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Commentary for Volume 2, Chapter 6:The Occupation of France
Before Wellington had recovered from his irritation with the ministers at home for their attitude during the peace negotiations, he had a fresh grievance when he was informed that more than one quarter of the British contingent of the Army of Occupation would be Hanoverian troops and that he would be given no more than 20 or 22,000 British troops of which cavalry and artillery would make up an unusually high proportion. Worse was to come in the form of detailed proposals from the Duke of York who made his calculations on the basis of the nominal rather than the actual strength of units which meant that Wellington would retain only 15 of the 58 battalions of infantry he then had under his command. Barely four months after Waterloo, Wellington was being told that he could maintain his position at the head of the Army of Occupation with no more than two divisions of British infantry. (Bathurst to Wellington 20 October 1815, Duke of York to Wellington 27 October 1815 and enclosed Memorandum WSD vol 11 p 204-5, 212-14). In response Wellington told Bathurst that ‘the best troops we have, probably the best in the world, are the British Infantry, particularly the old infantry that has served in Spain. This is what we ought to keep up; and what I wish above all others to retain’. He cast doubt on the ability of Hanover to supply such a large part of the British contingent as well as its own and scouted the idea of counting units at their nominal strength, pointing to the problems this would raise with the French, who would not pay for men who were not present, and the allies, who would undoubtedly resort to similar tricks if Britain succeeded. (Wellington to Bathurst, Paris, 23 October 1815, Wellington to Torrens 4 November 1815 WD VIII p 285, 292-3). In general these responses were surprisingly calm given the provocation, but Wellington let some feeling show in a private letter to Torrens:
What I imagine is, that government think they can get foreign troops cheaper than they can British; and they prefer to employ them, forgetting the number of years required to form the army they have got, and that, if they disband it, they will destroy the military profession in England. My opinion upon the while transaction is, that, now we have toiled like slaves here to make the arrangement which has been made, government do not like it, because some newspaper writer or some friend in Parliament dislikes it, and they will not carry it into execution. (Wellington to Torrens, Paris, 4 November 1815 WD VIII p 292-3).
This may have been unfair, but the government does seem to have made its proposals very casually without any thought to the inevitable reaction. The only explanation ever put forward was the need to find a large garrison for Ireland as the militia would be automatically disbanded now the country was at peace; Britain’s new dependencies in the Mediterranean; and, of course, the Duke of York’s habitual preference for neatness and order over practical efficiency. In any event the proposal was quickly abandoned in the face of Wellington’s opposition: slightly more than half the existing force in France would remain under his command including 25 of the strongest battalions of infantry and 9 regiments of cavalry. Including recruits on the way to join from England the British contingent would amount to 32,913 officers and men, while some 28,000 men were ordered home. (The Duke of York to Wellington Horse Guards 9 November 1815 WSD vol 11 p 228-30: York gives the figure of 24,714 ordered home, but this is rank and file: add 1/8th for sergeants, officers etc equals approximately 28,000 men). The ministers even sent Torrens to Paris to mollify Wellington and to ensure that the new arrangement met with his hearty approval. It did, but a little more care at the outset would have been much more effective.
The dispute occurred at a time when the government was determined to reduce the establishment of the army, against resistance from the Duke of York. There is a good account of this context in Cookson Lord Liverpool’s Administration p 28-31.
Wellington aware of importance of keeping down the cost of the army:
On another sensitive subject Wellington was unusually helpful and conciliatory. As early as April 1816 Bathurst warned him that the Opposition were intending to attack the cost to British taxpayers of the occupation of France, and so make it unpopular. (Bathurst to Wellington 9 April 1816 WSD vol 11 p 354). Wellington replied that ‘you may depend upon it that I will do everything in my power to keep down the expense of the British contingent’, and backed this assurance with action including a sharp reduction in the number of horses which were well over the set figure. He also complained of the multiplication in the civil departments of the army arising from Parliament’s insistence on detailed scrutiny of all military expenditure, which meant that he had at Cambrai a Commissary-General, a Commissary of Accounts, an Accountant-General, a Comptroller of Army Accounts and a Store Keeper-General, each with their staffs, so that there were some 150 clerks in Cambrai alone. (Wellington to Bathurst 15 April 1816 WSD vol 11 p 365-66). Over the following weeks Wellington reduced the size of the Medical Department and the Commissariat and arranged to send Bathurst monthly estimates of the contingent’s expenses so that any increase would be quickly detected and dealt with before it became serious. (Wellington to Bathurst 15 May and 4 June 1816 WSD vol 11 p 403, 409). Underlying this surprising attitude was the recognition that the government was under real pressure in the House of Commons on financial questions, and that the army was an obvious target for attacks. But there was also a wider view which Wellington spelt out to Castlereagh after he had come home in order to persuade the Prince Regent to accept a further large reduction in the peace establishment of the army. According to Wellington, the Regent ‘does not appear to me to be sensible how much the power of Great Britain in Europe depends upon the flourishing state of the finances of the country; and that the losses which he apprehends are much more likely to be the consequences of distressed finances than of the want of Army’. (Wellington to Castlereagh, Dover, in Webster Foreign Policy of Castlereagh 1815-1822 p 588-9 where it is dated ’29 [July] 1816’ but cf Cookson Lord Liverpool’s Administration p 121 where part of the same letter is quoted from the Castlereagh Mss and dated ’29 December 1816’ – a date which fits the contents much better).
The 1815-1816 Row over Gerald Wellesley:
Liverpool’s letters suggests that the Prince was in some way to blame, either for the dispute (perhaps by suggesting that Gerald would be promoted?) or at least for inflaming it (by showing correspondence?) but without more evidence we can only speculate.
It is interesting that Wellington was prepared to tell Malcolm about the dispute so freely, but then he was often quite indiscreet. It is surprising that the rift was not healed sooner – which rather suggests that Liverpool also felt seriously aggrieved.
The reconciliation is marked by a letter from Wellington to Arbuthnot of 7 August 1816 (HMC Bathurst p 422). ‘I have received your letter, which has gratified me very much. It is useless to enter upon what I have felt hitherto; and I can assure you that I have not for a great length of time been more gratified than by feeling that I should be again on the same cordial terms with Lord Liverpool’.
Wellington was not an easy subordinate, and over the years the ministers had displayed great patience and commendably thick skins in their dealings with him, but it does seem that in late 1815 they were strangely careless of his feelings and in the row over Gerald (although not over the troops) were slow to resolve the problem.
Lady Shelley mentions that when Wellington left Paris in June 1816 he set off just after 3am and hoped to be in Calais in 20 hours ‘which he has often said is quite feasible’. She adds in a note that it actually took him 22 hours (Diary of Lady Shelley vol 1 p 205).
Two years later Creevey gives a vivid picture of Wellington appearing cheerfully oblivious to the inadequacies and discomfort of a French inn: he had left Paris at 5am that morning and travelled 130 miles eating nothing but part of a cold fowl in the carriage all day. (Creevey Papers p 280-1).
Charles Stuart’s wedding:
Wellington was in Paris in February 1816 when Charles Stuart married Elizabeth Yorke; her mother, Lady Hardwicke, noted that ‘Everyone behaved with great calmness, except the Chaplain, who shook from head to foot! The Duke (of Wellington) looked grave, as if he thought the phrases were needlessly strong’. (Stuart-Wortley Highcliffe and the Stuarts p 248).
The first anniversary of Waterloo:
The French government naturally did not celebrate the occasion however the royal family held a reception for the diplomatic corps and British visitors. ‘The King shook hands very cordially with the Duke of Wellington and spoke handsomely to him. The Duchess d’Angoulême said: “You were very differently engaged this day twelve month. It is to your successful talents that we owe all the happiness of yesterday.” Lord Hardwicke heard this, and it gave much pleasure, as at times it was thought that the debt of gratitude “still paying, still to owe,” is becoming rather irksome’. (Lady Hardwicke’s letter quoted in Stuart-Wortley Highcliffe and the Stuarts p 259).
Apparently there were no official celebrations to mark the occasion in England. William Wellesley Pole told Charles Bagot a couple of weeks later:
In the house of Commons our Leader wanted to postpone some business for a day, so he said the Anniversary of Waterloo was to be celebrated, and therefore he wished the business to be put off, but how it was to be celebrated, or who was to celebrate it, he did not inform us, and in fact nobody celebrated it or seemed to recollect it. A few days after the Duke of Wellington arrived in London (in the middle of the night) he wrote to announce his intention of coming to Mrs Pole, and when I told the tidings to Liverpool, he seemed somewhat surprised. The Duke’s arrival had made very little sensation. The Opposition papers fancy he is come to change the Administration. The fact is he had come for the benefit of ‘the Cheltenham waters … (Bagot George Canning and His Friends vol 2 p 29).
The occasion was marked by the publication of the satirical song ‘The Waterloo Man’ in The Black Dwarf which is discussed in Chapter 7.
The Plot Against Wellington in 1816:
Lady Hardwicke attended the ball on 25 June and describes its sequel:
They staid till one o’cl. – all were most gracious. The Duchess of Wellington danced with the Duc d’Angoulême, Lord Arthur Hill, and the Duc de Fitz James.
