Commentary Explorer Results
Commentary for Volume 2, Chapter 5: Peacemaking in Paris
Wellington immediately after Waterloo:
According to Fortescue (History of the British Army vol 10 p 398) Wellington spent the whole of 19 June, including that night in Brussels and did not rejoin the army until the morning of the 20th when he was wearing a blue civilian coat and driving a curricle rather than riding. This seems strange and out of character, and suggests that Wellington was exhausted by the strain of the campaign and the battle – although Creevey’s account of his manner and conversation does not support that idea (Creevey Creevey Papers p 236-8). It is easy to imagine the scorn of British historians if Cuesta had behaved like this after Talavera.
It is also a little puzzling why Wellington ordered the army forward to Nivelles at first light. It was an easy, short march and you would think he could have allowed the men to rest and help bring in the wounded for at least a few hours. Presumably Hill commanded in his absence.
Wellington’s complaints about the army after the battle:
It is worth quoting Wellington’s letter of 25 June at rather greater length:
I hope we are going on well, and that what we are doing will bring matters to the earliest and best conclusion, as we are in a very bad way.
We have not one quarter of the ammunition which we ought to have, on account of the deficiency of our drivers and carriages; and I really believe that, with the exception of my old Spanish infantry, I have not only got the worst troops, but the worst equipped army, with the worst staff, that was ever brought together in the shape of an Army. The Com[mandin]g Officer of the artillery [Sir George Wood] knows no more of his business than a child, and I am obliged to do it for him; and, after all, I cannot get him to do what I order him.
Some of the regiments the new ones I mean are reduced to nothing; but because the Com[mande]r in Chief has set his face against the formation of provisional Battalions I must keep them as regiments, to the great inconvenience of the service, at great expense; or I must send them home, and part with the few British soldiers I have.
I never was so disgusted with any concern as I am with this; and I only hope that I am going the right way to bring it to an early conclusion in some way or other. (Wellington to Bathurst, Joncourt, 25 June 1815 WP 1/371 printed with some deletions and alterations in WD VIII p 168-9).
Lord Bathurst’s son Lord Apsley, who was with Wellington’s headquarters as an unofficial, additional ADC, saw this letter before it was sent and wrote home in some consternation.
My dear Father,
I fear you will be much annoyed at the last letter the Duke wrote to you. He had given me the substance of it in the morning & I had hoped he had then vented [?] himself.
The fact is, he has lost in one battle His Adjutant and Quarter Master General and Secretary, so the whole Business come upon him – He is however particularly good humoured to me. (Apsley to Bathurst 25 June 1815 BL Loan Mss 57 vol 9 no 1007).
Reactions to Wellington’s complaints:
In general the ministers sought to placate Wellington, hastening reinforcements and sending him conciliatory letters, while ignoring the obvious exaggeration and foolishness of his letter.
Torrens however was really hurt and complained with some feeling to Colin Campbell – a letter which reveals Wellington’s unfortunate facility for alienating those who were strongly predisposed in his favour:
I am all surprise and what you say of the D. of Wellington’s Complaints of the want of Staff – and of the materials of His Army. His Complaints on the former subject at Brussels were, our having loaded Him with a Staff so numerous that he could not employ one half of them! And when they are thinned, poor fellows, by the casualties of the late Battle – He never asks for more, and complains of our not having furnished him with enough!! Not a line have I ever received from His Grace since The Battle, to express his wants – But my uneasiness on the subject and unwillingness to send him out new Appointments until I know his wishes, induced me to write Him the enclosed Letter of which I send him today a Duplicate. It is really too bad that the Duke should complain of us upon this subject after all that has passed, and it does not dispose me to continue the exertions I have used to keep him and the Duke of York on good terms, and to serve him in a thousand little details, for which I never get a word of thanks!!!
As for the Army being badly composed, I can scarcely imagine you mean that the Duke alluded to the British part of it! Its services of the 18th would appear to merit a different opinion! (Torrens to Sir Colin Campbell ‘Private & Confidential’ 30 June 1815 WO 3/609 p 302-4).
The Second Restoration:
Philip Mansel says that after Waterloo: ‘[French] Generals immediately began to think of Orléans, the only Bourbon prince who had appointed Napoleonic officers to his household. On 22 June Soult wrote to Napoleon: “the name of Orléans is in the mouths of most of the generals and commanders.”’ (Mansel Paris Between Empires p 81).
British and Allied Policy towards the Restoration of the Bourbons:
It is quite clear that Wellington, Castlereagh and the British government were firmly convinced from the outset that by far the best solution was the restoration of the Bourbons. However in public they felt constrained to say that they had no intention of imposing any particular form of government on France. In part this was a concession to the Opposition at home, and to wider political opinion in Britain. It was also out of delicacy towards the Emperor Alexander who was unenthusiastic at best about the Bourbons, and rather inclined to support the Duc de Orleans. But there is rather more to it than that: they were protecting themselves by keeping some room to manoeuvre in case the war went badly; or if it went well but opinion in France swung decisively towards Orleans; and, by not committing themselves to Louis they were better able to exert pressure on him to be moderate and inclusive. Above all they were anxious to avoid the trap Napoleon had fallen into in Spain, of seeking to impose a monarch on a country that refused to accept him.
Yet at the same time the British government maintained a fully accredited ambassador at Louis’s court in exile (Sir Charles Stuart), and both Wellington and members of the cabinet paid their respects to Louis as King of France. The position was delicate and ambiguous, although the underlying attitudes are clear enough.
