On The Wellington Trail – Part Two

Lord only knows how, but Vicky, Brooke and I also found time to visit Gray’s Antiques Market in London. It’s a warren of little shops selling all manner of stuff. We found a military specialist who had a samll, framed, woven silk Waterloo commemorative picture that he wanted L650 for (!?!?!) and assorted other incidentally Wellington stuff that was likewise priced outrageously. As Vicky and I were walking out, Brooke came to tell us that she’d found another shop nearby where Artie-facts were going for a reasonable sum. Off we raced and Vicky found a smaller version of the Wellington portrait I’d gotten at Storey’s, while I found a framed color cartoon of the Duke done in 1831 for McLean’s Magazine. In fact, Brooke got so good at sussing out Artie-facts this trip, Vicky and I nicknamed her “Scout.” (You’ll be seeing photos of Vicky’s Wellington portrait in future posts).

On Wednesday evening, Brooke and I were walking towards Leicester Square in order to visit Chinatown for a Peking duck dinner and happened to be passing when I glanced up and saw the street sign that read “Cecil Court.” I pulled Brooke aside and glanced at the shops. This time, the only one that was open was Mark Sullivan Antiques, where I’d seen the Wellington figurine in the window (at left). In we went and were greeted by Dave and Mark. The inside of the shop is an absolute treasure trove and Dave proved to be knowledgeable about both antiques and the Duke of Wellington. He pulled out all the items he had on hand related to the Duke. It seems the present Duke of Wellington had just been in on the Saturday. You don’t say!? And what, pray tell, does the Duke of Wellington collect? Items related to the first Duke of Wellington, of course. Really. I thought this a bit rich. I mean to say, hasn’t the man already got enough first hand Artie-facts scattered about Strathfield Saye and Apsely House – not to mention in the cellars and attics? What about the statue in the window, I asked Dave, why hadn’t the Duke bought that on Saturday? Because, Dave explained, he’d only gotten it in on Sunday and put it in the window on the following Monday. We then chatted a bit more before Dave tried to stump me by throwing out Artie one-liners. “Sparrow hawks, ma’am,” Dave offered. “Said to Queen Victoria, Great Exhibition of 1851,” I responded, unruffled. “Publish and be damned,” said Dave. “Harriet Wilson,” I replied on a yawn. “By God, man, so you have!” said Dave. “Please,” I sneered, “Too easy. Artie’s response upon Paget’s telling him he’d just lost his leg.” 
At this point Brooke stepped into the breach and advised Dave, “You might as well give up. You’re never going to stump my mother on the Duke of Wellington.”  “She certainly knows her stuff,” agreed Dave before we set about the buisness of hammering out prices for the various Artie-facts he’d brought out. This is when Mark asked Brooke and I if we’d like a brandy. I accepted, Brooke declined. Mark asked if we’d like to smoke. We both accepted. So we all stood around the shop drinking brandy and smoking and went back to chit chatting about the Duke of Wellington. The first Duke. All very civilized and I must say, it’s a good thing I don’t live in London or I’d be dropping in on Dave and Mark on a regular basis. Great chaps. Fabulous shop. Rather good brandy. But back to the nitty gritty. We finally talked turkey and, yes, I bought the figurine. As well as an 1852 Wellington commemorative medal, a brass profile plaque of the Duke and the pot and lid below, which depicts Wellington out riding at Stratfield Saye. What the heck – in for a penny, in for a pound. Or in this case, many pounds. I knew, however, that if I didn’t invest in the figurine I’d live to regret it.
By the way, when the Artie-facts I bought arrived this past week, I was in alt. They’d survived the transatlantic shipping unscathed. I breathlessly unwrapped the figurine – the piece de resistance, the jewel in the crown  –  and held it up for my husband to see, awaiting his enthusiastic hand clapping, squeals of delight and many exclaimations of joy.
“We need a bigger house,” was all he said before turning his attention back to the t.v.
(And he doesn’t know the half of it)

One day Brooke and I headed south of the River to Southwark to have lunch at a pub called “The Wellington at Waterloo” – it’s just outside Waterloo tube station.
Inside, there’s a fabulous mural of the Battle of Waterloo on the curved, barrel ceiling.