On my return home, I was greeted by my maid with: “Oh, my lady, thank God you are back!” “Why so?” “Why, because balls and gunpowder were found in the cellar under the ball-room – all the servants saw it!” “Nonsense,” said I; but sure enough I find that the powder was really thrown in at a low window and near it, or on it, a barrel of oil. Freemantle was told of it, and he told the Duke, but all was kept very quiet, and I daresay not much will be said of it here. It was probably some crazed Bonapartist. The Duke left the next morning. (Stuart-Wortley Highcliffe and the Stuarts p 252).
There is a detailed account of the whole evening in Lady Shelley’s diary, which adds much to Lady Hardwicke’s account while downplaying the drama. Lady Shelley dined at the English ambassador’s and her husband, Sir John went to the Opera with Stuart while she went to Wellington’s ball. She arrived too early and found Wellington still arranging the chairs himself, but full of fun and gaiety. The ball was a success, the Duchesse de Berri evidently enjoying it immensely. Wellington was obliged to stand by the Duc de Berri all night, but still contrived to have some conversation with Lady Shelley and sat by her at the end until he went to bed about 4 o’clock. The next day he told her of the attempt to burn down the house: one of the lower windows facing the street had been broken, iron bars forced and gunpowder & cartridges thrown in. However the fire was discovered and the Duke’s (French) footman extinguished it.
‘The Duke said: “If they had a spite against me, they might have been sure to find me in bed almost any night at midnight. Whether it was simply the hope of plundering the house in the confusion of the fire, or a wish to throw a gloom on the fêtes of the Berri marriage, no one can imagine. We should easily have escaped, as there are twelve large windows opening into the garden, in which there are doors leading into the Champs Elyśees.” The Duke said that as the fire was out, there was no use in mentioning it, but that everybody in the outer rooms smelt the gunpowder’. (Diary of Lady Shelley vol 1 p 201-203; see also Lady Malmesbury to Lord Malmesbury, Paris, 4 July 1816 Malmesbury Letters vol 2 p 471: as gossipy second hand account).
John Fremantle, Wellington’s ADC, told his uncle, ‘At our ball the other night, where the three princes and Madame de Berri were, it appears there was an attempt to burn the premises, for some loose wet cartridges in rags were found fizzing, nearly on fire in a cellar where there were two casks of oil. Luckily the smell attracted attention & when the servant went into the place it was quite full of smoke, and it is supposed in a few seconds ore, the fire would have taken.’ (John Fremantle to W. H. Fremantle, Paris, 27 June 1816, Fremantle Wellington’s Voice p 242-3).
Lady Shelley also establishes that Wellington did not leave Paris the day after the attempt but a few days later.
Wellington in England in 1816:
According to William Wellesley Pole: ‘Wherever he appears he is follow’d and Huzz’d as much as he was in 1814, and great notice has been taken care of him by Carlton House, etc. There was a grand dinner there on Friday [2 July?] (and I am now writing on Sunday) composed of the Foreign Ministers, the Cabinet Ministers, the Duke of York, the Duke of Wellington, Lord Anglesea, and Sir Henry Wellesley. Very splendid and a most exquisite dinner … The Duke went this morning to Cheltenham, he returns for the Fête at Carlton House on the 12th …’ (Wellesley Pole to Bagot 5 July 1816 Bagot George Canning and His Friends vol 2 p 29-31).
Wellington at Cheltenham:
When Lady Shelley first arrived in Paris, 22 June 1816, she noted that Wellington ‘looks well, I think, but complains that he has not felt in good health all the winter. He has been advised to go for a time to Cheltenham’. (Diary of Lady Shelley vol 1 p 196). And, on 25 June, ‘He told me that he had long been advised to go to Cheltenham for the waters, and that he had at last made up his mind to leave Paris next Saturday [which would be 29 June]’ (ibid p 202). Wellington joined the Duchess at Cheltenham on the night of 7 July causing a great stir.
When Marianne Patterson, her husband Robert, and her sisters Bess and Louisa arrived a little later they joined the Duke, spending much time together. Marianne often drove out with the Duchess, who talked incessantly of the Duke, while Louisa and Bess went riding with him, and by the time he left on 1 August they had made plans to meet again in Paris in the winter and then at his headquarters at Cambrai. (Wake Sisters of Fortune p 113).
John Malcolm saw him at Cheltenham: ‘I was with the Duke all day, that is, six hours in the morning, and four, including dinner, in the evening. His is completely recovered, and actually looking better than I ever say him. I go with him tomorrow to the Corporation dinner. … I shall have the last dinner with the Duke at Lord Westmoreland’s on Saturday’. (Kaye’s Life of Malcolm vol 2 p 142. See also Delavoye’s Life of Graham p 756).
Wellington and Lady Caroline Lamb, 1816:
See his letter to Lady Shelley from Cheltenham (10 July 1816 Diary of Lady Shelley vol 1 p 229-30); but also his letter to Lady Caroline Lamb from Cambrai 19 April 1816 in Bessborough Lady Bessborough and Her Family Circle p 257-8 and Harriet Granville’s comment that Caroline amused him (to Lady G Morpeth, Paris, June 1817 Letters of Harriet, Countess Granville vol 1 p 109-110). In July 1816 he wrote to Mrs Arbuthnot, ‘Poor Calantha! [i.e. Caroline Lamb] what has she done?’ and begged her not to join in the general abuse and condemnation: ‘you must not give her up without being quite certain that you have cause.’ (Wellington to Mrs Arbuthnot, 26 July 1816 quoted in Longford Wellington: Pillar of State p 35).
Anne Romilly gave an outsider’s view to Maria Edgeworth:
The history of Almacks is a very long one, involving too many nice delicate and mysterious questions to be discussed in a letter. The shortest account I can give is that the Lady, who had been what is called cut in society, endeavoured to make herself a shield of the Duke of Wellington’s popularity, and under this to enter the world with a great dash. The Duke was in constant attendance, his arm was hers whenever she could gain admittance, and the scandalous part of the world were very busy. How this may be I know not, but his popularity had been too much relied on, at least in this instance, and the Lady narrowly escaped a public dismissal at the Door. (Anne Romilly to Maria Edgeworth, 26 August  Romilly-Edgeworth Letters p 153.
This was not the only time Wellington found that even his fame and prestige could not carry the day at Almacks – see Commentary to Chapter 8 below.
Wellington urges help for Sheridan’s family:
A more surprising object of Wellington’s charity than Lady Caroline Lamb was Sheridan’s family. The great playwright, orator and Whig politician had died in debt leaving them with few resources, and Wellington wrote to Bathurst (this was before the reconciliation with Liverpool) urging that some provision be made for them. Other than their shared Irish background there is no obvious link between Wellington and Sheridan and the Duke explains his interest simply ‘as I had been long acquainted with him, and he was always as far as was in his power very civil to me’, which suggests nothing more than one of those warm, but essentially superficial friendships that often arise between parliamentarians of opposing parties. (Wellington to Bathurst, Cheltenham, 22 July 1816 HMC Bathurst p 421, printed incomplete in WSD vol 11 p 429. Was the application successful? The DNB suggests that it was unnecessary, but that Wellington had been asked to apply by Lauderdale and – given his quarrel with Liverpool – would certainly not have done so carelessly. Thorne History of Parliament says Sheridan’s debts were no more than £8000).
The Caton Sisters:
There were four Caton sisters: Marianne (who was 28 in 1816); Bess (26); Louisa (23) and Emily, who did not come to Europe with her sisters. Their father was Richard Caton, and unsuccessful English merchant; but it was their maternal grandfather who was the most important influence on their lives: Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737-1832), an extremely wealthy Maryland planter who was one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence and a significant political figure: a Federalist and relatively pro-British. The sisters were well educated, self-confident, and entirely at home discussing public affairs and mixing in the best society. They were also Catholics.
Marianne had married Robert Patterson, whose sister Betsy had married Jerome Bonaparte, only for the marriage to be dissolved by Napoleon’s insistence. Marianne was undoubtedly beautiful, but suffered severely from asthma. She and Robert had no children. In the spring of 1811 Marianne and Bess accompanied Robert on a business trip to Lisbon, largely for the benefit of Marianne’s health from the long sea voyage. (Wake Sisters of Fortune p 63-4).
Wellington and Marianne Patterson:
Marianne’s appearance endeared her to everyone. ‘Tall, lithe and extremely graceful, her figure was perfect and her face one of the handsomest I have ever seen,’ is how John Latrobe’s rhapsody on Marianne begins. With ‘large and wondrous eyes of deep hazel, with hair that corresponded, every feature regular, and a mouth, the sweetness of whose expression was unequalled, with teeth faultless in form and colour, and, with her head set on her sloping shoulders, as heave was never set before, Mrs Robert Patterson’s beauty was a thing not to be forgotten.’….
She possessed in addition a remarkable sweetness, noted by acquaintances and more remote members of her family – ‘a better person does not live,’ a stepson-in-law, Edward Hatherton, later wrote. ‘Anger, and ill-humour and prejudice seem quite foreign to her nature,’ he had ‘never known any kind of more Christian purity.’ (Wake Sisters of Fortune p 108-9)
‘The duke the world says, is badly épiné [thorny] with Mrs Patterson, I think he seems to like her myself. Her sisters are also great favourites, they are all going to England in the middle of March.’ (John Fremantle to W. H. Fremantle, Paris, 24 February 1817, Fremantle Wellington’s Voice p 258).
