The Ill Fated Marriage of The Duke of Wellington

Originally published in 2011
The marriage of Arthur Wellesley to Catherine Sarah Dorothea Pakenham, third daughter of the Earl of Longford, took place on 10 April, 1896 and may be the strangest marriage I’ve come across in the annals of Georgian, Regency and Victorian alliances. No two people were ever more ill suited to spend their lives together (unless it be the Prince of Wales and Princess Caroline) and no other couple had less in common, either in the way of interests or personality. So marked was the disparity between them that many of their contemporaries wondered at the alliance. That Wellington, a man so careful in his actions and attitudes, should have willingly made such a bad match for himself beggars belief. In fact, as we shall see, Wellington himself could hardly credit it.

 

On 7 March 1787, Wellesley was gazetted ensign in the 73rd Regiment of Foot. In October, with the assistance of his brother, he was assigned as aide-de-camp, on ten shillings a day (twice his pay as an ensign), to the new Lord Lieutenant of Ireland Lord Buckingham. He was also transferred to the new 76th Regiment forming in Ireland and on Christmas Day, 1787, was promoted to Lieutenant. During his time in Dublin his duties were mainly social; attending balls, entertaining guests and providing advice to Buckingham. While in Ireland, he over extended himself in borrowing due to his occasional gambling, but in his defence stated that “I have often known what it was to be in want of money, but I have never got helplessly into debt.”

Two years later, in June 1789, he transferred to the 12th Light Dragoons, still as a lieutenant and according to his biographer, Richard Holmes, he also dipped a reluctant toe into politics becoming an MP for Trim in the Irish House of Commons and in 1791 he became a Captain and was transferred to the 18th Light Dragoons. During this time, he met and wooed Catherine (Kitty) Pakenham, the daughter of Edward Pakenham, 2nd Baron Longford, who was described as being full of ‘gaiety and charm.’ Wellington offered for her hand in marriage in 1793 and was summarily refused by Kitty’s brother Thomas, Earl of Longford, who saw nothing very much in the young Wellesley to recommend him to the family, as he had a number of debts, poor professional prospects and no sign hung round his neck that read, “Future Duke of Wellington, Incredibly Wealthy, In Charge of Everything.”

Arthur Wellesley, or Wesley, as he then styled himself, then left Dublin for active service in the Netherlands and apparently did not look back on his lost love.  Nowhere in his correspondence for the interceding 12 year interval does he make any reference to Catherine Pakenham, or does a letter to or from her exist. Then, we are to believe that Wellesley went to spend his leave at Cheltenham and met a mutual friend, the  busybody and yenta Lady Olivia Sparrow, who twitted him with heartlessness to her bosom friend “Kitty Pakenham,” and assured him that his ladylove had never changed.

“What!” Wellesley was purported to exclaim, “does she still remember me ? Do you think I ought to renew my offer? I’m ready to do it.”

Supposedly, he then wrote at once to Miss Pakenham, renewing his proposal of marriage. She replied that, as it was so long since they had met, he had better come over and see her before committing himself, lest he should find her aged and altered. Sir Arthur replied that minds, at all events, did not change with years and  hastened over to Ireland. Though, upon again laying eyes on Kitty, he was said to have exclaimed,  “She has grown ugly, by Jove!” they were married by Wellesley’s clergyman brother Gerald  in Lady Longford’s drawing room in Dublin.

Whilst the Duke possessed many laudable qualities, the ability to be a great husband and father was not amongst them. He treated Kitty rather coldly beginning very early in their marriage. Some say it was because he found out after the fact that Kitty had engaged herself to another suitor prior to Wellington’s return, and had thrown that young man over in favour of Wellington who, by this time, had fair amount of fame, a growing fortune, a title and glittering prospects. Supposedly, Wellington found the fact that Kitty herself did not disclose the engagement to him deceitful. His great good friend Lady Shelley wrote of Wellington at the end of her life, “As he never deviated from the truth himself, he scorned deceit or equivocation in others. Whenever he caught any one out in telling him an untruth, he was extremely harsh and severe.”

However, there is evidence (still being pursued by Kristine and Victoria) that some great bruhaha took place early in their marriage involving something to do with Kitty’s family; something along the lines of her having lent them a goodly amount of money and hiding the fact from Wellington. In fact, Wellington thenafter forbade Kitty’s ever taking their sons to Ireland with her again. She was free to visit her family whenever she wished – the boys were not. Exactly what the fracas was about is still shrouded in mystery, but the fact remains that Wellington was a cold and distant husband to Kitty.

