment as to whom they will admit to see it, taking 
care always that those whom they may admit do 
not interfere with the convenient occupation of their 
apartments by his son, his daughter-in-law and himself. 
 
Unfortunately, the Duke was also plagued with requests from tourists at Walmer Castle, as the following letter to Lady Salisbury the following September illustrates –
Walmer, September 19, 1850
     “. . . . . You are amused by the applications made to me. I have had a most curious one from one of the young ladies who were in the habit, as children, of coming to my Garden Gate in Hyde Park. This young lady is now with some friends a Broadstairs! and she insists upon my sending her an order that the interior of Walmer Castle should be shewn to her and her friends during the time that I am residing there; at which time, she has heard that the interior of the Castle is not usually shewn.
I have told her that my Predecessor in the office of Lord Warden had fitted up part of this Castle as a residence for the Lard Wardens, which I now occupy! that I have one room in this Residence, in which I sleep, dress and write all day! that the remainder of the House is occupied by my daughters-in-law and their Children or by other visitors, male or female! That I permitted the Servants to shew to whom they pleased, excepting when inhabited. But at such periods only when not inconvenient to the inhabitants. I added that I believed that I was the only individual in England who would be required by anybody to make a shew of his Bed Room and Dressing Room; and that I doubted much whether my daughters-in-law, or their Children, or any Ladies or Gentlemen, inhabitants of Rooms in this Residence, would much like the proposition that their Rooms should be made a shew of while they should inhabit them. I have received no answer.”
Alas, visitors are no longer allowed into the private apartments at Apsley House, though Wellington’s room at Walmer Castle has been preserved as it was at the time of his death and is still on view. As our visit will be confined to viewing the public rooms only at Apsley House during the 1815 Waterloo Tour, I like to think that the Duke won’t mind our presence too much. Complete details regarding the upcoming Tour can be found here.

 

THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON AT HOME

Being at a remove of two hundred years from the victory at the Battle of Waterloo, it’s difficult for us to appreciate the Duke of Wellington’s resultant contemporary popularity. To put it in perspective, Wellington could be said, without exaggeration, to have been the world’s first rock star, a media phenomenon whose level of popularity reached fever pitch. Combine the present day public interest in Princess Diana with that of Michael Jackson and you’ll get a fair idea of Wellington’s celebrity status post-Waterloo and his ability to single-handedly drive the 19th century media engine.  Printsellers, the contemporary equivalent to our modern day paparazzi, worked at fever pitch to regularly issue new Wellington engravings, with which the populace decorated their walls.  The public clamored for news of Wellington’s doings, with no detail of his life being too inconsequential to report. The media responded by giving the public what they wanted – not a single day passed in which Wellington’s name was not mentioned in print.

Enter English journalist Albany Fonblanque who, from 1820 to 1830, was successively employed on the staff of The Times and the Morning Chronicle, whilst he contributed to the Examiner, to the London Magazine and to the Westminster Review. While writing for London newspapers, Fonblanque also sought to reform his profession, often turning to satire in order to point out the flaws in current journalistic styles. So, when the Duke rose to political power in 1828, and with the public still rabid for daily details of Wellington’s life, Fonblanque used satire in order to point out the absurdities in some of the pieces being printed and the level to which the press had sunk in order to provide the public with the content they desired. Fonblanque wrote a piece entitled, The Duke of Wellington at Home –

“THE Duke of Wellington generally rises at about eight. Before he gets out of bed he commonly pulls off his nightcap, and while he is dressing he sometimes whistles a tune, and occasionally damns his valet. The Duke of Wellington uses warm water in shaving, and lays on a greater quantity of lather than ordinary men. While shaving he chiefly breathes through his nose, with a view, as is conceived, of keeping the suds out of his mouth; and sometimes he blows out one cheek, sometimes the other, to present a better surface to the razor.