‘The Duke of Wellington looks horrible ill, sidice that it is not the present combinazione but love; that he declares he never knew the meaning of the word until he saw Mrs Paterson, & her departure for America déchire son tender coeur in a terrible manner. He really looks mighty sick’. (Lady William Russell to Miss Berry, Paris, 22 March 1818 Blakiston Lord William Russell and His Wife p 41).
On 6 March 1817 Wellington told Priscilla Burghersh: ‘I shall be very sorry to lose the poor Americans!’ And on 9 April when the engagement of Louisa to Felton Hervey ensured that they would not leave as soon as expected, he told Mary Bagot that he had passed a good deal of his idle time that winter with them, and ‘I never saw any people that I liked better, and I have regretted their departure much.’ (Wellington to Priscilla Burghersh, Paris, 6 March 1817, Correspondence of Lady Burghersh with the Duke of Wellington p 17; Wellington to Mary Bagot, Paris, 9 April 1817 Bagot George Canning and His Friends vol 2 p 42).
Wellington had already written to Lady Burghersh ‘You must for my sake protect them against their host of enemies when they will go to England.’ Glenbervie reported that there was much gossip that there was more than a flirtation between Wellington and Marianne; while Mrs Calvert in Brussels on 22 May noted that ‘It is the fashion to make a fuss about [Louisa] because the Duke of Wellington is in love with Mrs Patterson.’ (Wellington to Priscilla Burghersh, Paris, 6 March 1817, Correspondence of Lady Burghersh with the Duke of Wellington p 17; Calvert Irish Beauty under the Regency p 279-80; Glenbervie Diaries vol 2 p 227 9 May 1817).
Marianne and her husband left England for America in the spring of 1818 (Wake Sisters of Fortune p 148) leaving her sisters Louisa (now married to Felton Hervey) and Bess behind.
Wellington and Kitty:
The Duchess was kind to the Caton sisters and helped ease their introduction to English society. She presented Louisa at court, but could be ‘tart and quick to take offence’, especially with people who received much attention for the Duke. Louisa wrote that ‘The Duchess of W is excessively envious of me – because the Duke is kind to me – but poor little Soul I don’t wonder at it – She is very good and I like her very much.’ (Wake Sisters of Fortune p 161). If this was Louisa’s attitude to the Duchess, it is no wonder that she found Kitty ‘tart’.
In November 1817 John Fremantle told his uncle: ‘The duke has twice found fault with the duchess for asking questions of the aides-de-camp respecting him, the fact is that she never knows what is about to pass in the house, any more than you do, except by what she hears by accident, or is told. I am convinced that he cannot bear anybody to pay any attention to, or to notice her, or to use Alava’s expression, ‘il serait content qu’on lui fouettasse’ [He would be happy that someone would whip her].’ (John Fremantle to W. H. Fremantle, Cambrai, 5 November 1817, Wellington’s Voice p 275). And, a few weeks later, he told a story which illustrates relations between husband and wife at the time: ‘the duchess went into the duke’s room the other day, in order to speak to him, she found Louisa seated on one chair, Mrs Patterson’s picture on another, and the duke. On seeing this she turned back, they called after her, but she would not go in. The duke, sometime afterwards, went into her room, to know what was wanted.’ (John Fremantle to W. H. Fremantle, Cambrai, 23 November 1817, Wellington’s Voice p 279).
Wellington in Paris:
‘During the carnival and all the winter the Duke of Wellington’s house was the most brilliant, and on Maundy Thursday and Mid-Lent he gave magnificent fêtes’. (Life and Memoirs of Count Molé vol 2 p 301).
The Opening of Waterloo Bridge:
Wellington returned to England in December 1816 and again in April 1817 for shorter visits, and was back in London in June 1817 when he attended with the Prince Regent the grand opening of a new toll bridge over the Thames. Work on this magnificent structure, designed by John Rennie, had begun in 1811 when it was known as the Strand Bridge, but it was renamed Waterloo Bridge and opened with great fanfare on the second anniversary of the battle. Unfortunately for the private investors who had financed the project the revenue from tolls never provided a sufficient return on the capital cost of around £1 million. Sixty years later it was acquired by the Metropolitan Board of Works for less than half its sum and the toll was removed, while the bridge itself was demolished and replaced in the 1930s. (London County Council Survey of London vol 23 South Bank and Vauxhill Pt 1 ed. by Sir Howard Roberts and Walter H. Godfrey (London, London County Council, 1951) p 23-24; R. E. Foster ‘Waterloo Bridge: National Memorial or National Disgrace?’ The Waterloo Journal vol 35 no 3 winter 2013 p 8-12).
An article in the Liverpool Mercury for 27 June 1817 describes the scene (no doubt drawing on a London paper):
This noble work was opened on Wednesday se’nnight to the public with much ceremony. The weather being very fine, the Thames was covered with boats of all descriptions. The banks too were crowded in every part from which a view of the bridge could be obtained. Flags were hoisted on the steeples of several churches, on the yards of wharfingers, &c. The Navy standard waved on the centre of Somerset place. A party of horse guards, who had been present at the battle of Waterloo, were on the bridge. A party of foot guards also attended with their band; and a detachment of the royal horse artillery, with 20 field pieces. The bridge was decorated with 18 standards. The eastern side of the bridge was railed off, and temporary benches were placed to accommodate the spectators. Sometime after three o’clock, the Regent arrived at Whitehall, whence he embarked on board the royal barge. This barge was followed by the Lord Mayor’s barge, to conduct the Regent to the bridge. Other barges belonging to the public offices succeeded, bearing appropriate flags. The discharges of the artillery commenced on the Regent’s embarking, and continued until he landed at the steps on the south-east of the bridge, which he ascended. His Royal Highness was received by the committee, and the ceremony of paying toll was gone through. The distinguished visitors then proceeded to walk over the bridge. A band preceded them, playing “God Save The King”. The Prince walked arm in arm with the Duke of York. They were followed by the Duke of Wellington, the Marquis of Anglesea, Lord Melville, Sir Joseph Yorke, Mr W. Pole & c &c. They proceeded to take water on the Middlesex side. Arrived at the north end of the bridge, they descended to the royal barge. The firing then recommenced, and did not terminate till they had landed at Whitehall, and returned to Carlton-house. We scarcely recollect an occasion on which a greater number of persons of all description appeared in the streets, and particularly on the Surrey side of the river. Among other contrivances a fair was opened a little to the south-east of the bridge, and called, of course, Waterloo fair, in which, in the true style of the holydays at Greenwich, was a sufficient assortment of different swings, and other vehicles for popular amusement, together with plentiful supply of cakes and gingerbread, beer and gin’.
Wellington and Lord Wellesley in 1816-1817:
William Wellesley Pole told Charles Bagot in July 1816: ‘We had the Duke to dinner three days running … Wellesley dined here twice with the Duke, and they are upon very cordial terms. He presented the Duke at the Levée by desire of the latter, with which he was much pleased’. (Bagot George Canning and His Friends p 31).
The Purchase of Apsley House:
In May 1816 Benjamin Dean Wyatt reported on the house to Wellington:
I have carefully examined it throughout. It certainly is an excellent house, and in very good repair. It is as substantial and as well built as any house need be, and it is splendid without containing any superfluous room – I see but one defect in the plan of it, which is that the Principal Staircase goes no higher than the Drawing Room floor and the approach to the Bedroom Chambers is consequently by the back staircase. This is to be considered as a point in which the House falls short of perfection rather than a serious defect. . … There is a great deal of good furniture in the House, some of it extremely handsome; such as pier glasses, silk window curtains etc. … seeing how substantial, commodious and handsome the house is and how well suited in size to Your Grace’s family and considering the eligibility of its situation … I have no hesitation in stating … that the whole together, House and furniture (with the exception of the pictures and a few articles of ornamental furniture which Lord W. would retain) would be positively cheap at thirty five thousand guineas … and considering that it is a house which Your Grace prefers to all others and that it is in want of very little to be laid out upon it, it would not be very dear at forty thousand Pounds. (Quoted in John Hardy ‘The Building and Decoration of Apsley House’ Apollo vol 98 no 139 September 1973 p 171-2).
Wellington’s niece Anne Abdy’s marital trouble:
Anne Wellesley was Lord Wellesley’s eldest daughter (and, like all her siblings, illegitimate). She had married a dull but wealthy man, Sir William Abdy in 1806 and in September 1815 his daughter abandoned him and ran off with the even duller Lord Charles Bentinck. Unsuccessful attempts were made to reconcile them including a request that Wellington would find Abdy a well paid post abroad where they could live down the scandal, a request which was inevitably but gently refused. The Abdys were divorced on the first anniversary of Waterloo and a month later Lord Charles and Anne were married. Wellington may have helped facilitate the divorce, or at least ensured that it did not contain the customary clause prohibiting the guilty parties from marrying. Certainly he offered comforting advice to Anne’s sister Hyacinthe: ‘I am not astonished at your feeling for your sister; but you must not allow these feelings to keep you out of the World or make you believe that people will on that account think the worse of you; nor on the other hand should you regret any good-natured act you may have done by her, or be induced to abandon her in her misfortunes’. (Quoted in Severn Architects of Empire p 390. There is a full and entertaining account of the whole affair in Hugh Farmer’s A Regency Elopement passim).