Wellington’s close friends found it difficult to conceive that he’d ever married Kitty, who was naturally shy and further inhibited by the hero worship she felt for her husband. At least one of his intimate friends, Harriet Arbuthnot, questioned him about the odd match, as we read in The Journal of Mrs. Arbuthnot, Volume I –

“He assured me he had repeatedly tried to live in a friendly manner with her . . but that it was impossible, that she did not understand him, that she could not enter with him into consideration of all the important concerns which are continually occupying his mind and that he found he might as well talk to a child . . . . she made his house so dull that nobody wd go to it while, whenever he was in town alone . . . everybody was so fond of his house that he could not keep them out of it . . . .

“. . . I could not at last help saying to him that the more I knew him the more was I unable to recover from my astonishment at his having married such a person . . . He said, “Is it not the most extraordinary thing you ever heard of! Would you have believed that anybody could have been such a d —–d fool?”

Now, Reader, here is the part in which the mystery lies  – Mrs. Arbuthnot relates the story of Lady Olivia Sparrow’s interference, of Wellington telling her that at that time he “did not care a pin about any one else or what became of himself” and his going to Ireland and marrying Kitty and then Mrs. A. continues: “I told him that in all my life I had never heard of anybody doing so absurd a thing, that there could be but one justification, his having been desperately in love with someone who had ill-used him and being in a state of desperation at the time, and even for that he was too old. He agreed cordially in my abuse of him and said I could not think him a greater fool than he did himself.”

So . . . . with whom had Wellington been in love? Who had broken his heart? Victoria and Kristine continue to pursue this burning question, as well . . . . It should be noted that the Duchess of Wellington died in the Duke’s London residence, Apsley House, on 24 April 1831. In the days before her death, the Duke was devoted to her needs and never left her side. In the end, he regretted that they were able to achieve a meeting of minds only at the end of her life.

THE TWO LADY JERSEYS

Originally published in 2010

There were two Lady Jerseys during the Regency, Frances, Lady Jersey and her daughter-in-law, Sarah, Lady Jersey, who became one of the Lady Patronesses at Almack’s Assembly Rooms. The elder, and more infamous, Lady Jersey was Frances Twysden, the posthumously born daughter of Rev.Philip Twysden, Bishop of Raphoe (1746–1752) who was allegedly shot while attempting to rob a stagecoach in London(!), and his second wife Frances Carter, daughter of Thomas Carter of Robertstown, Master of the Rolls. Her disreputable father was the third son of Sir William Twysden, 5th Bart of Roydon Hall, by his wife and distant cousin Jane Twisden.

When Frances was seventeen, she married George Villiers, 4th Earl of Jersey, son and heir of William Villiers, 3rd Earl of Jersey and his wife, Lady Anne Egerton. Frances’s husband was nearly twenty years older than she and was Master of Horse to the Prince of Wales and a Lord of the Bedchamber. The reason for the marriage of Lord Jersey to the daughter of a disreputable Irish bishop has not been explained in contemporary accounts. However, her husband’s position within the Royal household soon placed Lady Jersey in close proximity to the Prince of Wales and led to Lady Jersey being well placed for undertaking future mischief.

George IV began his affair with Frances, Lady Jersey, in 1782, although she would also become romantically involved with various members of the English aristocracy. It was not until 1794 that Lady Jersey managed to lure the Prince of Wales away from his illegal wife, Maria Fitzherbert, although he would continue to be romantically involved with Maria until 1811. Having helped to encourage the Prince of Wales to marry his first cousin, Caroline of Brunswick, Lady Jersey nevertheless set out to make Caroline’s life difficult, perpetrating what vies to be the greatest piece of cheek in Regency history, Lady Jersey had herself appointed as Lady-in-Waiting to Princess Caroline. Losing no time in stirring the pot, Lady Jersey met Princess Caroline when she landed at Greenwich on April 5th, 1795 – arrivng late. She then proceeded to usurp the Princess’s rightful place in the Royal carriage by plead motion sickness whenever she rode backwards, thus forcing the Princess to give up her seat in the place of honour.

However Caroline, the potential Queen Consort, saw through the intrigues of her husband’s mistress and, there being no love lost between Caroline and the Prince of Wales, soon cared very little about the matter. In fact, after the birth of their child together, Caroline lived abroad for most of her 25 year marriage to him, taking other lovers, and therefore leaving a void Frances could fill. Because Lady Jersey enjoyed the favour of Queen Charlotte, even the displeasure of George III was not enough to threaten Lady Jersey’s position, and she continued to run the prince’s life and household for some time.

