Waterloo 2022 – the London tour was the first official tour day. I had a great dinner last night at the Clarence pub, meeting the rest of the tour group then this morning we set off on the London section of the tour.
We began outside Lanesborough House. The former home of the Viscounts Lanesborough, it is a beautiful neoclassical building on Hyde Park Corner opposite Apsley House. From 1733 it housed St George’s Hospital until it became a five star hotel in 1991. It was the beginning of our walking tour around the early nineteenth century heart of London.
Our guides were historians Gareth Glover who has published more than a hundred books on the Peninsular War and Waterloo campaign and Kristine Hughes Patrone who runs Number One London tours and is the author of Waterloo Witnesses and who can talk forever on the Duke of Wellington, or ‘Artie’ as he’s also known and the social world in which he moved. We visited Hamilton Place, Wellington’s temporary London home in 1814-15 from where he and some of his staff departed for Brussels in 1815. We saw the site of Tattersalls, the famous auctioneer of quality horses during the period and learned something about the best choice of horses for officers setting off on campaign.
We moved on to the Grenadier Pub, and heard Kristine’s personal experience of the local ghost story and we walked between mews and carriage houses, now converted into fabulously expensive residential properties and were able to get a sense of how busy the area would have been in 1815 with the army barracks, Horse Guards and the comings and goings of officers and men alongside fashionable London.
No Wellington visit would be complete without a trip to Apsley House, also known as Number One London. There is an excellent Wellington Museum inside the house which includes a spectacular art collection, much of which was captured from the French after the Battle of Vitoria and which the Spanish then gave to Wellington after the war. The house was originally bought by Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, but in 1817 financial difficulties caused him to sell it to his famous brother, by then the Duke of Wellington, who needed a London base from which to pursue his new career in politics.
We went on to St James’s Square where the Waterloo Dispatch and captured French eagles were delivered to the Prince Regent, who was attending a soiree hosted by Mrs Edmund Boehm on 21 June 1815. The dispatch was brought by Major Henry Percy, one of Wellington’s ADCs. Percy first delivered Wellington’s dispatch to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for War in Grosvenor Square before going to lay the eagles at the feet of the Prince Regent.
Our final stop for the day was the Horse Guards museum and were in time to see an inspection parade. After that it was back to the hotel in preparation for an early start on the Eurostar to Brussels the following morning.