“When he is dressed he goes down to breakfast, and while descending the stairs he commonly takes occasion to blow his nose, which he does rather rapidly, following it up with three hasty wipes of his handkerchief, which he instantly afterwards deposits in his right-hand coat pocket. The Duke of Wellington’s pockets are in the skirts of his coat, and the holes perpendicular. He wears false horizontal flaps, which have given the world an erroneous opinion of their position. The Duke of Wellington drinks tea for breakfast, which he sweetens with white sugar and corrects with cream. He commonly stirs the fluid two or three times with a spoon before he raises it to his lips. The Duke of Wellington eats toast and butter, cold ham, tongue, fowls, beef, or eggs, and sometimes both meat and eggs; the eggs are generally those of the common domestic fowl. During breakfast the Duke of Wellington has a newspaper either in his hand, or else on the table, or in his lap. The Duke of Wellington’s favourite paper is the “Examiner.” After breakfast the Duke of Wellington stretches himself out and yawns. He then pokes the fire and whistles. If there is no fire he goes to the window and looks out. At about ten o’clock the General Post letters arrive. The Duke of Wellington seldom or never inspects the superscription, but at once breaks the seal and applies himself to the contents. The Duke of Wellington appears sometimes displeased with his correspondents, and says pshaw, in a clear, loud voice. About this time the Duke of Wellington retires for a few minutes, during which it is impossible to account for his motions with the desirable precision.

“At eleven o’clock, if the weather is fine, the Duke’s horse is brought to the door. The Duke’s horse on these occasions is always saddled and bridled. The Duke’s horse is ordinarily the same white horse he rode at Waterloo, and which was eaten by the hounds at Strathfieldsaye. His hair is of a chestnut colour. Before the Duke goes out, he has his hat and gloves brought him by a servant. The Duke of Wellington always puts his hat on his head and the gloves on his hands. The Duke’s daily manner of mounting his horse is the same that it was on the morning of the glorious battle of Waterloo. His Grace first takes the rein in his left hand which he lays on the horse’s mane; he then puts his left foot in the stirrup, and with a spring brings his body up, and his right leg over the body of the animal by the way of the tail, and thus places himself in the saddle; he then drops his right foot into the stirrup, puts his horse to a walk, and seldom falls off, being an admirable equestrian. When acquaintances and friends salute the Duke in the streets, such is his affability that he either bows, touches his hat, or recognises their civility in some way or other. The Duke of Wellington very commonly says, “How are you?’—‘It’s a fine day’—‘How d’ye do?’—and makes frequent and various remarks on the weather, and the dust or the mud, as it may be. At twelve o’clock on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, the Duke’s master comes to teach him his political economy. The Duke makes wonderful progress in his studies, and his instructor is used pleasantly to observe that ‘the Duke gets on like a house on fire.’

“At the Treasury the Duke of Wellington does nothing but think. He sits on a leathern library chair, with his heels and a good part of his legs on the table. When thus in profound thought, he very frequently closes his eyes for hours together, and makes an extraordinary and rather appalling noise through his nose. Such is the Duke of Wellington’s devotion to business that he eats no luncheon. In the House of Lords the Duke’s manner of proceeding is this: he walks up to the fire-place, turns his back to it, separates the skirts of his coat, tossing them over the dexter and sinister arms, thrusts his hands in his breeches’ pockets, and so stands at ease. The characteristic of the Duke’s oratory is a brevity the next thing to silence. As brevity is the soul of wit, it may confidently be affirmed that in this quality Lord North and Sheridan were fools compared with him.”

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 MACABRE LOOK AT DEATH MASKS

Benjamin Disraeli
Sir Issac Newton
Viscount Henry Palmerston

 

Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Originally published October, 2010

Recently, I came across a book online called The Laurence Hutton Collection of Life and Death Masks: A Pictorial Guide by John Delaney, held in the Manuscripts Division in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at Princeton University Library. The making of death masks became popular in the 1800s, but the practice has much older roots. The first masks and effigies made in wax directly from the features of the deceased date from medieval Europe. Personally, I don’t get death masks. All of the people from whom death masks were taken were prominent people who had had numerous portraits and busts taken during their lifetimes. Why not remember them thusly, in the prime of their lives, rather than take an image of them in old age – withered, toothless and, more often than not, after having just suffered hours of agony? Perhaps my aversion to death masks is a woman thing. After all, I’ve yet to come across the death mask of a female.

