What We Saw At Waterloo – June 19, 2010

In 2010, Victoria Hinshaw and I both crossed an item off our respective bucket lists by attending the re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo. We began in Brussels, toured some of the ancillary battles sites, including the village of Waterloo and La Belle Alliance and then we visited the camps which the re-enactors had set up, beginning with the Allied camp. Our first glimpse of the site was at Hougoumont. Here are some highlights of our day –


The grounds of the Chateau Hougoumont where the Allied re-enactors had set up their camp, complete with horses, trailers, tents and families.

The memorial reads: “To the memory of General Baudin who fell in front of these walls 18 June 1815.”  General Marechel de Camp Baudin was the bridgade commander who led the first assault on Hougoumont and was the first French general to die in the battle.

This is one of the women who were acting the role of a soldier, most of the others were cooks and camp-followers. The braids are decorative, but are they regulation?!

A view of the battlefield from the Chateau Hougoumont.

Some horses came with their own quarters.

Here is a Hussar engaging in every military man’s favorite exercise.

This uniform is carefully pressed with white gloves at the ready.

As we had previously visited the battle sites leading up to Waterloo (Quatre Bras, Ligny), we thought it only fitting to do a recce of the French encampment, centered around Le Caillou, where Napoleon slept the night before the battle.

This is how the building usually looks, but on the weekend of the 195th anniversary of the defeat of Napoleon, the museum here and the grounds were chock-a-block with French re-enactors for the Sunday battle.  They seemed amazingly upbeat though the outcome had been known for almost two centuries.

That’s Napoleon in the gray.

Shades of Marengo!
Poor old Field Marshal Ney, above and below, tried his darndest and for his efforts, he was shot for treason – but he had a very fancy uniform. The phrase “proud as a peacock” comes to mind.
Actually there were quite a few fancy uniforms among the French forces.
Elsewhere, the French attempted to uphold their reputation for exceptional cuisine.
The soldier does not seem to appreciate the lady’s cooking!
Above a few civilians who were at the French encampment.  When we suggested to the mademoiselles that they looked like characters from Jane Austen’s novels, they were aghast.  “Oh, non, non!” they exclaimed.
An example of French humour. Tres amusant.

The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, London

by Victoria Hinshaw

The Wallace Collection, located in what was Hertford House in Manchester Square, named after the Duke of Manchester, who built a house (then called Manchester House) on the north side in 1777, attracted by the good duck shooting in the area. In 1797 the 2nd Marquess of Hertford acquired the lease and it became known as Hertford House.

In the 19th century it was home to Sir Richard Wallace (1818–90), illegitimate son of the 4th Marquess, who displayed much of the Hertford family’s fabulous collection of fine and decorative arts here. In 1897 Lady Wallace left it to the nation as the Wallace Collection. You will find a short, introductory video by the Museum’s director here.

Hertford House today is a rare example of a London town house occupying the whole side of a garden square. Inside, the grand staircase, above, features a Louis XV balustrade that was made between 1733-41 for the Bibliotheque du Roi in the Palais Mazarin in Paris, being sold as scrap iron when acquired for Hertford House. Imagine!

Some of the rooms still retain the look of an elegant town house.  Above, the Front State Room holds portraits of royals and gentry.  On either side of the fireplace, the portraits are by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), on the left is Lady Elizabeth Seymour-Conway, and right, Frances, Countess of Lincoln.

Also in this room is a portrait of Queen Victoria by Thomas Sully (1783 – 1872), showing Victoria in her coronation robes, looking very young (she was nineteen) and lovely.

In fact, this one room is singular in that it contains so many of the iconic portraits known to Regency aficionados. For instance, Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769 – 1830) painted this stunning portrait of Margaret, Countess of Blessington, in 1822.  Margaret (1789–1849) led an interesting life, marrying twice. She was an intimate of the Count D’Orsay and a friend of Lord Byron.  She herself earned her living by writing for a time, but died in Paris, almost without funds.

John Hoppner (1758-1810) painted the Prince of Wales (later George IV) in 1792. In 1810, the Prince presented the portrait to the 3rd Marquess of Hertford, who held several court appointments and advised George on art. At the same time, the Marchioness of Hertford, mother of the 3rd Marquess,  was the Prince’s favorite  mistress.

