Commentary Explorer Results
Commentary for Volume 2, Chapter 24 Private Life, c1828–35
Wellington’s health, 1827-34:
January 1827: ‘The Duke has been ill ever since [the Duke of York’s funeral]; he got a chill from the cold, which was excessive, & has had a return of sickness & pain in his head. I have not seen him since, as he has kept his bed, but I hear he is better & meaning to get up.’ ‘the Duke [is] better but still weak & not quite right.’ (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 22 and 28 January 1827 vol 2 p 74).
November 1827: ‘He is in very good spirits, but for the last two days has had a tremendous cold.’ (Mrs Arbuthnot to Lady Shelley, 20 November 1827, Diary of Lady Shelley vol 2 p 167-8).
March 1828: ‘The Duke has been very unwell for three or four days with a bilious attack. He is better again but not well, and I am afraid his constant application to business, which prevents his getting any exercise, is bad for him. He hopes to get out of town at Easter for ten days, which I hope will set him to rights again.’ (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 15 March 1828 vol 2 p 168).
July 1828: ‘He is very well, I think, though thin and sometimes pale; but, thank God! Parliament ends on Friday, and then he will have some little leisure.’ (Mrs Arbuthnot to Lady Shelley, 21 July 1828, Diary of Lady Shelley vol 2 p 176).
September 1828: ‘He is really wonderfully improved by Cheltenham, has got a brown, healthy colour, and seems to have got his head and stomach quite right. I am sure he will get quite strong during the autumn, particularly if he will go on as he does now; that is to say, walking out before breakfast, and not going shooting till towards two o’clock, so as not to be tired.’ (Mrs Arbuthnot to Lady Shelley, 6 September 1828, Diary of Lady Shelley vol 2 p 180).
November 1828: ‘I am glad you thought the Duke looking well. There are moments when I fear he is fagged, and looks fatigued, but in good spirits.’ (Duchess of Wellington to Lady Shelley, 28 November 1828, Diary of Lady Shelley vol 2 p 184).
March 1829: ‘I went yesterday ev[enin]g to the Duke’s. He has a bad cold & does not go out.’ ‘The Duke has had a cold & been unwell and obliged to be blooded. He is better today.’ (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 8 and 10 March 1829 vol 2 p 250, 251).
September 1829: ‘I never saw a person so improved in health. He is now quite fat enough, looks strong & muscular & his face, instead of being pale & wrinkled, looks quite full & florid.’ (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 12 September 1829 vol 2 p 302).
January 1830 ‘He is very well, except a cold’ (Mrs Arbuthnot to Lady Shelley, 30 January 1830, Diary of Lady Shelley vol 2 p 197-8).
no date, but probably second half of 1831 or early 1832: Lady Shelley thanks Mrs Arbuthnot for warning her of the Duke’s increased deafness. ‘I remember how triste he was, and how melancholy became our dinner-table under similar circumstances, when he was suffering from that vile operation, and came here. But the recollection gives me hope that he may again recover – if not, you must persuade him to use a trumpet, which in Lady Lauderdale’s case prevents all the annoyance he now suffers from imperfect hearing, and not being able to be spoken to socco voce.’ (Lady Shelley to Mrs Arbuthnot, no date [1831-2], Diary of Lady Shelley vol 2 p 215-6).
December 1831 and January 1832: ‘When the Duke was here he had a very bad cold &, since he returned to town, he has been very ill. I hope he is a little better, but he writes in very low spirits & says he is still far from well.’ ‘He has been very ill & has never left London since he went there from Woodford.’ (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 12 December 1831 and 17 January 1832 vol 2 p 437, 439).
no date, probably December 1831 or January 1832: ‘I am not in London, which I wish I was, that I might try to be of some use in taking care of the Duke, and keeping him company…. Mr Arbuthnot is there, and writes me word he looks less ill than he expected. [Dr] Hume, who is, you know, in general a croaker, assures him there has never been the slightest danger; it is a very bad inflammatory cold, and he has had with it great depression of spirits, which is very unusual. They all say he is getting better, and I think he is, tho’ he does not yet think so himself.’ (Mrs Arbuthnot to Lady Shelley, no date, Diary of Lady Shelley vol 2 p 178).
This seems to have increased sharply in about 1831, coinciding with, and helping to cause, his unhappiness at that time. It then seems to have fluctuated oddly, with recurring spells when it would be very bad, and other times when it would be very much better. It caused him much annoyance and his friends considerable anxiety (see his letter to Mrs Arbuthnot of 22 October 1831 quoted in the main text). A little later, possibly in 1832 or 1833, Mrs Arbuthnot wrote to Lady Shelley: ‘I wish you would write and tell me how you thought him, and if his deafness is going off. I was somewhat unhappy about him when I left London; he was so very deaf, and complained of pain in his head. He writes me word that he is better…’ (Mrs Arbuthnot to Lady Shelley n.d. Diary of Lady Shelley vol 2 p 214-5).
Lord Ellesmere recalls ‘like most deaf people he talked loud, and he always talked with emphasis. I remember one day he had called to take me to Prince Metternich’s, and on our return his conversation along two or three streets was to the use and benefit of two well-dressed Belgravians, a lady and a gentleman, who followed us close. It was a Sunday and he might have been heard round Belgrave Square.’ (Ellesmere Personal Reminiscences of the Duke of Wellington p 132. See also Mrs Arbuthnot’s account of an argument with Wellington when walking in the Mall in 1828: ‘I thought the people on the Mall wd have thought he was mad, he talked so loud’ (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 16 November 1828 vol 2 p 220 quoted above in Chapter 15).
In 1838 Lady Salisbury noted that, ‘The Duke has an attack of deafness which has occasioned the debate in the House of Lords of tonight to be put off. He writes me word, however, that he is not otherwise ill.’ (Lady Salisbury’s diary 14 May 1838 Gascoyne Heiress p 283).
Wellington’s daily routine:
George Gleig gives the following account of Wellington’s daily routine at Walmer or Stratfield Saye in the early 1830s:
Though the Duke rose early, you never saw him on ordinary occasions till breakfast was served at ten o’clock. A great economist of time, he made short work of this meal, and returned immediately to his own room, which both at Strathfieldsaye and Walmer Castle served the double purpose of sleeping chamber and study. Of the narrow camp bed on which he slept at Walmer and the sofa which at Strathfieldsaye did duty as a couch I have elsewhere spoken … At two o’clock luncheon might or might not, according to the amount of business to be transacted, bring him forth again; but it rarely happened, at all events in the country, that he failed in the afternoon to take his exercise, sometimes on horseback, sometimes in an open carriage, and sometimes, if the weather were broken, on foot. …. In Kent a pack of harriers gave him great amusement. In Hampshire he hunted regularly with both Sir John Cope and the Vine hounds, contributing largely to their maintenance. (Gleig Personal Reminiscences p 284-5).
And Lord Mahon noted in June 1843 that ‘The Duke is now always up and out (for a walk) before seven in the morning.’ (Stanhope Notes 5 June 1843 p 296).