Wellington, Blücher and Napoleon:
Wellington’s advice to Blücher to have nothing to do with the execution of Napoleon does not appear in any surviving letter, but it might well have been given in conversation. There is no reason to doubt that Wellington’s account of it to Stuart is substantially accurate, while its broad thrust is confirmed by Gneisenau’s bitter letter of 29 June to Müffling in Müffling’s Memoirs (p 275). See also Gneisenau’s impatient comments on Wellington’s letter of 2 July (printed in Hofochröer 1815 vol 2 p 271-3). Müffling’s Memoirs p 252-3, 272-5 gives a good corroborating account, including Wellington’s genuine shock and dismay that the Prussians were interpreting the decree making Napoleon an outlaw as permission to execute him without further proceedings – an interpretation Wellington had always vehemently denied when it was put forward by the Opposition in Britain. See also Leggiere Blücher p 422-23 which quotes letters from both Blücher and Gneisenau written at the time in which they talk of shooting Napoleon. Whether they would actually have done so must remain an open question, but it was surely fortunate that it was never put to the test.
There was some British sympathy for Prussian desire to shoot Napoleon: Colville’s brother-in-law the Rev. Richard Frankland expressed this view on 27 June (Colville Portrait of a General p 208), although this was nothing more than a casual remark in a private letter.
The French Provisional Government:
Jarrett points out that three of the five members of the Provisional Government were regicides, which helps explain why it showed a certain lack of enthusiasm for a second restoration! (Jarrett ‘Castlereagh, Ireland and the French Restorations’ p 622). Its members included both Carnot and Caulaincourt, so Fouché’s dominance was not a foregone conclusion.
Wellington and the decision to send Napoleon to St Helena:
Although Wellington did not take any part in making the decision to send Napoleon to St Helena, it is likely that Castlereagh consulted him about it, if only because Wellington had actually visited the island. We know that Castlereagh talked to both John and Pulteney Malcolm about it (Kaye Life of Malcolm vol 2 p 110). Nonetheless the exchange of letters culminating with Liverpool to Castlereagh 21 July 1815 (WSD vol 11 p 47) makes it clear that the decision was taken in London quite independently of either Castlereagh or Wellington.
Wellington and the Restoration:
Mark Jarrett gives an extremely detailed and careful account of Wellington’s role and its implications (‘Castlereagh, Ireland and the French Restorations of 1814-1815’ PhD Stanford 2006 p 634-9). He concludes that Wellington’s comments exceeded his instructions (p 639), and that in some respects he pursued a policy contrary to Castlereagh’s wishes, notably in encouraging Louis XVIII to follow in the wake of the army when Castlereagh, Metternich and Talleyrand all thought he should rather go to Lyons or somewhere else in unoccupied France (p 643-44). However Jarrett acknowledges that their advice was risky (p 654) and concludes that Wellington’s actions worked well and fitted the thrust of Castlereagh’s policy, producing ‘a complete triumph for British foreign policy’ (p 678).
Count Molé’s impression of Wellington:
Count Molé accompanied Fouché to his meeting with Wellington on 5 July and Molé gives this idiosyncratic impression of Wellington:
Before seeing the Duke of Wellington I tried to imagine him. I thought of the deliverer of Portugal, the restorer of the Spanish monarchy and finally of Napoleon himself. I thought of the man who never abused victory and always showed himself so sparing of his soldier’s blood, of the illustrious captain who had deserved that all the generals of allied Europe should recognize him as their master and all the kings ask his advice. My imagination could not combine sufficient transcendent faculties and imposing qualities to explain this colossal being, so much more extraordinary in that he was so untypical of the century. That was my surprise then when from a position that enabled me to observe him at my leisure, I discovered the following.
His intelligence is, if anything, below the average, and his education even inferior to his intelligence. He can neither talk nor write. Add to that a taste for women, continual amours of extreme ardour and equally extreme frivolity, all the habits of a man of the world and a thirst for the pettiest amusements: this at the first glance was my impression of the Duke of Wellington. But one must get beneath the surface to the character and will of the man to find the secret of his glory and his life. He possesses that imperturbable will which, calm and constant, wears down all resistance. No obstacle surprises him, no difficulty deters him. Never intoxicated by victory or blinded by success, he is fond of praise, even undiscerningly so. With him pride does not exclude vanity, but his judgment seems to stand at the centre of a triple barrier which separates and protects it from any disturbing influence.
His good sense is almost infallible. Seeking after truth, loving justice, he repels the evil and the false even as instruments of success. He sees things, so to speak, face to face, less by superiority of intelligence than by clear-sightedness. He does not dominate them but he sees them as they are. Men would have less scorn for uprightness and good sense if they knew how they make for success. How many times have I seen the Duke of Wellington elude a trap set for him, outwit the most cunning, disconcert the cleverest? Born under a Government in which all men invested with power are answerable for their actions and all glory subject to discussion, the Duke of Wellington seems to live in the constant expectation of seeing his own attacked. An Englishman holds himself ready to appear before the tribunal of public opinion as a Christian before that of God. (The Life and Memoirs of Count Molé (1781-1855) edited by the Marquis de Noailles 2 vols (London, Hutchinson, 1923) vol 2 p 87-88).
The King’s Proclamation:
This was the Proclamation of Cambrai issued on or about 28 June: see Sauvigny The Bourbon Restoration p 110 and Mansel Louis XVIII p 165-66.