Making a plaster death mask, New York circa 1908, George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress
I’d much rather remember, and hang on my wall, a picture of the Duke of Wellington looking like he does in the banner of this blog rather than like this:

 The Duke of Wellington

In a volume titled, “The life of Richard Owen”, by Rev. Richard Owen (1894) there is reference to the death mask above in a letter written on November 13, 1852, to Mr. Thomas Poyser, of Wirksworth : ” I have been particularly favoured in respect of the remarkable solemnities in honour of the memory of the great Duke. The present amiable inheritor of the title called on me last Wednesday to request that I would call on him to see the cast that had been taken after the Duke’s demise, and give some advice to a sculptor who is restoring the features in a bust, intending to show the noble countenance as in the last years of the Duke’s life. It is a most extraordinary cast. It appears that the Duke had lost all his teeth, and the natural prominence of the chin and nose much exaggerates the intermediate space caused by the absorption of the alveoli. He of course wore a complete set of artificial teeth when he spoke or ate. My last impression of the living features is a very pleasing one. I brought it away vividly in my mind from Lord Ellesmere’s great ball last July.”

Napoleon’s Death Mask
Or is it? Is this the face of a short and rather dumpy fifty-one year old man? Napoleon died on May 5th, 1821, on the small island of St. Helena where he had been exiled for life after his shattering defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. A cast for a death mask was made by Dr. Francis Burton within a day and a half of Napoleon’s death. But, there was another doctor present at the time of Napoleon’s death, Dr. Antommarchi, who some say was mistakenly credited as the doctor who made the original mold. Immediately after the cast was made, it was stolen. It is believed that a woman named Madame Bertrand, Napoleon’s attendant, took the mold and sailed back to England. Dr. Burton tried but was unsuccessful in getting the cast back. Several years later a death mask turned up and was authenticated as being the original by Dr. Antommarchi, though historians have always argued against it, as the Antommarchi mask looked much too young to have been Napoleon, no to mention that bones of the face are heavier, the face itself longer and proportionally different when compared to the portraits that had been painted of the Emperor Napoleon. It is the official mask currently on display at Les Invalides in Paris, France.
Some believe that the death mask above was actually molded from the living face of the Emperor’s valet, Jean-Baptiste Cipriani. This is the mask that is thought to be authentic:

This death mask was on display at the Royal United Services Institute Museum in London for many years prior to 1973, when the mask was sold. You decide . . . . . here is one of the last portraits of Napoleon, painted by Sir Charles Lock Eastlake on board the ship Bellerophon.

And here is an enlargement of the face  

Viola. Ze case it has rested. At least in my mind.

And the strange tales concerning death masks continue – It seems that there was once a special tunnel used to transport the bodies of the hanged from Worcester Gaol to the nearby Royal Infirmary, which stood across the road from the prison and has since been demolished. Until 1832, only criminals’ bodies were allowed to be dissected for medical research in the UK. The tunnel was found during work to transfom the former hospital into the new campus for the University of Worcester in the 1950’s – as were a number of death masks in the tunnel. These casts had been made to study the characteristics of the criminals’ personalities using physiognomy (shape and size of the head) and phrenology (study of the site of different abilities on the head), once thought to be useful in predicting criminal behaviour. The masks are now on display at the George Marshall Medical Museum in Worcester.
Perhaps the strangest story concerning a death mask – and physiognomy – is that involving Gershon Evan, who went on to live another 64 years after his mask was taken. In September 1939, 16 year old  Evan was arrested along with 1,000 other young Jewish men and taken to Vienna’s Prater Stadium, where all were detained for weeks. Seeking out those with classic “Semitic” features, Nazi scientists — a commission of the anthropology department of the Natural History Museum — selected 440 men for study. Hair samples, fingerprints, hereditary/ biological appraisals and numerous photographs of the men were taken. The length and width of their noses, lips, chins and other facial features were meticulously documented. Evan was one of them. Soon after, Evan was ordered to submit to having a death mask taken.
“My head on the pillow, I stretched out on the table and closed my eyes,” he recalled in his memoirs years later. “The man advised me to relax, while he coated my face with a greasy substance. He applied it from the top of my forehead down to the throat and from ear to ear. The lubricant, he explained, was to prevent the hardened plaster of Paris from sticking to my skin.” At the end of the procedure, the death mask was removed, catalogued and archived. Evan was given a single cigarette for his troubles before being moved to Buchenwald, from where he was miraculously released four months later. At age 80, Evan was shown his preserved death mask and barely recognised himself in the youthful face held between the hands of a museum curator.