Gerald Wellesley’s marital troubles:
Mrs Arbuthnot, writing in 1820, says that Liverpool want to block the Duke of Dorset from receiving the Garter because of an old affair with a married woman. Mrs Arbuthnot was annoyed and wondered what he did with his scruples when giving it to Angelsea. ‘Ld. Anglesea, who fled from his own wife with the wife of another man, married her and then seduced her sister, to complete the tale, made his first victim tell the story of her sister’s frailty to her husband!!!’ [i.e. first Henry’s wife, then Gerald’s] (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot vol 1 p 16-17 8 May 1820).
Wellington buys furniture:
‘In 1817 Wellington himself brought Boulle cabinets and Empire tables from the Fesch sale’. (Mansel Paris Between Empires p 155).
Spelling of Stratfield Saye:
Richard Edgecumbe, the editor of Lady Shelley’s Diary published in 1912 notes (vol 2 p 65n) ‘The Duke wrote Statfield Saye and frequently Stratfield Saye, but never at this period as it is now written [Strathfield Saye]. In the letters published by Lord Stanhope the form used in 1838 was Strathfield; but in a letter written to Lady Shelley, dated March 30, 1846, the Duke spells it Stratfield’.
Muriel Wellesley wrote in 1939 ‘Strathfield Saye is spelt in various ways. In all the correspondence that the author has seen the Duke almost invariably spelt it without an h. The Duchess on the other hand appears to have written it Strathfieldsaye. The correct modern way is Strathfield Saye’ (Wellington in Civil Life p 59n).
However by the time Longford’s Wellington Pillar of State was published in 1972 the accepted spelling had become Stratfield Saye, as it is now.
The purchase of Stratfield Saye:
In December 1817 William Wellesley Pole told Charles Bagot: ‘We are in treaty for Strathfieldsaye, Lord Rivers’ place in Hampshire, for the Duke of Wellington, the papers will tell you we have bought it, but this is not true. The difficulty we have to cope with (provided the title is good) is a large quantity of timber fit for cutting – if we can get the Navy Beard to take it … I think we shall make the purchase. The Duke has seen it and likes it very much …’ (Wellesley Pole to Bagot 14 December 1817 Bagot George Canning and His Friends vol 2 p 65).
Wellington was unable to take possession until April 1819: see H. C. Litchfield to Wellington 22 March 1819 (WP 1/621/4).
The treasury gave its formal approval (£200,000 and value of timber) on 27 March 1819: WP 1/621/18
Mrs Arbuthnot (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot vol 1 p 63) says it was 42 miles from London: did it with W in 3½ hrs. (Google Maps states that it is 45 miles by the M4 and would take 1 1/2 hours in 2013).
The British contingent in the Army of Occupation:
The British contingent of the Army of Occupation was organized in three divisions of infantry forming a single corps under Rowland Hill (Lord Hill), and a division of cavalry under Stapleton Cotton (now Lord Combermere). Each division, and cavalry, contained three brigades. The First Division of infantry was commanded by Lowry Cole and had its head quarters at Cambrai. The Second Division under Henry Clinton was based at St Pol; and the Third Division, under Colville, was at Valenciennes. The organization of the contingent and the selection of subordinates is a topic that deserves further attention. Among other oddities, it is strange that the 43rd, 52nd and 95th were not brigaded together although they were all present in the army. It is not clear whether the distribution of battalions into brigades and division was decided at Cambrai (or Paris); at the Horse Guards; or reflected the existing arrangements dating back to the arrival of units in Belgium before Waterloo.
Combermere resigned and was replaced by Fane in 1817. Combermere took up a post in the West Indies – of which Wellington rather disapproved, arguing – oddly in view of the path that his own career would soon take – that ‘You are too young to withdraw yourself from the troops in order to take up a civil arrangement’. (Wellington to Combermere 3 December 1817 WSD vol 12 p 154).
Fights with locals:
Wellington was particularly concerned with British officers getting involved in fist fights with French locals and issued orders for them to wear their side arms on all occasions (GO 23 September 1817 WSD vol 12 p 77-8). He was also keen that the officers should be taught how to handle their swords (Wellington to Torrens 24 November 1817 WSD vol 12 p 141-2).
The extent of the underlying problem can be seen from the pride with which William Napier told his wife of two of his brawls, one with a bricklayer, the other a large clerk, a few months of each other in 1817 (Butler Life of Napier vol 1 p 198, 204).
Wellington’s instructions to the British Cavalry in the Army of Occupation:
Wellington attempted to address the besetting weakness of the British cavalry, writing to Cotton (now Lord Combermere who had replaced Uxbridge after Waterloo):
I wish very much that you would turn your mind to the order of the formation of the cavalry. My opinion is that the order of the files of the cavalry is too loose. We must adhere to the regulation, which I believe allows of a more loose formation than the cavalry of other armies; but we must adhere to it strictly, and not allow our order to become more extended than it is. Then all our movements are too quick for those of large bodies of cavalry; and the consequences of this system and of the looseness of our files is, that in all great movements of our cavalry they get into confusion, the horses are jaded before the moment of exertion arrives, and it becomes impossible for any man to produce the great effect with the cavalry of which it is capable. (Wellington to Combermere, London, 4 August 1816, WD VIII p 332-2).
Similar themes were picked up and expanded in some important instructions which Wellington issued to his cavalry brigadiers, no doubt after consultation with Combermere. These instructions stressed the importance of retaining a reserve in good order in any charge either to exploit an initial advantage or to cover a subsequent withdrawal. This reserve should amount to half or even two thirds of the force – a surprisingly high proportion. It should also be kept well behind the first line – Wellington suggested 400 or 500 yards as a suitable interval, and an equal distance separating the second line from the third if there was a third line; although these intervals might be reduced to 200 yards if the cavalry was attacking infantry or artillery rather than other cavalry, for in that case the objective would be a rapid succession of blows before the enemy could reload and catch their breath after the first attack. The instructions placed great weight on the reserves remaining in good order and under their commander’s control, even stipulating that they should slow to a walk when the first line changed. Clearly the fate of the Union and Household Brigades at Waterloo was in Wellington’s mind, but there were also a number of occasions in the Peninsula when the British cavalry had got out on hand. No one doubted its dash, enthusiasm or courage, but serious questions had been raised about its discipline and tactical skill of its commanders particularly at the brigade level and above. Whether Wellington’s instructions would have been sufficient to solve the problem may be doubted, but they certainly pointed in the right direction. (‘Instructions to the General Officers commanding Brigad es of Cavalry in the Army of Occupation’ Cambrai 1816 WD VIII p 337-8.)
(My scepticism about the effectiveness of these instructions is based on an attempt to imagine how they would have applied at Waterloo or Salamanca. In these cases the British brigades charged with almost their whole strength in the front line and this certainly contributed to their subsequent problems, but it also helped ensure their initial success – they would have had much less impact if there had been only a single regiment in their first line. There is also a question how the intervals between lines prescribed by Wellington would have worked on a battlefield as small as Waterloo).
Training and Manoeuvres:
Captain Bowles groaned at the order to go into encampments in July 1816, much preferring his comfortable quarters to canvas. (Malmesbury Series of Letters vol 2 p 479-80). There is a very good, lively account of them annual manoeuvres of 1818 in Palmerston Selections from Private Journals of Tours in France in 1815 and 1818 p 45-8 which includes comments on both British tallies. ‘The superiority of our troops inactivity and facility of manoeuvre is now universally admitted; as to their conduct on the day of battle, nothing need to be said of that’ (p 47). And after viewing the Prussians:
The Duke was much pleased, but the whole day’s work had been practised on the ground, and the field was covered with little posts about a foot high, as marks for the different positions and manoeuvres. The British army seems to be the only one that can be trusted to go through the manoeuvres of a field day without a rehearsal. General Zieten, who commands this Prussian army, required fifteen days’ notice to prepare his troops for the day! (p 50).
Talking of the British manoeuvres, which went well: ‘The plan was drawn out by the Duke and Sir G. Murray, and the former told me that he could not help fancying that he was writing a Harlequin Farce’.
Wellington told Lady Shelley re the 1816 Manoeuvres:
I had a very fine review in this neighbourhood of the British, Danish, Saxon, and Hanover contingents. The Dukes of Kent and Cambridge came to it; and we had some grand dinners, balls, etc. Unluckily the weather for the reviews was very bad, and the ground so deep that the troops could scarcely move; but altogether they looked remarkably well, and I was not dissatisfied with them, or their performance’. (Wellington to Lady Shelley, Cambray, 25 October 1816, Diary of Lady Shelley vol 1 p 307-9).
Wellington and soldiers’ appearance:
In 1815 Wellington told Palmerston: ‘We did not look so well in a review as some of the others, and indeed he thought we paid rather too little attention to the dress and smartness of our men; and that in military point of view the tenue of a soldier was of importance, and that he would be more likely to be orderly, and well behaved if he was obliged to be attentive to the neatness of his appearance’. (Palmerston Selections from Journals p 16).
Wellington’s entourage at reviews in 1817:
John Fremantle told his uncle on 17 October 1817: ‘Our reviews thank goodness are all at an end, the party in the duke’s carriage were always Felton & his wife, & Poole, or some other youth (a visitor). The Duchess of Wellington always took the Duchess of Richmond, our Lady Lennox & Lady Edward Somerset. Lady Anglesey and ladies went in their own carriage. The duke always went to the ground with Mrs Hervey, Lady Georgina Lennox & Lady Jane Paget at his side, the two former always close to him.’ (John Fremantle to W. H. Fremantle, Cambrai, 17 October 1817, Fremantle’s Wellington’s Voice p 274).