It seems that in the 21st century, the Duke lends his name to as many pubs as eateries, as evidenced by the Wellington Cafe, below, at the real Waterloo. One can only imagine what the Duke would make of eating his dinner to the accompaniment of a French marching band.
During our Waterloo tour we made many stops at the site of the iconic battlefields involved in the  engagement. At one site, our tour coach parked and our guide shuffled everyone off the bus to see Napoleon’s view point. It was freezing, the wind was blowing and, really, I thought I’d pass on another look at another empty field. However, as he was exiting the bus, our guide threw out the fact that across the street stood La Belle Alliance. What!? I watched as the group walked away in the opposite direction. Wait! Where are you going? Are ya kidding me? La Belle Alliance – Napoleon’s headquarters but, infinitely more important, the site where Wellington and Blucher met after the Battle of Waterloo to acknowledge their victory. Cold and wind aside, I was off the bus like a shot and across the street. Honestly, the place looks just as it must have in 1815. I’d show you, but I was too shocked to even think of taking a picture. The wide, wooden gates were thrown open, the Inn and the courtyard were there for anyone to see – and I was the only one in sight.
I spent several minutes walking the cobbles, gazing at the wooden door to the inn and the stone horse troughs, imagining what it must have been like for those present in 1815 when Wellington and Blucher met on that spot. Incredible.
Note from Victoria: Kristine dragged me over and I got two shots of the farmyard below. Not very impressive, but meaningful!!!

Next day, we attended the re-enactment of the Battle and, afterwards, headed to our last stop – the Wellington Museum. Oh, how I was looking forward to this. Those sites we’d already visited that had gift shops only had items for sale related to Napoleon. Nothing, and I mean nothing, related to the Duke of Wellington. Really, Wellington might just as well have stayed in bed and not been at the Battle of Waterloo at all if the souveniers were anything to go by. Hello? He’s the man who defeated Napoleon. At Waterloo? Jeez, you’d think they’d at least have a postcard . . . . So it was with eagerness that I anticipated the Wellington Museum gift shop because, really, a girl can never have too much Artie memorablia.
The museum is housed in the building Wellington used as his headquarters. Where Alexander Gordon died. Where Paget’s leg was buried. My first glimpse of the building was promising.

(Yes, that is my finger in front of the lens)

Well, the first room you enter is the gift shop. And it was absolutely chock full of . . . . Napoleon stuff. No, I’m not kidding. Believe me, I searched every item in the joint for something Artie related. Nada. Nil. Nuttin’ Honey. And all of the display signs are in French. As far as I could tell, there was no indication as to which room Gordon had died in. Upstairs, there’s a room where there’s a desk and seated behind the desk is a wax figure that looks like Wellington if Wellington had been a crackhead who had been on a four day bender. I’m assuming this was the room Wellington used as an office, but who knows?

The redeeming portion of the visit was what lay out back – Paget’s leg. Okay, okay, it’s really only the spot where Paget’s leg once lay. It seems that when he died, his family had the leg disinterred, sent to England and buried with the rest of Paget – or Lord Uxbridge, who became the Marquess of Anglesey. But still . . . Paget’s leg. I mean everyone who was anyone who travelled to Waterloo after the Battle made a pilgrimage to see the grave. And now I was there, too.

So here ends the Wellington Trail. I didn’t pursue Artie-sites in Paris, as I figured the British Embassy had probably undergone many changes between now and then. And I found nothing Wellington related at the printsellers in Paris. Although they did have much Napoleon stuff. Sigh. Talk about revisionist history. All in all, I can’t complain, because you have to admit that Vicky and I pretty much fulfil
led our intentions of doing all things Artie this trip over. We’re already thinking about our next visit, which will take place sometime between now and 2015, when I/we attend the next Wellington Conference held in Southampton, England (will also be doing Walmer Castle and Stratfield Saye). And 2012 is obviously out, as we don’t want to have to contend with Olympic Fever in London. In the meantime, watch this space for many more posts related to our Tour.