The pressure of business and how hard he worked:
Wellington wrote that he ‘considers himself under the necessity frequently being painful to him of reading every letter sent to him and of acknowledging his receipt.’ (Letter of 11 February 1829 quoted in Durham ‘Wellington and the People’ p 53. This study of the unsolicited letters Wellington received from, generally, unknown correspondents, shows that this was not an idle boast).
In July 1828 Mrs Arbuthnot wrote tartly to Lady Shelley: ‘As to his amusements, which you enquire about, they consist of going to the Treasury at noon, doing business till five, going to the House of Lords; dining – generally at dull places he don’t care about – then reading and writing papers till he goes to bed. What a life!’ (Mrs Arbuthnot to Lady Shelley, 21 July 1828, Diary of Lady Shelley vol 2 p 177). And in January 1830 she added ‘He is so busy that really, except upon politics, we hardly ever have any conversation, and if we don’t soon get matters so settled as that things will go on without his doing everything, I think it will kill him.’ (Mrs Arbuthnot to Lady Shelley, 30 January 1830, Diary of Lady Shelley vol 2 p 197).
In late 1833 he told Mrs Arbuthnot, ‘There is not a day of my life that I don’t send off fifteen to twenty Letters…’ (Wellington to Mrs Arbuthnot, Stratfield Saye, 14 December 1833, Wellington and His Friends p 109-111).
Dislike of assistance:
‘He had always been impatient of help in the performance of the operation, whatever it might be, in which he was engaged. He would not allow his servant to aid him in dressing or undressing. You could scarcely offend him more than by offering to hold his overcoat or button his cloak when he was getting ready to return from a ball or a rout. “Let me alone,” was the usual recognition of civility of some evident admirer, who sprang forward to help him out of a difficulty.’ (Gleig Personal Reminiscences p 336: but Gleig goes on to tell of an occasion when Wellington, seeing that his impatience had hurt the young man who was only trying to help, was gracious and made good the slight.)
Wellington did employ several secretaries, the best known of whom was Algernon Greville, son of Lady Charlotte Greville and brother of Charles Greville the diarist. There is also a passing reference in Stanhope’s Notes p 268 (28 March 1842) to ‘Mr Heriot, the Duke’s deaf secretary’.
An 1835 memorandum of Wellington’s assessed taxes show that he had:
27 male servants
3 four wheel carriages
1 two wheel carriage
9 other dogs
and was assessed as paying £165 10s 6d taxes on these
Lord Mahon noted, after Wellington’s illness in November 1839, ‘As to the servants – Kendall and Collins above all – nothing could exceed their attention and anxiety on this and the following days; indeed, I have observed not merely on this but on many former though common occasions, how warm is the attachment of this whole household to its master.’ (Stanhope Notes of Conversations 23 Nov 1839 p 203).
Wellington looks better in red than blue:
‘I thought the Beau looked horridly at the levee; but his uniform of the Blues plays the devil with him. He should be always in red.’ (Creevey to Miss Ord, 7 May  Creevey Papers p 615).
Wellington’s honours and insignia:
‘Of all his innumerable honours the Duke of Wellington prized most highly the two (both gained in early 1813) which were closely associated with chivalry: Knight of the Garter, and the Spanish Order of the Golden Fleece. On ceremonial occasions he usually confined himself to the insignia of these two orders and his portraits reflect this custom.’ (Benjamin Disraeli Letters vol 3 1838-41 p 21n: note by the editors).
Religion and Sunday observances:
When Lady Shelley returned to England in 1835 Wellington invited her to dine, commenting ‘I am not certain that you will meet anybody; as we are grown so good, that we don’t give dinners on Sundays!’ (Wellington to Lady Shelley, 29 May 1835, Diary of Lady Shelley vol 2 p 256). In 1849 Wellington wrote the Angela Burdett-Coutts:
I am much flattered by Your Desire to have my opinion. But I really do not think myself capable of giving a sound opinion on the subjects on which you have consulted me. I believe that Prayers to the Almighty in Private are as acceptable as they are in Church.
But the Law requires that we should all attend Divine Service in the Church of our Parish if possible; and I do so invariably excepting in London. My deafness and Liability to catch Cold in my Head and ears render it necessary to attend Divine Service in a Warmer place; one less exposed to draughts of Air than the Parish Church! I have been satisfied with attendance once a day because, my publick duties being very extensive, I find myself under the necessity of attending to them on Sundays, at times even till late in the night. I consider that the attendance at Divine Service in Publick is a Duty upon every individual in High Station, who has a large House and Many Servants, and whose example might Influence the Conduct of others. I have never thought it necessary to attend twice in the Day at any Time. But I may be altogether wrong; and I should be sorry to advise you to neglect a Duty which, if not necessary, cannot be otherwise than meritorious and cannot do you an Injury! (Wellington to Angela Burdett-Coutts, Walmer Castle, 11 September 1849 Wellington and His Friends p 279-80).
Appreciation of a good sermon:
Staying at Burghley, Lady Salisbury went to church at Stamford with a party including Wellington: ‘The Duke admired the sermon preached by Mr Porter, and said it was the best he ever heard in a country church. It was upon the necessity of religious principle in all classes to the welfare of a nation, but strictly religious in its tendency and not political. The Duke wished it might be printed. “That man understands what he is about; that is a sensible man.” (Lady Salisbury’s diary 10 January 1836 Gascoyne Heiress p 195-6).
Wellington’s attendance at the Chapel Royal in London:
Wellington did not entirely cease attending services at the Chapel Royal after his illness in 1822, and at the beginning of April 1838 Lady Salisbury noted in her diary that he ‘went this morning, as he frequently does, to the Chapel Royal at 8 o’clock – nobody there but himself and a girl of fifteen…’ (Lady Salisbury’s diary 1 April 1838 Gascoyne Heiress p 278).
Wellington’s dislike of church (box) pews:
‘After dinner the Duke spoke inter alia of church accommodation and extension, condemning the whole system of pews. He said that if space were wanted in Strathfieldsaye he should certainly offer to give up his pew, retaining only a chair for himself. “The system of a church establishment is,” added he, “that every clergyman should preach the word of God, and that every parishioner should be able to hear the word of God. Is it not then quite contrary to that system, that by means of handsome family pews twenty or thirty persons of rank should take up the space of two or three hundred?’ (Stanhope Notes 26 April 1840 p 234-5).
Wellington and Church music:
In May 1842 Wellington wrote to Lady Wilton from Stratfield Saye: ‘You cannot conceive how much our Church Musick is improved. They have lately had a Woman to lead the Children to sing, who had received lessons at Reading; not exactly according to Hullar’s or the best system, but she has herself the use of Her Voice, and she has taught them. I went yesterday to the Schools to hear the Children sing, and it was really very satisfactory. I propose to send the Woman to attend Hullar’s teaching in Exeter Hall, in order that she may proceed on a good system.’ (Wellington to Lady Wilton, 17 May 1842, Wellington and His Friends p 182-3.)
Wellington reading religious works:
In late 1840 Wellington told Lady Wilton: ‘I will send you tomorrow morning two Volumes of Keith. I recommend you to read first the one entitled Demonstration of the Truth of Christianity. It is the most interesting Work upon any Subject that I ever perused. I sit up half the night reading it. I cannot quit it…’ (Wellington to Lady Wilton, 20 December 1840, Wellington and His Friends p 153-4.)
