The Death of Wellington – Long Live the Duke

An image of the arms of the Dukes of Wellington, shamelessly stolen from author Lesley-Anne McLeod‘s blog.
Thanks, Lesley-Anne!

On 14 September 1852 Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, KP, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS died both quite suddenly and peacefully at his rooms at Walmer Castle, Kent. It is hardly necessary for me to take up further room on this blog in extolling the myriad virtues, accomplishments and glories attached to the first Duke. There are a wealth of stories about his funeral, the largest ever held in London until that held for Princess Diana, in books, on the web, etc. Rather, I thought it might be interesting instead to turn our attention on this day to the man who became the second Duke upon his father’s death.

Lt.-General Arthur Richard Wellesley, 2nd Duke of Wellington KG PC (3 February 1807 – 13 August 1884), was the eldest son of the 1st Duke of Wellington and Kitty Pakenham. In 1853 he was made a Privy Councillor and a Knight of the Garter in 1858 and in 1863 he inherited the Irish title of Earl of Mornington from his cousin. In 1839 he had married Lady Elizabeth Hay, but they had no children, so at his death he was succeeded in his titles by his nephew, Henry.

Arthur was 45 years of age when his father died and while the Duke had been proud of both Arthur and his younger son, Charles, they never enjoyed what might be remotely called a warm family bond. The 2nd Duke was known to have said that his father often treated himself and his younger brother as “duffers.” There are many anecdotes that back up this fact, but I’ll use the following as being illustrative of the coolness between father and son(s).  When the 2nd Duke was still Lord Douro, he was in the Rifle Brigade and stationed at Dover, in which neighborhood his father also resided, at Walmer Castle, as Lord of the Cinque Ports. It was the Duke’s habit to invite all the officers quartered in the town to dinner at the Castle. On one particular occassion, the Duke invited every officer on the spot, with the exception of his son, prompting him to send his father the following note: “The Marquis of Douro presents his compliments to F.M. the Duke of Wellington, K.G., and would be glad to know why, alone among the officers of his regiment, he has not been invited to dinner at Walmer Castle.” The Duke replied by return of post: “F.M. the Duke of Wellington, K.G., presents his compliments to the Marquis of Douro, and begs to inform him that the reason why he was never invited to dine at Walmer Castle is that he never called there.”


Elizabeth, 2nd Duchess of Wellington (1820-1904) was born Lady Elizabeth Hay, a daughter of the eighth  Marquess of Tweeddale. One of her brothers was the ornithologist Viscount Walden, and another the Admiral of the Fleet Lord John Hay. She married Lord Douro in 1839 and was appointed Mistress of the Robes to Queen Victoria in 1861 by the Liberal Prime Minister Lord Palmerston, and continued in that rôle until 1868, serving through the governments of Lord Russell, Lord Derby and Benjamin Disraeli. She was again Mistress of the Robes in Disraeli’s second government, 1874 to 1880. Her husband died on 13 August 1884, and the Dowager Duchess survived him for exactly twenty years to the day, dying at Bearhill Park, Walton-on-Thames on 13 August 1904.

The second Duke of Wellington used to say to his old schoolfellow, the publisher Mr. John Murray : “I cannot write my father’s life, but I can at least see that the material is there for a biographer some day.” Accordingly, with praiseworthy diligence, he set to work and edited fourteen volumes of supplementary military despatches, and eight volumes of civil correspondence, bringing it down to the year 1832. Here, then, are thirty-four volumes, each containing, on an average, about six hundred and fifty closely printed pages—truly he were a bold man who should claim to have extracted all that is of moment from such a vast storehouse.

ln October 1882 the Duke was having trouble with his eyesight and wrote: “l avail myself of another hand kindly placed at my disposal, as l am not yet permitted to read or write. l dare say,  you will remember my sight was very indifferent when you were at Stratfield Saye. lt went on from bad to worse, until at last it became absolutely necessary that l should undergo an operation which I did a few days ago with perfect success.” The operation involved the removal of one eye, but the Duke retained his sense of humour throughout. Afterwards, the surgeon who performed the operation mentioned to the Duke that the eye would be preserved and kept for study. The Duke suggested that this might present a good opportunity for the doctor to make some extra money – by betting people that they couldn’t guess the distance between the Duke of Wellington’s eyes.