Wellington refuses to grant leave of absence for staff officers:
Wellington’s concern that staff officers not be too privileged compared to those serving with their regiments is also reflected by his refusal to grant leave of absence to officers serving on the staff while permitting a significant proportion of regimental officers to the absent at any time. Naturally this measure was very unpopular and Wellington’s own frequent absences, and that of his senior officers, made it seem both hypocritical and unfair even though its intention was to redress the balance of advantage between staff and regimental officers. (Wellington to the Rev W. Elliot, Cambrai, 12 November 1816 WSD vol 12 p 551; GO 27 February 1816 WD VIII p 322). Less significant, but still rather surprising, was a General Order issued in early October 1816 instructing staff officers and ADCs, with Wellington’s own specifically included, to wear their correct uniform as detailed in the regulations. ‘All ornaments not ordered by his Majesty are to be discontinued, and the Staff Officers and aides de camp must appear in blue or white pantaloons, and black boots’. (GO Cambrai 6 October 1816 WSD vol 11 p 505). This was a long way from the general who was well known for not troubling his troops with such matters on active service in Spain, but as one of the ADCs explains, ‘almost all the young staff officers thought it necessary to assume certain airs; voting the regulation uniform unbecoming, they decked themselves out in fancy costume with hussar sashes, gold embroidered waistcoats, elaborately braided frock coats, richly laced trowsers, and highly ornamental foraging caps’. As the sartorial extravagance was combined with some slackness and inattention to duty, which is admitted by the same officer, it is not surprising that Wellington plucked the feathers from the peacocks and sent them back to work! (Pitt-Lennox Three Years with the Duke p 194-5).
William Napier told his wife in March 1816 that all the allowances for officers going on leave were withheld and given to those who stayed on duty – nearly a guinea a day in his case. (Butler Life of Napier vol 1 p 189).
Hunting in France, including boar hunts:
Many officers in the army enjoyed hunting or coursing. Several packs of hounds were brought over from England and officers who could not aspire to this extravagance could still keep a couple of greyhounds and enter with confidence into enjoyable debates into the relative superiority of the English or Spanish breed. French farmers were less enthusiastic at the at the prospect of having hordes of men, dogs and horses gallivanting madly over their land, and although Wellington issued repeated orders prohibiting hunting until after the harvest had been brought in, this was still one of the most common causes of complaint, much exacerbated by the ingrained differences between the two cultures. Wellington himself kept a pack of hounds and joined in the sport with gusto when he was at Cambrai, taking immense pride in his success in killing a wild boar in October 1817. (De Ros Personal Recollections of the Duke of Wellington p 47; Longford Wellington Pillar of State p 32; on hunting generally see Autobiography of Sir Harry Smith p 301-5).
Wellington told Lady Shelley in December 1816 that he entertained his visitors ‘with bad hunting, but excellent coursing, of which I wish you were here to partake’. (Wellington to Lady Shelley, Mont St Martin, 18 December 1816 Diary of Lady Shelley vol 1 p 357).
John Fremantle noted in September 1816 that ‘The arrangement at present stands thus, his hounds twice a week, beagles twice a week; twice a week come to Cambrai to do business, & Sunday Lord Hill’s greyhounds after church.’ (John Fremantle to W. H. Fremantle, Cambrai, 24 September 1816, Wellington’s Voice p 246).
In 1851 Wellington told Angela Burdett-Coutts: ‘I recollect to have speared a Wild Boar in France, and people said that I was more proud of the Feat than I was of the Battle of Waterloo! I was very much pleased. It was a feat of Horsemanship as well as of management of the spear…’ (Wellington to Angela Burdett-Coutts, 2 January 1852 Wellington and His Friends p 286). Rowland Hill shared his glee: see Sidney Life of Hill p 322.
Chateau of Mont St Martin:
Pitt Lennox Three Years with the Duke p 187 says that it was within 16 miles of Cambrai: ‘It was a large old-fashioned French country house, situated in rather a bleak open district, near the source of the river L’Escaut’.
Romping and theatricals at Mont St Martin:
In August 1816, when urging Lady Shelley to come to visit Cambrai and Mont St Martin, Wellington wrote: ‘I believe the Duchess of Richmond and all her daughters propose to spend the whole winter with me, and we shall have plenty of whist for Shelley of an evening and what they call in Zeland ‘la Bra Pleasura’, and gambols of all kinds for you and the girls’. (Diary of Lady Shelley vol 1 p 296).
Pitt-Lennox Three Years with the Duke p 191-2 says that private theatricals were established at Mont St Martin under Wellington’s patronage as well as there being a theatre at Cambrai. He prints a playbill for the ‘Theatre of Mont St Martin’ for the farce ‘All the World’s a Stage’ with Sir Andrew Barnard as ‘Sir Gilbert Pumkin’ & c.
After the 1816 Manoeuvres there were dinners, balls and special performances ‘Never shall I forget the shouts of laughter that Wellington indulged in, at the performance of the highly-talented author of “Highways and Byways”, or the attention with which he listened to the singing of Messrs. Meade, Fairfield, and Kelly, the latter an especial favourite at headquarters’. (Pitt-Lennox Three Years with the Duke p 206).
In September 1817 John Fremantle told his uncle: ‘Cathcart and Hill have been busily employed writing a play during his absence, which the duke knew about before he went away, they thought of erecting a stage on the top of the house, i.e. between the roof and the top, which is all wood work; he would not allow our servants to inhabit it for fear of its being set fire to. …. We shall have famous sport when the Lennox’s come…’ (John Fremantle to W. H. Fremantle, Cambrai, 19 September 1817, Wellington’s Voice p 271).
And a few months later Fremantle wrote that,
The great amusements of the chateau now are 1st rowing, and talking tawdry to the Duchess of Richmond, who enjoys it extremely. 2nd the preparation for two plays, one of which is to be acted the day after tomorrow. I confess all the preparations bore me extremely which you will be very much surprised at; I acted at a late one, as they were disappointed at one of their members, but I never will again.
There is also a box, called a Love Box, which everybody has written something for, in feigned hands, this is to be opened tomorrow. There are many squibs and home things in it; I expect before they are done some fingers will be burnt, and I shall endeavor to keep as much aloof as possible. (John Fremantle to W. H. Fremantle, Cambrai, 23 November 1817, Wellington’s Voice p 279).
Ten days later Fremantle reported that ‘Our play went off admirably the other night, and everybody was delighted with it. The Duke of Richmond, Lady Mary and Lady Jane Lennox arrived a few days ago in addition to our party. The same scene still continues with the duchess, she is roasted from morning till night, and upon my word I do not think she dislikes it. The chateau is very gay, and the boar hunt affords great sport; every person goes out with a spear, and the duke has as yet been the one who has come first in contact with the animal. He stuck one on Saturday fairly to the ground.’ (John Fremantle to W. H. Fremantle, Cambrai, 3 December 1817, Wellington’s Voice p 280). And again, just after Christmas, ‘No words can convey to you a just idea of the scenes of gambols going on here. Old Richmond [the Duchess] is pinched black and blue all over, and Lady Georgiana is beset by Percy & Cathcart, having young Uxbridge & Charles Fitzroy as cats paws.’ (John Fremantle to W. H. Fremantle, Cambrai, 26 December 1817, Wellington’s Voice p 282).
Wellington’s moods and temper
‘The duke has been in tearing spirits, and continues in very good humour.’ (John Fremantle to W. H. Fremantle, Paris, 23 Aug 1816 Fremantle Wellington’s Voice p 245).
‘His Grace has not been well pleased I think since the day after his return from the grand tour, but nothing in particular occurred till the other evening, when he invited Felton, Hume (the doctor), the Russian, the Austrian, & the Duchess of Richmond to cut in at whist. The two former excused themselves, and sometime afterwards, they each of them with others were cutting in at another whist table, upon which he exclaimed in a voice like thunder, addressing himself to them, that “it was customary when the commander in chief invited a person to play, not to be refused.” Hume smiled, or appeared to smile, on which he said, “Yes it may be a damn good joke, but I can tell you, it won’t do”; a dead silence reigned for 10 minutes. There were present Sir D[avid] Baird, the Prussian, Lady Jane Lennox, besides our family. I was sitting on the sofa with Lady Jane; before he went to bed, he told Felton he desired to see all the gentlemen of his family together with Mr Hume the next morning. When we appeared he began by accusing Hume of disrespect, and in the harshest manner dismissed him his family desiring never to appear before unless sent for; he then read a chapter to us in general, accused us of inattention to a late order he has issued respecting dress & addressed himself directly, in an instance or two of trifling neglect to duty, not to me. From that time to the present hour he has scarcely addressed his conversation to one of us, or one of us to him. Felton is very sore for he imagines that a great deal is meant for him, but Lord Russell, Percy & every one must feel for the way he exposed himself before so many foreigners, and are very much disgusted at his procedure towards them. He fancies I think that we were laughing at his being obliged to set down against his will, with the Duchess of Richmond. It certainly did look like it, and therefore I can make every allowance for his feeling offended by it, but I am confident no slight was intended. … In the whole business he has evinced a pride & haughtiness that I always thought foreign to him, or that I should not have conceived could have belonged to the breast of any man.’ (John Fremantle to W. H. Fremantle, Cambrai, 18 October 1816 Fremantle Wellington’s Voice p 246-7).