It might be said that Lady Jersey’s reputation for intrigue and malice led to her downfall. The following contemporary letters offer further insight into her personality.

On July 6, 1803, diarist Joseph Farrington wrote: “Lady Jersey is now quite out of favour with the Prince of Wales. She told Hoppner that she met the Prince upon the stairs at the Opera House, & in such a situation as to render it necessary to make room for him to pass which not instantly noticing him she did not do as she wished, which caused Her after He had passed to say a few words of apology. He went forward, and the next day Col. McMahon called upon her to signify to Her `that it was the desire of the Prince that she would not speak to him.’ She spoke bitterly of McMahon for having submitted to carry such a message. She says there is a popish combination against her. (McMahon was Private Secretary and Keeper of the Privy Purse to the Prince of Wales, as well as being a Privy Councilor. He was created a Baronet on August 7, 1817).

Frances, Lady Jersey, died on July 23, 1821, in Cheltenham. Her daughter-in-law, Sarah, Lady Jersey, was much more beloved by society. Sarah, Lady  Jersey, the Lady Patroness who introduced the Quadrille to Almack’s Assembly Rooms and who is Zenobia in Disraeli’s Endymion, was the daughter of John Fane, the 10th Earl of Westmorland, who had scandalously eloped with her mother, the heiress Sarah Ann Child, a member of the Child’s banking family. Born Lady Sarah Sophia Fane, the younger Lady Jersey married George Villiers, the 5th Earl of Jersey, then Viscount Villiers, on 23 May 1804. He succeeded to the title in 1805 and until her death in 1867, Lady Jersey, who lived in Berkeley Square, was the undisputed Queen of London Society, being called, in fact, “Queen Sarah,” although she styled herself as Sally.

Sir William Fraser described her thusly in later life, “Lady Jersey was never a beauty. She had a grand figure to the last; never became the least corpulent, and, to use a common term, there was obviously no “make up” about her. A considerable mass of grey hair; dressed, not as a young woman, but as a middle-aged one. Entirely in this, as in other things, without affectation, her appearance was always pleasant. No trace of rouge nor dye could ever be seen about her. She seemed to take her sovereignty as a matter of course; to be neither vain of it, nor, indeed, to think much about it. Very quick and intelligent, with the strongest sense of humour that I have ever seen in a woman; taking the keenest delight in a good joke, and having, I should say, great physical enjoyment of life.”

After her parents had eloped, Lady Sarah’s grandfather, Robert Child, sought to confound the newlyweds by preventing any of his fortune from going directly to his daughter or the Westmorland family, which he disliked intensely. He made a will leaving the whole of it to any daughter that might be born to the couple. Sarah became an heiress upon his death, inheriting not only his banking fortune, but Osterley Park as well.

On July 6th, 1825, Mrs. Arbuthnot wrote the following complaint about Lady Jersey: “I was very cross at the King’s ball, I was so provoked with Lady Jersey. In the first place, she was chaperone to Miss Ponsonby, who is just come out & very shy & who she left entirely to herself & took no notice of, while she went about flirting with every man she could get hold of. Miss Ponsonby came & staid with me & protested she would never go to a ball again with Lady Jersey.

Perhaps one of Lady Jersey’s most constant adversaries was Princess Lieven, who wrote of one of their many skirmishes on August 23, 1823: “I see that you like Lady Georgina Wellesley (Lady Cowley, sister-in-law to the Duke of Wellington); I can imagine that you would. She has plenty of good sense. We have never been very intimate but we were always good friends. She is said to like gossip. I have never found out if she deserves the reputation. I am so far from having that fault, and generally I am so quickly bored with trivialities, that it s rare for anyone who is endowed with a little tact not to realize immediately that this is the kind of conversation I like least. So she might well be a gossip without my knowing it. She has given you a garbled and abridged version of the mischievous stories Lady Jersey tired to spread about me; and Lady Jersey has the most dangerous tongue I know. I will not bore you, and myself, with the whole truth; but I cannot leave you under a false impression. Here is what happened in the end. She wanted to have it out. There was no way of escaping. She talked and wept for an hour on end. The sound of her voice and her vulgar way of talking upset me so much that I felt almost sea-sick; incidentally, I was quite incapable of understanding what she was trying to say. So, to be done with it, I said: “Tell me, in a word, if you have come to make peace. If so, I am ready; if you have come to declare war, I accept the challenge.” That brought on a fit of hysterics and frightful reproaches for my coldness. “Is it possible to say such freezing things to one’s friend?” In the end, I really believe I drove her out, for I was beside myself. So here we are friends or enemies, just as she likes; for, once again, it doesn’t matter to me, so long as I am left in peace.”

