A Couple In England – Day Four – Part One

No doubt you’ll be shocked to learn that the Hubby and I began Day Four as we had every other day – at Caffe Nero. By this time, we’d gotten a frequent purchase card and were well on our way to getting our tenth cup free. Once again, we took our coffees to a table outside, where we drank up, lit up, woke up and discussed our day.
“Apsley House.”

“Oh, God. Here we go.”
“You can’t listen to everything Brooke says about Apsley House,” I advised him. “I promise you it won’t be that bad.” Before we’d left for England, my daughter, Brooke, had warned Hubby against Apsley House, using words like boring, torture and never again.. In her defence, I do tend to drag her along to Apsley House whenever we’re in London. “All I ask is that you go once. Just once. And then I promise I’ll never take you there again.” I smiled at him over the rim of my cardboard cup. “Look, I only ask for fourteen days in England out of every two years, on average. That’s not much to ask, huh? You can put up with England for my sake, surely? And today is Apsley House, or as Victoria and I refer to it, the Holy of Holies.”
“Okay, okay. What’s at Apsley House, anyway?”
“Oh, well, where to start? There’s great stuff to see at Apsley House, even before you get inside.”

“Like what?”

“Well, for a start, if there’s a Rolls Royce out front when we get there, then that will mean that the Duke of Wellington is in residence.”

“Yeah, right. Har har.”
“The present Duke. Not Artie.”
“There’s still a Duke of Wellington?”
Sigh. “The king is dead, long live the king. God willing, there will always be a Duke of Wellington. It’s an hereditary title. It gets passed down through the generations. I mean, it’s one of the family titles that’s passed down. Artie was also the Marquess of Douro and Viscount Wellington. Then there’s an Irish peerage, Mornington, which passed down from his brother to the Dukes of Wellington in 1863, so obviously Artie never held that title himself.”
“Oh, obviously. My good man.”
Sigh. I suppose I won’t go into the Duke’s foreign titles with Hubby. “The present Duke is the 8th Duke of Wellington. His son is the Marquess of Douro and his grandson is the Earl of Mornington. He’s married to Jemma Kidd, the make up artist.”
“The Duke is married to a make up artist?”
“Lord Mornington is married to her. The Duke is a widower. It must be awful being any Duke of Wellington other than the first,” I mused.
“Why’s that?”
“Well, there’s no way you can live up to the first Duke, is there? In fact, when Artie was old and frail, someone mentioned to his son, also named Arthur, that he should prepare himself for becoming the next Duke of Wellington. And he said something along the lines of `imagine what a disappointment it will be when they announce the Duke of Wellington and only I appear.'”

“So, remember when we went to Buckingham Palace and I recognized that portrait of Richard Wellesley?”
“Yeah, that was great.”
“Well, after Waterloo, the nation wanted to honour Wellington by building him a grand estate, along the lines of Blenheim Palace, which was built for the Duke of Marlborough after his military victory. Artie saw no harm in this plan and even went out to Blenheim to see it for himself. Well! He took one look at it and put his foot down. He didn’t want anything remotely that size. Artie was nothing if not practical and he could visualize the enormous financial burden something that size would place on future generations.”

“Besides, Artie was very down to earth. He didn’t want to live in a palace, he wouldn’t have been comfortable. You know, in a way, you could say that Wellington was the first British rock star.”
“Played the electric guitar, did he?”
“After his victory at Waterloo, he was swarmed by crowds wherever he went,” I said, ignoring Hubby’s remark. “Wellington had to be surrounded by a contingent of guards who tried to keep the public at bay. Women would weep when they saw him and try to grab at him and kiss him, or tear off pieces off his clothing as souveniers.”
“No joke. Even years later, he was revered. One day he went to some public function and there was an old soldier on the door. The old guy went on and on to the Duke, saying as how he’d never imagined he’d ever get to lay eyes upon the great Duke of Wellington, much less have the honour of opening the door for him. Wellington looked him square in the eye and told him not to be such an idiot. He could never understand the idolatry he received.”
“Back to Apsley House. The guy in the portrait at Buckingham Palace was Artie’s elder brother, Richard. Unlike Wellington himself, Richard was a bit of a spend thrift, always finding himself in debt. He had bought Apsley House for himself, but then found himself in straightened times. He needed to sell it, it was far too expensive for him to run, and Wellington needed a London base. To
his mind, Apsley House was as good a place as any, so he gave Richard a very fair price for the house and thus helped his brother out of debt and got himself a London residence. Two birds with one stone. That was Wellington to a T.”
“What’s ironic is that Stratfield Saye, the house that the Country did eventually build for Wellington, is still pretty much self-sustaining and it’s Apsley House that became cost prohibitive in the end. The Duke of Wellington gave it over to English Heritage, with the provision that the family still has quarters there and uses it as a residence. You ready to see it?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” said Hubby with a sigh.
Part Two Coming Soon!

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