The amnesty in the Convention of Paris:
There is clear evidence that this amnesty did not bind the restored French government, and was known not to bind it, in the fact that in negotiations on 5 July Fouché pressed hard for a general amnesty from the King’s government, and only dropped the demand when assured that he would be Minister of Police and so in a position to influence who was prosecuted and how they were treated (Jarrett ‘Castlereagh, Ireland and the French Restorations of 1814-1815’ p 671-674).
Fouché, Talleyrand and Louis XVIII:
On 6 July British and Prussian troops took over the barriers, and Talleyrand presented Fouché to the King: ‘vice leaning on the arm of crime’ in Chateaubriand’s famous phrase, ‘the trusty regicide, on his knees, put his hands, which had pushed Louis XVI’s head under the knife, into the hands of the brother of the martyred King; the apostate bishop was guarantor of the oath’. (Quoted in Sauvigny The Bourbon Restoration p 110). With his place as Minister of Police in the new government secured Fouché dissolved the provisional administration and the chambers on 7 July, Prussian troops ensuring that there was no opposition.
Attitude to Louis XVIII in Paris:
‘The King made his entry amidst the acclamations of the populace on the 8th, all the people were dancing for joy in the streets till a late hour, quelle canaille [what scoundrels]. The town is quite quiet…’ (John Fremantle to W. H. Fremantle, Paris, 10 July 1815 Fremantle Wellington’s Voice p 214). But a week later he added ‘I never could have believed there had existed such a rooted aversion to the Bourbons, as I new find reigns, and in my opinion it is the only point in which the people show any sense; they are to be sure so despicable a race.’ (John Fremantle to W. H. Fremantle, Paris, 17 July 1815 Fremantle Wellington’s Voice p 215).
Wellington’s opinion of the French character at this time:
According to Malcolm, ‘The Duke, in expressing his detestation of the French character, observed that he had never heard but one excuse for the most infamous conduct. They shrugged up their shoulders, and said, “we were obliged to do so, by the circumstances in which we found ourselves.”’ (Malcolm’s Journal 24 July 1815 Kaye Life of Malcolm vol 2 p 109). And on 1 October Charles Abbott, the Speaker of the Commons who was visiting Paris wrote in his diary, ‘The Duke of Wellington was strong in his expression of the utter want of principle and character of all the French of all degrees. He talked about the removal of the pictures &c, and the King of France not keeping his word with him, after promising to restore those of the King of the Netherlands, and the necessity of curbing France with a strong hand for a long time’. (Abbot Diary vol 2 p 554 1 October 1815). He was indignant at the way most of the marshals had deserted Louis in the Spring: ‘I have all the resentment of a man who had been duped, for there was no one more deceived by the higher classes of rascals than myself. I always knew that the army was against the King, but I thought these fellows would have been truer to self-interest than to cast away so lightly and so shamelessly all the reputation they had acquired’. (Malcolm’s Journal 1 August 1815 Kaye Life of Malcolm vol 2 p 109-10). This is all the more striking because Wellington was normally a warm Francophile, although he always detested Napoleon’s regime.
British officers ape Wellington’s nonchalance which annoys the French:
According to Walter Scott, who was in Paris at the time,
As for our people they live in a most orderly and regular manner. All the young men pique themselves on imitating the Duke of Wellington in nonchalance and coolness of manner. So they wander about every where with their hands in their pockets of their long waistcoats or cantering upon Cossack ponies staring whistling and strolling to and fro as if all Paris were theirs. The French hate them sufficiently for the hauteur of their manner and pretensions but these grounds of dislike against us are drowned in the actual causes of detestation afforded by the other powers. (Scott to Joanna Baillie, Paris, 10 August – 6 September 1815 Letters of Sir Walter Scott vol 4 p 95).
British visitors to Paris:
One British officer wrote home:
I shall be very glad to see Isabella when she comes over here, but would see her at the devil before I would squire her about, for the Parisians laugh heartily at our female costume, and there are caricatures of it in all the print shops. The town swarms with English. They gape about and are fools enough to admire the greatest absurdities.
There are continual quarrels in Paris, principally among the French themselves. Some one cries – “vive l’Empereur!” a row ensues, and two or three people generally lose their lives, or get wounded. The National Guards behave admirably; indeed, but for them, anarchy would soon prevail. I have no doubt that when the foreign troops have withdrawn from the country, the French will kick out their present lout of a King’. (Felix Calvert n.d. in Calvert An Irish Beauty under the Regency p 256).
Presentation of the flag condition of the grant to Wellington:
There was no opposition to the grant to Wellington, but one amendment, moved by Stephen Lushington, the financial secretary to the Treasury and General Harris’s son-in-law, who moved that the estate should be held ‘on the condition that the said Duke, or his heir or successor … shall annually present, on the 18th day of June, a tricoloured flag to His Majesty … at His Majesty’s Castle of Windsor’. This requirement was modelled on a precedent of the Duke of Marlborough and Blenheim. (See Wellington Speeches vol 1 p 99-100 and The Diary of Philipp von Neumann 1819-1850 vol 1 p 23 1 June 1820).
Wellington’s social life in Paris:
Malcolm’s journal gives a taste of this: on 9 August he dined with Wellington and then went to the theatre, the Duke incognito, and driving his gig so fast through the narrow streets that ‘I am astonished he has not been upset’. On the 15th Malcolm went ‘to a concert at the Duke of Wellington’s, where we saw the Emperor of Russia, and several others. Grassini sang delightfully’. Three days later Wellington gave ‘a magnificent ball’ in honour of the new knights of the Bath – including Blücher – who had just been invested. ‘The rooms were crowded by the grandees and distinguished princes, generally ambassadors, of all Europe’. On the 20th he dined with Wellington again: ‘a large party; and we had charming music in the evening, with Grassini in great force’. The following night Wellington gave a ‘feast … to celebrate [the anniversary of] the Battle of Vimeira’. And so it continued requiring more stamina – and better digestion – than campaigning in the Peninsula. (Malcolm’s Journal 9-21 August 1815 in Kaye Life of Malcolm vol 2 p 113-117 see also 134-5).