Perhaps Lady Jersey’s greatest misstep was to draw the displeasure of the Duke of Wellington. On March 9th, 1832, Lady Holland wrote to her son: “You know that he (the Duke of Wellington) never goes near Ly Jersey, a complete alienation.” And again on August 2nd, 1845, Lady Holland writes to him: “Yesterday the Beauforts gave a dinner to the King of Holland, quite one of form and etiquette. The D. of Wellington was to take out according to precedence, Ly G. Coddington as a Duke’s daughter. Lady Jersey bustled up, shoved her off, and said to the Duke, “Which will you take?” He very gravely and properly kept to his destined lady, without answering Lady Jersey. They say she is really too impudent and pushing.”

A prime example of the manner in which the Duke of Wellington dealt with those with whom he had no patience is demonstrated by the following anecdote I found on the Villiers family website, The Jersey Cup . On one occasion, the Duke had been invited to Lady Jersey’s home at 28 Berkeley Square and arrived to find the ante-room littered with gifts. Realizing that he’d  forgotten the occasion of the party and had brought nothing with him for his hostess, the Duke picked up a China Vase as he made his way through the reception rooms and presented it to his hostess with due solemnity. “Oh, how delightful” said Sarah, “the Duchess of So-and-So gave me one just like it. I must go and put them together and make a pair.”

The Wellington Connection: The Royal Humane Society

I first became aware of the existence of the Royal Humane Society when I read about the first Duke of Wellington’s being asked to lay the foundation stone of its new building in Hyde Park in 1835. Oh, I thought, how sweet – the Duke of Wellington doing his bit for the poor dogs and cats of England. Boy, was I wrong! Read on to see just what the Royal Humane Society is all about.
The Society was founded in London in 1774 by two doctors, William Hawes (1736-1808) and Thomas Cogan (1736-1818). They were concerned at the number of people wrongly taken for dead due to drowning – and, in some cases, buried alive. Both men wanted to promote the new, but controversial, medical technique of resuscitation and offered money to anyone rescuing someone from the brink of death. Each man invited 15 friends to the first meeting held on 18 April 1774 at the Chapter Coffee House, St Paul’s Churchyard. The founding members of the Society – all of them men – felt sure that the public would support them in their aim of restoring ‘a father to the fatherless, a husband to the widow, and a living child to the bosom of its mournful parents.’ The Royal Humane Society – then called the ‘Society for the Recovery of Persons Apparently Drowned’ – set out 5 key aims:
To publish information on how to save people from drowning
To pay 2 guineas to anyone attempting a rescue in the Westminster area of London
To pay 4 guineas to anyone successfully bringing someone back to life
To pay 1 guinea to anyone – often a pub-owner – allowing a body to be treated in his house
To provide volunteer medical assistants with some basic life-saving equipment
Note: One guinea = one pound + 5 new pence would be worth about £77 in today’s money.


In the 18th century, few people would have been able to swim. It was not the popular sport it is today and it was not taught to children. In 1773, the year before the Society was founded, 123 people were reported to have drowned in London alone. The founders of the Society believed that “several of them might, in all probability, have been restored by a speedy and judicious treatment.” They went on to ask:

“Suppose but one in ten restored, what man would think the designs of the society unimportant, were himself, his relation, or his friend – that one?”

The reward of 4 guineas paid to the rescuer and 1 guinea to anyone allowing a body to be treated on his premises soon gave rise to widespread scam among the down-and-outs of London: one would pretend to be rescued and the other the rescuer – and they would share the proceeds. So monetary rewards were gradually replaced by medals and certificates, with occasional “pecuniary payments” up to a maximum of one guinea.