Wellington’s reading of history:
Lady Salisbury noted in her diary in 1835 that ‘In the course of conversation [Wellington] was mentioning Clarendon’s History. “I have read it several times,” he said, “and I was reading it again the other day, and left it with a very unfavourable impression of Charles’s military talents, more so than I had at first been led to form.’ (Lady Salisbury’s diary, 8 September 1835, Gascoyne Heiress p 177).
In the same year he told Lord Mahon that, ‘The most curious book ever written perhaps is the Memoirs of James II. It is all extremely curious; by his own showing, he was a very weak fellow; but he had great skill nevertheless for the head of a department. His arrangements at the Ordnance were excellent.’ (Stanhope Notes of Conversations 29 September 1835 p 66).
In 1831 he said, ‘ “How very interesting are Marlborough’s letters in Coxe’s Life! I think he had more difficulty in dealing with his allies than I had; but I soon got the upper hand of them, while his gave him constant annoyance. On the other hand, I think I had more difficulties at hom than he had.’ (Stanhope Notes of Conversations 20 November 1831 p 30).
Two years later he told Mrs Arbuthnot, ‘I have been reading Horace Walpole’s Letters, which are very entertaining. It is quite remarkable how like we are now to what we were then.’ (Wellington to Mrs Arbuthnot, S. Saye, 29 November 1833 Wellington and His Friends p 108-9). While in 1843 Lord Mahon records that, ‘the Duke spoke in high praise of a book published this year by Mr Jones, tending to prove the descent of the Mexicans from the people of Tyre after the taking of that city by Alexander the Great. The Duke considers the proof to be most ably traced, and most fully established.’ (Stanhope Notes 5 November 1843 p 297).
In 1849 he told Angela Burdett-Coutts, ‘I have not perused what is called a Novel for a great length of time…’ and instead of recommending one mentioned a recently published book of travels in the United States by Mackay, and another book on the same subject by Francis Wyse.
Wellington’s dislike of poets:
He commented to Lady Salisbury on the callousness of doctors who had seen so many patients die: ‘“I do believe there is not a more unfeeling race of people upon earth than physicians and surgeons – except poets. Nothing like poets! They describe feelings beautifully, but I’ll be hanged if they ever had the sensation of one of them. Look at Lord Byron – he was the chief of them – and a more hard-hearted unfeeling wretch never existed.”’ (Lady Salisbury’s diary, 8 June 1837 Gascoyne Heiress p 240).
Wellington concerned about his finances, 1831-32:
In October 1831 he explained that his poor spirits were at least partly caused by the fact that ‘I am obliged to attend to my own pecuniary Affairs, which are becoming decayed. This never happened to me before, even when I was a Subaltern of the Army.’ (Wellington to Mrs Arbuthnot, 22 October 1831 Wellington and His Friends p 100). And a year later he wrote that
The truth is that from the time I had anything in the world, I had an officer to look after my affairs, and I never troubled myself about them. This ceased, of course, when I quitted the command of the troops in the field, and from that time forward I don’t think that any man every came near my affairs who did not think he had to deal with a mine of gold, of which he had only to participate to the amount that should suit himself. I must say I have not met many of the class which call themselves honest Englishmen, with much right to the title.
I was magnificently treated and provided for, but my affairs required a great deal of looking after, and good management. They have had none from me, and those who did undertake to look after them, with one exception abroad, did worse than neglect them. The consequence is I am now under the necessity of considering them seriously myself, and of giving a little attention to them. (Extract of a letter of 9 November 1832 printed in Ellesmere Personal Reminiscences p 136-7).
It is not clear who was the officer who looked after Wellington’s financial affairs when he was on active service: Colin Campbell may possibly have done so, although there is no indication that his role extended this far. William Wellesley-Pole looked after the London end of Wellington’s finances when he was in India and the Peninsula; and the Parliamentary grant was controlled by trustees. However the implication of the letter, that Wellington had previously neglected his finances and was only then (late 1832) giving them his attention, does not fit comfortably with accounts in other sources which suggest, for example, that he was personally involved in managing the household accounts from at least the late 1820s. The explanation may be that while Wellington took care of some aspects of his finances (e.g. household expenditure) he neglected others (possibly some sources of income).
The subject of Wellington’s finances has never been fully examined. The difficulties he faced in the early 1830s must have reflected the enormous expense of the alterations to Apsley House (discussed later in the chapter), and the Duke’s very extensive purchases of land, which would have made him feel that any problem was largely self-inflicted. According to an undated letter from Mrs Arbuthnot to her husband, ‘He talks again of being ruined by S[tratfield] Saye, if you see him do urge him to let every thing, it is nonsense keeping an acre as he fancies he must for his game.’ (Mrs Arbuthnot to Charles Arbuthnot, n.d. Arbuthnot Papers, 3029/2/1/49).
Wellington and Music and the Theatre:
According to Francis Leveson Gower:
His attention to music was notorious. It was shown in his regular attendance at the “Ancient Musics,” his listening to Lady Douro’s harp, Mrs Dyce Sombre, and other amateur singing, and his punctual appearance at the Opera when Jenny Lind was the prima donna.
He was a great admirer of Mrs Butler (Fanny Kemble), and constantly took a stall when she acted. When she acted in The Hunchback, in Belgrave Square, he told us he was engaged to the Beauforts to meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and that he would keep that engagement, provided they kept theirs, and that there were signs of dinner at the time specified in the invitation. He went, but finding no sign of dinner at a quarter to eight, very deliberately drove off to us, leaving them in the lurch, Royalties and all. (2nd June 1842) (Ellesmere Personal Reminiscences of the Duke of Wellington p 79).
He was a vice-president and trustee of the Royal Academy of Music (founded by Lord Burghersh in 1822), and is credited with bringing Giovanni Puzzi and a number of other musicians from Europe to England in the years after Waterloo where they had a considerable influence on British musical education and culture. (Durham ‘Wellington and the People’ p 183 for the Royal Academy of Music; Elizabeth Bradley Strauchen ‘Giovanni Puzzi: His Life and Work. A View of Horn Playing and Musical Life in England from 1817 into the Victorian Era (c. 1855)’ (D. Phil. at Somerville College, University of Oxford, 2000) p 2. Wellington – and Lady Shelley – appear as regular attendees at private concerts given by Puzzi (ibid p 79); and Strauchen describes Wellington and Lord Lonsdale as ‘two of Puzzi’s most substantial patrons’, suggesting that the Duke played a rather more active part in patronizing music in England at the time than has generally be recognized. Puzzi, along with Grisi, Tamburini and Vilotti entertained guests at Stratfield Saye in Easter Week, 1840, and it may be that Wellington could hear the notes of the horn more easily than other music despite his deafness (ibid p 83-85).
When Lord Mahon was staying at Stratfield Saye in the spring of 1840 with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, he noted in his journal:
Today arrived Madame Grisi, M. Tamburini, M. Puzzi, and M. Pilati, whom the Duke had engaged for the musical entertainment of the Royal party. Madame Grisi dined with us; the gentlemen, I believe, at four, on account of their voices; and in the evening we had a beautiful concert, attended by many of the neighbouring gentry. (Stanhope Notes 20 April 1840 p 229).