For more on death masks, including instructions on how to make one, visit Carlyn Becchia’s Raucous Royals blog.

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 3

Our next stop was the farmhouse at Hougoumont. Honestly, what can one say about the battle at Hougoumont in a single blog post? What can one say about Hougoumont anywhere, at any time? Again, it’s one of those places where one simply wants to be, to commune with one’s thoughts uninterrupted, to remember, to review and to ruminate on the enormity of it all. In fact, as though in unspoken alliance, Denise, Ian and I did drift away from one another, each to walk the ground in our time.

Again, I am not a battle or battlefield expert, so I turn to Wikipedia for the short version of events on the day at Hougoumont, the photos are my own:

                                  

“Wellington recorded in his despatches “at about ten o’clock [Napoleon] commenced a furious attack upon our post at Hougoumont.”

“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.

Closing the Gates at Hougoumont by Robert Gibb

“The British and German Garrison were running low on ammunition and a Driver of the Royal Waggon Train distinguished himself by driving an ammunition cart through the French lines to resupply the troops despite his horses receiving wounds. The French attack in the immediate vicinity of the farm was repulsed by the arrival of the 2nd Coldstream Guards and 2/3rd Foot Guards. Fighting continued around Hougoumont all afternoon with its surroundings heavily invested with French light infantry and coordinated cavalry attacks sent against the troops behind Hougoumont.

“Wellington’s army defended the house and the hollow way running north from it. In the afternoon Napoleon personally ordered the shelling of the house to cause it to burn. Seeing the flames, Wellington sent a note to the house’s commander stating that he must hold his position whatever the cost, resulting in the destruction of all but the chapel, (below).

                                     

                                     

                                     

“Du Plat’s brigade of the King’s German Legion was brought forward to defend the hollow way, which they had to do without any senior officers, who were then relieved by the 71st Foot, a Scottish light infantry regiment. Adam’s brigade, further reinforced by Hugh Halkett’s 3rd (Hanoverian) Brigade, successfully repulsed further infantry and cavalry attacks sent by Reille and maintained the occupation of Hougoumont until the end of the battle.”

Gates and field to the east of the Farmhouse, above and below.

                                     

 

“The Hougoumont battle has often been characterised as a diversionary attack to cause Wellington to move reserves to his threatened right flank to protect his communications, but this then escalated into an all-day battle which drew in more and more French troops but just a handful of Wellington’s, having the exact opposite effect to that intended. In fact there is a good case that both Napoleon and Wellington thought Hougoumont was a vital part of the battle. Certainly, Wellington declared afterwards that ‘the success of the battle turned upon the closing of the gates at Hougoumont.’

“Hougoumont was a part of the battlefield that Napoleon could see clearly and he continued to direct resources towards it and its surroundings all afternoon (33 battalions in all, 14,000 troops).

“Similarly, though the house never contained a large number of troops, Wellington devoted 21 battalions (12,000 troops) over the course of the afternoon to keeping the hollow way open to allow fresh troops and ammunition to be admitted to the house. He also moved several artillery batteries from his hard-pressed centre to support Hougoumont.”

                                     

Views to the south, above and below.

                                    

 

Ian Fletcher and Kristine Hughes Patrone at Hougoumont. Well done, chaps. Well done.

In the final installment of this series, I spend Waterloo Day with friends at Apsley House. Coming soon!

 

 

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.

 

 

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: WATERLOO 2017 – PART 1

 

Ian Fletcher and Kristine Hughes Patrone, founding members of the Guild of Bad Ass Tour Guides.

A few weeks ago, I was in London with my traveling mate, Denise Costello. We rented a flat in the King’s Road and settled in for a nice, long stay, our agenda pretty much wide open. Oh, we had things on our wish list, but they were arranged more as a list of suggestions than an actual itinerary. Except for Waterloo. I felt the need to revisit the Battlefield as it had been seven years since my last visit. I asked Denise if she’d be up for a jaunt to the Continent and it turns out she was. She’s pretty much up for anything, which is why she’s one of my “go to” travel companions.

