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Personal Recollections of the Duke of Wellington by Georgiana, Dowager Lady De Ros.

Reprinted from Murray’s Magazine 1889 Part I.

       It has been thought that the personal recollections of one whose memory extends to the beginning of this century, may be interesting, especially as it was my privilege to enjoy for a space of forty-six years the friendship of the great Duke of Wellington, and to be constantly in his society at the memorable period of Waterloo. I had written down at the time many anecdotes of the duke and many notes of conversations with him, which are now published at the request of many friends.

            My earliest recollection of Sir Arthur Wellesley was when he returned from India and had the command of a brigade in the Sussex district in 1806. In the following year, my father, the Duke of Richmond, was made lord lieutenant of Ireland, and Sir Arthur being chief secretary we saw a great deal of him.

            My sisters and I used to ride with “great Sir Arthur,” as we called him, every day from the Vice-Regal Lodge in the Phoenix Park to the Dublin Gate, when he was going to his office. At that time he gave a watch to one of my sisters, which has lately been erroneously stated to have been his own watch, and to have been given to her on the eve of Waterloo. It is still in her possession.

            Among my reminiscences of that period unconnected with Sir Arthur Wellesley, are those of the Jubilee of 1809, when we all went out into the Dublin streets to see the illuminations. I quote a letter describing the different state of popular feeling then, from what it has been of late.

 WILLIAM OGILIVE, Esq., to his wife, EMILY, Dowager Duchess of Leinster (aunt to my father).

                                               Dublin, October 27, 1809

                                                            5 O’clock

 . . . . I did not get to bed till near two this morning and was up at 7, and have never till this minute been able to sit down to write to you. I had dined at the Park (with the duke of Richmond, then Viceroy), and went with some of the young Ladies and the Dutchess to see the Illuminations, which far exceeded anything I ever saw in London or Paris. Nothing ever equaled the Brilliancy of the Illuminations—I do not believe there was a Window in this Great City that was not illuminated down to a Cobbler’s Stall and the Variety and fancy of the Transparent pencillings was very great—and had a fine effect. The Crowds in the Streets exceeded everything I could have conceived, but the most perfect good Humour reigned thro’ them all, and I have not heard of a single Accident. The Duke and Dutchess who passed from the Park to Stephens Green to see Fire Works were everywhere huzza-ed and applauded by the People, and way made t hro’ what appeared an impenetrable Crowd for them wherever they passed. No Lord-Lieut. ever reigned so much in the Hearts of the People of every Rank and Religion and no Man ever was more respected at the same Time. He understands them and manages them beyond any Body I ever saw—and the Dutchess is also a very great favourite.

            In 1814 we went to live at Brussels, in a house in the Rue de la Blanchisserie, with a large garden extending to the ramparts. The Duke of Wellington always called it “the Wash-house.” It has been pulled down, and when I visited Brussels in 1868 I could find no vestige of it. The Prince of Orange was in command of a small force there, and my brother, Lord March, was his A.D.C. There were constant reviews, and many balls at the various Belgian and English houses, for there were many English families living there. During the duke’s absence at the Congress of Vienna, the rumor arrived of Napoleon’s intended invasion of Belgium, and there was great anxiety among the English officers for the duke’s arrival, as the Prince of Orange would otherwise have been in command. The prince himself was quite angry with me for sharing this feeling, exclaiming, “Why have you no confidence in me?” to which I replied, “Well, sir, you have not been tried and the duke has.” It is impossible to describe the general relief it was when the duke returned from Vienna; for the Prince of Orange, although personally much liked, was inexperienced and rash. I have now in my possession a fan made of amber, which H.R.H. gave me at that time. It is a curious example of the way in which fashions change, for its dimensions are only six inches by thirteen.

            I often rode with the duke to the reviews. On May 22nd I accompanied him to one at Valvorde, of the Brunswick troops; as it rained I rode home wrapped in a soldier’s greatcoat, which Lord Uxbridge got for me, escorted by General Alava.

            Early in June 1815, some of the officers were anxious to organize a party of pleasure in the neighbourhood, either to Tournay or Lille, and begged me to ask the duke’s leave; but when I mentioned the idea he at once said, “No; better let that drop;” for he knew we should all have been probably taken prisoners by the French. There were such constant rumors of the troops moving for two months before Waterloo, that when they were renewed some days before the 15th we did not attach much importance to them; and on the afternoon of the 15th Lord Hill called upon us, when we were all sitting in the garden, and disclaimed any knowledge of a move.