Give `Em The Wellie – An Introduction to Bootmaker George Hoby

George Hoby was not only the greatest and most fashionable bootmaker in London, but, in spite of the old adage, “ne sutor ultra crepidam,” he employed his spare time with considerable success as a Methodist preacher at Islington. He was said to have in his employment three hundred workmen; and he was so great a man in his own estimation that he was apt to take rather an insolent tone with his customers. He was, however, tolerated as a sort of privileged person, and his impertinence was not only overlooked, but was considered as rather a good joke. He was a pompous fellow, with a considerable vein of sarcastic humour, as evidenced in the following anecdotes handed down to us by Captain Gronow.
I remember Horace Churchill, (afterwards killed in India with the rank of major-general,) who was then an ensign in the Guards, entering Hoby’s shop in a great passion, saying that his boots were so ill made that he should never employ Hoby for the future. Hoby, putting on a pathetic cast of countenance, called to his shopman,
“John, close the shutters. It is all over with us. I must shut up shop; Ensign Churchill withdraws his custom from me.” Churchill’s fury can be better imagined than described. On another occasion the late Sir John Shelley came into Hoby’s shop to complain that his topboots had split in several places. Hoby quietly said, “How did that happen, Sir John?” “Why, in walking to my stable.” “Walking to your stable!” said Hoby, with a sneer. ” I made the boots for riding, not walking.”

Hoby was bootmaker to George III, the Prince of Wales, the royal dukes, Beau Brummell, most of the aristocracy and many officers in the army and navy. His shop was situated at the top of St James’s Street, at the corner of Piccadilly, next to the old Guards Club. Hoby was the first man who drove about London in a tilbury. It was painted black, and drawn by a beautiful black cob. This vehicle was built by the inventor, Mr Tilbury, whose manufactory was in a street leading from South Audley Street into Park Street.

No doubt Mr. Hoby had patterns for all manner of desirable boots, evidenced not in the least by his impressive client list. However, he will forever be linked to a boot design not of his making. Of course I refer to the Wellington boot, a pair of the Duke’s own boots of this design are pictured at left. Hoby had been bootmaker to the Duke of Wellington from his boyhood, and received innumerable orders in the Duke’s handwriting, both from the Peninsula and France, which he always religiously preserved. The Duke asked Hoby to modify the 18th-century Hessian boot to a height below the knee, in order to make them more practical for walking and riding. The resulting  boot was made of softer calfskin leather, had no trim, boasted heels one inch high and fit more closely around the leg, making it more practical and hard-wearing for battle, yet comfortable for the evening. The boot was dubbed the Wellington and was quickly adopted by Hoby’s other customers.

Hoby was also bootmaker to the Duke of Kent; and as he was calling on H.R.H. to try on some boots, the news arrived that Lord Wellington had gained a great victory over the French army at Vittoria. The duke was kind enough to mention the glorious news to Hoby, who coolly said, “If Lord Wellington had had any other bootmaker than myself, he never would have had his great and constant successes; for my boots and prayers bring his lordship out of all his difficulties.”

Hoby may have had a penchant for sarcasm and a high opinion of himself (and his own influence upon British military history) but he knew how to run a business – Hoby died worth a hundred and twenty thousand pounds.

On The Wellington Trail – Part One

Oh, joy – two weeks of all things Wellington coupled with chasing down and buying Artie-facts – bliss! Here’s an overview of what Vicky and I saw and did – individual posts on each to follow.

