When I first heard that BBC2 were at least going to produce a (vastly overdue) documentary, I let out a hearty Huzzah! And then I began reading bits and pieces on what the film would actually be – a titilating account that would lean heavily towards his reputation “as a rutting stag.” Huh? The production-powers-that-be did research into Wellington, his military and political careers, his value to the British Crown through four monarchs, his achievements as a whole and decided to go with his love life instead? Aaaarrrgghhhh!

Now don’t misunderstand, I’ve been studying Wellington’s women along with Victoria and Jo Manning for decades. There’s some great stuff there, but given the chance to highlight Wellington in a documentary (finally!) I would have chosen to go in a different direction. And with a different actor to play Wellington. Don’t get me wrong, Richard E. Grant is a fine actor, but embodies none of Wellington’s looks.

The programe introduces Wellington’s perceived cruelty towards his wife, Kitty, but gives no hint as to the acrimonious underpinnings of their relationship – the secret mistake Kitty had made early in their marriage that put the first cracks in the bedrock of their marriage. More followed. However,  to date no one, not a single Wellington historian, not even the author amongst the Wellesley, Lady Jane, has offered up a single concrete detail about the underlying cause for their rift. A book called, Wellington’s Wife, written by a self professed intimate of the family is, perhaps, the book that says the least about their relationship. The second Duke, admittedly, consigned to the fire the cruelest of Wellington’s letters to Kitty, so that the ability to say that all documentation about this facet of their lives helps the present day family to preserve what sanctity there was in that marriage. However, I maintain that some items that could shed light on the problems still remain and that, if they truly do not, the Family, at least, know the reasons and have chosen to keep these, or corroborating family lore, to themselves. Which is, after all, their right.

The best parts are the participation of the newest Duke of Wellington and historian Dan Snow.

After actually watching the show, I must say that it was less terrible than I’d feard and more well rounded than I had been lead to believe beforehand. I still hold out hope that someone with the talent necessary will tell this a rich and long story, following the whole of Wellington’s fascinating life.

You can watch the hour long program here.
You can read a review of the program from The Telegraph here. 
You will find another hour long documentary on Wellington here, presented by author and historian Richard Holmes. which keeps it focus upon Wellington’s accomplishments and influences upon the people, places and events of his lifetimel


Today we pay tribute to the war horses who fought on both sides during the Battle of Waterloo. If you read through the lists of Regiments who fought at the Battle, you will find that most had a veterinary surgeon assigned to their ranks. For all practical purposes, in the aftermath of the Battle there were hardly enough medical staff to care for the human wounded – hospitals were sadly understaffed and medical supplies lacking. The sheer number of wounded overwhelmed even the most dedicated of the medical staff attached to Wellington, the Allies and the French. Many horses were so badly maimed or wounded that they could not be saved, nor could they be allowed to suffer. Many soldiers who had just witnessed the most horrific human casualties on the battlefield still found the heart to put their equine brothers in arms out of their misery in the hours after the Battle.

Of course, there is no visual record of the bonds that were forged between soldiers and their mounts at Waterloo other than, perhaps, the Duke of Wellington’s own bond that was forged with his horse, Copenhagen, with whom he shared command during the Battle. After living out his retirement at the Duke’s country estate, Stratfield Saye in Hampshire, Copenhagen was buried with full military honours, his grave and tombstone still to be seen on the property.

Pure History Specials: War Horse – The Real Story (60 minutes) is a superbly made documentary that uses period film, first hand accounts and historians to tell the story of how the soldiers of World War I lived, cared for and fought with their horses and sheds light on the day to day bond they shared and the attachments they forged with these equine brothers, and sisters, in arms.  Though WWI took place one hundred years after Waterloo, we can’t help but believe that things hadn’t changed all that much during the intervening century and that what held true in 1815 held true in 1914.

Here is a five minute clip of the British Heavy Cavalry from the film Waterloo (1970) with Christopher Plummer as Wellington.


Face to Face: Dame Rosalind Savill in conversation with the Duke of Wellington

B1 Monday 15th June, 2.30pm – 5.00pm
In this conversation Dame Rosalind and the 9th Duke of Wellington will consider the Battle of Waterloo and the bicentenary celebrations at Apsley House, its collections and the artistic legacy of the 1st Duke of Wellington.
For Charles, 9th Duke of Wellington, 18 June 2015 is a stupendous day, celebrating the bicentenary of the 1st Duke’s defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. The 1st Duke bought Apsley House at Hyde Park Corner in 1817 as a showpiece for the extraordinary paintings and works of art bestowed on him by the grateful nations of Europe, and today it is the home of the present Duke and his family. The Duke takes a keen curatorial interest in its intimate magnificence, and his passion for the works of art it contains includes the urge to fill it with even more treasures than it has now. This discussion will consider how these collections still represent a remarkable era in our national history, and how vital the family’s interest is in the continuing success of Apsley House.
Prior to the above conversation Dame Rosalind will introduce the historian Count Adam Zamoyski who will lecture on “Napoleon – The Man and the Phenomenon”. Count Zamoyski is the author of several books on the Napoleonic era.
There will be a brief interval between the lecture and the conversation with the Duke of Wellington