            My mother’s now famous ball took place in a large room on the ground-floor on the left of the entrance, connected with the rest of the house by an ante-room. It had been used by the coach-builder, from whom the house was hired, to put carriages in, but it was papered before we came there; and I recollect the paper—a trellis pattern with roses. My sisters used the room as a schoolroom, and we used to play battledore, and shuttlecock there on a wet day. When the duke arrived, rather late, at the ball, I was dancing, but at once went up to him to ask about the rumours. He said very gravely, “Yes, they are true; we are off to-morrow.” This terrible news was circulated directly, and while some of the officers hurried away, others remained at the ball, and actually had not time to change their clothes, but fought in evening costume. I went with my eldest brother (A.D.C. to the Prince of Orange) to his house, which stood in our garden, to help him to pack up, after which we returned to the ballroom, where we found some energetic and heartless young ladies still dancing. I heard afterwards that it had been said that “the Ladies Lennox were fine, and did not do the honors of the ball well.” The following list of the invited guests was given by my mother to Lord Verulam, who sent me a copy of it. Several of the officers were not present, being on duty.

LIST OF THE INVITATIONS TO THE DUCHESS OF RICHMOND’S BALL AT BRUSSELS, JUNE 15, 1815.

H.R.H. the Prince of Orange.
H.R.H. Prince Frederic of Orange.
H.R.H. the Duke of Brunswick.
Prince of Nassau
Duc d’Arenberg
Prince Auguste d’Arenberg
Prince Pierre d’Arenberg
Le Maire de Bruxelles
Duc et Duchesse de Beaufort et Mademoiselle
Due et Duchesse D’Ursel
Marquis et Marquise D’Assche (From their house we saw the wounded brought in; Lord Uxbridge, Lord F. Somerset, etc.)
Comte et Comtesse D’Oultremont.
Comtesse Douairiere D’Oultremont et les Mesdemoiselles.
Comte et Comtesse Liedekerke Beaufort
Comte et Comtesse auguste Liedekerke et Mademoiselle
Comte et Comtesse Latour Lupin
Comte et Comtesse Marcy D’Argenteau
Comte et Comtesse de Grasiac
Comtesse de Luiny
Comtesse de Ruilly
Baron et Baronne D’Hooghvoorst
Mademoiselle D’Hooghvoorst et Monsieur C.D’Hooghvoorst
Monsieur et Madame Vander Capellan
Baron de Herelt.
Baron de Tuybe
Baron Brockhausen
General Baron Vincent (Wounded at Waterloo)
General Pozzo de Borgo
General Alava
Comte de Belgade
Comte de la Rochefoucauld
Gen. D’Oudenarde
Col. Knife(?), a.D.C.
Col. Ducayler
Major Ronnchenberg, A.D.C.
Col. Tripp, A.D.C.
Capt. De Lubeck, A.D.C. to H.R.H. the Duke of Brunswick.
Early and Countess of Conyngham and Lady Elizabeth Conyngham.
Viscount Mount-Charles and Hon. Mr. Conyngham (Afterwards 2nd marquess Conyngham)
Countess Mount-Norris and Lady Julianna Annesley
Countess Dowager of Waldegrave
Duke of Wellington
Lord and Lady Fitzroy Somerset (Neither were present; Lord Fitzroy lost his arm at Waterloo)
Lord and Lady John Somerset
Mr. and Lady Frances Webster.
Mr and Lady Caroline Capel and Miss Capel
Lord and Lady George Seymour and Miss Seymour.
Mr. and Lady Charlotte Greville
Viscountess Hawarden
Sir Henry and Lady Susan Clinton (He was Lt.-Gen. and G.C.B. and commanded a division)
Lady Alvanley and the Miss Ardens
Sir James, Lady, and Miss Craufurd
Sir George Berkeley, K.C.B., and Lady Berkeley
Lady and Miss Sutton
Sir Sidney and Lady Smith, and Miss Rumbolds
Sir William and Lady Johnstone
Sir Hew and Lady Delancey
Hon. Mrs. Pole (Afterwards Lady Maryborough)
Mr., Mrs., and Miss Lance, and Mr. Lance, jun.
Mr. and the Miss Ords.
Mr. and Mrs. Greathed.
Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd
Hon Sir Charles Stuart, G.C.B. (Minister at Bruxelles) and Mr. Stuart
Earl of Uxbridge (Commanded the Cavalry; lost his leg at Waterloo)
Earl of Portarlington
Earl of March, A.D.C. to H.R.H. the Prince of Orange
Gen. Lord Edward Somerset (Commanded a brigade of cavalry, wounded at Waterloo)
Lord Charles FitzRoy
Lord Robert Manners
Lt-Gen. Lord Hill (Commanding the 2nd Corps)
Lord Rendlesham
Lord Hay, A.D.C. (Killed at Quatre Bras)
Lord Saltoun