If all this sounds incredibly confusing, welcome to the complicated story of the Seymour-Hertford family, their fantastic town house, their incredible art collection, and their involved relationships! Read more here.

Elsewhere in the Collection are further often seen portraits –

The Laughing Cavalier by Franz Hals, (c. 1580 – 1666)  one of the Wallace Collection’s most admired works.

Gainsborough painted Mary Robinson as Perdita, the role she played in Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. The Prince of Wales saw her on the stage and fell in love, his first rather public affair. Mary holds a miniature of him in her hand.
The Duke of Wellington with Colonel Gurwood at Apsley House

(working on the Despatches), by Andrew Morton.

However, the Wallace Collection is so much more than paintings.

There are two huge rooms displaying arms and armour from around the world.

And furniture, furnishings, clocks, miniatures and china,

amongst many other things.

A visit to the Wallace Collection is on the itinerary for Number One London’s Town and Country House Tour – details and full itinerary for the Tour can be found here.

Reproduction prints of many of the paintings featured above can be purchased directly from the Wallace Collection.


Since there has been so much interest in my recent mudlarking adventures with my pal, author Sue Ellen Welfonder this past September, I thought I’d re-run my very first post on the subject, originally published July 1, 2010:

Many, many (many) years ago, when I first began doing research into London history, I was intrigued to learn about the Mudlarks of London, people from the poorer classes, typically children and the elderly, who scavenged along the banks of the River Thames at low tide looking for anything remotely valuable – clothing, coal, coins, pottery, items that had fallen off of ships and barges, etc etc. – that they could turn around and sell to the rag and bone man in order to earn enough for a meal. Mudlarking was considered to be lowest rung on the scavenger’s ladder, so it was with great surprise, and a lot of pleasure, that I found myself actually mudlarking during my jaunt in London.

Having roamed the streets and gardens of London proper and venturing as far north as Hampstead and as far west as Windsor, my daughter, Brooke, and I turned our attention one day to the area of London south of the River – to Southwark, that once desperate area known for being the den of drunken sailors, thieves, prostitutes, cut throats and the Clink Prison – now a really tacky tourist trap.

As we were walking along the River on the Queen’s Walk, a pedestrian promenade located on the South  Bank of the River between Lambeth Bridge and Tower Bridge, we came upon stone steps leading down to the River. The tide was out, exposing what appeared to be a rocky beach of sorts.  We made our way down and, uncertain as to whether or not we were actually allowed down there, tentatively began to walk towards the shore.

You can see the usual high water mark from the algae line in the photo above. I stood there gazing at this rare view of the River with it’s beach exposed, recalling all I’d read about the long ago mudlarks. As I looked at St. Paul’s Cathedral on the distant shoreline, my heart skipped a beat as I realized that this was one of those moments I’d remember always – to be able to, for a moment, at a distance of centuries – walk in the mudlark’s shoes, to see the River as they’d seen it, to feel, as they must have done, as though I were somewhere I shouldn’t be, doing something I shouldn’t be doing, but compelled to carry on.
As I was telling Brooke the tale of the mudlarks, I glanced down at the sand and saw a shard of blue and white pottery. Holding it up, I showed Brooke. Where had it come from, she asked. Who knows, said I (with infinite motherly wisdom). Honestly, it could have washed up last week or last century. Or two centuries ago. Before I knew it, I’d spied another shard, and another. I was off, while my daughter rolled her eyes, telling me that she couldn’t believe I was actually garbage picking on the beach. Treasure hunting, I said, correcting her. I told her that many valuable objects were known to have washed up from the Thames – Medieval stuff,  Restoration gee gaws, Georgian trash, even. As if to prove my point, at that moment I found a bone. Really. A dried out animal bone. Maybe the leg bone of a dog. Fascinated, Brooke stepped in for a closer look. Is it new? she asked. Nah, I replied sagely, look, the bone and the marrow are all dried out. What’s it from? she asked. Some small animal, like a dog, I said as I gingerly let the bone fall to the sand. Of course, had the bone come complete with a tag that read “Authentic Leg Bone of a Regency Era Dog” I would have kept it, but the bone had done it’s trick – now Brooke had gotten scavenger fever. For about an hour we combed the beach until I noted (again with great wisdom) that the tide was beginning to turn and come back in. By this time, I’d amassed a bagful of blue and white pottery shards, one of them complete with the full figure of a robed Oriental person. I will put these shards in a bowl at home, with a note beneath them that reads “Found on banks of Thames River June 2010” and will occasionally sift through each one and remember with great fondness the day I became a mudlark. Here
‘s a photo of the sign above the bridge we were scavenging beneath –