“Napoleon – the Man and the Phenomenon”

The story of Napoleon is epic: a little backwoodsman from Corsica became emperor of the French and dominated Europe, creating and dismissing kings, redrawing the map of the Continent and laying down laws which govern most of it today. Although he was a brilliant strategist with extraordinary intellectual powers and a prodigious capacity for work, Napoleon could never have achieved this on his own. As well as being its leader, he was the figurehead and the conduit for a great movement of national regeneration, political, intellectual, cultural and social, which grew out of the bloody crucible of the Revolution and created not just modern France but much of the Europe of today. The most brilliant men of the time, soldiers, statesmen, scientists and artists combined in this extraordinary enterprise. As established religion had been discredited and pushed out of public life in the course of the eighteenth century, they took their moral cue from antiquity: the Age of neo-Classicism was not merely something affecting the arts and architecture, it was a harking back to the heroic times when everything was possible, great men were demigods and a new world could be created.
Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign, which laid the foundations of Egyptology, his looting of works of art from all over Europe, his foundation of the Louvre, his promotion of the empire style in manufacturing, his patronage of the Sevres porcelain works and his monumental building projects were all part of this grand vision.


Go back to 1815 with the National Army Museum’s pop-up pub. Marking the 200-year anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 2015 the National Army Museum is launching a touring pub, aptly named the Duke of Wellington, to educate and entertain families and budding historians around the country.

The pop-up pub will be starting its journey at Waterloo Station on 1 May 2015, where Napoleonic soldiers will serve commuters pints of history. The pub will then travel across the country – serving up Waterloo facts to the nation. The Duke of Wellington pop-up pub will be visiting the following locations:

       Halifax: Woolshops Shopping Centre (9 May)
       Taunton: Castle Green (16 May)
       Liverpool: Paradise Place (28 May)
       Royal Norfolk County Show (1 and 2 July)
Inside this family-friendly pub are also a number of fun activities; each designed to teach a little more about Waterloo.

       Meet the publican, bar maid, soldier and civilian and hear them recount their stories from the time of Waterloo
       See if the styles of the time would have suited you by dressing up in period clothing
       Take the place of one of Wellington’s soldiers at the fun photoboard
       Play an iPad game offering brave souls the chance to try their luck on the Battlefield, and work their way up the ranks
       Pick up a ‘pint of information’ and a Waterloo medal sticker

New research released early this month from the National Army Museum revealed that three-quarters of Brits have little or no knowledge about the Battle of Waterloo. Just half of Brits know Wellington led the British Army at Waterloo and it showed that young people associate Waterloo with the London station, ABBA song and BBC’s Waterloo Road over the Battle.
The National Army Museum’s pop-up pub is the perfect way to ensure you know your Waterloo history in time for the bicentenary. Designed to replicate pubs from the early 19th Century, visitors will be greeted by one of a number of period characters all with their own Waterloo tales to tell. Find out what Waterloo was like for those who affected by the Battle. Meet Private Edward Dooley, a returning solider, whose battalion was very inexperienced and known for recruiting underage soldiers into their ranks.  Or John Harrison, a 19th Century farm labourer who refused to join the army a year before the Battle. Visitors may even come across the Joseph Hill, the publican and ex solider, or his barmaid Elizabeth McMullen, whose husband was badly wounded at the Battle.

All newly qualified Waterloo experts will be served up a ‘pint of information’ and given a Waterloo Medal sticker to take away with them. Furthermore, for one lucky gamer there’s even a chance to win a trip for four people to stay on the battle ground at Hougoumont, Belgium, courtesy of The Landmark Trust and Eurostar.

The Battle of Waterloo was the first time soldiers were awarded with a medal and pension. Upon returning home, a number of soldiers used their pensions to open their own pubs. These publicans named their pubs after Waterloo related events – ever drunk in The Calvary Arms, The Cannon or The Wellington? – these are all nods to Waterloo.

The Duke of Wellington Pop-Up Pub tour is a part of the Waterloo Lives programme from the National Army Museum, offering a number of entertaining and educational events across the country, including exhibitions, art displays and lectures.

The Battle of Waterloo took place on 18 June 1815, when the British and Prussian forces, under the command of Duke of Wellington, halted the advance of French Army in Belgium. The bloody battle claimed the lives of 65,000 of the 200,000 men that took part, and saw the defeat of Napoleon, ending his reign as Emperor of France and ushering in a period of peace following years of war in Europe.
The National Army Museum is commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo with a this with a nationwide programme of events, activities and displays, under the theme ‘Waterloo Lives’. This stream of events aims to bring Waterloo to life through the stories of those who fought in the Battle. Through family-friendly and captivating activities NAM hopes to educate Britons of all ages about the importance of Waterloo. The events include a number of Pop Up activities and regimental museum exhibitions.