Lord Apsley (Afterwards Earl Bathurst)
Hon. Col. Stanhope (Guards)
Hon. Col. Abercromby (Guards; wounded)
Hon. Col. Ponsonby (Afterwards Sir Frederick Ponsonby, K.C.B.; severely wounded)
Hon Col. Acheson (Guards)
Hon. Col. Stewart
Hon. Mr. O. Bridgeman, A.D.C. to Lord Hill
Hon. Mr. Percival
Hon. Mr. Stopford
Hon. Mr. John Gordon
Hon. Mr. Edgecombe
Hon. Mr. Seymour Bathurst, A.D.C. to Gen. Maitland
Hon. Mr. Forbes.
Hon. Mr. Hastings Forbes
Hon Major Dawson
Hon. Mr. Dawson 18th Lt. Dr.
Maj.-Gen. Sir Hussey Vivian (Commanded a brigade of Cavalry)
Mr. Horace Seymour, A.D.C. (afterwards Sir Horace Seymour, K.C.B.)
Col. Hervey, A.D.C. (Afterwards Sir Felton Hervey, Bart)
Col Fremantle, A.D.C.
Lord George Lennox (A.D.C.)
Lord Arthur Hill, A.D.C. (afterwards Gen. Lord Sandys)
Hon. Major Percy, A.D.C. (Son of 1st Earl of Beverley. He brought home three Eagles and dispatches)
Hon. Mr. Cathcart, A.D.C. (Afterwards Sir George Cathcart. Klled at Inkermann, 1854)
Hon. Sir Alexander Gordon, A.D.C. (Died of his wounds at Waterloo)
Sir Colin Campbell, K.C.B., A.D.C.
Sir John Byng, G.C.B. (Created Earl of Strafford. Commanded 2nd brigade of Guards)
Lt.-Gen. Sir John Elley, K.C.B.
Sir George Scovelt, K.C.B. (Major commanding Staff Corps of Cavalry)
Sir George Wood, Col. R.A.
Sir Henry Bradford
Sir Robert Hill, Kt (Brother of Lord Hill)
Sir Noel Hill, K.C.B. (Brother of Lord Hill)
Sir William Ponsonby, K.C.B. (Brother of Lord Ponsonby; commanded a brigade of cavalry; killed at Waterloo)
Sir Andrew Barnard (Afterwards Governor of Chelsea Hospital)
Sir Denis Packe, Maj.-Gen., G.C.B. (Commanded a brigade)
Sir James Kemp, Maj-Gen, G.C.B (Commanded a brigade)
Sir Pulteney Malcolm
Sir Thomas Picton, Lt.-Gen. (Commanded 5th Division, killed at Waterloo)
Maj-Gen. Sir Edward Barnes, Adjt-Gen. (Wounded at Waterloo)
Sir James Gambier
Hon. General Dundas
Lt-Gen. Cooke (Commanded 1st Division)
Maj.-Gen. Maitland (Afterwards Sir Peregrin, G.C.B.; commanded 1st brigade of Guards)
Maj.-Gen. Adam (Not present; commanded a brigade. Afterwards Sir Frederick Adam, K.C.B.)
Col. Washington
Col. Woodford (Afterwards F.M. Sir Alexander Woodford, G.C.B. Governor of Chelsea)
Col. Rowan, 52nd (Afterwards Sir Charles Rowan, Chief Commissioner of Police)
Col. Wyndham (Afterwards Gen. Sir Henry Wyndham)
Col. Cumming, 18th Light Dragoons.
Col. Bowater (Afterwards Gen. Sir Edward Bowater)
Col. Torrens (Afterwards Adjt.-Gen. in India)
Col. Fuller
Col. Dick 42nd (Killed at Sobraon, 1846)
Col Cameron, 92nd (Killed at Quatre Bras)
Col. Barclay, A.D.C. to the Duke of York
Col. Hill(?) (Col. Clement Hill, brother to Lord Hill)
Major Gunthorpe, A.D.C. to Gen. Maitland
Major Churchill, A.D.C. to Lord Hill and Q.M.G. (Killed in India)
Major Hamilton, A.D.C. to Gen. Sir E. Barnes
Major Harris, Brigade Major to Sir Hussey Vivian (Lost an arm)
Major Hunter Blair (Wounded)
Capt. Mackworth, A.D.C. to Lord Hill
Capt. Keane, A.D.C. to Sir Hussey Vivian
Capt. FitzRoy
Capt Widman, 7th Hussars, A.D.C. to Lord Uxbridge
Capt. Fraser, 7th Hussars (Afterwards Sir James Frasier, Bt)
Capt. Verner, 7th Hussars
Capt. Elphinstone, 7th Hussars (taken prisoner June 17)
Capt. Webster
Capt. Somerset, A.D.C. to Gen. Lord Edward Somerset
Capt. Yorke, A.D.C. to Gen. Adam (Afterwards Sir Charles Yorke, not present)
Capt. Gore, A.D.C. to Sir James Kempt
Capt. Pakenham, R.A.
Capt. Dumaresq., A.D.C. to Gen. Sir John Byng (Died of Wounds)
Capt.. Dawkins, A.D.C.
Capt. Disbrowe, A.D.C. to Gen. Sir G. Cook.
Capt. Bowles, Coldstream Guards (Afterwards Gen. Sir George Bowles, Lieutenant of the Tower)
Capt. Hesketh, Grenadier Guards
Capt Gurwood (Afterwards Col Gurwood)
Capt. Allix, Grenadier Guards
Mr. Russell, A.D.C.
Mr. Brooke, 12th Dragoon Guards
Mr. Huntley, 12th Dragoon Guards
Mr. Lionel Hervey (In Diplomacy)
Mr. Leigh
Mr. Shakespear, 18th
Mr. O’Grady, 7th Hussars (Afterwards Lord Guillamore)
Mr. Smith, 95th Brigadier-Major to Sir Denis Packe; killed at Waterloo
Mr. Fludyer, Scots Fusilier Guards
Mr. Montagus (John and Henry, late Lord Rokeby, G.C.B.)
Mr. A. Greville
Mr. Baird
Mr. Robinson 32nd
Mr. James
Mr. Chad
Mr. Dawkins
Dr. Hyde
Mr. Hume
Rev. Mr. Brixall.