Lady Shelley gives a vivid account of one hot evening in late August. They had all dined with Sir Andrew Barnard at the Hotel Beauvais and the Duke was in high spirits.
As soon as dinner was over, we went down into the garden, where a military band played most beautifully. We all sat down under the trees, and listened to someone playing a guitar. Menawhile, a shabbily dressed little French child ran up to us with a hunch of bread, and an apple in its mouth. The Duke began to play with the child – dirty though it was – and the little creature was so please with him that it would not go to any one else. The Duke ate a bit of the apple, and took the child on his knee, fondling it in the prettiest and most natural manner. How extraordinary is the fondness of all great men for children! I never saw anything so becoming, as the Duke’s caressing manner with this uninteresting little creature…
We sat in the garden until ten o’clock; and then went with some of the party to Ruggieri. The fireworks were over, but we walked about, and saw the dancing. We were in such a merry mood that Lady Kinnaird and I mounted into the swans attached to a merry-go-round; while the Duke and the other gentlemen took it in turn to ride the horses. … After playing like children for some time, I went with the Duke to Talleyrand’s; he then brought me home. (Diary of Lady Shelley vol 1 p 144-5).
Wellington and Lady Shelley:
Prudence Hannay (‘The Duke of Wellington and Lady Shelley’ History Today vol 25 no 2 February 1975 p 98-109) describes their relations as an ‘amitié amoureuse’ and quotes Margaret Lane’s definition: a ‘romantic friendship in which there is implicit sexual attraction … exchange of confidences, a liking to be seen together, a sense of mutual support and appreciation … Such amitié has all the comforts of openness because there is nothing to conceal’ (p 98).
And Longford has a piece of gossip which confirms this view of their relationship:
By the spring of 1817 Frances Shelley was back in Paris, to the Duke’s evident delight and amusement. “The Shelley is arrived in great beauty!” he announced to Mrs Arbuthnot; “I have a capital story of her which I must tell you when we meet. I dare not write it.” Nevertheless, he wrote it as follows to his niece Priscilla Burghersh. It appeared that Lady Shelley, with becoming ‘pride & Indignation’, had rejected the advances of some fat Austrian baron. When asked why, she replied, “Know, Sir, that I have resisted the Duke of Wellington, and do not imagine, etc. etc. etc!!!” (Wellington to Lady Burghersh 6 March 1817 Wellington Mss) Wellington commented, “In my own justification I must say that I was never aware of this resistance!!!” (Longford Wellington Pillar of State vol 2 p 46).
This was hardly how he would have written if she was his lover and shows his – rather surprising – taste for gossip and indiscretion.
According to the editor of Miss Berry’s Journal (vol 3 p 168n): ‘Madame Crawford was an Italian by birth, and in early life accompanied an English gentleman to India, and narrowly escaped being drowned on her return. She afterwards lived with the Duke of Wurttemberg, by whom she had two children – the General Francmont and a daughter who married General d’Orsay (father of Comte Alfred d’Orsay and the Duchesses de Guiche, afterwards Grammont). She eventually married an old Englishman, Mr Crawford, and was received by the corps diplomatique and all the best French society’. Miss Berry met Wellington and The Duc de Guiche at Madame Crawford’s in July 1818 (Extracts from the Journals and Correspondence of Miss Berry from the year 1783 to 1852 edited by Lady Theresa Lewis 3 vols (London, Longmans, 1866) vol 3 p 168).
Wellington’s distaste for the cheering of the Prussian Guards:
Lady Shelley accompanied Wellington when he reviewed the Prussian Guards, and recorded his reaction to their cheers:
As the Duke passed the troops cheered by word of command. It was a monotonous sound, more like a groan than anything. The Duke turned to me, after it was over, and said: “I hate that cheering. If once you allow soldiers to express an opinion, they may, on some other occasion, hiss instead of cheer. However”, he added, “I cannot always help my fellows giving me a hurrah! As I rode along the line, after the last battle, they gave me a cheer. But the cheering then was spontaneous, this is, evidently, by word of command. (Diary of Lady Shelley vol 1 p 113).
His reaction was natural, but not logical. By cheering to order the Prussian troops were showing their discipline not expressing an opinion of their own, while the spontaneous cheering of the British troops was a genuine reaction. Theoretically Wellington may have preferred the former, but in practice he could not help but enjoy the heartfelt admiration of his own men.
Lady Frances Wedderburn-Webster:
Lady Shelley, who was admittedly not unprejudiced, wrote in her diary: ‘Went to Lord Stewart’s ball. We found the Duke of Wellington there. He was charming and most kind. His manner is the most paternal of anyone I ever saw; and so far removed from any nonsense, that I am convinced his attachment to Lady Frances is platonic. Of this I am certain: if there is any love in the case, it is only on the lady’s side. His manner to her in public is simple and kind. (Diary of Lady Shelley vol 1 p 135)
Longford (Wellington Pillar of State vol 2 p 19-24) has quite a full account of the ‘affair’ – there is also a disappointing account in Delaforce Wellington the Beau. There is a detailed – but unreliable – account of Wellington’s reaction to the newspaper report, and the court case, in Pitt-Lennox Three Years with the Duke p 180-83. The statement that Lady Frances was seven months pregnant is June 1815 is supported by the fact she had a son in August (Annual Register 1815, Chronicle p 115).