A network of ‘receiving houses’ was set up in and around the Westminster area of London where bedraggled bodies, many of them pulled out of London’s waterways, could be taken for treatment by volunteer medical assistants. according to Leigh’s New Picture of London 1819 –

This institution was established in 1774, “for recovery of persons apparently drowned or dead.” In l752, Doctor John Fothergill saw the dubiousness and fallacy of the received riteria of dissolution; and, on the subject of covering a man dead in appearance, by distending the lungs with air, he maintained “the possibility of saving many lives, without risking any thing.” Though coming from such excellent authority, the subject attracted no attention at that time, among our countrymen. M. Reaumur communicated, in 1767, to the Academy of Sciences, at Paris, some instances or resuscitation which had occurred in Switzerland. Holland being intersected by numerous canals, &c., its inhabitants were much exposed to accidents by water; and many persons were drowned from the want of proper assistance. Hence, in the year, 1767, a society was formed at Amsterdam which offered premiums to those who saved the life of a citizen in danger of perishing by water. Instigated by this example, the magistrates of health at Milan and Venice issued orders, in 1768, for the treatment of drowned persons. The city of Hamburgh appointed a similar ordinance to be read in all the churches, extending their succour, not merely to the drowned, but to the strangled, to those suffocated by noxious vapours, and to the frozen. In 1771, the magistrates of the city of Paris founded an institution in favour of, the drowned, &c., and there were repeated instances of success in each country. In 1773, Doctor Cogan, in order to convince the British public of the practicability, in many instances, of recovering persons who were apparently dead from drowning, published memoirs of these transactions. No sooner were they translated, than they engaged the humane mind of Dr. Hawes. He ascertained the practicability of thus saving lives, by advertising to reward persons, who, between Westminster and London bridges, should, within a certain time after the accident, rescue drowned persons from the water, and bring them ashore to places appointed for their reception, where means might be used for their recovery, and give immediate notice to him. Many lives were thus saved by himself and other medical men. For twelve months he paid the rewards in these cases; which amounted to a considerable sum. Dr. Cogan remonstrated with him on the injury which his private fortune would sustain from a perseverance in these expenses; and then Dr. Hawes consented to share them with the public. This led to the formation of the London Humane Society; and amongst its first founders were Doctors Goldsmith, Heberden, Lettsom, &c. This happened in the summer of 1774. The object of this society was then, like that at Amsterdam, confined to the recovery of persons who were apparently dead from drowning; but it has since been extended. For the first six years Doctor Cogan prepared the annual reports of the society; nor was Doctor Hawes less attentive in aiding the designs and promoting the views of this institution. The reports were afterwards prepared by Doctor Hawes up to the year of his decease, which occurred in 1808. From that time till 1813, the late Doctor Lettsom undertook the arduous task; and since that time the present registrar and secretary of the society, T. J. Pettigrew, Esq., surgeon extraordinary to the Dukes of Kent and Sussex, has regularly prepared them.

The receiving-houses of this society in Hyde-Park, are admirably accommodated; and handsome rewards in medals and money, are bestowed on those who assist in the preservation or restoration of life. The Hyde Park receiving-house was erected in 1794, on a plot of ground, on the north bank of the serpentine, granted by his Majesty, the patron of the institution, There are eighteen other receiving-houses in and about the metropolis, all of them being supplied with perfect and excellent apparatus.

A farmhouse in Hyde Park was first used as a receiving house and stood on land donated by King George III, the Society’s patron. In 1835, a Receiving House was built in Hyde Park, close to the Serpentine to the plans of architect: J.B. Bunning. The foundation stone was laid by the first Duke of Wellington and the building stood on that spot until its demolition in 1954. The Illustrated London News tells us that the 1835 building was “a neat structure, of fine brick, fronted and finished with Bath and Portland stone. The front has pilasters at the angles, and a neat entablature, which is surmounted by the royal arms upon a pedestal. Over the entrance is a pediment supported by two fluted Ionic columns rod pilasters; upon the entablature is inscribed `Royal Humane Society’s Receiving-house.’ The doorcase is tastefully enriched; over it is sculptured in stone a facsimile of the Society’s metal, encircled with a wreath; the design being a boy endeavouring to rekindle an almost extinct torch by blowing it, and the motto being `Lateat scintillvla forsans’ – `Perchance a spark may be concealed.'”