A week later, Fremantle wrote again ‘I am now happy to tell you, it all appears to be at an end, and the serenity of the duke’s temper seems to be returned to its usual level.’ – an interesting choice of phrase! (John Fremantle to W. H. Fremantle, Cambrai, 25 October 1816 Fremantle Wellington’s Voice p 248).
On 11 November, ‘The Duchess of Richmond and the whole family left us on Friday last, much regretted, the old one from the constant sport she afforded, and the young ones for their amusement.
‘The house was a constant scene of cheerfulness or rather rioting from morning until night, mostly at the expense of the Old Woman. It is filling again very fast, we seldom sit down to dinner under 20 persons.’ (John Fremantle to W. H. Fremantle, Cambrai, 11 November 1816 Fremantle Wellington’s Voice p 250).
In July 1817: ‘The duke is in famous ease, good spirits, and great good humour prevails.’ (John Fremantle to W. H. Fremantle, Cambrai, 11 July 1817 Fremantle Wellington’s Voice p 263).
Wellington’s role in French politics:
Count Molé is far from reliable but here is what he says:
The Duke of Wellington, the head of the European areopagus which was ruling rhe world, did not trouble himself with details but ruled on broad lines. Neither M. de Richelieu nor Decazes would have dared to take an important decision without first assuring themselves of his approval. This precaution was all the more necessary since he was to be the final arbiter of our fate and because this man, whom one would have thought too used to importance to be flattered by it, was always pleased at being consulted. His loyalty and good sense, his mediocrity of intelligence, his military aristocratic manners, all drew him to the duc de Richelieu.
Decazes was antipathetic to him, be he did not let this appear. This varnish of the parvenu, something of the manners of a sharper and a vulgar dissimulation inspired the Duke with as much distrust as disdain …’ (Life and Memoirs of Count Molé vol 2 p 149).
Molé also has an implausible story how he manipulated Wellington into doing what he wanted by pretending the opposite (ibid p 290).
Wellington’s warmest praise for Richelieu comes in early 1819 just after his fall – Richelieu inspired general confidence in his honesty & integrity. He made mistakes but everyone knew his intentions were honorable & worthy. (Wellington to Duque de Fernan Nunez, London, 5 February 1819 WP 1/619/8 and a warmly friendly letter to Richelieu himself, 1 February 1819 (WP 1/619/2)).
When Richelieu died in May 1822 Wellington ‘was so affected by the news that he shed tears’ (Diary of Philipp von Neumann vol 1 p 96 19 May 1822).
An Englishman’s right to speak his mind:
Longford Wellington Pillar of State p 30 has Wellington declaring ‘an Englishman has as much right to talk in Paris as in London’ but this is third or fourth hand: what Whishaw told Lady Holland he had heard from Mr Bennett … all from Kurtz Trial of Marshal Ney. Wellington may well have declined a French request to silence these officers and other visitors, knowing that it would be useless, but his underlying attitude was far from John Bullish – he had no sympathy for ‘these foolish talkers, who have in reality no fixed opinion upon any subject’. (Wellington to Bathurst, Paris, 22 February 1816 WSD vol 11 p 308).
Doubts over intentions of British government:
In mid 1816 James Rothschild in Paris was alarmed by reports that ‘the British government might favour replacing Louis XVIII with the duc d’Orleans, which [he] warned would lead to civil war’. (Niall Ferguson The House of Rothschild, Money’s Prophets 1798-1848 p 115).
Pozzo di Borgo told Lady Malmesbury ‘that our English Jacobins trotting about, giving their opinions and admiring Buonaparte, are still doing more mischief than can be undone by any efforts’. (Lady Malmesbury to Lord Malmesbury, Paris, 7 July 1816 Malmesbury Series of Letters vol 2 p 472-3).
Not all British liberals were hostile to the Bourbons: for a cogent argument in their favour, as the least bad choice on offer, see J. W. Ward’s letter to his friend the Bishop of Llandaff on 17 January 1816:
I read yesterday a paper on France and the Edin[burgh] Rev[iew]. I take it to be Broughham’s – the tail-piece perhaps by Jeffrey. It is a very singular performance – able like everything that B. writes, but fuller than ever of strange doctrines. It is hardly to be conceived how any reading, reflecting man should have brought himself to believe that the dethroning of Louis XVIII and setting up the Duke of Orleans in his stead, would be a copy of our revolution of 1688, and that the emigrants are to the present King of France, what the Jesuits were to James II. There is a good note, however, about the Whig Napoleonists, those zealots for freedom who have fixed upon a military despot as their true ally and protector’. (Ward Letters from the Earl of Dudley to the Bishop of Llandaff p 126-7; see also J. W. Ward Letters to Ivy p 296-7 January 1816).
If British liberals created uncertainty of one kind in France in early 1816 Canning’s indiscretion caused offence (and highlighted the tact of Wellington and Castlereagh by contrast) later in the year when he is reported to have told Madame de Stael ‘“that France was a conquered country, and that the allies would not only not quit the soil of it, but would make sure that it should not be in a situation to make a move for a hundred years’. (Stuart Wortley Highcliffe and The Stuarts p 250-1).
Charles Stuart in Paris:
Richelieu considered Stuart hostile to France and deficient in manners; ‘his letters were so dry and harsh that Richelieu found it hard to reply to them politely’. (Mansel Paris Between Empires p 109).
In July 1817 Wellington wrote to Clancarty about the Ambassador’s conference in Paris: ‘Between ourselves, Sir Charles does not take the lead sufficiently in these conferences … I know I have always found it very practicable to keep them quiet, but Sir Charles lets them go on, says nothing, and then signs with the majority’. (Wellington to Clancarty, Mont St Martin, 9 July 1817 WSD vol 11 p 722-23).
To which Stuart might have replied that Wellington’s interference had undercut Stuart’s weight and authority.
In October 1818 Glenbervie (Diaries vol 2 p 331-2) reported strong rumours that Stuart was to be replaced when the occupation ended and speculation over his successor; while The Times of 19 December 1818 thought that Harrowby would replace him in Brussels as part of a wider reshuffle. Glenbervie thought Stuart was plainly ‘ill-calculated’ for the post, and noted that rumours of his replacement had ‘been long the general report in London’. Henry Bankes told Lord Colchester on 31 December 1819 ‘It is time that Sir Charles Stuart should be removed; he gives satisfaction in no one particular that concerns his mission’ (Abbot Diary vol 3 p 104).
Louis XVIII’s gifts to Wellington:
There are some unreliable accounts of the Grosbois proposal and the St Espirit in Croker Papers vol 1 p 332-3 and Stanhope Conversations p 255-6. The only point they add is that, according to Stanhope, Wellington subsequently (when the order had been abolished) had the diamonds set into a diadem or coronet which he presented to Lady Douro on her wedding.
The Times (24 December 1818) reported neutrally that ‘The Cross which the Duke of Wellington has received from the King of France surpasses in splendor everyone of the same kind in Europe. It is said to be worth full £25,000 sterling’. But the point was picked up by the radicals: see main text p 136-7.
The Reduction of the Army of Occupation in 1817:
1816 was not an easy year. Poor harvests led to grain shortages and the threat of dearth and riots, although actual trouble was sporadic and limited. (Mansel Louis XVIII p 353; Eugene N. White ‘Making the French Pay: the Costs and Consequences of the Napoleonic Reparations’ p 357). Richelieu endeavoured to ease the burden on the country and the pressure on the government by a reduction in the size of the Army of Occupation. Wellington was at first quite encouraging but then dug in his heels when Richelieu pressed for an early decision which he could announce at the opening of parliament in the autumn. Conversely Wellington wanted to assess the attitude of the new chambers before definitely committing himself, while he was increasingly alarmed by the deteriorating mood of the country in the late summer and autumn as the harvest was brought in. However his initial support for the proposal had led the allies to agree to a reduction and ensured that he was negotiating at a disadvantage. Nonetheless he gained the time he wanted: the Army would be reduced to 120,000 men but not until the beginning of April 1817. In the meantime, to help Richelieu, he set about discovering ways of reducing the cost of the occupation and made quite a few economies without damaging the army’s efficiency. (Wellington to Richelieu 18 July 1816; Wellington to Castlereagh 30 August 1816; Wellington to Charles Stuart 13 October and 3 December 1816; Wellington to Castlereagh 11 December 1816 WSD vol 11 p 441-2, 470-1, 507-8, 562 and 571-3; Wellington to Sir Charles Stuart 24 December 1816 and 9 January 1817 (Memorandum of a Note on the Reduction of the Army of Occupation) WSD vol 11 p 585-6, 589-94).
Count Molé claims that the reduction caused more irritation than gratitude – which may reflect his own attitude but is unconvincing as a wider view. (Life and Memoirs of Count Molé vol 2 p 295).
Tom Grenville reported a rumour in January 1817 that the reduction had been agreed ‘against the vehement representation of the Duke of Wellington, who threatened to resign, but remains’. (Tom Grenville to Lord Grenville 17 January 1817 HMC Dropmore vol 10 p 420). This rumour probably grew from the intense speculation aroused by his unexpected trip to England at the end of 1816: see Glenbervie Diaries vol 2 p 212 5 January 1817, however cf WSD vol 11 p 585-6 and Webster Foreign Policy of Castlereagh, 1815-1822 p 587-8 which shows that there were other purposes of the trip and that Wellington came at the request of the ministers.
