David Wilke’s famous painting, Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Waterloo Dispatch, was commissioned by the Duke of Wellington and completed in 1822, when it was shown at the Royal Academy and was so popular that railings had to be put up to protect it. The painting celebrated the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the Duke asked Wilkie for a picture of old soldiers outside a public house. It was Wilkie who chose the Royal Hospital at Chelsea as a setting. Nothing could have been more fitting – by 1815 there were more than 30,000 Chelsea pensioners, soldiers who were discharged as unfit for further duty because of injury. Most received cash payments and did not live at Chelsea. Many had served with the Duke of Wellington, whose body lay in state in 1852 in the Great Hall of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.
As the Royal Hospital Chelsea website says: There are few institutions in the United Kingdom with an unbroken three centuries of service and none of them is so close to the heart of the nation as “The Men in Scarlet”, the Chelsea Pensioners, and their home, the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Founded in 1682 by King Charles II and intended for the ‘succour and relief of veterans broken by age and war’, the Royal Hospital, with its Grade 1 listed buildings, still serves its original purpose and intends to continue to further its role well into the 21st Century.
The painting still hangs at Apsley House and is on public display.
Victoria on the Rhine Crusie here — Today we go to Heidelberg, the setting of that great romantic operetta and film, The Student Prince.
I heard on CNN that France is going on strike — so Kristine and Brooke are probably in the middle of it. I suppose they’ll just have to go shopping…
Yesterday we cruised the middle Rhine and saw dozens of castles, and many, many vineyards. I am surprised at how agricultural the shores are — though there are many big cities too. The weather was warm and sunny, perfect for sitting outside until we finally decided we were getting burned and needed to go into the lounge. In the afternoon we stopped at the village of Rudesheim, center of the wine growing region, and we strolled the quaint town, full of souvenir shops and restaurants. Stopped for a glass of Rhine wine and it was delicious — ordinarily I find it too sweet, but they can make it quite dry too apparently.
Loved the World Cup results — both England and the US into the sixteen. And SO happy that So. Africa beat the French. Good heavens, I have turned into a sports fan. But you can’t escape it in England, Belgium, the Netherlands or Germany. Crazy.
Today we go by bus 30 mins from the Rhine to Heidelberg which I am eager to see. Student Prince and all that. Remember the movie with Edmund Purdum acting and lip syncing to Mario Lanza’s Voice?
From Victoria: We are cruising down the Rhine toward Koln, aka Colonge, after visiting Kinderdijk in Holland. We saw a group of 19 windmills dating from the mid 18th century which helped hold back the sea — or as the guide said, “kept our feet dry.” Now diesel and electric pumps do the job. The windmills are a UNESCO world heritage sight, and one is working to show how they pumped the water. We saw the little kitchen, bedroom and living room where the miller raised his family. I decided not to try the steep stairs up any higher. All very picturesque.
Kristine and Brooke are in Paris I assume and must be loving it. For me, it is quite relaxing on the ship after the mad flurry of activity that was our first week in London and Waterloo. Believe me, I need the rest!! After all, I have that one full day left in London on our way home and my list of things to do is growing.
Victoria here with time for just a note. Yesterday, we roamed the various sites of battles here, at Ligny, Quatre Bras, Wavre, etc. Also visited Napoleon’s headquarters at Caillou, then La Belle Alliance, and numerous vistas of the battlefield known as Waterloo, well south of the village where Wellington spent the night before the fight.
Finally we arrived at the Lion Mount and Panorama, already exhausted and in definite need of spirits and food!! We had seen the reenactors for the French army in splendid unniforms, camped (bivouaced) near Caillou. All around the various memorials, etc. were more unifored men and women, some in men’s uniforms, others as wives and/or camp followers, cooks, provision-cart drivers and so forth.
So nature’s necessities being what they are we stopped for an Italian (!) late lunch at the battlefield and then went to — you guessed it — the Gift Shop! It was also the Visitor’s Center — and you will be appalled to know that Napoleonic trinkets ( and there were thousands) filled the shelves — hardly anything was devoted to the British victors and Wellingon might as well have stayed hone for all the homage he gets here!!!
Eventually we slogged through a muddy field (it rained on and off, just to prove its authenticity) and reached the Chateau of Hougoumont where the British and Allied forces were bivouaced. We finally saw OUR redcoats, along with the Black Watch, the Hanoverians, lots of Belgians, etc. with their horses tents, fires, and dogs.
We hope some of the pictures turn out. Kristine is off today to the reenactment and the Wellington Museum — which ought to have some memorabilia worth seeing — while Ed and I must get a train north. Hate to miss this morning, but there are thousands of people and wild traffic jams, so Ed and I are foregoing the reenactment in favor of making our cruise this afternoon.
Kristine here – it’s about 8 in the morning and we’re packing up for Brussels. Meeting the tour at St. Pancras station at 10 and then it’s off to three days of Artie-ness. Speaking of which, went to lunch with Brooke yesterday at a pub called the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo, as it’s near Waterloo Station. There was a mural on the barrel vaulted ceiling of the Battle – of which I took pictures. We also walked Regent Street and Piccadilly and then we walked the River on the South Bank from Waterloo Station to Tower Bridge. The tide was out and there were stairs frrom the Queen’s Walk down to the sand beside the river and Brooke and I went down and turned into mudlarks, picking through the stones and shells to find the good bits, in this case lots of shards of blue and white pottery. I found one with the picture of a Chinaman and some decorative embellishment still intact and picked up enough shards to fill a small baggy. My souvenier of the River Thames. Thank goodness today entails the Eurostar and a private coach, which means that we won’t be walking too terribly much until tonight, when we walk Wellington’s Brussells. A good long ride and some much needed rest for the feet! We continue to go at a mad pace, trying to get in as much as possible each day, but needless to say, we are quite happy and more than a little content. More soon . . . . .