Leaving the sand and returning to the streets of Southwark, Brooke and I came upon a pub called . . . The Mudlark (4 Montague Close, Southwark, London SE1 9DA). I later found out that today there’s a London-based Society of Thames Mudlarks, who are granted a special license by the Port of London to excavate the beach and who must turn over finds of historic importance to the Museum of London, whose holdings include the Cheapside Hoard, an eye-popping collection of 400 pieces of Elizabethan and Jacobean jewelry, dating back to between 1560 and 1630. The hoard was probably buried in the early 17th century and discovered in 1912, by workmen digging in a cellar in the neighborhood of Cheapside. Which is why there are now lots of regulations surrounding mudlarking about which Brooke and I were blissfully unaware.

It seems that journalist Nick Curtis took to the sand by the Thames himself and wrote about his own mudlarking adventure in the London Evening Standard. Here’s a portion of his article:

My day begins with the early morning low tide, in the mud of the foreshore near Custom House on the north bank near the Tower of London. Here, with commuters trudging above, I meet Ian Smith, a leading member of London’s loose community of mudlarks. Ian deals in antiques but he’s been combing the banks of the Thames for fun since the 1970s. When we meet, he’s hip deep in a muddy hole.

Anyone can wander down to the foreshore and pick up objects from the surface, but you need a licence from the Port of London Authority to dig or to sift. “Treasure” is the property of the Crown, although, as Ian says, no one would ever deliberately conceal valuables on a silty tidal foreshore. Plus, things don’t wash up from the river, they wash out from the land. Finds of historic interest are shown to the Port Antiquities Scheme’s finds liaison officer and archaeologist Kate Sumnall and, ideally, donated or sold to the collection of the Museum of London, where she works. Ian once found a hoard of counterfeit George II coins, and has donated several exquisite medieval pewter badges — lucky charms or pilgrims’ tokens — to the museum.

Even at first glance, there is tons of stuff on the shore. Victorian spikes, nails and barrel hoops, huge oyster shells and blackened animal bones and teeth. Once I’ve got my eye in, I also spot hundreds of clay pipe fragments. The smallest are the oldest, and were given away free in the 16th century with a tiny amount of the new and expensive import, tobacco. After just over an hour I’ve also found an ornate key, a stamped lead token, a pewter button and an iron flint striker for kindling fires.

Most of these are probably 17th or 18th century, but fragments of stoneware Bellarmine jars showing a bearded face — supposedly mocking an abstinent cardinal — might be from the 13th century. I’d love to search longer but time, and the Thames tide, wait for no mudlark.

Speaking of tides, Brooke and I stumbled upon the stairs at low tide, but if you want to plan your day around mudlarking, here’s a link to the Thames Tides Table.


Victoria here, telling you about how Kristine and I began our visit to the Battlefield of Waterloo in June 2010. We took the Eurostar from London to Brussels, an easy trip. After we checked into the Hotel Bedford (note very British name), our bus took us to Evere Cemetery, where we walked to the British Waterloo Monument, a huge memorial set atop a crypt.