Wellington’s art collecting:
In the purchase of pictures the Duke always consulted Séguier till the death of that very worthy counselor. There is a picture now at Apsley House, a very good head by Velasquez, said to be a portrait of Quesado. This had been sold at Lady Stuart’s sale (mother to Lord Stuart de Rothesay), and was re-purchased at my suggestion from Smith of Bond Street, as a fitting addition to his Spanish pictures, but not without Ségurier’s advice. Lady Westmoreland, herself an artist, had, however, more influence than I had with him in matters of art… (Ellesmere Personal Reminiscences of the Duke of Wellington p 88).
William Seguier (1772-1843) became both Surveyor of the King’s Pictures (in 1820) and Keeper of the National Gallery (1824), and influenced the King’s purchases as well as Wellington’s, although Alastair Laing, in his entry on Segurier in the ODNB argues that Haydon’s criticism of the extent and nature of Seguier’s influence is both over-stated and misplaced. William Wellesley-Pole had employed him to catalogue the pictures Wellington sent home from Spain after Vitoria in 1813.
Gurwood told Benjamin Robert Haydon in 1840 that ‘the Duke keeps the key of the glass of his Corregio, and when the glass is foul, dusts it himself with his handkerchief.’ (Hayon Diary 25 June 1840 vol 4 p 643).
According to C. M. Kaufmann in his Catalogue of Paintings in the Wellington Museum ‘Wellington used as his agent [for purchases in Paris] Féréol Bonnemaison, painter, dealer and picture restorer, and his main purchases were at the La Peyrière sale in April 1817, where he bought nine pictures, and at the Le Rouge sale in April 1818 where he acquired twelve. … Wellington’s purchases at these sales, which included his great works by Jan Steen and Nicolaes Maes, demonstrate his own personal taste fro the realism of Dutch genre painting. The highest prices were paid for Jan Steen’s Wedding Party (£472) and Physician’s Visit (£460), Jan van der Heyden’s Town View (£378) and the large Bakhuizen, Man of rank embarking at Amsterdam (£880). In 1818, also, the Duke bought a further group of pictures from Bonnemaison including works by Jan Steen, de Hooch and Duyster.’ (p 10-11). This Dutch school was fashionable in Britain at the time, with a number of Wellington’s contemporaries forming even more significant collections, so there was little especially individual about Wellington’s preference for the genre; on the other hand there was no necessity for him to collect any pictures at all, or any old pictures.
Wellington does not seem to have been active in purchasing pictures in the 1820s and 30s, but returned to the field in the last years of his life, although not on the same scale as in the immediate postwar years. Significant purchases at this time include: the Unknown Man attributed to Murillo (purchased in 1838); Quevedo from the studio of Velazquez (1841) and Mazo’s View of Pamplona (1844).
The Wellington Collection at Apsley House also contains no fewer than sixty-three early nineteenth century portraits, and this of course is not the total number that Wellington owned, for some were in his other houses and were retained by the family when the collection was given to the nation. Wellington commissioned Sir Thomas Lawrence and George Dawe for portraits both of his generals and of allied sovereigns, soldiers and statesmen, and bought many sketches of officers by the Dutch painter William Pieneman made for his painting of the battle of Waterloo. He also purchased many portraits of Napoleon, his family and his marshals, and was given portraits of many allied rulers by them. Wellington continued to add to this collection in the last years of his life, purchasing portraits of the Duke of York, Pitt and Spencer Perceval between 1843 and 1852. (Kauffmanm Catalogue of Paintings in the Wellington Museum p 11-12).
He also purchased or commissioned the occasional work unrelated to his life and career from contemporary British artists such as Landseer’s Illicit Still (1826) and Sir Francis Grant’s Melton Hunt (1839) (Kaufmann Catalogue of Paintings in the Wellington Museum p 12).
Wellington’s reasons for undertaking the two extensions of Apsley House, and their connection to the decision not to build the Waterloo Palace at Stratfield Saye, are all surprisingly undocumented and open to conjecture. He may have definitely decided against building the palace in Hampshire and undertook the construction of the Waterloo Gallery at Apsley House in lieu of it – although that is not the impression given by Mrs Arbuthnot’s reaction to his complaints of the cost of the building work. Was there a connection between his decision to undertake the second extension to Apsley House and his becoming Prime Minister? Did the decision not to build in Hampshire reflect Kitty’s preference for the existing house? Mrs Arbuthnot makes the throwaway remark that Wellington had said that she was the cause of his undertaking the work, but it is unlikely that this was meant very seriously (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 16 November 1828 vol 2 p 219 ‘We went … to see how the Duke’s house is going on (which she says I am the cause of his altering)…’).
Wyatt’s first work on the house was in 1817: comparatively modest repairs, painting and the installation of Canova’s statue of Napoleon, which together cost almost £1,000. (Hardy ‘The Building and Decoration of Apsley House’ p 172).
Wyatt agreed with Mrs Arbuthnot that Wellington’s choice of yellow damask was mistaken, writing to the Duke that ‘yellow hangings will entirely destroy the effect of the gilding in the room; any colour that shall be in contrast with the gold will give us its full effect; but yellow, I assure Your grace, will sadly diminish it.’ (Quoted in Hardy ‘The Building and Decoration of Apsley House’ p 174).
In early October 1829 Wellington was complaining to Wyatt that the builders had not yet finished, and that until they could do so the upholsterers could not start. (Hardy ‘The Building and Decoration of Apsley House’ p 174).
According to English Heritage Wellington purchased the freehold of the site from the Crown Commissioners in January 1830 for £9,532 (Arthur Wellesley and Benjamin Wyatt www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/apsley-house/history-and-research/history/2-wellesley-and-wyatt/ accessed on 9 December 2013).
John Hardy makes the interesting observation that, ‘It is unfortunate that more is not known about the first Duke’s opinion of the elaborate decorations at Apsley House, or whether the partan atmosphere of his bedroom represents more closely his personal taste. His comments about the house are invariably concerned with complaints, and his letter to his architect of 24 October 1830, is typical of these. He begged Wyatt: ‘to have all the new work of this house reviewed, and put to rights, if only for the sake of his own reputation. Windows, doors, curtains, window shutters etc. should be made so as to open and that with ease, to keep out the weather; and the chimnies not to smoke …. It is not too much to expect this state of comfort in a house new built or repaired in the year 1829-30.’ (Quoted in Hardy ‘The Building and Decoration of Apsley House’ p 179).
Wellington at Downing Street:
During the renovations to Apsley House Wellington lived in 10 Downing Street which had been an official residence for the First Lord of the Treasury since 1732, although many prime ministers did not reside there as the house was difficult to maintain and often in poor condition. However Goderich had spent large sums on the house and it was probably both comfortable and convenient for Wellington, whose furniture was moved to it in August 1828 and returned to Apsley House by January 1830. Rather surprisingly Kitty seems to have liked Downing Street, inviting her nephew Thomas Stewart to stay, and commenting to her sister, ‘This house in enormous, there are on the same floor 2 Dining Rooms, 3 Drawing Rooms, a Bed room for me, a dressing Room and 3 smaller bedrooms so you see it can possibly be no inconvenience …’ (The Duchess of Wellington to Bess Stewart quoted in Pakenham Soldier, Sailor p 194-5; dates of Wellington’s occupancy from Montagu H. Cox and Philip Norman (eds) Survey of London vol 14 The Parish of St Margaret, Westminster Part 3 p 137.).