Another of my favourite travel pals is Ian Fletcher, author of Galloping at Everything, in addition to other titles about Waterloo and the Peninsula and Napoleonic Wars. He’s also one of the UK’s most well respected battlefield guides. It took a lot of convincing, but Ian eventually agreed to take us to Waterloo and show us the highlights. To give you an idea of just how difficult it was for me to convince him to accompany us, I share with you the conversation we had:

Me: Will you take us to Waterloo for three nights in June?

Ian: Sure.

So Denise and I tatted up and were enclosed in a car with Ian, inside of a metal container, being transported beneath the Channel by speeding train before we knew what hit us.

Upon arrival in Calais, we headed south to Brussels and motored through towards Waterloo, chattering all the while about the Battle, the generals and Wellington. As one does.

The Lion’s Mound gets me every time. I’m aware that Wellington, upon seeing it for the first time, was said to have remarked, “They’ve ruined my battlefield.”

I do get it, but for me, the first sight of the Mound when I arrive at Waterloo fills my head with all the things I associate with the Battle: Freddy Pakenham, the Scots Greys, Lady Capel, Creevey, the Duchess of Richmond, amber waves of grain, Alexander Gordon, Henry Paget, Waterloo teeth, Copenhagen, the state of the field after the Battle, etc., etc. Images, words, people swirl inside my head and I’m overwhelmed to be standing on this ground. 

As we crossed over the road to the portion of the Battlefield that had been Wellington’s left flank, Ian described the events that unfolded on the day in 1815, ultimately leading the the cavalry charge of the Royal Scots Greys. As Ian isn’t to hand as I write this, I’ll use Wikipedia to describe those events:

“The Scots Greys, which had been reduced in size because of the end of the Peninsular War, were expanded. This time, there would be 10 troops of cavalry, a total of 946 officers and men, the largest the regiment had ever been until that time. Six of the ten troops were sent to the continent, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel James Inglis Hamilton, to join the army forming under the command of the Duke of Wellington. The Scots Greys, upon arrival in Ghent, were brigaded under the command of Major-General Ponsonby in the Union Brigade, with Royal Dragoons and the Inniskillings Dragoons.

“The Scots Greys, with the rest of the Union Brigade, missed the Battle of Quatre Bras despite a long day of hard riding. As the French fell back, the Scots Greys and the rest of the Union Brigade arrived at the end of their 50-mile ride.

Henry Paget, Lord Uxbridge

“On the morning of 18 June 1815, the Scots Greys found themselves in the third line of Wellington’s army, on the left flank. As the fights around La Haye Sainte and Hougoumont developed, Wellington’s cavalry commander, the Earl of Uxbridge, held the cavalry back. However, with the French infantry advancing and threatening to break the British centre. Uxbridge ordered the Household Brigade and the Union Brigades to attack the French infantry of D’Erlon’s Corps. The Scots Greys were initially ordered to remain in reserve as the other two brigades attacked.

“As the rest of the British heavy cavalry advanced against the French infantry, just after 1:30 pm, Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton witnessed Pack’s brigade beginning to crumble, and the 92nd Highlanders falling back in disorder. On his initiative, Hamilton ordered his regiment forward at the walk. Because the ground was broken and uneven, thanks to the mud, crops, and the men of 92nd, the Scots Greys remained at the walk until they had passed through the Gordons. The arrival of the Scots Greys helped to rally the Gordons, who turned to attack the French. Even without attacking at a full gallop, the weight of the Scots Greys charge proved to be irresistible for the French column pressing Pack’s Brigade. As Captain Duthilt, who was present with de Marcognet’s 3rd Division, wrote of the Scots Greys charge:

“Just as I was pushing one of our men back into the ranks I saw him fall at my feet from a sabre slash. I turned round instantly – to see English cavalry forcing their way into our midst and hacking us to pieces. Just as it is difficult, if not impossible, for the best cavalry to break into infantry who are formed into squares and who defend themselves with coolness and daring, so it is true that once the ranks have been penetrated, then resistance is useless and nothing remains for the cavalry to do but to slaughter at almost no risk to themselves. This what happened, in vain our poor fellows stood up and stretched out their arms; they could not reach far enough to bayonet these cavalrymen mounted on powerful horses, and the few shots fired in chaotic melee were just as fatal to our own men as to the English. And so we found ourselves defenceless against a relentless enemy who, in the intoxication of battle, sabred even our drummers and fifers without mercy.