It was commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1870, said to be the “first to honor the dead of a campaign, as opposed to the many memorials that commemorate a victory.”  Seventeen officers remains are buried here. It was dedicated in 1890.
Col. Sir William Howe de Lancey  and Lt. Col. the Hon Sir Alexander Gordon, ADC to the Duke of Wellington, are the highest ranking men buried here.
The pictures above and below were taken in the fall, with fewer leafy trees in the way.
Above you can see the door leading into the crypt. This was reached via very steep steps leading down from the lawn surrounding the monument.
The monument was designed by Belgian sculptor Count J. De Lalaing, whose talent is obvious in the life-like representations of the lions guarding the tombs and the way the fabric seems to flow as it drapes the tomb.
The inscription reads: “In memory of the British officers non-commissioned officers and men who fell during the Waterloo Campaign in 1815 and whose remains were transferred to this cemetery in 1889. This monument is erected by Her Britannic Majesty Queen Victoria, Empress of India, and by their countrymen on a site generously presented by the City of Brussels.” 
In 1815, this park in the upper town in Brussels would have been full of British and Allied soldiers. In fact, it is the very park through which the diarist Creevey used to pursue the Duke of Wellington in hopes of gaining some news of the expected battle. Time and again, the Duke confounded Creevey with his nonchalance about upcoming events and his apparently carefree attitude, prompting Creevey to write that he thought the Duke must be either mad or drunk. It never occurred to Creevey that the Duke wouldn’t dare tell him anything, as Creevey was well kno
wn to be a gossip who simply couldn’t keep his mouth shut.
A few years later, in 1830, some of the fighting for Belgium’s  independence from the Netherlands took place here in this lovely park.
Above is what we saw of the Duke of Wellington’s Headquarters in Brussells which was undergoing renovations during our visit. We couldn’t get a clue as to what the building looked like — unless it was a twin of the building on the left.
The two above photos above show the City Hall in the Grand Place in Brussels. Below is an image from the web which show’s the building’s location within the Plaza.
The entire Grand Place is surrounded by elegant buildings and filled with strollers and tourists rubber-necking at their baroque splendor.

Although we visited the site of the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball, it now contains an ordinary office building and I didn’t even bother to take a picture. The painting above hangs at Goodwood House, country home of the Dukes of Richmond.

 Unfortunately, the modern world has obscured many of the features of the city from the 18th and early 19th centuries, but we were certainly thrilled to have stood in these places and to cast our minds’ eye back to what it must have been like in 1815.

The London and Waterloo Tour – Victoria and Albert: Art in Love at the Queen’s Gallery

Victoria and I are looking forward to the Victoria and Albert: Art in Love exhibit at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace. The Exhibition features 400 items from The Royal Collection including gifts exchanged by Victoria and Albert such as drawings, paintings, sculpture, furniture, musical scores and jewellery and encompasses their mutual love of music and art. The display also touches upon Prince Albert’s work on ‘The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations in 1851’ as well Queen Victoria in the years after Albert’s death in 1861.

Works by the couple’s favorite artist, Franz Xaver Winterhalter, are on display, as are photographs taken of the Royal couple. A German painter first recommended to Queen Victoria by Louise, Queen of the Belgians, Winterhalter came to England in 1842 and subsequently worked regularly for the queen and her family over the next two decades. Winterhalter was granted the largest number of royal commissions and produced numerous formal portraits, including the one pictured above, which Queen Victoria commissioned in 1843 as a surprise for her husband’s 24th birthday. The artist presents the Queen in an intimate pose, leaning against a red cushion with her hair half unravelled from its fashionable knot.

Winterhalter (at left) was born in the Grand Duchy of Baden in 1805. He excelled at painting and drawing as a teen and went to Munich where he studied at the Academy of Arts. By the late 1830’s he drew attention as a painter of royal subjects. He traveled and painted in almost every court of Europe until the last few years of his life. Though art critics were never very enthusiastic about his work, his portraits were well executed and conveniently flattering.


Costumes are also displayed in the exhibit, including Queen Victoria’s costume for the 1851 Stuart Ball  designed by French artist Eugène Lami. The French silk gown is rich in lace and brocade.
You can take a really in-depth video tour of the exhibition here and/or visit the Royal Collection website.


Winterhalter’s The First of May 1851, at right,  shows the Duke of Wellington presenting a casket to his one-year-old godson, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, who is supported by Queen Victoria. Behind these figures and forming the apex of a pyramidal composition is Prince Albert, half looking over his shoulder towards the Crystal Palace in the left background. Both the Duke of Wellington and Prince Albert are dressed in the uniform of Field Marshal and wear the Order of the Garter. The painting derives its title from the fact that both the Duke of Wellington and Prince Arthur were born on 1 May, which was also the date of the inauguration of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park.
 The painting was commissioned by Queen Victoria, but Winterhalter clearly encountered some difficulties in devising an appropriate composition. In the queen’s words, he ‘did not seem to know how to carry it out’ and it was Prince Albert ‘with his wonderful knowledge and taste’ who gave Winterhalter the idea of using a casket, instead of the gold cup the Duke had actually presented to the child. The painting hangs at the Duke’s country home, Stratfield Saye.

Above, Victoria and Albert with their children in 1846, Buckingham Palace