In January 1834 Lord Mahon noted that ‘The Duke showed me over his new apparatus for warming the house by tubes of hot water, and told me that including the expense of setting it up, it had cost £ 219.’ (Stanhope Notes 20 and 21 January 1834 p 48). According to Lady Salisbury this heating system almost lead to disaster when Queen Adelaide visited Stratfield Say in the following year: ‘In the night, the furnace that heats the pipes for warming the house, communicated it to a beam, but the fire was soon put out. Lord S. and I were the only people disturbed, as we slept in that part of the house.’ (Lady Salisbury’s diary 21 October 1835 Gascoyne Heiress p 179-80).
And in late 1838 the Duke complained to Lady Shelley of the inconvenience of prolonged work on the house:
When the house was repaired and painted, and all finished, it was discovered that the old furniture would not do; that it must be uncovered, cleaned, repaired, renewed, replaced, etc., etc.
The house was therefore to be pulled to pieces again, after I came here in November. Here we are, therefore, full of workmen; scarcely a bed put up, and no sleeping room completely finished.
I was obliged to postpone to receive Lady Bathurst, etc. I hope to finish all and to have everybody out of the house by the end of the week. I should think that they will be very happy to go, as I never see one of them that I don’t blow him up. (Wellington to Lady Shelley, Strathfield Saye 12 Dec 1838 Diary of Lady Shelley vol 2 p 260).
Wellington as landlord at Stratfield Saye:
- E. Foster writes in his account of Wellington in Hampshire: ‘Wellington oversaw an improvement [in his estates], spending substantial sums on the necessary subsoiling, drainage and chalking, in the process earning him plaudits from mid-century agricultural commentators such as James Caird and the Revd. John Wilkinson. Even William Cobbett, an inveterate political opponent, was moved to concede, “he is no miser at any rate…” ….
‘Plenty of evidence points to Wellington having been a good landlord. He did not coerce his tenants’ votes at election time as some did, for example John Fleming of Stoneham Park. Neither did he bar non-Anglicans from tenancies in the manner of Sir William Heathcote, the otherwise paternal owner of Hursley Park. To those tenants who fell into rent arrears during agricultural recessions, he was sensitive: rent or tithe abatements of 20-25% were typical. In fairness, none of this was uncommon practice for a large landowner. What was unusual was his initiative in installing heating and cooking stoves into tenants’ cottages following their successful introduction into his own house. The results, alas, he found disappointing:
the people as usual do not like a novelty which is to give them a little trouble; and require some attention on their own parts; or they are really doubtful of the success of this experiment I cannot tell. But although the houses are very warm I did not think that the inhabitants were satisfied nor of course was I. (Foster ‘The Duke of Wellington in Hampshire, 1817-1852’ p 2).
Wellington told Lord Mahon in 1839 that, ‘I have for several years devoted the whole of my income from my estate to its better cultivation and improvement. I knew this – that the next Duke of Wellington would not be such a man as myself – that there would not be another such probably in my family for a hundred years, and that it was therefore my business to leave them my land as improved and productive as I could.’ (Stanhope Notes 22 September 1839 p 159).
Date of Purchase of the Wolverton and Ewhurst Estates:
The History of Parliament 1820-1832 (ed by Fisher) vol 6 p 814 says that Sir Peter Pole sold the Wolverton Park to Wellington in 1837 and this date appears in many other specialized sources, that one would normally assure would be entirely reliable. However the Times for 5 May 1829 carried a story (which was first published in the Hampshire Chronicle) describing Wellington’s visit to his ‘newly purchased estates, Wolverton and Ewhurst’.
Presumably the land was purchased by the money from the Parliamentary grant; if so, this might signal that the idea of building the Palace was abandoned.
Wellington and Hampshire:
Wellington was far more a national and international figure than one closely associated with Hampshire, but he was occasionally the guest of honour at county events. In March 1821 he was granted the freedom of the corporation of Winchester at a dinner which was followed by a ball attended by some 500 locals. And in 1837 he took the chair at the inaugural meeting of the Diocesan Society for Promoting the Increase of Church Accommodation within the Diocese of Winchester and subscribed £100 to the cause. But overall it is the infrequency of such occasions that is striking. (Foster ‘Wellington and Hampshire’ p 4).
Wellington and the appointment of magistrates in Hampshire:
‘After dinner the Duke explained to us his rules as to recommending gentlemen for commissions in the peace. He never, except in very special cases, recommends for that office either a clergyman, a practising attorney, or a brewer – the latter as having an interest in the granting of licences to public houses.’ (Stanhope Notes 2 November 1840 p 243).
Wellington and the Hampshire Militia:
In appointing senior officers to the county militia Wellington gave greater weight to a candidate’s social position and landholdings than to his military qualifications, for example disappointing Colonel Peter Hawker, who had served under him in the Peninsula and who had a respectable Hampshire estate, for an officer with more acres but little or no service experience. That may have accurately reflected the nature of the militia at the time: an institution in decline, in a time of peace, that had no real pretensions to military efficiency. It was when Wellington was prime minister, in 1829, that the annual meetings of the militia were suspended; although in 1835 he warmly opposed the Whig government’s proposal to abolish its permanent staff and gained significant concessions. He also took a prominent part in the revival of the militia beginning in the mid 1840s in the wake of growing fears of war with France or the United States. (Foster ‘Wellington and Hampshire’ p 5).
Wellington and the Hampshire Yeomanry:
Following the Swing Riots of 1830 there was an effort to re-establish the yeomanry in in southern England and by early 1831 fifteen troops had been raised in Hampshire with a combined strength of over 1,000 men. Wellington had considerable reservations about this force, regarding it as next to useless against any foreign threat, and disliking the lack of military discipline and practice of some troops agreeing to their own regulations. He probably also disliked the large amount of paperwork each troop created for him as Lord Lieutenant. Nonetheless he saw its value in dealing with disturbances such as the Swing Riots, and regarded it as a useful way of forming a bond between the nobility and gentry of the county and the middling and lower orders. He encouraged the natural tendency for the officers of the yeomanry to reflect the social elite of the county. As the 1830s progressed without any further disturbances, enthusiasm for the yeomanry, especially among the rank and file, declined, much as it had in the 1820s, and in 1838 the government proposed extensive reductions in the force. Wellington opposed this in Parliament, but with little effect except for the preservation of some Hampshire troops that would otherwise have been abolished. (Foster ‘Wellington and Hampshire’ p 9-10).