Antony Brett-James collects most of the rest of the relevant material in Wellington at War p 307-8:
[The next letter, written early on Waterloo day, is to Lady Frances Webster, who in 1810 had married a Hussar officer named James Wedderburn Webster (1789–1840) and was then travelling in Belgium with her parents, her father being Arthur, 1st Earl of Mountnorris. Webster had been with Byron in Athens in 1810. Three years later Byron, while staying with the Websters at Rotherham, became involved with Lady Frances, whom he described to Lady Melbourne as ‘pretty, but not surpassing – too thin, and not very animated: but good-tempered – and a something interesting enough in her manner and figure’.
He stated in letters that Lady Frances did not and would not live with her husband, whom she did not love and who loved other women. Webster, declared Byron, ‘is a little indiscreet blusterer who neither knows what he would have, nor what he deserves. … He is passionately fond of having his wife admired, and at the same time jealous to jaundice of everything and everybody.’
Princess Dorothea Lieven, wife of the Russian Ambassador in London, thought Webster had reason to be jealous. Writing on April 18th, 1821 [in Private Letters to Metternich p 131-2] she described Lady Frances as ‘a young and rather pretty woman, although she is a little too washed-out for my taste. But my taste has nothing to do with it, and other people admire her; for instance, the Duke of Wellington, who had certain passages with her at Brussels five or six years ago, and nearly forgot in her company that he had the battle of Waterloo to win. There was talk of a law-suit; but he avoided the scandal by paying down some thousands of guineas’.
In a letter from Brussels Lady Caroline Lamb writes that, ‘I conclude that you have heard that the D[uke] of Wellington fell desperately in love with her [Lady F. Webster] & 2 others, which was the cause of his not being at the Battle in time’. (Lady Caroline Lamb to Lady Melbourne, Brussels, nd [July] 1815 Airlie In Whig Society p 170). However Caroline did not reach Brussels until after Wellington had left, and was simply repeating the gossip of the town with a good deal of silly exaggeration (e.g. was Wellington not at the Battle in time?).
In only other ‘evidence’ that Wellington actually had an affair with Lady Frances in Brussels is the absurd story in Basil Jackson’s Notes and Reminiscences of a Staff Officer p 11 claiming to have observed an assignation in the park between them – a piece of ancient gossip that does not deserve to be taken seriously. There is also a reference to her riding beside Wellington while he reviews some troops in Paris in 1815 in James Simpson Paris After Waterloo p 228 but this is almost certainly a mistake for Lady Shelley.
An example of the absurdity of the rumours which spread comes in a letter from Lady Romilly to her friend Maria Edgeworth: ‘It is said that [the Duke] has offered any sum up to a hundred thousand pounds to make up the affair, but in vain. The injured husband remains quite inflexible, and the business is soon to come on in Doctors’ Commons.’ (Lady Romilly to Maria Edgeworth, 9 August 1815 quoted in Pakenham Soldier, Sailor p 147).
Naturally the court case did not end the scandal, and even so well-disposed a figure as Walter Scott preferred the livelier version of the tale: ‘We are told Mr Wedderburn Webster is to be our neighbour at a large house now for sale in the neighbourhood of Melrose – in that case we may hope to see the D. of Wellington or despite the verdict of the jury agt. the St James Chronicle man he had greatly the appearance of L’ami de maison’. (Scott to J.B.S. Morritt nd [May 1816] Letters of Sir Walter Scott vol 4 p 230). No doubt it was this ‘appearance’ which began the rumours in the first place. But when did Scott observe them? Not in Brussels for he didn’t arrive there until July. It must have been in Paris where Lady Shelley saw her at a ball in Paris on 16 August – the same month that her son was born. Scott was in Paris in August and September but it is odd that he doesn’t mention her baby.
Wellington and Lady Caroline Lamb:
Lady Caroline Lamb was in Paris, and her cousin Lady Granville was convinced that she was ‘primed for an attack upon the Duke of Wellington, and I have no doubt but that she will to a certain extent succeed, as no does of flattery is too strong for him to swallow or her to administer’. (Harriet, Lady Granville to Lady G. Morpeth, Paris, 1815 Letters of Harriet, Lady Granville vol 1 p 73-4). Paul Douglass, the most recent biographer of Lady Caroline Lamb writes that:
She did indeed see much of Wellington then and on occasions long after, including a soirée attended by Washington Irving, who observed the Duke dressed in black, with Star and Garter, exhibiting no inclination for conversation with the men because he was “quite engaged by Lady Caroline Lamb.” Wellington corresponded frequently with Lady Caroline, and Harryo heard him sing Caroline’s praises: “I see she amuses him to the greatest degree, especially her accidents, which is the charitable term he gives to all her sorties’. (Paul Douglass Lady Caroline Lamb p 173; Harriet Lady Grenville to Lady G Morpeth, Paris, June 1817 Letters of Harriet Countess Granville vol 1 p 109).
None of this, nor even the story that she smashed two busts of Wellington because they did not do him justice (ibid p 173), is really evidence that they had an affair; and it seems unlikely that, if they had, there would not be much more unambiguous evidence: Caroline Lamb was not renowned for her discretion. On the whole it seems likely that he found her amusing (in small doses) and she may have had a bit of a crush on him for a while, but that it did not go further than that. Wellington’s letter to her of 19 April 1816 (in Bessborough Lady Bessborough and Her Family Circle p 257-8) is an amused, quite affectionate but more avuncular than passionate.