“A lieutenant of the 92nd Highlanders who was present would later write, “the Scots Greys actually walked over this column.”

“As the Scots Greys waded through the French column, Sergeant Charles Ewart found himself within sight of the eagle of 45e Régiment de Ligne (45th Regiment of the Line). With a chance to capture the eagle, Ewart fought his way towards it, later recounting:

“One made a thrust at my groin – I parried it off and … cut him through the head. one of their Lancers threw his lance at me but missed … by my throwing it off with my sword … I cut him through the chin and upwards through the teeth. Next, I was attacked by a foot soldier, who, after firing at me charged me with his bayonet, but … I parried it and cut him down through the head.

“With the eagle captured, Sergeant Ewart was ordered to take the trophy off, denying the French troops a chance to recapture their battle standard. In recognition of his feat, he was promoted from sergeant to ensign.

“Having defeated the column and captured one of its battle standards, the Scots Greys were now disorganised. Neither Ponsonby nor Hamilton were able to effectively bring their troopers back under control. Rather than being able to reorganise, the Scots Greys continued their advance gaining speed, eventually galloping, and now aimed at Durutte’s division of infantry. Unlike the disordered column that had been engaged in attacking Pack’s brigade, some of Durutte’s men had time to form square to receive the cavalry charge. The volley of musket fire scythed through the Scots Greys’ ragged line as they swept over and round the French infantry, unable to break them. Colonel Hamilton was last seen during the charge, leading a party of Scots Greys, towards the French artillery. However, in turning to receive the Scots Greys’ charge, Durutte’s infantry exposed themselves to the 1st Royal Dragoons. The Royal Dragoons slashed through them, capturing or routing much of the column.

“Having taken casualties, and still trying to reorder themselves, the Scots Greys and the rest of the Union Brigade found themselves before the main French lines. Their horses were blown, and they were still in disorder without any idea of what their next collective objective was. Some attacked nearby gun batteries of the Grande Battery, dispersing or sabring the gunners. Disorganized and milling about the bottom of the valley between Hougoumont and La Belle Alliance, the Scots Greys and the rest of the British heavy cavalry were taken by surprise by the counter-charge of Milhaud‘s cuirassiers, joined by lancers from Baron Jaquinot’s 1st Cavalry Division.

“As Ponsonby tried to rally his men against the French cuirassers, he was attacked by Jaquinot’s lancers and captured. A nearby party of Scots Greys saw the capture and attempted to rescue their brigade commander. However, the French soldier who had captured Ponsonby executed him and then used his lance to kill three of the Scots Greys who had attempted the rescue. By the time Ponsonby died, the momentum had entirely returned in favour of the French. Milhaud’s and Jaquinot’s cavalrymen drove the Union Brigade from the valley. The French artillery added to the Scots Greys’ misery.

“The remnants of the Scots Greys retreated to the British lines, harried by French cavalry. They eventually reformed on the left, supporting the rest of the line as best they could with carbine fire. In all, the Scots Greys suffered 104 dead and 97 wounded and 228 of the 416 horses. When they were finally reformed, the Scots Greys could only field two weakened squadrons, rather than the three complete ones with which they had begun the day.

“Following the victory of Waterloo, the Scots Greys pursued the defeated French Army until Napoleon’s surrender and final abdication. The Scots Greys would remain on the continent until 1816 as part of the army of occupation under the terms of the peace treaty.

Denise Costello and Ian Fletcher contemplate the Charge of the Royal Scots Greys.

Poppies can be seen growing everywhere upon the field of Waterloo.

 

Denise and Ian took a trip up to the top of the Lion’s Mound, while I stayed behind and walked the base. I’d already seen the view from the top during the 2010 Waterloo re-enactment. I was one of hundreds who perched atop the Mound to view the action, except that it had been bucketing down with rain when I was there.

 

Afterwards, we headed out to the other sites in the area connected to the Battle.

 

 

PART TWO COMING SOON!