Wellington and Hampshire politics:
‘Overall, Wellington’s impact upon Hampshire politics was variable. He was not in the forefront of electioneering in the way that Fleming was. Nor was he one of the inner-circle of north Hampshire families who did much to determine the names of those who represented the county. He lacked the acres (as did any single individual) to be a decisive voice in county politics. On the other hand, he was happy to support the Tory interest financially, and also allowed two of his sons to become candidates. As a major landowner, he was entitled to be canvassed for his views – and was – though he did not seek to impose them. There were obvious dangers, in any case, as he surely recognized, in attempting to foist his preferences on a large county constituency which historically cherished its independence. He was also acutely mindful that elections could often be a cause of public disorder, which, as lord lieutenant, he would be responsible for quelling. This surely helps explain why he was always predisposed to share the political representation in North Hampshire with the Whigs, rather than provoke the rivalries (and expense) which polled contests would necessarily have involved in attempting to return two Tories. Against this though, he was quite prepared to use his position as lord lieutenant to seek to deny the expression of more radical political views of which he disapproved and, more generally, he advanced the Tory political cause by his recommendations for the county bench. On balance, there was, broadly defined, more political success than failure.’ (Foster ‘Wellington and Hampshire’ p 15).
Grumbling about the demands on him as a host, 1833:
It is certainly true that I am more annoyed by Society than I used to be. But I am so because they are more troublesome to me.
First I think that Society in England is become more fastidious than it used to be. Everybody requires infinitely more attention, particularly from me, and is infinitely more difficult to please. Secondly I have a great deal more to do than ever I had; and many more objects claim my attention.
In respect to the first, I’ll tell you how I passed yesterday. Before I was out of my Room in the morning a Gentleman arrived from Oxford upon the Vacancy of the Office of Chancellor. I received and conversed with him before breakfast. I went to breakfast; and was obliged of course to wait and do the Honours of the Breakfast; and twelve o’clock came before I had finished my written answer and had sent off my Gentleman from Oxford.
We were to shoot at Silchester. I entreated the party would go without me, that I would follow or not as might be convenient to me. But nobody would move unless I did. I was obliged to go shooting to Silchester; we did not return till five in the Evening; and I had then to sit down to write the Letters of the day that were absolutely necessary.
I came to dinner at seven. Nobody would play Whist after dinner unless I did; and I went to bed at half past twelve. I have not had time for this last week, till I returned from hunting this afternoon, even to read my Letters, much less the newspapers or any of the Numerous papers, documents &c. which are sent to me. During these visitations (for I must call them such) I am literally a Slave – the Master of Ceremonies of the Society; and all the objects of my Life are necessarily lost sight of. I like to go hunting, but I cannot go. If I do, nobody will go shooting. Then the Sport is bad; everybody is dissatisfied and out of Temper; and I find that instead of pleasing the Party they are bored to Death…. (Wellington to Mrs Arbuthnot, Stratfield Saye, 14 December 1833, Wellington and His Friends p 109-111).
He even grumbles about the time spent in visits to other people’s houses:
‘The Duke of Wellington was talking of the life in country houses in the winter, and observed upon the immense waste of time in the manner of passing the day, and the inconvenience of it to a man like him who when he was either out or receiving company at home could scarcely find time to answer his letters. “I, who have been engaged in business, commanding armies, or something of that sort, all my life, can scarcely conceive how people contrive to pass their time so totally without occupation.’ (Lady Salisbury’s diary, Belvoir, 4 Jan 1834 Gascoyne Heiress p 106).
Hunting in 1834:
Hunting continued to give Wellington a good deal of pleasure as the following entries from Lady Salisbury’s diary from January and February 1834 make clear: ‘We went to see the hounds throw off. They had good sport and the Duke of Wellington seemed highly pleased.’ ‘The Duke had a fall the other day; his horse was pushed into a ditch and rolled upon him, but he was not hurt. It makes me shudder to think of such an escape.’ ‘The Duke was up and out this morning at 7: breakfasted at 9, went out with the hounds and had nothing to eat till he returned to dinner at half past 7. He did not appear the least fatigued or sleepy in the evening, played at whist, and I left him in the drawing-room when I went to bed at 12 o’clock, talking with great animation.’ And on 10 February Wellington wrote to Lady Shelley ‘I have been quite well all the winter, and have been hunting constantly. I had a capital run this day. A yeoman, whom I had not seen for some time, came up to make his bow, and told me that he was happy to see me looking so well, and as young as I did ten years ago! There’s for you!’ (Lady Salisbury’s diary, 6, 20 and 24 January 1834 Gascoyne Heiress p 106, 108 and 110; Wellington to Lady Shelley, 10 February 1834 Diary of Lady Shelley vol 2 p 231).
He contributed generously to the Vyne Hunt, rarely subscribing less than £150 per annum and as much as £600 in a year when it was short of other sources of funds. As late as 1849 he subscribed £300 out of a total of just over £1,000, and three times the next largest subscriber even though he was eighty. (Foster ‘Wellington and Hampshire’ p 3-4).
Entertaining at Walmer:
‘Lord Wilton came here on Saturday and stayed till Monday. I got the Grisi to come over and sing to him; which she did delightfully. But she contrived to offend him mortally by laughing and behaving worse to him than she did even to Mr Morrice. She went back to Dover yesterday.’ (Wellington to Lady Burghersh, Walmer Castle, 9 November 1836 Correspondence of Lady Burghersh with the Duke of Wellington p 82).
Fondness for Children:
‘The Duke looking well. I am to take my children to him to see his services of plate, china, etc. on Tuesday. He is so fond of children and good-natured to them. He is to go with us some night to see King Arthur but regrets he was not able to go on the same night with the children to see their delight in it. “That is what I should have liked.”’ (Lady Salisbury’s diary, 8 March 1835, Gascoyne Heiress p 156). The previous August he had told Lady Burghersh that, ‘I cannot express to you how well they [her children who were staying at Walmer with him] behave; I never hear them or of them, and never see them unless I look for them. They appear to be very much amused, very happy, and in high health.’ (Wellington to Lady Burghersh, 19 August 1834, Correspondence of Lady Burghersh with the Duke of Wellington p 55). In 1837 Lord Mahon recorded that ‘The Duke has now staying with him two little children of Lord and Lady Robert Grosvenor, who are gone abroad, and his conduct to these chicks displays a kindheartedness and warmth of feeling such as their own parents could not surpass, but such as the Duke displays to all. Lady Mahon was told by Lady Mary Grimston who was staying in the house, that the children having expressed their desire to receive letters by the post, the Duke every morning writes a little letter to each of them, containing good advice for the day, which is regularly delivered to them when the post comes in. It also appears that the Duke gratifies Bo, as they call little Robert, by playing almost every morning with him at football on the ramparts. We saw him playing with them with cushions in the drawing-room before dinner.’ (Stanhope Notes 22 October 1837 p 107-8).
Wellington’s friendship with Lady Salisbury:
‘The Duke came to see me between eleven and twelve. I cannot repeat word for word his kind expressions, but they will never be erased from my remembrance. He called me his friend, twice over, with emphasis, as if he would have said “my first and best friend”, and expressed a confidence in me which I feel with a gratitude and pleasure I cannot express. “With you,” he said, “I think aloud.”’ (Lady Salisbury’s diary, 26 November 1834, Gascoyne Heiress p 145). It is surely significant that this was only a few months after Mrs Arbuthnot’s death, when he was feeling her absence particularly acutely.
