Wellington: A Personal History

By Christopher Hibbert | Go to book overview

24 Brussels 1815

'Duchess, you may give your ball with the greatest safety without fear of interruption.'

ON THE EVENING of Monday 6 March 1815 Prince Metternich received various representatives of other Continental powers at his official residence. Among them was the Duke of Wellington. There were many important matters to discuss, and the meeting did not break up until three o'clock on the Tuesday morning. Metternich then went to bed, giving orders that he was not to be disturbed. At six, however, he was woken by a servant who handed him a dispatch marked urgent. He left it unopened on his bedside table and tried to go to sleep again; but, restless now, he could not do so. He opened the dispatch and read its contents: Napoleon had disappeared from the island of Elba. 1

The Duke's days as a diplomat were for the moment over. He was to be a soldier again. By the beginning of April he was in Brussels preparing for war, while careful to give the impression that he thought war might be averted. There were numerous foreign visitors in Brussels, enjoying a continental holiday in what was then considered 'one of the most brilliant cities in Europe'. Wellington's mother was there until her son advised her to leave for Antwerp. So, to the Duke's great pleasure, was Lady Frances Wedderburn-Webster, the alluring, emotional daughter of the Earl of Mountnorris. She was married to a rather stupid officer of Hussars who once told his friend Lord Byron that he thought 'any woman fair game', that 'every woman was his lawful prize'. He could 'depend upon' his wife's principles, he said. She was 'all moral . . . very like Christ!!!' She couldn't go wrong, therefore he could. Byron, however, knew her better. Admittedly she said 'prayers, morning and evening, besides being measured for a new Bible once a quarter'. But she was far from being as virtuous as she seemed; and at two o'clock one morning at Newstead Abbey she told Byron she was entirely at his mercy. 'I own it,' she said. 'I give myself up to you. I am not cold whatever I seem to others . . . Now act as you will.' Byron confessed

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Wellington: A Personal History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Author's Note and Acknowledgements xi
  • I - 1769-1815 1
  • 1 - Eton, Dublin and Angers 1769-87 3
  • 2 - An Officer in the 33rd 1787-93 9
  • 3 - The First Campaign 1794-5 13
  • 4 - A Voyage to India 1796-8 17
  • 5 - The Tiger of Mysore 1799 23
  • 6 - The Governor of Mysore 1799 30
  • 7 - The Sultan's Palace 1800-1 36
  • 8 - Assaye 1802-5 41
  • 9 - Return to London 1805-6 47
  • 10 - Kitty Pakenham 1790-1806 54
  • 11 - Ireland and Denmark 1806-7 58
  • 12 - Portugal 1808 66
  • 13 - Board of Enquiry 1808 77
  • 14 - Across the Douro 1809 82
  • 15 - 'A Whole Host of Marshals' 1809 - 10 92
  • 16 - From Bussaco to El Bodon 1810-11 101
  • 17 - Life at Headquarters 1810-12 108
  • 18 - Badajoz, Salamanca and Madrid 1812 117
  • 19 - Retreat to Portugal 1812 126
  • 20 - From Vitoria to the Frontier 1812-13 133
  • 21 - St Jean De Luz 1813 144
  • 22 - In London Again 1814 151
  • 23 - Paris and Vienna 1814-15 160
  • 24 - Brussels 1815 167
  • 25 - Waterloo 1815 174
  • II - 1815-52 187
  • 26 - The Ambassador 1815 189
  • 27 - Cambrai and Vitry 1815-18 202
  • 28 - Stratfield Saye 1818-20 213
  • 29 - King George IV and Queen Caroline 1820-1 220
  • 30 - Husband and Wife 1821 226
  • 31 - Vienna and Verona 1822-4 241
  • 32 - St Petersburg and the Northern Counties 1825 - 7 251
  • 33 - The Prime Minister 1828-9 264
  • 34 - Battersea Fields and Scotland Yard 273
  • 35 - The Death of the King 1829-30 278
  • 36 - Riots and Repression 1830-2 287
  • 37 - A Bogy to the Mob 1832 296
  • 38 - Oxford University and Apsley House 1832-4 306
  • 39 - Lady Friends 1834 313
  • 40 - The Foreign Secretary 1834-6 319
  • 41 - Portraits and Painters 1830-50 326
  • 42 - Life at Walmer Castle 1830-50 338
  • 43 - The Young Queen 1837-9 348
  • 44 - Grand Old Man 1839-50 357
  • 45 - The Horse Guards and the House of Lords 1842-50 367
  • 46 - Hyde Park Corner 1845-6 373
  • 47 - Disturbers of the Peace 1846-51 378
  • 48 - Growing Old 1850-1 385
  • 49 - Last Days 1851-2 394
  • 50 - The Way to St Paul's 1852 399
  • References 405
  • Sources 426
  • Index 439
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