The Gentleman’s Magazine ran the following piece about the laying of the foundation stone – “The Duke of Wellington laid the first stone of a New Receivinghouse of the Royal Humane Society, on the north bank of the Serpentine River. The old Receiving-house had become much dilapidated, and it is now intended to provide separate apartments for males and females. The fact that during the summer season not less than 200,000 bathers frequent the Serpentine River, and that in one year not less than 231 persons were rescued from impending death through the exertions of the society, induced the Committee to commence the new building, to be paid for from subscriptions which it is hoped will be subscribed for that purpose. The Duke of Wellington arrived precisely at eight o’clock, and was received by the Committee of Management, headed by Mr. R. Hawes, M.P., Colonel Clitheroe, Mr. Alderman Winchester, Mr. Illidge, Sheriff Elect, Mr. Capel, Mr. Brunel, and about 50 other gentlemen connected with the Society. His Grace proceeded at once to the business of the day—the stone to be laid being suspended in the usual manner. Embedded in a thick circular body of glass were the several coins of the present reign, and one of the Society’s Honorary Medals, and in a bottle hermetically sealed, were placed engravings of the intended receiving-house, and these were deposited in the block of stone. His Grace then placed over the cavity a brass plate bearing the following inscription: —” This stone was laid on re-erecting the Receiving-house of the Royal Humane Society, founded by Dr. Hawes and Dr. Cogan in 1774, by his Grace the Duke of Wellington, K.G., Vice-President of the institution, on the 8th day of August, 1834, upon ground granted to the Society by his Majesty George III., and subsequently extended by his Majesty William IV.” On the plate were also engraved the names of the Patrons, the King and the Queen, of the Vice-Patrons, the President, the Treasurer, Secretary, and Architect. The Duke, with a silver trowel, then laid the mortar on the stone, and it was lowered down to its destined spot and squared, the Rev. Charlton Lane delivering a prayer. His Grace and the company present then sat down to a splendid breakfast, Mr. Hawes, M. P., in the chair. The building will be of the Doric order. The design, by Mr. Bunning, of Guilford, was selected after competition, and was shown in the last Exhibition at Somerset House. Messrs. Webb, of Clerkenwell, are the builders.”

Hyde Park was chosen because while tens of thousands of people swam in the Serpentine in the summer, many also used it to ice-skate in the winter. To try to keep the number of drownings to a minimum, the Society employed Icemen to be on hand to rescue anyone going through the ice. Gradually, branches of the Royal Humane Society were set up in other parts of the country, mainly in ports and coastal towns where the risk of drowning was high.

At left is a medal awarded in 1798 to a to Mr Penn, Medical Assistant, for having taken W. Duncan, who is described as having been ‘insensible’, out of the river.

Today the aim of the Society is to recognise the bravery of men, women and children who have saved, or tried to save, someone else’s life. The Society operates solely from its headquarters in London but gives awards to people from all over the country, and sometimes from overseas. Financial rewards are no longer given, but rather medals and certificates. Through the years, the successive Dukes of Wellington have continued to serve on the board of the Society in various capacities.

I have no doubt that each and every Duke of Wellington has also been excessively kind to any stray dogs and cats they may have encountered, as well.

The Wellington Connection: The Charge of the Light Brigade

The Duke of Wellington is connected to the Charge of the Light Brigade through his association with Lord  Fitzroy Somerset (at left), who was both his military secretary and his nephew by marriage.

Field Marshal FitzRoy James Henry Somerset, Baron Raglan (1788 – 1855), was a British soldier who distinguished himself particularly in the Spanish parts of the Napoleonic campaign. He was badly wounded by five stab wounds to the shoulder at the Battle of Buçaco, after Fuentes de Onoro became brevet-major, as a volunteer helped storm Ciudad Rodrigo, and subsequently led the storming of Badajoz, and personally secured and quickly held one of the gates before the French could respond.

He was the eighth and youngest son of Henry Somerset, 5th Duke of Beaufort, by Elizabeth, daughter of Admiral the Hon. Edward Boscawen. His elder brother, General Lord Edward Somerset (1776–1842), distinguished himself as the leader of the Household Cavalry brigade at the Battle of Waterloo. Fitzroy Somerset was commissioned onto the 4th Light Dragoons on 9 June 1804, being promoted to Lieutenant on 30 May 1805. In 1807 he was attached to the Hon. Sir Arthur Paget’s (later Marquess of Angelsey) embassy to Turkey, and the same year he was selected to serve on the staff of Sir Arthur Wellesley in the expedition to Copenhagen. In the following year he accompanied Wellesley to Portugal, and during the whole of the Peninsular War was at his right hand, first as aide-de-camp and then as military secretary. Lord Hardinge later remarked that he had first become acquainted with Lord FitzRoy Somerset at the battle of Vimiera, “when we of the same age were astonished at the admirable manner in which he then performed the duties of aide-de-camp, and at the great respect with which he was treated by Sir Arthur Wellesley. It was remarked on all occasions that if there was a word of advice to which that great man would listen with unusual patience, it was that which proceeded from Lord FitzRoy Somerset. During the whole period that the Duke of Wellington was in the Peninsula—with the exception, I believe, of a short time when he was in England for the benefit of his health—Lord FitzRoy Somerset was at his right hand. He was present at every one of those actions which illustrate the career of our great commander; on every occasion he was foremost in the field, and he displayed the same valour and courage which have so conspicuously marked his conduct in the Crimea.”