Harriet Granville’s opinion of Wellington’s character is the more interesting as they later became good friends.
Wellington and Lady Charlotte Greville:
In 1824 Mrs Arbuthnot wrote that ‘For a long time he appeared to be devoted to her &, tho’ the passion has subsided, they are still great friends.’ (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot vol 1 p 360 4 Dec 1824).
She does not link this affair to the anonymous letter she received accusing her of having an affair with Wellington, and which she and Wellington believed was written by Charles Greville, Lady Charlotte’s son. Rather she thinks that he was getting his revenge for her criticizing his ‘unfeeling profligacy’ not long before. (ibid vol 1 p 300-1 11 April 1824).
It is Longford who puts the two together, and quotes two incomplete and undated letters, one from Lady Charlotte’s husband, and one from her to her son. These letters show that he (the son) was upset and believed that his mother had had an affair with Wellington, although they do not prove that this belief was correct. This certainly explains the undercurrent of hostility towards the Duke which is often, although not always, apparent in his diary. (Longford Wellington Pillar of State p 86-7).
Lady Charlotte Greville was born on 3 October 1775 (Debrett’s Peerage, 1838 edition p 25). Her son Charles, born 2 April 1794 (ODNB)
The Hon. Charles Percy born 4 March 1794 (Fisher History of Parliament 1820-32 vol 6 p 740).
In December 1817 John Fremantle noted that ‘Lady Ch[arlot]te Greville came two days ago, you must know the two families [the Grevilles and the Richmonds] are at daggers drawn with each other, and it is consequently great fun to watch the different feelings of envy and jealousy of Old Richmond [the Duchess] at the attention paid to Lady Charlotte in preference to her daughters.’ (John Fremantle to W. H. Fremantle, Cambrai, 26 December 1817, Fremantle Wellington’s Voice p 282). And, six months later, ‘[Wellington] is as happy as possible, nothing to do, but to amuse himself with Lady C[harlotte] Greville, who all the other English women are furious with for monopolizing all this attention.’ (John Fremantle to W. H. Fremantle, Cambrai, 22 June 1818, Fremantle Wellington’s Voice p 293). ‘All the Greville family arrived last night, to stay a week on their way to Spa, which I am very glad of. I like Lady Charlotte myself of all things, and the duke is always in such good spirits when she is with him. You remember I have always said that the other chick could not last long, and it is evident to all that they are going downhill.’ (John Fremantle to W. H. Fremantle, Cambrai, 21 July 1818, Fremantle Wellington’s Voice p 293-4).
Extracts from a number of Wellington’s later letters to Lady Charlotte Greville are printed in Ellesmere’s Personal Reminiscences of the Duke of Wellington p 112ff. (Ellesmere was her son-in-law).
Gossip over Wellington’s social life in Paris:
Torrens wrote home angrily from Paris in the middle of November:
The reports that are circulated of the Duke of Wellington are equally shameful, unjust and unfounded as those of his troops. And I find that so far from keeping the society which is attributed to him in England, he not only never was at the house of, but never saw, Madame Hamelin, Dunans [? Duras], etc. This I know to be the fact, and the falsehood of such representations is enough to raise the indignation of everyone interested for the welfare of the service and the preservation of the Duke’s exalted character. The untruth of these reports will eventually be acknowledged, and it is only the absurd credulity of the British public that can render them the subject of uneasiness to the Duke’s friends.
Torrens went on in the same letter to deny reports that British officers were ruining themselves gambling and added
When officers do not misconduct themselves so as to call for the animadversion of their general, and punctually perform their public duty, it is difficult for a commander to control their habits in private life. And the Duke of Wellington does what few others have ever done by setting them an example of avoiding gaming or visiting at houses where such meetings are held. (Torrens to Bathurst, Paris, 18 November 1815 HMC Bathurst p 405-3).
Still the prevalence of such rumours may explain why Liverpool bothered to tell Bathurst on 17 October that, ‘The Duke of Wellington has written to the Duchess to say that he is ready to receive her at Paris’. (WSD vol 11 p 201-202).
Wellington took the issue of the reports re Madame Hamelin sufficiently seriously to write to the editor (or proprietor?) of the newspaper explicitly denying them: Wellington to ___ , Paris, 24 November 1815 WD VIII p 309. Madame Hamelin was later banished from France (WSD vol 11 p 466).
Kitty in Paris, 1815:
Letter from Kitty to Lady Hood, printed in Seaforth Papers p 494
Paris, Nov. 15, 1815.
I have just received the ‘Field of Waterloo,’ and had expected much, must have been disappointed. But the subject of battles is exhausted, and there are a few beautiful flashes.
Of Paris there is not much to say. There is no society of French, nor any amusement except what the theatres afford. There are, however, many of these, and most of them very gay, and we go to one almost every night after the play, which everybody goes to, and nobody likes, for it is indeed very dull. The weather has for these last few days been bad; and I have been confined with so severe a cold, that I have not been able to see even the shell of the Louvre. I was there last year in its glory, and am curious to see what it is like now that it is stripped. In a few weeks I shall have my children. ‘Seaforth Papers: Letters from 1796-1843’ published in [Littell’s The Living Age 12 Dec 1863 p 494, where it was reprinted from The North British Review
Domestic arrangements in Paris in 1815:
According to John Fremantle, one of Wellington’s ADCs, ‘The distribution of the apartments within the palace is as follows. The duchess occupies the whole of the upstairs, & the duke occupies the state room on the rez-de-chaussée [ground floor], our office is the large blue room near the petits apartements opening on the garden. We all sleep about the duchess except Felton who lives at Bonard’s…’ (John Fremantle to W. H. Fremantle, Paris, 6 December 1815 Fremantle Wellington’s Voice p 223.)