 

King William IV’s Not So Happy Birthday Dinner

William IV was born 21 August 1765 (d. 20 June 1837) and became King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of Hanover from 26 June 1830. William, the third son of George III and younger brother and successor to George IV, was the last king and penultimate monarch of the House of Hanover. Today, we’ll take a look at one of William IV’s birthday celebrations, which didn’t turn out very well for himself or for his young niece, Queen Victoria.

For the Princess Victoria, a childhood which promised both privilege and affection was overshadowed by the mechanizations of Princess Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, and by Sir John Conroy, both of whom used her as a pawn during a royal power play.

Victoria’s father, the Duke of Kent, had chosen John Conroy as his Military Equerry in 1817 and after his death, Conroy offered his services to the Duchess. He also acted as Comptroller to Princess Sophia, one of George IV’s younger sisters. Conroy, his wife and two daughters moved into Kensington Palace and Conroy was soon working his influence over the Princess and future queen, as well as over her mother. He pushed to have the Duchess of Kent named Regent should both George IV and the Duke of Clarence die before Princess Victoria reached her majority at age eighteen. For years, Conroy worked to banish all influence upon the Kents except his own. In 1830, Adelaide, Duchess of Clarence, warned the Duchess of Kent that certain people had noted that Conroy “tries to remove everything which might obstruct his influence, so that he may exercise his power alone, and alone, too, one day reap the fruits of his influence.”

Conroy’s methods of controlling the Kents became known as the “Kensington System.” He convinced the Duchess to dismiss Baroness de Spath, her Lady-in-Waiting for over twenty-five years, and tried to rid the palace of Lehzen, Princess Victoria’s governess, as well. The fact that Lehzen enjoyed royal favour from the King was the only thing that saved her. In order to control the Duchess, Conroy constantly warned her that George IV was the greatest despot who ever lived and that the King was talking of taking her child away from her. He added that plots to kill the Princess were afoot, prompting the Duchess to place Lehzen by the child’s bed from the time she was put into it until the Duchess herself went to sleep in the next bed. Conroy effectively cut the Princess off from her English relations, insisting she be guarded round the clock from imaginary dangers.

William IV and his wife, Queen Adelaide, were naturally fond of Victoria, desiring to introduce her to Court life. Conroy prevented this, telling the Duchess that no one should be allowed to influence the future Queen but themselves. Petty acts of power followed on both the Duchess and the King’s parts, with the King keeping a tight reign on the purse strings and the Duchess upon her daughter, keeping her away from Court functions whenever possible. Influenced by Conroy, the Duchess planned tours of the country along royal lines for the Princess, in an effort to garner public support. A series of these tours, covering most of England and Wales, took place between 1832 and 1835. The Duchess planned each route so that as many people as possible might see the Princess. Three hundred people attended a ball held in her honour at Burghley House, whilst the mayor and other officials in each town they visited en route waited to greet her. That none of these plans were cleared first with the Palace, and the fact that they amounted to Royal tours worthy of a reigning monarch, infuriated the King. Matters finally came to a head in 1836.

In an attempt to forge better relations with his niece, King William invited she and her mother to Windsor in the summer of 1836 in order to celebrate the Queen’s birthday on August 13th and his own on the 21st (a birthday shared also by Princess Margaret and Kristine Hughes). The Duchess of Kent replied that she preferred to spend her own birthday on August 17th at Claremont, but could be there by the 20th. This snub to the Queen was not overlooked. The King said nothing, allowing her to travel to Windsor in her own good time. However, whilst the Duchess was en route, he paid an impromptu visit to Kensington Palace and found that the Duchess had taken over seventeen rooms which he had previously – and clearly – forbidden her to requisition. The Princess, who’d been delighted with the new apartments, had no knowledge of the story behind the move or the edicts of her uncle.

