Thursday, October 14, 2010

Footprints of the Napoleonic Wars - Part 2

As well as artefacts from Napoleon and those connected to him, the Museum's collection also boasts personal effects from those who were fighting against him in the Napoleonic Wars.  Two of the United Kingdom's most important military heroes, Arhur Wellesley, Duke of Wellinton and his counterpart on the sea Admiral Horatio Nelson, victor of the Battle of Trafalgar are also represented in our collection.

It was at the Battle of Waterloo in present-day Belgium that Napoleon's tyranny was finally quashed.  The celebrated Duke of Wellington, later Prime Minister of England (1828-30), was known for being a driven leader, indifferent to comfort yet careful in his dress.  In 1815 he penned a short note to Mr. Hoby, his London bootmaker: "The last boots you sent were still too small in the calf of the leg and about an inch and a half too short in the leg.  Send me two pair more altered as I have above directed."  Now in the Museum's collection, this letter marks the point at which boots of this style became known as "Wellingtons", the Duke's unlikely legacy to modern footwear!

This pair of buckles belonged to Lord Nelson, commander at the Battle of Trafalgar, one of the most significant naval victories of the Napoleonic wars, and the battle which claimed Nelson's life.  His remarkable ability to motivate others was the "the Nelson touch" and he was well-respected by sailors and officers alike.

Stored in a smart leather case and finely engraved, Nelson's bejewlled buckles were a 45th birthday gift from the great English seaman, Lord St. Vincent.  They are inscribed "To Admiral Viscount Nelson from St. Vincent, 29 September, 1803."

In the same year, England declared war on France and Lord St. Vincent named Nelson Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean.  Later the ornate buckles came into the possession of the great beauty Lady Meux, who caused a stir in London but riding around in her carriage drawn by zebras!  In 1905, she presented the buckles to Lord Charles Beresford, a British Admiral and Member of Parliament.


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