The Gerard Portrait:
Lady Shelley wrote: ‘Next morning I went to see Gerard’s studio to see the Duke’s portrait. It is not equal to that by Lawrence. In my opinion all Gerard’s portraits are bad – the one that he gave to the Duke, of Bonaparte, is the best I have seen. Gerard begged me to ask the Duke to dispense with all his orders, and to have only the Order of the Garter on his breast. I delivered the message’. (Diary of Lady Shelley vol 1 p 117).
It is possible that the portrait was begun in 1814 although the fact that Lady Shelley took the message re the decorations makes this most unlikely.
Gneisenau’s letter of 29 June 1815:
This shows the strength of Prussian irritation with Wellington even before the Convention of Paris:
When the Duke of Wellington declares himself against the execution of Bonaparte, he thinks and acts in the matter as a Briton. Great Britain is under weightier obligation to no mortal man than to this very villain; for by the occurrences whereof he is the author, her greatness, prosperity, and wealth, have attained their present elevation. The English are the masters of the seas, and have no longer to fear any rivalry, either in this dominion or the commerce of the world.
It is quite otherwise with us Prussians. We have been impoverished by him. Our nobility will never be able to right itself again.
Ought we not, then, to consider ourselves the tools of that Province which had given us such a victory for the ends of eternal justice? Does not the death of the Duc d’Enghien call for such a vengeance? Shall we not draw upon ourselves the reproaches of the people of Prussia, Russia, Spain, and Portugal, is we leave unperformed the duty that devolves upon us?
But be it so!—If others will assume a theatrical magnanimity, I shall not set myself against it. We act thus from esteem for the Duke and—weakness.
(printed in Müffling Memoirs of Baron von Müffling p 275).
Wellington and the Prussians after 1815:
It is perhaps surprising to find that on 25 February 1819 Wellington wrote to Sir G Murray asking for surveys of the Department du Nord and Pas de Calais so he can send them to the Prussian General Staff (WP 1/619/28).
Wellington’s irritation with the British government over its attitude to the peace negotiations:
Wellington’s irritation with the British government – and his distrust of the Prince Regent and the Duke of York – was expressed even more strongly in a letter to William Wellesley-Pole dated 3 September 1815 (‘Letters to Pole’ p 36).
My Dear William.,
In answer to that part of your letter of the 28th August which relates to our affairs here I confess that I don’t feel at all satisfied with the conduct of Govt. & particularly of the Regent & of the Duke of York. If Govt. entertain a strong opinion on the subjects of discussion here they ought to give a positive Instruction; If they don’t give and Instruction & leave matters to the direction of those here, they ought to support what those thus confided in are doing; or if they don’t dare to do that, they ought at least to hold their tongues & not run them down in private societies.
That is my opinion, & if it was not for Lord Castlereagh who I don’t chuse to leave in the Lurch, I would have no more to say to Govt. or their negotiations.
Our greatest difficulties here arise from the private conversations of the Prince & Duke of York [indecipherable] & of the Ministers; & whatever may be the Result of our negotiations here notwithstanding that we have already far surpassed our Instructions of the 3rd of August we the Negotiators shall be blamed.
The Regent His Ministers & the Horse Guards are acting in this concern exactly as they did in the War of Portugal. They blame all that is doing; but they have not the Spirit to come forward manfully and give an Instruction; If the thing fails we shall be blamed, it it succeeds in the end, and success in a political case can never be so striking as in one purely military, the credit will not belong to those who have carried through the negotiation notwithstanding this additional difficulty.
I was never so much annoyed in any case.
700 million francs = £28 million at an exchange rate of 25:1.
Historians such as Webster often suggest that the indemnity imposed on France was – or proved – very moderate. However, as Eugene White points out, it was only part of a larger financial settlement including reparations to individuals and the cost of maintaining the Army of Occupation. In the end France actually paid 1,863 million francs (approximately £74.5 million). This was smaller than the reparations imposed upon Germany after the First World War, but larger (in real terms) than any other reparations imposed in the nineteenth or twentieth centuries. French complaints at the burden imposed were not wholly unjustified. Eugene N. White ‘Making the French Pay: the Costs and Consequences of the Napoleonic Reparations’ European Review of Economic History vol 5 2001 p 337-65 especially 341, and 361.
British views on the establishment of the Army of Occupation:
‘Grenville totally opposed the Government’s policy of keeping French-paid British troops on French territory both on the grounds of their exposure to “debauchery & vice” and because of the unconstitutional aspects of removing Parliament’s check on the Army’s purse.’ Sack The Grenvilles p 162.
Mitchell The Whigs in Opposition p 86-87 confirms that the Grenvilles (and the Whigs) opposed the Army of Occupation and gives some further details of their attitude to the peace: the Grenvilles favoured large reductions in territory; while the Whigs, or many of them, opposed the Bourbons and denied that Britain or any of the allies had the right to meddle in French internal affairs. (This was an example of liberal advocacy of the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries that they would loudly proclaim in opposition and abandon when they came into office.)
Mitchell gives a good account of the way that the two wings of the Opposition found a way of opposing the peace terms publicly which allowed them each to express their views while stressing points they agreed upon, such as opposition to the Army of Occupation (ibid p 91).