After Wellington’s death, the 2nd Duke of Wellington allowed the public to visit the principle apartments of Apsely House from 1853 onwards on written application. He made some alterations but the main rooms remained substantially intact until the 7th Duke of Wellington presented the house to the nation in 1947.

The 2nd Duke of Wellington uttered what are amongst the most poignant words in history when, upon realizing that he would soon be succeeding his illustrious father to the title, he was said to have remarked, “Imagine what it will be when the Duke of Wellington is announced, and only I walk in the room.”

THE 2020 TOWN & COUNTRY HOUSE TOUR

A mix of town and country, this tour includes a blend of residences  from London townhouses to grand stately homes in an array of styles, complete with glorious gardens and each one filled with fabulous furnishings and artwork from various eras. Your nights have been left free to enjoy London as you wish – attend the theatre, explore the museums or indulge in a bit of shopping.

During the days, we’ll be visiting Kenwood House, Apsley House, Hertford House (housing the Wallace Collection), Syon Park, Sir John Soanes’s House, Osterley Park, Leighton House and Waddesdon Manor, above.

Click photo for complete tour itinerary and details.

THE STORY OF SEFTON

SEFTON served with the British Army for 17 years from 1967 to 1984, coming to prominence when he was critically injured in the Hyde Park and Regent’s Park bombings of July 20, 1982. Eight soldiers on ceremonial duty were killed in two IRA bomb blasts. The first blast, in Hyde Park, killed two soldiers and injured 23 others and the second explosion, in Regents Park, less than two hours later killed six soldiers instantly and injured a further 24 people.

In the first incident a nail bomb in a blue Austin car was detonated as members of the Household Cavalry made their way to the changing of the guard from their barracks in Knightsbridge. Seven horses were killed or so badly maimed they had to be destroyed. Another device exploded underneath the bandstand in Regents Park as the Royal Green Jackets played music from Oliver to 120 spectators.

Regimental commander, Lt Col Andrew Parker-Bowles, ex-husband of Camilla Parker-Bowles, the current Duchess of Cornwall, raced to the scene of the first blast on foot. Arriving quickly he met a groom leading a severely wounded horse, Sefton. Blood gushed from a huge hole in the horse’s neck and Parker-Bowles instructed the groom to take off his shirt and stuff it into the wound. Unfortunately the groom had sustained his own injury in the bomb blast, a four-inch nail pierced the man’s hand. Another man sacrificed his shirt and helped staunch the blood flowing from Sefton’s neck. Sefton suffered 28 separate wounds to his body from the nail bombs. One 2 x 1 shard severed his jugular vein. Five four inch nails were implanted to half their length into his face, one spiked his back. His stifle and flanks were gored by searing shrapnel from the car. His right eye was burned and the cornea damaged. His rider, Trooper Pederson, injured too by the flying nails, when ordered to dismount, stood dazed, holding the valiant horse. Sefton underwent eight hours of surgery and became a media sensation and a household name. He was 19 years old at the time of the bombings and recovered sufficiently to return to active service and was subsequently awarded “Horse of the Year.”

Sefton pictured after making a full recovery with trooper Michael Pedersen, also injured in the attack.

Born in Ireland, Sefton joined the Army in 1967. He was 16 hands high and spent the early years of his army career as a school horse, teaching new recruits to ride.  in 1975, despite having socks and a blaze, he found his way into the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, which normally recruited only totally black horses. The Household Cavalry recorded that he was a horse of great courage and character. Trooper Pederson reported that Sefton responded so bravely when the bomb exploded that there was no chance of being thrown from him.