In May 1840, two years after Lady Salisbury’s death, Greville met Wellington in the Park walking with two young ladies: Lord Salisbury’s daughters, so evidently the family connection was sustained. (Greville Memoirs (ed Strachey & Fulford) 26 May 1840 vol 4 p 265. See also Stanhope Notes 21 September 1842 p 277 for a similar reference to Lord Salisbury and Lady Blanche staying with Wellington at Walmer). A decade later it was renewed with Wellington’s friendship with Lord Salisbury’s second wife, Mary, and his correspondence with her includes a number of references to Lady Blanche who was by this time married to Mr Balfour. Their eldest son Arthur, the future Conservative leader and Prime Minister, was born on 25 July 1848. (A Great Man’s Friendship p 14, 180).
Private Theatricals at Hatfield, 1829:
Emily Eden describes them in a letter to a friend:
In short, the whole evening has lowered my opinion of the merits of professional people. I went expecting to find the gentlefolk all tolerable sticks on the stage, awkward, affected, and only helped through by an indulgent public, and I found I never had laughed more heartily, never had seen a play really well acted in all its parts before, and Lady S[alisbury], whom I thought the least good, was only objectionable because she was like an actress on the real stage.
The singing was very pretty. Mr Ashley, Mr Wortley, Lady F. Leveson, all distinguished themselves. At the end of the first piece, each of the performers sung a little Vaudeville couplet, and Jim Wortley sang one to the Duke of Wellington, who was in the front row, that was applauded and encored and applauded again, and chorused with great noise. It turned, of course, upon the hero, and the double crown, and Waterloo, and Catholics – you know how these little ideas are dished up – and there was an allusion to the same effect in the Prologue, also received with acclamations. (Emily Eden to Miss Villiers, 30 April 1829 Miss Eden’s Letters p 177).
Wellington and railways:
In 1850 Wellington told Lady Salisbury (the second wife of Lord Salisbury), ‘I confess that I cannot bear seeing or hearing of Ladies going alone by the Trains on the Rail Roads. It is true that you have with you your children. But still the protection of a Gentleman is necessary.’ And again, a month later ‘I detest the Rail Roads! If I could attain the object, no Lady should ever go by Train, at all events without protection. It is horrible altogether.’ (Wellington to Lady Salisbury, 6 September and 6 October 1850, Great Man’s Friendship p 93 and 127). This seems an unusually conservative attitude for a man who was generally inclined to encourage women to be active and independent. Part of the reason for his dislike of rail travel is spelt out in an 1847 letter to another close friend, Angela Burdett-Coutts: ‘I congratulate you upon the good Company in your favourite Rail Carriage. I think that before Long I shall see the day at which Ladies and Gentlemen will find that if they must be transported from Place to Place by Carriages on Rail Roads, they will do best to travel each in His own Carriage, rather than in a publick Conveyance in which one may be quite certain of meeting worse Company than in any Stage Coach!’ (Wellington to Angela Burdett-Coutts, 7 May 1847 Wellington and His Friends p 244).
This dislike did not prevent him using the railway himself when necessary, or even appreciating its speed, although he continued to regret that ‘the Gentry of the Country’ had allowed themselves ‘to be cheated and bustled … out of the best system and establishment for travelling that existed in any part of the World.’ And after a particularly slow journey in 1851 (almost twelve hours from Manchester to London) he complained that it was, ‘as all Rail Road journeys are, I believe, very tedious and irregular.’ However two days later he arrived at Walmer ‘at an earlier hour than I expected, as the Director of the Rail Road at London Bridge sent me on with a Special Engine with my horses, carriages and servants.’ (Wellington to Lady Salisbury, 24 September 1850 and 12 and 14 October 1851 Great Man’s Friendship p 112, 204-5, 205; instances of his travelling by rail mentioned in ibid p 137 and 149).
Elphinstone’s impressions of Wellington in Society in 1829:
For example in 1829 Mountstuart Elphinstone, who had served on Wellington’s staff in the Maratha War, returned to England.
I dined with the Court of Directors [of the East India Company], a dinner to Lord Dalhouse and Sir S. Beckwith. All the Cabinet Ministers were there; some were pointed out to me, and I met several old acquaintances. A shout in the streets announced the Duke of Wellington, and presently he entered. He looked older, but much the same as in old times. The greatest change was in his softened and more courtly manner. … He received me as he would have done formerly, and talked for a minute or two; said among other things that he had grown old and grey since I saw him, and that he could not scamper about on horseback as he used to do then. (Colebrooke Life of Elphinstone 25 June 1829 vol 2 p 277-8).
A second meeting was over dinner at Sir John Shelley’s, and Wellington talked to Elphinstone ‘about the Indian question and the troubles of the Bengal army as freely as if he were a mere spectator’. ‘I never saw any great man treated with so little ceremony, and yet, besides being Prime Minister, he is the man that beat Bonaparte and saved the nation. The only peculiarity was that the young people called him “Sir”, which sounded rather royal’. (Colebrooke Life of Elphinstone 11 May 1830 vol 2 p 292-3).
Four deaths in close succession:
The Duchess of Wellington died on …………………. 24 April 1831
Lady Mornington (Wellington’s mother) on……. 10 September 1831
John Malcolm on ………………………………………. 30 May 1833
Mrs Arbuthnot on …………………………………….. 2 August 1834
Lady Mornington’s last years:
According to a passing mention in Greville’s journal, written some eight years after her death, Lady Mornington’s mind failed some years before her death (i.e. she suffered from some form of dementia or a stroke that incapacitated her mentally). While not improbable, a throwaway remark in Greville is not really sufficient to establish this as a fact; it needs some other confirmation. (Greville Memoirs (ed Strachey & Fulford) 19 July 1839 vol 4 p 189).
The Duchess of Wellington’s view of Politics, December 1827:
‘I have no political information, but from the newspapers it is often amusing to observe the different lights in which the different parties place the same events, the same actions, and the totally opposite conclusions which they draw from the same words. I think, if they left it to me to make a Ministry, that I should find no difficulty in forming a good and strong and high-principled, honest one; but I will wait till I am called upon!’ (Duchess of Wellington to Lady Shelley, 21 December 1827, Diary of Lady Shelley vol 2 p 171-2).
The Story of the Armlet:
Many biographies and other works describing the death of the Duchess tell the following story: ‘An old friend of Wellington’s happened to call at Apsley House during her illness. While he was there the Duke was called away to his wife’s room and after an interval returned, his stern features showing traces of emotion. “It is a strange thing,” he remarked, “that two people can live together for half a lifetime and only understand one another at the very end.” After a pause, his friend remaining silent, he related that the Duchess had run her thin fingers up beneath his sleeve to assure herself that he still wore an armlet she had once given him, and which she believed he had long ago discarded. “She found it,” he said, “as she would have found it any time these twenty years, had she cared to look for it.”’
It is a charmingly sentimental if most implausible story; but its provenance gives one no confidence that it has any basis in fact: ‘This anecdote was told to the writer by her husband’s maternal grandmother, the late Mrs Philip Anstruther, who had heard it from her mother, the Hon. Mrs Stewart-Mackenzie of Seaforth.’ And who did Mrs Stewart-Mackenzie hear it from? Fourthhand gossip, first recorded nearly a century after the events described, scarcely deserves even the alarming description ‘oral tradition’.