Fuming at the Duchess of Kent’s latest act of disrespect, the King arrived at Windsor that evening and joined his guests in the Drawing-room, where the first person he spoke to was his niece, Victoria. At the birthday dinner next day, one hundred guests helped the King to celebrate the event. The Duchess was placed at the King’s right hand, Victoria seated across from him. After the meal, the Kings’ health was drunk and he rose to say a few words. And what words they were! Amongst other verbal displays of vitriol, King William expressed the hope that he would live another nine months, until his niece came of age, so that her mother could never become Regent. He went on, “I should then have the satisfaction of leaving the royal authority to the personal exercise of that Young Lady (he pointed to Victoria), the Heiress presumptive of the Crown, and not in the hands of a person now near me, who is surrounded by evil advisers and who is herself incompetent to act with propriety in the station in which she would be placed. I have no hesitation in saying that I have been insulted – grossly and continually insulted – by that person, but I am determined to endure no longer a course of behaviour so disrespectful to me. Amongst many other things I have particularly to complain of the manner in which that Young Lady has been kept away from my Court; she has been repeatedly kept from my drawing-rooms, at which She ought always to have been present, but I am fully resolved that this shall not happen again. I would have her know that I am King, and that I am determined to make my authority respected, and for the future I shall insist and command that the Princess do upon all occasions appear at my Court, as it is her duty to do.”

Princess Victoria burst into tears and, once the guests had left, the Duchess ordered her carriage, but was convinced by the Duke of Wellington to spend the night at Windsor in order to avoid further scandal. The Duke of Wellington’s summation of the episode was right on the money, “Very awkward, by God!”

On May 18th, 1837, the King instructed Lord Conyngham, the Lord Chamberlain, to hand deliver a letter to the Princess from himself at Kensington Palace. Conroy and the Duchess both endeavored to intercept the missive, but Conyngham stood fast and placed it into Victoria’s hands. It said that when she came of age, William meant to ask Parliament to vote her an annual income of thirty thousand pounds per year – a fortune at that time. It also authorized Victoria to set up her own household and appoint a Keeper of her Privy Purse. Victoria would come of age on the 24th, just six days away, and her uncle had given her a precious gift – the chance for freedom from the power plays of the Duchess and Conroy. Losing no time, Conroy advanced the idea of his becoming Princess Victoria’s Private Secretary and enlisted the aid of the Duchess in bringing her around to the notion. Together they made Victoria’s life a misery, but she refused to be coerced. In a last ditch effort, they sent for Lord Liverpool, in the hopes of winning him over to their side and enlisting his aid in convincing Victoria to appoint Conroy as private secretary or Keeper of the Privy Purse.

After having spoken to both Conroy and the Duchess, Lord Liverpool met privately with Princess Victoria. She was calm and businesslike and explained her side of the story. In the end, Liverpool agreed that she should not appoint Conroy to any position after his many slights towards her in the past. He instead urged the Princess to do nothing upon becoming Queen other than to send immediately for Lord Melbourne. He, Liverpool assured her, would advise her well and she was safe in putting her trust in Melbourne alone. He also told her that he admired the way she had handled her mother. Conroy and the Duchess, needless to say, were furious at Liverpool’s advice, with a desperate Conroy suggesting that, “If Princess Victoria will not listen to reason she must be coerced.”

It is no wonder that Victoria once commented, “Kensington life for the last six or seven years had been one of great misery and oppression.” Queen Victoria would later write about her childhood to her daughter Victoria, the Princess Royal, in 1858, saying that she, “had led a very unhappy life as a child – had no scope for my very violent feelings of affection – had no brothers and sisters to live with – never had a father – from my unfortunate circumstances was not on a comfortable or at all intimate or confidential footing with my mother – much as I lover her now – and did not know what a happy domestic life was!” For all of her life, Queen Victoria would insist, “I never was happy until I was eighteen.”

King William IV died on 20 June, 1837. Shortly before six o’clock in the morning, Dr. Howley (Archbishop of Canterbury), Lord Conyngham (Lord Chamberlain), and Sir Henry Halford (Physician to King William), arrived at Kensington Palace. The Duchess of Kent roused her daughter only after being told by the gentlemen that they had come to see The Queen on State business. Queen Victoria recorded the meeting thusly, “I got out of bed and went into my sitting-room (only in my dressing-gown), and ALONE, and saw them. Lord Conyngham then acquainted me that my poor Uncle, the King, was no more, and had expired at 12 minutes past 2 this morning, and consequently I am Queen . . Since it has pleased Providence to place me in this station, I shall do my utmost to fulfill my duty towards my country; I am very young and perhaps in many, though not in all things, inexperienced, but I am sure, that very few have more real good will and more real desire to do what is fit and right than I have.”