Wellington: A Personal History

By Christopher Hibbert | Go to book overview

41 Portraits and Painters 1830-50

'I lament the fate of having passed my Manhood acquiring celebrity; and of having to pass my old Age in sitting for Busts and Artists.'

IN THE COUNTRY as a whole Wellington's former unpopularity now appeared to have been largely forgotten. He was loudly cheered at Vauxhall; he was joyously acclaimed by the crowds at a review in Hyde Park; on a visit to Cambridge he was as enthusiastically welcomed by the town as he was by the University. When he appeared at a choral concert in London, 'the singing stopped, the whole audience rose, and a burst of acclamation and waving of handkerchiefs saluted the great old man. Everyone was moved except the Duke himself.' 'The feeling of the people for him seems to be the liveliest of all popular sentiments,' Charles Greville commented. 'Yet he does nothing to excite it, and hardly appears to notice it.'1

In the streets of London gentlemen raised their hats to him; doctors stood on the steps of St George's Hospital opposite Apsley House to watch him pass by; 2 'even the butcher's boy pulled up his cart as he stopped at the gate'; 3 and once a cheering crowd followed him up Constitution Hill to Apsley House where he paused to indicate with an ironic gesture the iron shutters on the windows which had been smashed not so long before.* He gave a bow, touched the brim of his

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*
The Duke left the smashed windows at Apsley House unmended for a long time. He had them reglazed in June 1833 for the annual Waterloo dinner. Some said that he did so because the King was coming as the principal guest, others that he was provoked by a caricature by John Doyle published on 10 June. This, entitled 'Taking an airing in Hyde Park: Framed but not yet Glazed', depicted him staring defiantly through a shattered frame. The iron shutters may have originally given rise to the soubriquet 'the Iron Duke'. In an apparent allusion to these shutters, Punch referred to the 'Wrought-iron Duke' in 1842. The "'Iron Duke'", tout court, seems first to have appeared in print in the Mechanics' Magazine in 1845. Sir Herbert Maxwell ( The Life of Wellington, i, 304) suggested that the soubriquet originated, not so much in the Duke's iron will and often unbending opposition to hidebound Tories, as well as to radicals, as in an iron steamship launched on the Mersey and named The Duke of Wellington. This ship became known as the

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