On 6 August 1814 he married Lady Emily Harriet Wellesley-Pole, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Mornington,  the Duke of Wellington’s niece. As Lady Shelley tells us, “On August 5, 1814, the Duke dined with his regiment at Windsor, and on the following morning returned to town to be present at Emily Pole’s marriage with Lord Fitzroy Somerset. While passing through Brentford the wheel of his carriage came off twice. The Duke immediately sprang into a market cart, in full costume as he was, and arrived at the church only a few minutes after the time fixed for the wedding. He gave the bride away, and then dressed for the opera. I met him there, and he took care of me to the carriage.”

Between the Napoleonic campaigns, Lord Somerset was secretary to the British embassy at Paris and when Napoleon returned to France he once more became aide-de-camp and military secretary to the Duke of Wellington. At Waterloo his arm was injured and amputated. At the end of the surgery he told orderly not to take away his arm until he had removed a ring that his wife had given him. He quickly learned to write with his left hand, and on the conclusion of the war resumed his duties in Paris.Wellington recommended him as the aide-de-camp to the Prince Regent, a post that was given on 28 August 1815 together with the rank of Colonel. Raglan returned to the British embassy at Paris and remained there as secretary until the end of 1818 when the allied armies were withdrawn from France.  For two short periods in the 1820s he was MP for Truro. In 1819 he was appointed secretary to the Duke of Wellington when Wellington became Commander-in-Chief of the army after the Duke of York died on 22 January 1827 and from 1827 till the death of the duke in 1852, Somerset served as his Military Secretary at the Horse Guards. Wellington described him as ‘a man who wouldn’t tell a lie to save his life’.

Somerset’s political career culminated in his being appointed a Privy Counsellor in 1852, when he was created Baron Raglan.

 

At the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1853, Raglan was chosen to command the British troops, despite the fact that he was sixty-five years old and had never led troops in the field. He left London on 10 April and reached Constantinople at the end of the month. In 1854, Raglan (at left) was made full General and joint commander of the Crimean campaign in co-operation with a strong French army under Marshal St. Arnaud and afterwards, up to May 1855, under Marshal Canrobert. Here his diplomatic experience stood him in good stead in dealing with the generals and admirals, British, French and Turkish, who were associated with him; however, the trying winter campaign of the Crimean War showed that becoming a General was a step too far for Raglan. His failure to give coherent or timely commands on the field of battle led to numerous mistakes, and his blind ignorance of the growing rivalry between the Earl of Lucan and the Earl of Cardigan would have tragic consequences in the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade.

The Charge of the Light Brigade was a disastrous charge of British cavalry led by Lord Cardigan against Russian forces on 25 October, 1854 during the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War. Subsequently Raglan was pilloried by the press, rightly or wrongly, for the conditions which led to so many troops being unfit to serve, falling seriously ill or dying, and being responsible for the incompetent chain of command and poor tactics which led to Inkerman and then the Charge of the Light Brigade. To be fair, much of the responsibility must fall on authorities in the UK, and appalling logistics from there.

Today, the incident is best remembered as the subject of a famous poem entitled The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, whose lines have made the charge a symbol of warfare at both its most courageous and its most tragic.

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Oddly enough, despite Raglan’s military unpopularity, he was put in charge of the general assault on Sebastapol on 18 June 1855 – the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. It was to be preceded by a two-hour cannonade but the French commander decided at the last moment to attack at daybreak, a decision that Raglan reluctantly accepted. The result was disastrous. The French columns were driven back with heavy loss. Raglan ordered the British forward against the Redan where the two leading British columns met a murderous fire of grapeshot and musket fire. Raglan felt responsible for the failure. He was already suffering from dysentery and on the evening of 28 June he died. His body was taken to a ship called the Caradoc with the full military honours and the seven miles of road from his headquarters to Kazatch Bay were lined with troops. The ship reached Bristol on 24 July; Raglan was buried privately at Badminton on the 26 July.

William Huskisson – England’s First Railroad Fatality

William Huskisson PC (11 March 1770 – 15 September 1830) was a British statesman, financier, and Member of Parliament for several constituencies, including Liverpool. He is best known today, however, as the world’s first widely reported railway casualty –  he was run over by George Stephenson’s locomotive engine Rocket.