Wellington and the 1817 electoral law:
Count Molé claims that Wellington ‘declared against direct election, fearing that it would place the choice in the hands of the small landowners in a country like France, so deficient in any aristocratic influence or class’. (Molé Life and Memoirs vol 2 p 286).
Wellington in Brussels, May 1817:
Mrs Calvert wrote in her journal on 22 May 1817 when she was in Brussels: ‘At half past eight we all went to Lady Clancarty’s. The Prince and Princess of Orange, the Duke of Wellington and all the beau morde of Brussels were there. But I am very much affronted with the Duke. He never asked for Felix!’ (Calvert Irish Beauty under the Regency p 278-9).
Wellington and the Barrier Fortresses:
Wellington’s closest interest was naturally in the initial planning: which fortresses to be rebuilt and on what scale, where his insight into the strategic problems facing any general charged with defending the Netherlands against French attack was most relevant, rather than in more technical questions of exact siting and design or the myriad of administrative problems that arose in the actual building. He was able to satisfy himself that work was making good progress by annual tours of inspection and was pleased to find that with a few exceptions the works were likely to be completed by 1820. A few years later, in 1826, allegations were made that the construction had been slipshod and rife with corruption. A commission of inquiry made up of Dutch-Belgian officers made a probing investigation and reported that the fortresses were well built and uncovered only minor cases of peculation and fraud at a junior level, such as would be found in almost any large building project. (C. Nelson ‘The Duke of Wellington and the Barrier Fortresses after Waterloo’ J.S.A.H.R. vol 42 no 169 March 1964 p 36-43; ‘Memorandum on the Fortresses in the Low Countries’ 22 July 1816; Wellington to Castlereagh 22 December 1816, 14 July 1817 and 7 August 1817 WSD vol 11 p 447-9, 583, 735 vol 12 p 22-23).
Wellington and diplomatic negotiations involving Spain and Portugal:
Wellington also played a part, although not a leading one, in several diplomatic entanglements involving Spain and Portugal which were discussed in Paris. No country had been more dissatisfied by the Vienna settlement than Spain which had not only been excluded from the inner circle of Great Powers, a place which she had held as a matter of right for centuries, but which had seen her traditional interests in Italy ignored. The Duchy of Parma previously held by a cadet branch of the Spanish Bourbons had been granted to Napoleon’s wife the Empress Marie Louise, but it was not clear whether she would be able to bequeath it to her son, the Duke of Reichstadt, or if it would revert to the Bourbons. The Austrian Emperor was inclined to support his grandson, while Marie Louise had made a strong appeal to Alexander’s chivalry, but Castlereagh took up the Spanish cause and eventually prevailed after a considerable tussle. (Webster Foreign Policy of Castlereagh, 1815-22 p 114-116).
It says a great deal about the lack of realism at Madrid that the Spanish government was prepared to waste so much energy and diplomatic capital upon an irrelevance like Parma at a time when almost the whole of her vast American Empire was in danger of slipping out of her grasp. For the moment this was essentially an internal problem, but it produced a crisis in relations between Spain and Portugal when Portuguese troops from Brazil were sent to occupy Uruguay to prevent it proclaiming its independence. The Spanish authorities protested vehemently and threatened to invade Portugal. There were those in Spain who thought that if, as increasingly likely, the American colonies were last, then the conquest of Portugal would make a useful consolation prize; while quite a few leading Portuguese, resenting the continued failure of the court to return from Rio de Janeiro, were willing to contemplate the possibility of rule from Madrid. (Wellington to Castlereagh 19 December 1817 WSD 12 p 197). However Britain maintained a commitment to the independent Portugal, and Beresford remained in command of the Portuguese army. The Spanish government talked loudly of war and of collecting an army of 10,000 men at Badajoz, but even this proved more than she could manage: both Spain and Portugal were exhausted by the ravages of the Peninsular War and, without subsidies from Britain, were almost impotent. Nonetheless Wellington was gravely concerned by the possibility of war in which he felt Britain would be forced to intervene, creating an unwelcome expense and the risk of French interference, if nothing worse. (Wellington to Castlereagh 28 October 1816 WSD vol 11 p 533-4). He took an active part in the protracted negotiations in Paris which ultimately devised a face-saving solution: the Portuguese agreed to withdraw from Uruguay as soon as Spain sent a sufficient force to keep the country stable. Both sides privately acknowledged that it was most unlikely that Spain could find the men or money needed to do so, while the Portuguese minister admitted that he had greatly exceeded his instructions and might be repudiated by his court when it eventually heard what he had done. As an exasperated Castlereagh exclaimed ‘What a waste of time the nonsense of diplomacy occasions!’ But time had been gained as well as lost, and the risk of war averted. (Castlereagh to Wellington 21 July 1818 WSD vol 12 p 610-11. See also Wellington to Beresford 11 February and 15 May 1817 WSD vol 11 p 627-9, 680-1 and Wellington to Castlereagh 19 December 1817 and 22 March 1818 WSD vol 12 p 197 and 430-2.).
Wellington in Paris before the Assassination Attempt:
Marianne Spencer-Stanhope to John Spencer-Stanhope, Paris, 7 February 1818: ‘The Duke of Wellington gives a concert tonight, and it is said two costume balls. Yesterday we had some of the fooleries of the Carnival which the weather prevented on Sunday and Monday. Masks paraded the streets, the windows were full of heads, and all the people from one end of Paris to the other drawn in possession along the Boulevards and the Rue St Honoré’. (Letter Bag of Lady Elizabeth Spencer-Stanhope vol 1 p 325).
Cantillon had joined the army as the substitute for a conscript and served in the campaign in the campaigns of 1808 and 1809 in 1e Hussars and then the Chasseurs à Cheval of the Guard. In 1813 he quitted service with a small pension but rejoined in 1815.
He died prior to 1854 when part of the legacy – about 1200 francs – was paid to his widow. Stirling says that it was paid in full during the Second Empire, but the evidence is confused. (Information from Steven Smith citing Sir William Stirling Maxwell Napoleon’s Bequest to Cantillon (London Parker 1858)).
Wellington cited the bequest to Cantillon as evidence that Napoleon was not a gentleman and ‘another proof of littleness of mind’ – because Napoleon knew there was no money to honour the promise. (Croker Papers vol 1 p 339, 1826).
Reactions to the Attempt to Assassinate Wellington:
Kitty wrote to a friend on 19 February: ‘You will have heard of the horrible attempt to assassinate my husband, the preserver of Europe, the first, the greatest of men. But the same Hand that has ever protected him in the day of battle protected him now – the same Eye watched over him, and ever will, I am sure. Why, then, do I still feel such horror when I think of this attempt? He is now, however, guarded in every possible way, and, I do believe, is more safe than he has ever before been at Paris. I wish for all that he was at home.’ And, a fortnight later, ‘No discovery is yet made of the assassin. I never trembled for the duke in battle, but now I have not a quiet moment. Yet I hope my trust in God is implicit – God will not forsake him.’ (Duchess of Wellington to Lady Hood, Apsley House, 19 February and 4 March 1818 quoted in Anonymous ‘Seaforth Papers: Letters from 1796-1843’ published in [Littell’s] The Living Age 12 Dec 1863 p 494. See also Guedalla The Duke p 306-7 for two letters from the Duchess to Marquess Wellesley giving the news of the attempt and its failure: ‘Thank God, thank God, my dear Lord Wellesley, my Husband is perfectly safe…’).
William Napier wrote to his life on 16 February 1818 from Valenciennes, refusing to believe that the French liberal exiles, whom he admired and sympathized with, could possibly have been responsible:
Lord Wellington has been fired at at Paris, and what makes it very serious is that although it only took place on Tuesday, we were told here at the Cambray that t had taken place on the Saturday – that is, on Saturday the French news was that Lord W. had been fired at, and on the Tuesday following it actually happened. Louis’s police have very coolly informed the Duke that the plot originated at Brussels, among the emigrant Frenchmen; that is, that having by their flight saved their heads from him, he is endeavouring to get them killed by us, by a false accusation. For my part, I have no doubt that it originated with him and his ministers, partly out of enmity, and partly to have the means of attacking these poor devils in their retreat; the world will hardly be the dupes of such a gross artifice as this I hope … (Bruce Life of Napier vol 1 p 212-13).
Lady Francis Cole to Lord Malmesbury [her father] Cambrai 16 February 1818: ‘We heard from Paris last night some details of the attempt to shoot the Duke of Wellington, which has made a great sensation in Paris, as it has done here, and no doubt will in London also’. She goes on to give details of the attempt before adding:
… I have always felt strongly the Duke’s insecurity at Paris, but as these people now say emissaries of this conspiracy have been watching him here and at the château, no place seems really safe for him, and one can only be thankful advantage was not taken of his numberless unguarded walks and rides.
He takes this event in the manner you may suppose; not rejecting any precautions which may in some degree prevent any future attempt in his own house, but taking his usual rides and showing himself as usual; truly observing that if anyone chose to take his life by sacrificing his own, no precaution can save him, and he would make his own existence miserable by continually considering himself in danger. (Malmesbury Series of Letters vol 2 p 519-23).