Of course, on this trip the Wellington Trail began at Apsley House. We were there within hours of my landing. And, yes, Vicky was telling the truth about the naked bicyclists (London World Naked Bike Ride). Honestly, what would Artie have thought?! Actually, Vicky and I were discussing it later that evening with a man at our local pub who told me that if I thought that Wellington would object to naked women riding past his house that I should have another think. It wasn’t, I told him, the women to whom I thought the Duke would object.

As we were getting into the cab headed to Apsley House, we were treated to our first Artie-dote. When I told the driver that our destination was Apsley House, he looked confused. “Number One London,” I added. “At the corner of Hyde Park and Park Lane.” “Oh,” replied the driver, “You mean the Wellington Museum.” No, actually, I meant Apsley House, but we got there just the same.

(By the way, try to find a photo of the London Naked Bike Ride that doesn’t have all the nasty bits on full view. It’s not easy)
But back to Apsley House and another most amusing Artie-dote. There I was in the Waterloo Gallery, the large picture gallery that was also used for the annual Waterloo Dinner, as well as for balls and concerts and such. Here, the Duke had installed an ingenious system whereby sliding mirrors hidden within the walls could be pulled out and across the windows at night, thereby reflecting candlelight throughout the room. Well, while we were there, one of the docents announced that it was time to pull the mirrors across the windows and that anyone who wished to could watch the operation. Closer I crept. You betcha. So did a couple standing nearby. Once the windows had been covered, the man said to his wife, “You know, those mirrors aren’t really made of glass at all. They’re made of steel.” “Really?” his wife asked, stepping in close in order to examine the mirrors. “Yes,” said the husband, “They’re made of steel and that’s why they called Wellington the Iron Duke.” I know, I know . . . . hysterical, right?
Continuing down the Wellington Trail, Vicky and I also visited Horse Guards, where Wellington’s office still contains his desk. Inquiries at the gift shop resulted in my being told that it’s not typically open to the public, hence I’ll have to write in advance for permission to view it before my next trip over. Still, it was nice to walk the cobbles on which Wellington’s boots had once trod. The view of the men in uniform wasn’t too shabby, either.  
The two windows above the three arches are Wellington’s office.

Vicky and I also visited the National Army Museum, which has wonderful Napoleonic/Artie/Waterloo displays – a full report on the Museum will follow. For now, you should know that one of the exhibits included the saw used to amputate Henry Paget/Lord Uxbridge/the Marquess of Angelesey’s leg (same guy, lot’s of titles), as well as the bloodied glove worn by the surgeon during the operation. (I don’t tell you this for it’s high gruesome content – it ties in to what’s coming up in Part 2)   
Vicky and I next went to the Victoria and Albert’s  Art in Love Exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery – again, a full account on that to come, as well. One of the first paintings hanging in the very first room you entered was the one below, by Winterhalter:
And then we went to Windsor to meet and the spend the day with Hester Davenport (oh, boy – wait till you hear this story!) We visited the Castle, where this picture hangs:
In between all of these Artie sightings, Vicky and I had gone to Ce
cil Court one morning. In the window of an antique shop called Mark Sullivan Antiques (at left), I spied a Staffordshire figurine of the Duke of Wellington (below). About two feet high. Hand painted. Staffordshire. . . . I gazed upon it with my nose pressed to the shop window. I pointed it out to Vicky and then we both gazed at it with our noses pressed to the shop window. I knew at that moment that it was destined to be mine. The sign on the shop door said they opened at 10 a.m. It was 10 a.m.
Vicky finally pulled me away from the window and we went next door to Storey’s, the print seller, and spent at least an hour looking at all of the cartoons and Napoleonic era prints until the owner took us downstairs to the room where they kept the Artie-facts. Here, Vicky found and bought a print of a scene of Viermo and I made my first Wellington purchase this trip, a hand colored portrait like the one below (mine is out being framed, so I can’t show it to you yet) By the time we’d left, the antique shop next door was still closed. Rats.