Louis XVIII is said to have been dismayed by Ney’s arrest and even to have remarked: ‘He is doing us more harm by letting us catch him than he did when he betrayed us’. (Sauvigny Bourbon Restoration p 133 – the story sounds too good to be true but underlying point is undoubtedly valid).
There is a mass of material re Madame Ney’s appeals to Wellington, Liverpool etc etc and replies in WSD vol 11 p 231-5, WD VIII p 302-4.
French resentment, especially over removal of Art:
- W. Ward wrote after his return from France in November 1815:
One does not see enough of the French to judge well of their disposition in many important respects. What is obvious, they are amazingly angry at suffering a very small part of the evils they inflicted upon other nations. They don’t consider it merely as a calamity, but as a piece of shocking injustice. No Tory ever believed more firmly in ‘divine right’ than the French believe in their right (whether divine or not I can’t tell) to plunder and insult all mankind without the smallest chance of retaliation. Consequently they are all (royalists as well as republicans) not only grieved at the removal of the works of art from the Louvre, but as much surprised and enraged as if Raphael and Domenichino had been painters to Louis XIV, and the Apollo and the Venus the performances of Puget and Girardon.
But they comfort themselves a little by recollecting that the English are a set of people absolutely without education, and the Duke of Berry says that the Duke of Wellington is only an upstart, which (you know) accounts for his vulgarity in sending back so many valuable articles to their rightful owners’. (Ward Letters to Ivy p 289-90).
Wellington’s reaction to criticism over removal of Art:
A Mr Denys wrote to Wellington in late September 1815 warning him that reports were widely circulating that Wellington intended to send the pictures to England, and that this was damaging Wellington’s reputation. Wellington’s reply is an early example of a style that would in time become famous and the subject of parody:
The Duke is very much obliged to Mr Denys for his advice regarding the false reports in circulation on the subject of specimens of the arts in the Museum. The Duke has long learnt to despise this description of report, which he never considers sufficiently deserving of his attention to contradict. These reports originate with those who know they are false; and as soon as contradicted, others would be circulated of the same description. The Duke, therefore, considers it best to leave the public to discover the truth as they best can’. (WSD vol 11 p 172-3).
See also Palmerston Selections from Private Journals of Tours in France in 1815 and 1818 p 23-25 which paraphrases Wellington’s justification of the removal of the pictures with approval.
Wellington, Castlereagh and the Peace Negotiations:
Some months later, in February 1816, when Wellington was annoyed with Liverpool and the government for refusing his application to make Gerald a bishop, Wellington told Pole, that the government ‘can not only not do anything without me, (I am quite certain Castlereagh could never have arranged the peace if I had not cooperated heartily with him) but they cannot even justify their acts without putting me in the front of the Battle’. (Wellington to Pole 29 February 1816 ‘Letters to Pole’ p 38).
Years later Richard Rush, the American ambassador to London, recorded a conversation with Castlereagh about these negotiations: ‘He spoke of the Duke. He said that his achievements in war were known; but that his ability in council, his caution, his conciliation in dealing with the complicated arrangements of the Continent that had followed his battles, were not so much known; these formed not less a part of his character, and had gained for him … the confidence of its cabinets and sovereigns.’ (Rush Memoranda p 62 quoted in Bew Castlereagh p 408).
Napoleon’s view of Castlereagh, the Peace Terms and Wellington:
According to John Bew in his life of Castlereagh, Napoleon was contemptuous of the terms imposed on France by the Second Peace of Paris:
One cannot see … how a sensible nation can allow herself to be governed by such a lunatic. After twenty years of war, after all the wealth which she has expended; after all the assistance which she gave to the common cause; after a triumph beyond all expectation; – what sort of peace is it that England has signed? Castlereagh had the Continent at his disposal. What great advantage, what just compensation, has he acquired for his country? The peace he has made is the sort of peace he would have made if he had been beaten. I could scarcely have treated him worse, the poor wretch, if it had been I who had proved victorious! … Thousands of years will pass before England is given a second opportunity equal to this opportunity to establish her prosperity and greatness. Was it ignorance, was it corruption, that induced Castlereagh to take the line he did? Nobly, so he imagined, did he distribute the spoils of victory to the sovereigns of the Continent, while reserving nothing for his own country. (Quoted in John Bew Castlereagh p 408)
The only source Bew gives for this quote is Harold Nicolson’s The Congress of Vienna, but it appears to be based on some remarks made by Napoleon at St Helena recorded by Las Cases (Memorial de Sainte Hélène. Journal of the Private Life and Conversations of the Emperor Napoleon vol 3 part six p 92 (two parts, paginated separately are bound in one volume: this is the second page 92 in volume 3) – thanks to Alexander Mikaberidze for identifying the source and for the reference). Such remarks made in conversation needed to be treated with care – they are not necessarily meant seriously and we are all inclined to exaggerate our views a little when talking idly. Nonetheless they do represent a tempting contrast between Napoleon’s ‘winner-takes-all’ approach to negotiations, and the ‘enlightened self-interest’ pursued by Castlereagh and the British who realized that they would benefit far more from a peaceful, prosperous and stable Europe than from any further territorial gains.
Napoleon also condemned Wellington for his support of Castlereagh: ‘Wellington has become his creature! Can it be possible that the modern Marlborough has linked himself in the train of a Castlereagh, and yoked his victories to the turpitude of a political mountebank? It is inconceivable! Can Wellington endure such a thought? Has not his mind risen to a level with his success?’ (Quoted in Roberts Napoleon and Wellington p 224-5 citing Las Casas and a conversation on 16 November 1815 in response to a false report that Wellington had joined Liverpool’s government).
© Rory Muir