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Tag Archives: Duke of Wellington

I arrived home yesterday at about 9:30 pm, which was like 2:30 am in the UK, so I am a little tired today but already missing England. There were so many wonderful experiences on this trip, it is hard to pick out one to share today.

Since this was The Duke of Wellington tour, most of the sites we visited related to the Duke. One I knew little about was Walmer Castle.

IMG_0023The Duke of Wellington was appointed Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, a post he held for 23 years. The Cinque Ports are five ports on the English Channel that were originally formed for military and trade purposes, but is now entirely ceremonial. Henry VIII built Walmer Castle as a defense against possible invasion.

Wellington spent part of each year at Walmer Castle. One of the reasons he liked it so well was that it was enough distant from London that he was not inundated by visitors. One notable visitor, though, was Queen Victoria who came with Prince Albert and their two oldest children.

IMG_0022We saw Wellington’s bed chamber at Walmer. There was a writing desk under a window where Wellington wrote letters early in the morning, looking out at the sea as he did so. Wellington wrote letters standing up and the desk looked somewhat like a lectern.  In that room was his camp bed where he preferred to sleep and also the arm chair where he suffered his fatal stroke.

Wellington used to walk every day and he was a favorite with the local children. He’d keep a number of sovereigns each suspended from a red or a blue ribbon. He’d ask the children if they were for the navy or the army. Navy received blue ribbons and army received red ones.

IMG_0021The gardens of Walmer, now beautiful, were reputed to be a shambles during Wellington’s tenure. He’d hired a gardner with no knowledge or experience in gardening. One day in London a Sergeant Townsend wrote to the Duke to complain of being discharged from the army without a pension. Wellington gave him the job of gardener at Walmer.

The gardens are beautiful today.

Two other notable Lords of the Cinque Ports were Sir Winston Churchill and the Queen Mother.

More later!

…I will be in Belgium for the events surrounding the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo! I bought my tickets for the reenactment yesterday, as soon as I heard they were available.

Waterloo reenactor

I’ve been planning this trip for over ten years, saving money and vacation time so I can take at least four weeks off work. The current plan is to fly into London so we can give our daughter, who’ll be 11 and just finished with 5th grade then, a soft, English-speaking landing for her first trip abroad. She’s such a huge Doctor Who fan that London should seem familiar to her.

Then it’s on to Belgium for the reenactment. From there our tentative itinerary is several days in Paris, followed by almost a week in the Dordogne River valley (for delicious food, prehistoric cave paintings, and some nice relaxation in the middle of what will surely be a hectic trip). After that I’ll put my Wellington fangirl hat back on as we go into Spain and Portugal, where we’ll visit at least a few Peninsular War sites.

Is anyone else going to be at the reenactment? And do you have a “trip of a lifetime,” either in your past or planned for your future?


The Duke of Wellington Tour
September 4 to 14, 2014

Diane: It is my pleasure today to welcome Kristine Hughes and Victoria Hinshaw of the fabulous blog, Number One London. Kristine, Victoria and I go way back. We became close during a tour of the UK, called The Romantic Road North tour, where Kristine was the tour’s historical expert (because she’s the author of The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England from 1811-1901) and Victoria and I were Regency authors soaking up research material.

We also came together as admirers and researchers of the Duke of Wellington.  I’m delighted to have them with us today to discuss their upcoming Duke of Wellington Tour scheduled for September of 2014.

In honor of the Duke of Wellington tour, I’m giving way a (very abridged) biography of Wellington by Elizabeth Longford to one lucky commenter, chosen at random.

Kristine and Victoria, can you tell us more about the tour?

Kristine:  The Tour features sites associated with the life and times of the Duke of Wellington. As you well know, the Duke played significant roles during the reigns of four monarchs – George III, George IV, William IV and Queen Victoria, for well over half a century.  Because of that, we’ve been able to put together a great itinerary. In addition to London, we’ll be visiting Kent, Brighton, Reading, and Windsor.