So Vicky and I toddled our way over to Covent Garden and Grosvenor Prints, where Vicky asked them to pull their file of fashion prints and I asked for the Artie-facts folder. We spent a good hour and a half going through our respective folios. Alas, I found nothing that I didn’t already have or that I coveted to distraction. . . . Until I came across a dinner invitation issued by the the Duke from Apsley House to Lord and Lady Cottenham. The invitation states that since the dinner was to be held on the day set aside for the observance of Her Majesty’s birthday, it might be convenient for Lord and Lady Cottenham to arrive dressed. (Unless, one supposes, they were thinking to participate in the Naked Bike Ride conveniently held on the Duke’s dooorstep). Yes, of course, I purchased the invitation and Vicky purchased some really lovely fashion prints.
One of the stops on our tour during Open Garden Week in London (again, more on that later) was the garden at Wellington Square. Vicky and I are now certain that this should be the location of our UK base. Not only are the houses and square gorgeous, but the address is perfect.
One of the Wellington sightings was made by Vicky, who went on her own to the Wallace Collection, a short walk from our London base. There, Vicky viewed and photographed a miniature of Wellington done by Jean-Baptiste Isabey. The Collection’s website offers the following background: After Napoleon’s abdication in 1814 he painted the Emperor’s former enemies, including Prince August of Prussia (miniature also displayed in this case) and the Duke of Wellington (1769-1852). The following year the Duke was to be the victor at the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon’s final defeat after his return to France from exile on the island of Elba. The first meeting between Isabey and Wellington took place in Paris, but there were further sittings in Vienna when Wellington was one of the representatives at the congress which determined the future political composition of Europe. According to Isabey himself, when Wellington first came to his studio in Paris, he ‘treated me in a manner so unceremonious and British that I was obliged to refuse flatly the honour of painting his august features. When he realised that I had found him rude, he came again accompanied by the Duchess de Santa Cruz, and I consented to paint his portrait after all.’

The Duke, who during his long life was to sit for countless portraits, was often a generous patron but was also notorious for his often brusque way with artists. By adopting a low viewpoint Isabey has effectively conveyed the hauteur of his sitter. The Wallace Collection’s version of the original (now lost) miniature is dated 1818 and shows Wellington wearing some of his many decorations: the ribbon and jewel of the Golden Fleece, the Peninsular Gold Cross and the sta
r and badge of the Order of the Tower and Sword of Portugal. The splendid frame is decorated round the edge with the chain of the Order of the Garter and is surmounted by a trophy comprising a sword, a baton, two flags and a ducal coronet on a cushion; at the bottom is the letter W on a banner.
The miniature was bought by the 4th Marquess of Hertford, father of Sir Richard Wallace, at auction in Paris in 1852. Lord Hertford collected objects with Napoleonic associations, as many of the paintings and miniatures in this gallery demonstrate, but he was also deeply interested in the Duke of Wellington. His friend Colonel Gurwood was the Duke’s secretary. Both men are shown in a painting by Andrew Morton on display in the Front Hall of the Wallace Collection.
A photo of this painting taken by Vicky appears below.
Part Two of On The Wellington Trail coming soon . . . . . .

A Bird, a Tourist and a Camera

There once was a rather shy bird named Francois, who lived in a beautiful park by the Eiffel Tower. One day, Francois heard a pesky tourist coming closer, so he ducked behind some flowers.

Eh, it’s only another American lady with a camera, thought Francois.  
Francois decided that he might as well climb out onto the rock beside his lake and take a closer look.

Pish! Do ze tourists have nothing better to do? Why don’t zey go and sit by a lake instead?
Perhaps, thought Francois, if I turn my back on her she’ll get ze hint and go away.

Heh, what’s that? Ze lady says I’m a very handsome bird. . . allors, I am a handsome bird, non?
I am quite handsome from ze front . . .
and from ze left . . . . .
and also from ze right . . . . hey! Hey, American lady, where do you go? Francois has many good sides left, come back! You don’t want anymore photos of that stupid Tower. Come back, mon cher  . . . . . . . . !