Wellington in Paris after the Assassination Attempt:
Little has occurred since I wrote to you last week except the Duke of Wellington’s delightful and superb ball. We may consider ourselves fortunate in being invited, as the list was his own and he would not allow the aide-de-damps to interfere. Isabella, Frances, and myself arrived about eleven. The rooms were then full, and soon after arrived the Royal Family. The Duchess de Berri danced, but they all went away about twelve, as did numbers of the French. Everybody sat at supper, several rooms were open – round table and all. The Duke retired soon after supper, and left Col. Fremantle to do the honours, which he did, first by doubling the champagne, then by making the ball go with spirit. We stayed till the last and did not get home till five …’ (Mrs Spencer-Stanhope to John Spencer-Stanhope 5 April 1818 Letter Bag of Lady Elizabeth Spencer-Stanhope vol 1 p 331-2).
Wellington blamed the French government for growing unpopularity of the Occupation:
He told Bathurst that it had,
contrived to render us so odious, and the people have so long been indirectly encouraged by impunity to be audaciously insolent to us, and the authorities themselves are so much disinclined towards us, that I don’t think we can stay on or present system, even if France should agree with the other Powers of Europe in opinion that it is necessary. The occupation is now one of peace, and 120,000 men are spread over the country from Basle to Calais in the manner most convenient to the government and to the people of the country. But as soon as the occupation becomes odious to the people, and that we are liable to the attack which they are daily excited to make upon us, … we must close up, and take our real position with our whole force between the Meuse and the Scheldt, and our occupation must become more burthensome to the country in which we shall be placed, and, in fact, become one of war. (Wellington to Bathurst, Paris, 8 March 1818 WSD vol 12 p 380-82).
Changing attitude of the British Government to French Borrowing:
The possibility of the French government borrowing the money to pay off its reparations had first been raised as early as 1815, but then it had roused the vehement opposition of the British Treasury expressed by Nicholas Vansittart the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Vansittart had two main arguments: the British economy had been starved of capital due to the demands of government in the final years of the war. The government was stopping its borrowing and didn’t want the French to take its place in the market. And if British investors were owed large sums of money by the French it would create a powerful lobby in Britain even when relations were good. The French government could easily bring pressure to bear on the British by threatening to default on the loan (Vansittart to Castlereagh 19 September 1815 Castlereagh Correspondence vol 11 p 21-26). The large inflow of money into Britain, and into the Bank of England, in 1816 put an end to the worry about a shortage of capital for investment (Cookson Lord Liverpool’s Administration p 91-92), but the concern about the creation of a powerful interest group of bond holders did not disappear, although it was some reassurance that less than half the 1817 loans were raised in Britain.
Wellington and the Negotiations over Reparations:
Wellington explained to Castlereagh how he proposed to proceed:
My plan is first to ascertain what really and ought to satisfy each nation. In order to obtain this information we have called for detailed returns, which are already coming in; and as soon as I shall have them all, I will converse with each of the Ministers and Commissaries, in order to bring each to a minimum. If I should find any too exorbitant in their demands, I propose to call upon them to produce claims, founded of course on the Treaty, to substantiate the amount which they demand, which claims I will submit to arbitrators, such as the Tuscan, the Dutch, and the Austrian Commissaries; and if the Minister or Commissioner will not submit to this mode of settling the question, I must then leave out of the negotiation altogether the claims of that country, and let them be settled by the process pointed out in the Convention.
After having ascertained as nearly as I can what will satisfy everybody, I will then, secondly, negotiate with the French government to obtain that sum in the mode which will be most advantageous to the Allies, and least injurious to the other operations of the French government.
After the money will be obtained from the French government, I conceive that each nation will dispose of its share in the manner it may deem expedient. The French government will of course insist upon the debts, particularly those of a certain description, being paid; and, at all events, upon being exonerated from the whole. This will be fair enough. The Allies, on the other hand, may very fairly insist upon the French government affording every facility for the investigation of the claims.
I conversed upon this plan with Humboldt when I was in London, who was perfectly satisfied with it, and so is Goltz here; and indeed the Austrian Minister, as well as all the others with whom I have conversed upon it.
I believe it is entirely consistent with your notions…’ (Wellington to Castlereagh, Paris, 15 February 1818 WSD vol 12 p 289-90).
This gives an idea how such a mass of material could be dealt with, and Wellington’s willingness to delegate on this occasion.
Final stages of the Occupation:
With the financial questions well on the way to being settled Wellington turned his mind to the practical problems involved in withdrawing the army. As early as 26 May 1818 he informed Bathurst that the British contingent had accumulated no less than 5,840 tons of ordnance supplies in France, and that a decision needed to be made as to what stores should be brought home, and how to dispose of the remainder. (Wellington to Bathurst, Cambrai, 26 May 1818 WSD vol 12 p 522-24). Fortunately a good harvest and the knowledge that the allies were likely to leave by the end of the year had greatly improved the mood of the country – something which Wellington was reluctant to acknowledge in May but could not deny in July. (Wellington to Clancarty 29 May 1818; Wellington to Castlereagh 17 July 1818 WSD vol 12 p 529, 598-600).
Wellington and the Allied Sovereigns, 1818:
Palmerston attended the military manoeuvres which followed the meeting at Aix, and wrote in his journal: ‘No Englishman could be otherwise than gratified at seeing, on the one hand, the extreme respect and difference aid by all to the Duke, and, on the other hand, the manly but respectful manner with which he treats the sovereigns. The perfection of manner towards superiors in rank is never to appear to forget that they are so, and yet never to appear for a moment more embarrassed or constrained with them than in a company of equals’. (Palmerston Selections from Private Journals of Tours in France in 1815 and 1818 p 48-9).
Wellington made Field Marshal of Austria, Russia and Prussia:
Gurwood says this was in October, Cockayne Complete Peerage says November 1818 – the difference depending on what exact point in the process of appointment is regarded as critical. It was evidently done to mark the completion of the Occupation of France.
Wellington commanding a European Army:
There was some discussion of the idea that the Army of Occupation should withdraw from France but not immediately dissolve: instead remaining on watch, stationed in the Low Countries and Rhineland. This never had much support. See Webster Foreign Policy of Castlereagh 1815-1822 p 164 also p 135-6: Castlereagh strongly opposed it.
Last minute hitch in financial settlement averted:
A more immediate threat to the success of the meeting appeared at the end of October with signs of a run on the French central bank which, Baring told Wellington, had the makings of a serious panic which could destroy the loans on which the allies depended for their indemnity. Baring proposed a solution and Wellington took this to the allied ministers. As Metternich, Nesselrode and Hardenberg had all large holdings of the loan stock and would lose heavily if its value fell, it is not surprising that they readily accepted Baring’s proposal. (Baring to Wellington 30 October and reply 4 November 1818 WSD vol 12 p 789-92, 816-17; White ‘Making the French Pay’ p 347 explains the origin and nature of the crisis. Ziegler Barings p 85). A second adjustment to the terms of the loan was required in December when Wellington, Castlereagh and Nesselrode were in Paris and acted after consulting the Prussian and Austrian ambassadors. (Wellington to Metternich, Paris, 13 December 1818 WSD vol 12 p 864-68, see also Baring to Wellington, Paris, 31 December 1818 WSD vol 12 p 883-4).
Wellington accused of taking a bribe over the Barings loan:
Ziegler Barings p 85 states that Wellington was ‘widely accused’ of taking a bribe over facilitating this revision of the terms of the loan, but the sources he cites do not make this accusation and no other evidence for the accusation, let alone the fact, has appeared. As Ziegler gives no other details this seems to be a dead end.
We can be quite certain that Wellington did not accept anything that he saw as a bribe, or even remotely improper; but as the gifts from Louis XVIII show his notions of propriety were rather different from those that have since become established. It is not clear whether, like Metternich and the other statesmen, he held stock in the loan, although it seems somewhat unlikely.
Niall Ferguson The House of Rothschild 1798–1848 p 116-117 discusses the story that the Rothchilds organized the run on the French bank as a way of discrediting Barings, but concludes that there is no evidence for it and that it is unlikely – it would have offended far too many powerful statesmen.
Ferguson also quotes one of the Rothchilds calling Wellington “old Stiff-back” – not a bad nickname to be given by them! (ibid p 118).
Congress of Aix-le-Chapelle:
Castlereagh wrote home on 28 November:
I have been passing two months of mere labour at Aix-le-Chapelle, there being no sort of amusement. We have done more business than in double the time at any of our former reunions, and all are gone home in good humour and vowing eternal peace and friendship, so that we shall be enabled to make our reductions with a good conscience.
If Mrs A[rbuthnot] had come to Aix, she would have had the whole of Europe at her feet. There never was such a dearth known of female society. Madme. Lieven reign’d with absolute sway …’
(Castlereagh to Charles Arbuthnot Private Brussels 28 November 1818 Correspondences of Charles Arbuthnot p 12-13).
The Russians and French put forward a proposal that Wellington be sent to Madrid to lead a combined European mediation between Spain and her colonies. Castlereagh quashed this idea immediately – regarding it as contrary to British policy and likely to give the Spaniards false hope rather than forcing them to face reality. (Webster Foreign Policy of Castlereagh 1815–1822 p 419-20).
© Rory Muir