Diane: And we can bet you’ll come up with some unique adventure! Remember the Highwaymen who held up our coach at Belvoir Castle?

Kristine: Who could forget it!

Victoria: Don’t worry, we’ve include lots of unique opportunities on this tour, as well – a guided walking tour of St. James’s, a private dinner at the Grenadier Pub in London, a stop at the White Cliffs of Dover, luncheon at Wellington’s country home Stratfield Saye (below), and a river boat cruise in Windsor. Of course, we can’t tell you everything we’ve planned or they wouldn’t be secret.

Kristine: Yes, and it seems that the itinerary keeps changing, as well. We got an email from a curator at the Tower of London letting us know that they’ll be mounting a special exhibition on the Duke and his influence on the Tower that will be running at the same time as our visit, so we’ve substituted that for St. Paul’s.

Diane: How did you come up with the idea for the Duke of Wellington tour?

Victoria:  The Duke of Wellington was an obvious choice for our first Number One London tour. We called our blog Number One London, the original address of Apsley House, because the Duke’s lifetime stretched across the periods of British history that we’re most interested in – Georgian, Regency and Victorian.

Kristine:  The tour includes all the best bits from each of the historic periods.  Most of the sites, such as the Tower of London, Brighton Pavilion and Windsor Castle will appeal to a wide range of people with varied interests, from medieval prisons to Edwardian dollhouses.

Victoria: Yes, and then there are the stately homes we’ll be visiting, Apsley House, Basildon Park, the Regency Town House, and Highclere Castle — all have elements that run through various periods of British history.

Diane: What part of the tour are you most looking forward to?

Kristine: Hands down, Stratfield Saye. I’ve wanted to visit the Duke’s country house for years, but it’s very rarely open. I’m looking forward to seeing the house itself, the portraits of the Duke’s favourites in the dining room and I’m especially looking forward to visiting Copenhagen’s grave. But I’m also looking forward to revisiting sites I’ve been to before, this time with the emphasis on their connections to the Duke of Wellington.

Victoria: I want to stand in Highclere Castle (below) and just take in all that magnificence. I have a real love/hate thing going with the story of Downton Abbey, but I have unconditional admiration for the costumes and settings. Can’t wait to see the Van Dyke and Reynolds portraits, for example, not to mention the museum of Egyptian antiquities from the Earl of Carnarvon’s expeditions. We’re to be given a private guided tour through the house and we’ve also included lunch on the grounds.

Diane: What part of the tour was the hardest to arrange?

Kristine: Highclere Castle, without a doubt. Due to the popularity of Downton Abbey, they’ve been inundated with requests for visits, which they now have to fit in against filming schedules, so “open” days have had to be reduced. I believe they’re booked up a year or two in advanced just now, so we were really lucky to have been able to schedule our visit around the Tour dates.

Victoria: We’ve also arranged for private, guided tours at other sites, as well, such as Apsley House. We’re trying to keep the tour numbers small enough so that we can see things that aren’t typically open to the public.

Diane: This just sounds wonderful. I can hardly wait. Of course, Kristine, you and I have an ongoing rivalry regarding “dear Artie.” What makes you think he’ll prefer you above me?

Kristine: Well . . . . (sniff, sniff) I have dedicated the last thirty years to researching the life and times of the Duke of Wellington, dear. Seriously, Diane, I look upon the two of us as the modern day Mrs. Arbuthnot and Lady Shelley. Each of us adores the Duke in her own way, though I perhaps have taken that admiration to a greater extreme than you have.

Victoria: Wait a minute – not only to extremes, but to fixation! Both of you are downright obsessive over the man. Which puts you in excellent company, by the way. Speaking for myself, I think my more measured approach would be far more appealing to the Great Man.

(Kristine and Diane exchange glances and sniff in unison)

Diane: I cannot recommend this tour highly enough! I’m hoping to come and I’d love to have some Risky Regencies friends accompany us. Remember to comment for a chance to win Wellington by Elizabeth Longford–Who wouldn’t want to win Wellington? (hmmm, Kristine???)