            It was a dreadful evening, taking leave of friends and acquaintances, many never to be seen again. The Duke of Brunswick, as he took leave of me in the ante-room adjoining the ball-room, made me a civil speech as to the Brunswickers being sure to distinguish themselves after ‘the honor” done them by my having accompanied the Duke of Wellington to their review! I remember being quite provoked with poor Lord Hay, a dashing merry youth, full of military ardor, whom I knew very well for his delight at the idea of going into action, and of all the honors he was to gain; and the first news we had on the 16th was that he and the Duke of Brunswick were killed. At the ball supper I sat next to the Duke of Wellington, when he gave me an original miniature of himself painted by a Belgian artist. There is no truth whatever in a ridiculous story lately published about my sister, Lady Louisa Tighe, having buckled on the duke’s sword on the evening of the 15th. In the course of the evening the duke asked my father for a map of the country and went into his study, which was on the same floor as the ball-room, to look at it. He put his finger on Waterloo, saying the battle would be fought there. My father marked the spot with his pencil, but alas! That map was lost or stolen for it never returned from Canada with his other possessions. Many people left Brussels at once, and we had post-horses in the stables, but the duke had promised to send us word if we were to leave. There was a great supper prepared at Brussels on the 18th for Napoleon by some strong Bonapartists of the name of Tresigny. On the 16th came the dispiriting news of Quatre Bras and the death of many friends.

            The next day my brother George, who was one of the duke’s A.D.C.’s appeared on his way with orders from the duke, and he was full of excitement, saying bullets had been flying at him all the morning.