A watercolour painting done by the Duchess of Cornwall of Sefton for a 2011 exhibition War Horse: Fact and Fiction at central London’s National Army Museum.

In 1984, Sefton was retired from the Household Calvary to The Home of Rest for Horses in Speen, Bucks, and stayed there until July 9, 1993. He became incurably lame from the injuries he suffered and was put to sleep at the age of 30.

Sefton’s statue now stands at the Royal Veterinary College.

Sefton’s legacy remains through The British Horse Society Sefton Awards, set up in 1984, and there is the Sefton Equine Referral Unit, which is based at the Royal Veterinary College. Household Cavalry tradition dictates that horses’ names are re-used, which ensures that Sefton’s memory will live on.

A monument to the tragedy that killed 11 people and seven horses, injured Sefton and eight of his stablemates, was erected on the spot where the bomb went off in Hyde Park and daily the troop honors it with an eyes left and a salute with drawn swords.

The soldiers who lost their lives that day –

  • WO2 Graham Barker, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
  • Corporal Major Roy Bright, The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons)
  • Lieutenant Anthony Daly, The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons)
  • Bandsman John Heritage, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
  • Corporal Robert Livingstone, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
  • Corporal Robert McKnight, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
  • Bandsman George Mesure, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
  • Bandsman Keith Powell, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
  • Bandsman Laurence Smith, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
  • Trooper Simon Tipper, The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons)
  • Lance Corporal Jeffrey Vernon Young, The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons)

The seven horses of the Blues and Royals that were killed were:

  • Cedric
  • Epaulette
  • Falcon
  • Rochester
  • Waterford
  • Yeastvite
  • Zara

 

THE WELLINGTON CONNECTION – TENNIS

Illustrated London News, February 1, 1845

Many people may be surprised to learn that the Duke of Wellington was a keen tennis player – so much so that he had an indoor court built at Stratfield Saye, where he and Prince Albert played a few sets during Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s visit to Stratfield Saye in 1845, which was reported in the Illustrated London News.

From A History of Stratfield Saye by the Reverend Charles Griffith, Jon Murray 1892:

“. . . On the west side of the road face of the mansion, to the right front, and This building, which is of full size, occupies the site and is built upon the old walls of Lord Rivers’ riding-school. . . At the termination of the university course of the Marquis of Douro, who was afterwards second Duke of Wellington, and of Lord Charles Wellesley, the father of the present duke, the first Duke of Wellington erected this building for the amusement of his sons. The first duke himself for some years frequently played, in the court, and his butler, Phillips, became one of the finest players in England of his day, successively beating all the best French players with whom he contended. . . ”

Tennis had been played in England since the middle ages and Henry VIII had a court at Hampton Court Palace. By the 1820s, the only London tennis court still in operation was the James Street court near the Haymarket. The members of this newly revived club invited the Duke of Wellington to join them in 1820, which invitation he gladly accepted. But other aristocratic families also partook of the sport –

From a letter written by Lady Holland, Holland House, 1st Jany., 1816 to Mrs. Creevey [in Brussels] –

“. . . According to the song, ‘London is out of town’ the country houses are overflowing. The love of tennis is come so strongly upon Lord Holland that he has persuaded me rather reluctantly to go once more to Woburn for 3 or 4 days, in order that he may play a few setts. The plea which makes me yield is that I believe exercise keeps off the gout.”

Woburn Abbey

The Sporting Magazine for February 1795 gives us the following description of the Woburn tennis courts – “THE Tennis Court and Riding House (with apartments between to dress in) forms a building 266 feet 8 inches long, and 49 feet 6 inches wide, the whole front of which is stone: The roof is a flat one, and covered with a composition of tar, chalk, etc., instead of lead. There are flues run along the walls, and under the pavement of the Tennis Court, to keep off the damps.”

Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford

 

It was Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford who improved Woburn Abbey, adding a Riding School and the Tennis Court, which would later quite literally be the death of him. It was while playing a game of tennis that the accident occurred which eventually proved fatal. He was struck by a ball; a lingering illness ensued, and he died on the 2nd March 1802.The editor of Horace Walpole: Lord Orford’s Letters to the Countess of Ossory, transcribes from the memoranda of Lord Ossory the following account of the death of Francis, fifth Duke of Bedford in 1802:— ‘On February 27th 1802, I went over to Woburn, hearing of the Duke of Bedford’s dangerous illness. There I found Dr. Kerr. …. The progress of the disease was not favourable, and the symptoms were very bad on Monday morning, till twelve; from that time till five or six, hopes began to revive; then they all vanished, and he was given over, and on Monday morning, March the 2d, about half-past eleven, he expired in a manner in Lord John’s arms.

“Thus died Francis, Duke of Bedford, with a sort of similarity of fate to his father, both of whom I loved with much affection and attachment.”

As lamentable as Francis’s death was, it almost had dire consequences for the beautiful Lady Georgina Gordon, who had been engaged to him. Her mother, the Duchess of Gordon, was not going to let the Dukedom of Bedford escape her, and after Lady Georgina had left off her mourning for her betrothed, she became engaged to his brother and successor, John, sixth Duke of Bedford, to whom she was married a year later. She went on to have ten children.

 

1816 Plan of Woburn Abbey – Wikipedia

 

But back to tennis . . . From Wikipedia – A plan of the house and “pleasure ground” at Woburn from Hortus Gramineus Woburnensis (1816), a book about horticultural experiments conducted at Woburn. The top is east. A: The house. The whole of the top (east) wing and the eastern end of the north and south wings have been demolished. B: Stable/service blocks. These survive and one now houses the Woburn Antiques Centre. C: The riding school and the real tennis court, which have been demolished. D: The long rectangle at the right of the southern service block is the sculpture gallery, which survives In 1816 the main entrance was on the eastern side of the house, and was reached via a grand arch between the riding school and real tennis court. After the demolition the West Hall in the centre of the West Front became the main entrance once again.

In his Arboretun et Fruticetum Britannicum: or, The Trees and Shrubs of England, Volume 2 (1838), John Claudius Loudon describes the grounds at Woburn and tells us that there is “a passage under the Cape heathery, which forms a portion of a covered way, leading from the mansion to the different objects of interest adjoining it; such as the green-house, sculpture gallery, tennis-court, Chinese dairy, plant-stoves and palm-house now erecting, and finally to the pleasureground, including the aviary, arboretum, salictum, grass-garden, American garden, etc.”

From Tennis by John Moyer Heathcote 1890, “In our own country the game was beginning to lose its popular character, although still played by the higher classes of society. Many old courts were abandoned or destroyed, and we hear of the construction of three only in the latter half of the century: the Duke of Richmond’s at Goodwood, the Duke of Bedford’s at Woburn, and the court in Tennis-court Road, Cambridge, erected in 1734, recently pulled down and replaced by the new buildings of Pembroke College.

“There is, however, no probability of the last age of this eventful history passing into mere oblivion, for the nineteenth century has witnessed a renewed and constantly increasing enthusiasm for Tennis, shown by the number of courts built by public and private enterprise, on improved lines, and equipped with modern requirements, and by the interest taken in all important matches.”

Whilst tennis is still played in England, alas, the courts at Woburn have, indeed, passed into oblivion. During the First World War parts of the Abbey, the riding school and indoor tennis court (now demolished), were converted into a temporary ward for wounded soldiers; some 2,000 patients passed through the Abbey Hospital.

Early Rumblings of a Regency From the Pens of Creevey, General and Captain Moore



Thomas Creevey

 Mr. Creevey to Dr. Currie.

22nd Aug., 1803.