The story first appears in Memories of the Arbuthnots of Kincardineshire and Aberdeenshire by Mrs P. S-M. Arbuthnot (London, George Allen & Unwin, 1920).
Wellington’s comments about Kitty after her death:
In 1836, five years after her death, Wellington discussed his marriage with Lady Salisbury:
He spoke too on a subject I never heard him approach before – the Duchess. He said she was one of the most foolish women that ever existed – a sort of wise ad meditated folly, an obliquity in all her views of things, which it was impossible to remove.
“She was very vain. She thought herself the prettiest woman in the world (she had been pretty in her youth), and the cleverest. She used to buy many books, and write her name in the title page, but never read them. She always professed a wish to do everything to please me, but if I desired anything might be done, the wish was complied with at the moment and then it was always neglected afterwards.
“In her observations upon other women (and she was very censorious), there was never anything that showed observation or discrimination of character. The remarks she made upon one would have done equally for half a dozen others. She spoilt my sons by making everything give way to them, and teaching them to have too high ideas of their own consequence.”
He told me she got into debt when she had the management of the house at S. Saye, £10,000, that he implored her to tell him if that was all, and she solemnly asserted that it was – but when she died he discovered debts to the amount of £10,000 or more. These debts preyed upon her mind, and she was constantly wretched about them. He cannot imagine how the money went, but supposes she gave a great deal to a sister of hers who married a Mr Stewart, who was connected with a banking house that broke. (Lady Salisbury’s diary 13 December 1836 Gascoyne Heiress p 223-4).
It would probably be unwise to depend much on the factual accuracy of any of these statements, while Wellington would certainly have been most displeased if he had known that Lady Salisbury would make a record of what he confided to her. It would certainly have been better if he had remained silent, but he was not naturally a reserved man, and it would be hard to criticize him too harshly for occasionally letting his guard down with a trusted confidant.
The military career of Wellington’s sons:
Britain was not entirely at peace between Waterloo and the Crimea: a number of colonial campaigns took place, particularly in India and Afghanistan; and if they had really wished to do so, Wellington’s sons might have managed to see some action, although it was certainly not incumbent upon them to do so. Still, apart from his failed attempt to get sent to the West Indies with the flank companies of the 33rd in 1793 (see Wellington: the Path to Victory p 29), their father had been equally willing to take his turn; indeed after his first taste of active service he would have left the army if he could have found an alternative (ibid p 37-39).
Lord Douro’s career in the army:
Born 3 February 1807
Ensign by purchase, 81st Foot, 20 March 1823 (aged 16) (half pay until 1825)
Cornet Royal Regiment Horse Guards 2 June 1825 (by purchase)
Lieutenant Royal Regiment of Horse Guards 1 July 1827 (by purchase)
unattached captain of infantry 8 May 1828 (by purchase)
Captain, 60th Foot 24 July 1828 (on full pay)
unattached major of infantry 2 Nov 1830 (by purchase)
Major Rifle Brigade 2 August 1831 (by exchange; full pay)
unattached lieutenant-colonel 12 August 1834 (half pay; by purchase)
Brevet Colonel 9 November 1846
Major-General 20 June 1854
Lieutenant-General 2 February 1862
retired from the army by sale of his unattached lieutenant-colonel’s commission on 18 December 1863, but retained his rank in the Army Lists.
(Information from Ron McGuigan, based on Army Lists and other contemporary sources).
Lord Charles Wellesley’s career in the army:
Born 16 January 1808
Ensign by purchase, 82nd Foot 16 January 1824 (aged 16; half pay until 1826)
Ensign 75th Foot 11 May 1826 (full pay)
Cornet Royal Regiment of Horse Guards 20 May 1826 (by purchase)
Lieutenant Royal Regiment of Horse Guards 21 November 1828 (by purchase)
unattached Captain of infantry 26 February 1830 (half pay)
Captain Rifle Brigade 18 June 1830 (full pay; by exchange)
Lieutenant and Captain 1st Foot Guards 3 May 1831 (by exchange)
Brevet Major 8 September 1831
Major 87th Foot 4 October 1833 (by purchase)
Major, half pay 11 October 1833
Major 5th Foot 6 June 1834 (by exchange)
unattached Lieutenant-Colonel 29 December 1837 (half pay; by purchase)
Lieutenant-Colonel 15th Foot 13 July 1838 (full pay; by exchange)
unattached Lieutenant-Colonel 21 March 1845 (half pay; by exchange)
Brevet Colonel 11 November 1851
Major-General 8 December 1856
No active service, but he served in Corfu with the 5th Regiment and was in Canada from 1838 to 1840 with the 15th Regiment.
(Information from Ron McGuigan, based on Army Lists and other contemporary sources).
Wellington’s sons and the election of 1835:
Douro was not in England in late 1834, and Wellington wrote to him explaining why they had decided not to persist with the idea of his running again as a candidate for North Hampshire (lack of a running mate which was regarded as essential). (Wellington to Douro, 26 December 1834, HMC Wellington vol 2 p 257-8).
Lord Charles Wellesley stood for Rochester and had a severe contest but was defeated. (Lord Charles Wellesley to Wellington, 9 January 1835, HMC Wellington vol 2 p 320).
Wellington on Mrs Arbuthnot:
In 1836 Lady Salisbury noted a conversation with Wellington in her diary:
He talked a great deal of Mrs Arbuthnot – said there was nothing brilliant about her, but that she was a woman of strong sense, with a mind that turned to matters of fact, and very inquisitive about them, and repeated to me his own well known observation when he as first acquainted with her. “She will be a very well informed woman when she had got answers to all her questions.” He said she was everything to Arbuthnot, who tho’ a clever man, had an anxious restless mind, always worrying himself when he ought to be acting, and depending upon her for advice, for consolation, for everything. (Lady Salisbury’s diary, 2 October 1836 Gascoyne Heiress p 216).
Death of Mrs Arbuthnot:
Lady Salisbury recorded some details in her diary ten days later:
The Duke called upon me. He looks remarkably well, and upon the whole in good spirits. He talked a great deal of poor Mrs A.’s death, and gave me all the particulars. It appears the attack was inflammatory. He dwelt particularly and apparently with admiration upon the spirit and vigour of mind she displayed up to the day before her death – reading her letters and newspapers and joking with Sir Henry Halford about her own appearance. The Duke seems more impressed now with the affliction of Mr Arbuthnot, which is extreme, than with her loss, so much is he in the habit of directing his mind to whatever are the exigencies of the present moment rather than of regretting the past. (Lady Salisbury’s diary, 12 August 1834 Gascoyne Heiress p 133).
On 18 August Wellington wrote to Lord Francis Leveson Gower (a great friend of Charles Arbuthnot, as well as of the Duke’s), saying that Arbuthnot would like him to have Mrs Arbuthnot’s phaeton and pair of ponies as he could not bear to use them. Wellington added ‘When you will have worn them out, or wish to get rid of them, send them to me, and I will keep them for their lives.’ (Ellesmere Personal Reminiscences of the Duke of Wellington p 142).
© Rory Muir