For more information about the National Army Museum’s Waterloo Lives programme, or to learn more about the Battle through digital gallery of 200 objects please visit www.waterloo200.org

The Pop-Up Pub activity and Waterloo Lives programme is part of the National Army Museum’s ‘Building for the Future’ project, which has been generously funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. 

About the National Army Museum:
Founded in 1960 by Royal Charter, the National Army Museum was established for the purpose of collecting, preserving and exhibiting objects and records relating to the Land Forces of the British Crown.
The Museum seeks to tell the story of the British Army and the personal experiences of the soldiers who have served in it. Working to inspire, challenge and educate, the Museum aims to connect the British public and its Army, demonstrating how the role of the Army and its actions are still relevant today. 
HM The Queen opened the National Army Museum in 1970 but a major transformation, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund means the Museum’s site in Chelsea is currently closed until 2016.  In the meantime, visit: www.nam.ac.uk for a wealth of British Army history, research tools, learning facilities and details of outreach events around the country.
The Museum is now closed for preparatory activity for the project, set to reopen in 2016. For more information and updates on Building for the Future visit www.nam.ac.uk/future.
About Heritage Lottery Fund
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. HLF has supported 36,000 projects with £6bn across the UK. www.hlf.org.uk @heritagelottery


Actor Sean Bean has been spotted filming at Chatham’s Fort Amherst. The star joined dozens of re-enactors at the Napoleonic fort to make a Battle of Waterloo documentary.

Fort Amherst was used extensively during the filming of acclaimed television series Sharpe in the 1990s, which starred Sean Bean as Richard Sharpe, a fictional British soldier in the Napoleonic Wars.

Actor and director Sean Bean
Actor and director Sean Bean

He was back at the Fort in Dock Road to front the two-hour show to be aired on History UK.
Through the analysis of present-day military experts and the use of historical eyewitness accounts, the programme is planning to provide a ground-level perspective on the events of June 18, 1815.
It will air on the 200th anniversary of the battle in June this year.

Sean spent the day working with a team of soldiers and experts, testing the weapons and tactics that shaped the outcome of the battle. Guns and cannons were fired throughout the day. He said: “I am excited to be following the footsteps of Sharpe and those who fought in the Battle of Waterloo to tell the story of this iconic battle on History.”

Guns and cannons were fired throughout the day and could be heard all around Chatham during the filming on Sunday. Chairman of Fort Amherst Trust Les Snowdon said: “It was freezing cold but everyone stayed in great spirits all day, including Sean who arrived at 9.15am and didn’t leave until about 6pm.”

The Fort was filled with reenactors

The Fort was filled with re-enactors. Picture: Colin Davis

The filming at Fort Amherst
The filming at Fort Amherst. Picture: Colin Davis

Edmund Gulvin, a trustee and a Napoleonic re-enactor, enjoyed the day from start to finish.
He said: “It was amazing to see the artillery being used surrounded by so many uniformed soldiers.
“It really brought history alive – and as that’s one of our main objectives here at Fort Amherst we’re very grateful to the documentary makers for choosing our site for filming.”

Executive producer Patrick McGrady said: “We are excited to be embarking on a partnership with History to tell the story of Waterloo. “His interest in this period makes Sean Bean the perfect choice to present this special program.”

From the website The Mighty Bean:

Actor Sean Bean is to present a two-hour documentary marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo for pay-TV broadcaster History.

The A+E Networks UK channel has commissioned Wavelength Films, which produced BBC4’s Stephen Fry And The Gutenberg Press and Suggs’ Italian Job for Sky Arts, to make The Battle Of Waterloo Presented By Sean Bean (w/t).

It will air in June 2015 around the anniversary of the epic battle, in which Napoleon’s French Army was defeated in Belgium.
Game Of Thrones star Bean will be familiar with the story, having played Richard Sharpe in ITV’s Napoleonic War drama Sharpe, based on Bernard Cornwell’s novels about a fictional soldier.

History and H2 director of programming Rachel Job said Bean was top of the list of talent to front the documentary. “We didn’t go after him in a massive way because we thought he’s really busy and really famous, and then Wavelength came to us with him and the idea about Waterloo,” she said. “It’s about picking the subject matter that the talent wants to do, and he’s always been interested in Waterloo and the Napoleonic War.”

The Battle Of Waterloo Presented By Sean Bean will use evidence from eyewitness accounts alongside present-day military experts to tell the story of the battle. Bean will work with these experts to test the weapons and tactics that shaped the outcome of the conflict and compare them with modern strategies.

Job said the commission highlights History’s strategy of presenting traditional documentaries “through a different lens” and follows Bannockburn, a graphic novel-style film produced by Sky Vision and Arcadia Content.

The Battle Of Waterloo Presented By Sean Bean has also been prebought by History’s sister channels in Germany, Latin America, Italy, Iberia, Australia and New Zealand. Job said although it is a UK commission, these deals will help boost the show’s budget. “As soon as I mentioned it to the other channels, they jumped on it. Game Of Thrones is massive around the world,” she added. The doc begins filming in the UK and Belgium this month. It will be executive produced by Wavelength Films’ Patrick McGrady.