“… I saw a great deal of Sheridan. We dined together several times, got a little bosky, and he took great pains to convince me he was sincere and confidential with me. … A plan of his relates to Ireland, and it is the substitution of a Council for the present Viceroy, the head of the Council to be the Prince of Wales, his assistants to be Lord Moira, Lord Hutchinson and Sheridan himself. The Prince is quite heated upon the subject; nothing else is discussed by them. Lord Hutchinson is as deep in the design as any of them, but God knows it is about as probable as the embassy of old Charley to Russia I believe Sherry is very much in the confidence of the Ministers. They have convinced him of the difficulty of pressing the King for any attentions to the Prince of Wales; he is quite set against him, and holds entirely to the Duke of York, who, on the other hand, is most odious to the Ministry. . . . Have you begun your visits to Knowsley yet? . . . If you see Mrs. Hornby, cultivate her. She is an excellent creature; her husband, the rector, is the most tiresome, prosy son of a —— I ever met with, but is worthy. . . .”



General Sir John Moore


General Sir John Moore to Mr. Creevey.

Sandgate, 15th Sept., 1803.

“. . . The newspapers have disposed of me and my troops at Lisbon and Cherbourgh, but we believe that we have not moved from this place. I begun to despair of seeing you here, and am quite happy to find that, at last, I am to have that pleasure. If the Miss Ords do not think they can trust to the Camp for beaux, or if they have any in attendance whose curiosity to see soldiers they may chuse to indulge, assure them that whoever accompanies them shall be cordially received by everybody here. . . .”

 

Capt. Graham Moore

Capt. Graham Moore, R.N., to Mr. Creevey.

“Plymouth, August 7th, 1803. “… I never had to do with a new ship’s company before made up of Falstaffs men—’decayed tapsters,’ etc., so I do not bear that very well and I get no seamen but those who enter here at Plymouth, which are very few indeed. The Admiralty will not let me have any who enter for the ship at any of the other ports, which cuts up my hopes of a tolerable ship’s company. … I hear sometimes from my brother Jack. He says they have had a review of his whole Corps before the Duke of York. . . . My mother was more delighted with the scene than any boy or girl of fifteen. N.B.—she is near 70. . . . She is an excellent mother of a soldier. I am not afraid of showing her to Mrs. Creevey, altho’ she is of a very different cast from what she has generally lived with. If Mrs. Creevey does not like her, I shall never feel how the devil she came to like me.

“Jack says his Corps are not at all what he would have them, yet that they will beat any of the French whom he leads them up to. I am convinced the French can make no progress in England, and do not believe now that they will attempt it; but how is all this to end? However that may be, as I am in for it, I wish to God I was tolerably ready, and scouring the seas. What the devil can Fox mean by his palaver about a military command for the Prince of Wales? That may come well enough from Mrs. Barham perhaps.”

Capt. Graham Moore, R.N., to Mr. Creevey.

Plymouth Dock, Feby. 1st, 1804.

“… I suppose you mean to join the set that prepare to worry the poor Doctor (Addington) when Parliament meets. What can he do? He seems, or we seem, to do as well as Bonoparte—fretting and fuming and playing off his tricks from Calais to Boulogne and back again. The fellow has done too much for a mere hum; he certainly will try something, and I hope to be in at the death of some of his expeditions. If they do not take my men, we shall soon be ready for sea again. New copper, my boy! we shall sail like the wind. . . .”

Mr. Creevey to Dr. Currie.

“2nd May, 1804.

“. . . It is felt by the Pittites that the Prince and a Regency must be resorted to, and as the Prince evinced on every occasion the strongest decision in favor of Fox, the Pittites are preparing for a reciprocity of good offices. God send we may have a Regency, and then the cards are in our hands. I wish you had seen the party of which I formed one in the Park just now. Lord Buckingham, his son Temple, Ld. Derby, Charles Grey, Ld. Fitzwilliam, Canning, Ld. Morpeth  and Ld. Stafford. . . . The four physicians were at Buckingham House this morning: I feel certain he (the King) is devilish bad.”

But, as we know, the Regency did not begin for another seven years.  We will post a number of excerpts from the many diarists and prolific letter writers of the Regency era in future blogs.  Watch for more from Mr. Creevey, his friends, his enemies and those who never had the privilege to be either.