            On the 18th we walked about nearly all the morning, being unable to sit quiet, hearing the firing, and not knowing what was happening. The wounded officers who were brought into Brussels kindly sent us messages about my brothers being safe. The first sight of the poor wounded was sickening, and each litter, as it came into the town, filled us with intense anxiety to know whom it contained. We went to the Marquise d’Assche’s house (at the corner of the Parc and the Rue de la Pepiniere) from whence we saw Lord Uxbridge and Lord Fitzroy Somerset, the Prince of Orange, and others, brought in. We afterwards heard that when the Prince of Orange was wounded, my brother March, who was his A.D.C., before going after some men to carry him off to the field, tore out of his hat the Orange cockade, lest he should have been recognized, and the prince always said this precaution had probably saved his life.

            My father with my brother William, who had been prevented from taking part in the action by an accident, rode to the army, but the Duke of Wellington would not let them remain, and they returned about 6 p.m. with the good news that all was going on as well as possible.

            We had had a fearful alarm during the day, as the Cumberland Hussars (a Hanoverian regiment) came full gallop through Brussels saying that the allied army was defeated and that the French were arriving in the town. But before long the truth was known, and not much credit was given to the story that these Hussars had been pursued; the facts being that, upon hearing the whistle of shots about their ears, they had wheeled round and trotted off from the field.

            During the 16th, 17th and for many succeeding days, we were all employed in scraping lint, and preparing cherry water for the wounded. In the evening of the 18th, the brilliant victory was known in Brussels, and most thankful we were that our immediate belongings had been mercifully protected, and that war was at an end, although the losses were fearfully great.

            The next morning we heard that the duke had arrived in Brussels, so I walked with my father at about 10 a.m. up to the Parc, his house being in the Rue de la Montague du Parc, and my father went into the house to inquire for the duke, who sent word he would join us in the Parc, which he accordingly did, and took a turn with us. He looked very sad, and when we shook hands and congratulated him he said: “It is a dearly bought victory. We have lost so many fine fellows.” My father asked him to dinner, but he refused. The reason of his coming early into Brussels was that he had given up his bed at Waterloo to Poor Sir Alexander Gordon, who was dying of his wounds. The duke tried to sleep on the floor in the next room, but after being called up to speak to Sir Alexander, he could not get to bed again, and began to write his dispatch;  however, Sir Alexander’s groans were so distressing that he could not go on with it, and so he rode into Brussels, where he was busy with dispatches, and left on the 20th. On the 28th, he wrote me these fine lines from Orville about a proposal to have a copy made of the miniature he had given me.

                                                 Orville, June 28, 1815.

 Dearest Georgy.—

             I am very much obliged to you for the embroidery (I had embroidered a sash for him) If you give your picture, the painter will change it, therefore you should sit with it while he copies it. We are getting on delightfully. Your brothers quite well.

                                Every Yours, most sincerely,

                                                      Wellington.

             Soon after the battle, many ladies came out from England to nurse their wounded relations. I visited the field of Waterloo a few days after, when the dead had been buried, but the ground was strewed with the relics of the battle; it was a most painful sight.

            The duke wrote to me on the 13th July from Paris again on the subject of the miniature:--

             I don’t care how many copies the painter makes of the picture. As you liked it, however, I recommended it to you not to trust it to his hands.

            I do invite you to Paris.

            Your brothers are quite well. I saw William last night; such a buck I should not have known him.

            Every yours most affectionately,

                                    W.

             In the winter of 1815 we all went to Paris, where I had typhus fever, and the duke was most kind sending me my dinner daily, and when I was convalescent, coming to see me, and lending me one of his carriages to drive in.

            He gave me a ball at the Elysee Bourbon, and insisted on my coming to it, though I did not care about doing so as I felt very weak. However, as he sent me a pretty shawl, (which I have in my possession still) I felt bound to go in it, but did not much enjoy sitting in an armchair instead of dancing. Thirty-eight years later I was again in that ball-room on the eve of Lord Raglan and the staff departing from Paris for the East in April 1854. Lord Raglan reminded me of our last meeting in that room. The coincidences were strange. For on the latter occasion, Napoleon’s nephew, the late emperor, was our host, and we were staying at the British Embassy with the duke’s nephew, and my brother-in-law, Lord Cowley. And among the guests was the late Duke of Wellington, and strangest of all, the English and French troops were an allied army.

            I went to England early in 1816, and had the following letter from the duke—about my hair being cut off after the fever. 

            I am delighted to find that you have performed your journey so well. You must take care of yourself, and keep yourself warm during the winter. I don’t agree with your barber about your hair. All his frizzling will not preclude the necessity of your being shaved.

 

 

 

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