Huskisson entered the cabinet in April 1822 when Lord Liverpool appointed him as President of the Board of Trade. The following year Huskisson became MP for Liverpool. Huskisson worked closely with the merchants from the city and soon developed a reputation as the leading representative of mercantile interests in Parliament. This was reflected in the drafting and passing of several new bills that related to trade, including the Merchant Vessels’ Apprenticeship Act and the Registration of Ships Act. Huskisson also took measures towards a policy of free trade. He reduced duties on cotton, sugar, glass, paper, bottles, copper, zinc and lead.

Although Huskisson admitted in debate that he was having doubts about duties on corn, he advocated a delay in their repeal. He finally introduced new measures to reform the Corn Laws in 1826 but the bill was abandoned after the opposition of the Duke of Wellington and other leading Tories in the House of Lords.

When the Duke of Wellington became Prime Minister in 1828, Huskisson refused to serve under him and resigned from office. Huskisson became unpopular with some members of the Tory Party when he made a speech in the House of Commons claiming that Wellington had forced him to leave the government.

 

Two years later, both the Duke of Wellington and Huskisson were among the celebrities invited to the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. At 10.40 a.m. on September 15, 1830, eight locomotives drawing carriages designed after the fashion of stage coaches, and containing 732 people, left the mouth of the Great Tunnel at Liverpool to go to Manchester, the thirty mile route being lined with fully half a million people. On the north line was a gorgeous, circus-like carriage whose principal occupant was the Duke of Wellington. In front of it was a carriage containing a band. The other seven trains were on the south line. At Eccles, seventeen miles from Liverpool, it was planned that the procession should stop for the engines to take in water, and the printed programme specially requested that guests should not leave their carriages.

However, several members of the Duke’s party stepped onto the trackside and Huskisson went forward to greet the Duke. As Huskisson was exiting his car, the locomotive Rocket approached on the parallel track. It appeared afterwards that the driver shut off steam when he saw people on the line. Prince Esterhazy and others managed to jump into the Duke’s carriage. Mr. Huskisson dashed forward in order to go in front of the carriages on the south line, only to find his way barred by a steep bank. “Get in, get in,” shouted the Duke. Huskisson opened a carriage door just as the Rocket came along and struck it, forcing Huskisson off balance and under its wheels. His leg was horrifically mangled. Unfortunately, Mrs. Huskisson was a witness to the accident, as was the Duke’s intimate friend, Mrs. Arbuthnot, who was with him on the journey.

The wounded Huskisson was taken by a train (driven by George Stephenson himself) with Dr. Brandreth, who had been fetched from the rear of the procession, his wife, and others to Eccles, where he died at 9 p.m. Understandably, the Duke was devastated and it was only through vigorous persuasion by many people that he continued on to Manchester as planned, lest he disappoint the crowds there awaiting his arrival. The Duke was not to travel by train again until 1843, when he accompanied Queen Victoria on the London and South Western.

Thomas Creevey wrote to Miss Ord:

Bangor, 19 September 1830

Jack Calcraft has been at the opening of the Liverpool rail road, and was an eye witness of Huskisson’s horrible death. About nine or ten of the passengers in the Duke’s car had got out to look about them, whilst the car stopt [sic]. Calcraft was one, Huskisson another, Esterhazy, Bill Holmes, Birch and others. When the other locomotive was seen coming up to pass them, there was a general shout from those within the Duke’s car to those without it, to get in. Both Holmes and Birch were unable to get up in time, but they stuck fast to its sides, and the other engine did not touch them. Esterhazy being light, was pulled in by force. Huskisson was feeble in his legs, and appears to have lost his head, as he did his life. Calcraft tells me that Huskisson’s long confinement in St George’s Chapel at the king’s funeral brought on a complaint that Taylor is so afraid of, and that made some severe surgical operation necessary, the effect of which had been, according to what he told Calcraft, to paralyse, as it were one leg and thigh. This, no doubt, must have increased, if it did not create, his danger and [caused him to] lose his life. He had written to say his health would not let him come, and his arrival was unexpected. Calcraft saw the meeting between him and the Duke, and saw them shake hands a very short time before Huskisson’s death. The latter event must be followed by important political consequences. The Canning faction has lost its corner stone and the Duke’s government one of its most formidable opponents. Huskisson, too, once out of the way, Palmerston, Melbourne, the Grants and Co. may make it up with the Beau [Wellington].

 

Oddly, Huskisson had been accident-prone his whole life and had in the past broken his arm three separate times – by falling from his horse, from his carriage and
from his bed.

 

This statue to Huskisson stands in Pimlico Gardens, London. The artist is John Gibson, a descendant of William’s half-brother, Thomas Huskisson.