Email Kristine and Victoria with any questions or to make reservations at

Or ask your questions here! Kristine and Victoria will be stopping by.

Click here for complete Tour details.

Join The Duke of Wellington Pinterest Page

And the Facebook page

Today I’m swamped with a writing deadline and a minor family delay and to top it off, I’m also a guest at USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog (Stop by and say hi–please!!!).

So I’m going to cheat a little here at Risky Regencies and give you a redux of a blog I wrote in 2009.

But I can’t start the week without saying a “WAY TO GO” to London and the UK for a fabulously done Olympics! I didn’t get to watch as much as I would have liked, but I kept up with the highlights and am proud of our USA team (especially the women) and of the British team, coming in THIRD in medal count. That is amazing. Something to add to that British pride so greatly showcased throughout the whole Olympics.

Back to my old blog….When in doubt (or on deadline) who can you turn to but Wellington? I mean, he saved the day from Napoleon, didn’t he?

Here’s the text of the 2009 blog:

As a certified Wellington Groupie (Kristine Hughes is the founding member) and in continuing honor of the Waterloo Anniversary, I thought I would simply share some of my Wellington-related photos and thoughts.

When I first fell in raptures about Wellington (or dear Artie, as Kristine calls him), it was at Stratfield Saye, Wellington’s country house. Of all the houses we saw on that 2003 trip to England, Stratfield Saye seemed the most like it was a home. It was a home. The present duke’s son and his family live there, but you could still feel the first Duke in every room. An outer building housed the funeral carriage that carried the Duke’s body through London. A recording played of all his honors, as had been read out during his funeral. I realized that this had been a truly great man.

On that trip we also got to go up to the top of the Wellington Arch in London, and of course we toured Apsley House, also known as Number One London. Apsley House felt more like a museum than a house and well it should. It was filled with wonderful art and artifacts.

Also in London we visited Lock and Co, a Hatters shop that has been in Mayfair since 1676. On display there are Wellington’s and Nelson’s hats, instantly recognizable.

I don’t claim to be an expert on Wellington. I’ve just read one biography (and can’t remember which one it was), but I think of him as a man with great integrity, courage and honor. As a boy he didn’t show much promise, but his mother sent him to a military academy in Europe (near Waterloo, I think) and he found his strength. As a military man he understood how to use his resources, he was clever, and he was brave. He rode the battlefield during Waterloo, was everywhere he could be and ignored the danger to himself. He cared about his men. One of my favorite Wellington quotes is: “Nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won.”

He was not a good husband, although he felt honor-bound to marry his wife, because she thought they were betrothed and had waited for him while he served in India. He had many dalliances throughout their marriage and one has to wonder how his wife felt as this man grew in greatness and increasingly left her behind. His sons could not match his success. Who could? I like this quote from his son after the Duke’s death, “Imagine what it will be when the Duke of Wellington is announced, and only I walk in the room.”

The Duke was a man who was very sure of himself and his opinions. I suspect he had a big ego, but he also had a sense of humor. In the display at Lock and Co. was a little caricature of Wellington, making fun of the term Wellington boot for the style of boot he favored. At Stratfield Saye there was a room papered with hundreds of caricatures of the Duke, which I thought was akin to a writer papering a bathroom with rejection letters. The boot one was was there, too.

What is your opinion of the Duke of Wellington? Pro and Con. Any favorite quotes or vignettes of his life?

Back to 2012…Or what was your favorite Olympic moment?

A Not So Respectable Gentleman? is still on sale! Get it while you can and enter my new contest!

Next week I promise something original….

September 14 was the 160th anniversary of the death of the Duke of Wellington, who died of a stroke that date in 1852. Naturally at such a time I’ve been thinking of “Dear Artie,” as Kristine Hughes (my rival) and I fondly call him.

Not long ago I came across a book in the public domain called The Letters Of The Duke Of Wellington To Miss J. Remarkably, for 17 years the duke engaged in a correspondence with a young woman who was bent upon saving his soul.

Miss J was the daughter of member of the gentry who was left in fairly comfortable means after the early deaths of her parents. She received the finest schooling along with other young ladies of the aristocracy and lived with an elderly companion afterward.

At an early age she became a religious zealot, devoting her life to God and turning away from worldly matters. She rejected a suitor because he did not meet her exacting spiritual standards. Shortly after she and a friend managed to convert a condemned criminal, Miss J felt embolden to take on a new charge. She took the bold step to write to the Duke of Wellington, presumably to offer her services to convert him to a life of righteousness. At that time the duke, after having been Prime Minister, was Peel’s Foreign Secretary and was to continue to be very active in political life for several more years. Nevertheless, he answered this young woman’s letter. After she delivered the gift of a bible to him, he called upon her.

It is hard to imagine why this busy, important man might trouble himself with any involvement with a much younger woman bent on saving his soul. He was three years a widower and 64 years of age at that time and perhaps was looking back on parts of his life with some contrition. Or perhaps he was flattered that a young, beautiful woman was enamored of him.

He did appear to become infatuated with Miss J for a time, professing loving her, which seemed to have scared her enough to forbid him any more in-person visits. Her diary, though, seemed to convey her belief that God was calling her to eventually marry the Duke of Wellington. The duke, however, remained worldly enough that he would not risk being held up to ridicule for marrying a woman young enough “to be his granddaughter,” as he put it to her.

Their correspondence continued, but not without trouble. A year later, Miss J becomes affronted because a letter from the duke arrived with a plain seal, which she took as a deliberate slight to her consequence. She threatens never to write him again. When he doesn’t write her back fast enough, she fires off another letter.

Here is the duke’s reply

“My dear Miss J., — I always understood that the important parts of a Letter were its Contents. I never much considered the Signature; provided I knew the handwriting; or the Seal provided it effectually closed the letter…”

He goes on to explain that he often doesn’t personally seal his letters, that the task is often performed by s secretary, and because he writes many letters the seal becomes too hot to use and another seal is employed. He does promise not to repeat the slight should she wish him to continue writing her.

Shortly after, Miss J perceives herself called by God to continue writing to the duke and he accepts her letters and writes in return. The letters persist for years, weathering other times when Miss J again feels slighted.

In 1850, Miss J suffers from poor health and financial reverses. At the urging of her sister who had come from America to tend to her, she asks the duke for financial assistance. He immediately writes back that she is but to tell him the amount she needs and the bank to which it should be sent and he will happily assist her.

But Miss J does not deal in such worldly matters. She leaves it to the duke to figure out how much to send and how to get it to her. There are letters back and forth regarding this matter, until he finally devises a plan to send her the money. All she has to do is sign for the receipt of the package.

Miss J finds this too worldly for her and refuses to sign anything. At this point it appears the duke has had it with her. He writes several formal, terse letters to that effect and states that she should not trouble herself to write him again.

She persists in writing him, letters he only answers from time to time to send a terse message that she should not write him again.

She had a letter ready to post to him when her physician visited and told her of the Duke’s death. She feared he did not make it into the Kingdom of God.

Miss J’s finances forced to go to America to live with her sister, but her sister apparently could not abide what then had become Miss J’s even more religious extremes. Miss J lived alone in New York until her death in 1862.

I found this a fascinating part of “Dear Artie’s” life and I loved reading his letters when he employed a sarcastic tone. Poor Miss J! Her religious feelings seem to have begun in a great desire to live a good life, but ended in her being estranged from two people who were prepared to love her–her sister and The Duke of Wellington.

Come to my Diane Gaston Blog this Thursday Sept 20 when my guest will be my friend, Darlene Gardner, talking about her latest Superromance, The Truth About Tara. Darlene will be giving away a free copy of Twice the Chance, her Holt Medallion award of merit winner.

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