Frances (Winckley) Shelley.

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anecdotes of Wellington's early years. He said that
when Wellington was a major, serving in Ireland, he
begged the Duke of Richmond's permission to attend
all his drills, saying that he felt unequal to a com-
mand while he was ignorant of the mechanical part.
He persevered for a whole month, and attended every
one of the Duke of Richmond's drills. At the end of
that time Lord Westmoreland, who knew nothing
of the matter, told Wellington that he could get him
made a lieutenant-colonel. But Wellington declined the
honour, saying that he did not feel equal to it, as he
had been so short a time a major. But, after a time,
he was persuaded to accept his promotion, and went
to India. There he soon proved that his genius was
equal to his humility.

Our road lay, almost the whole way, through
the forest of Soignies, a wood of small beech
trees with no under-wood. It is extremely
deep ; and on emerging from it we reached the
village of Waterloo. It is an insignificant village,
consisting mainly of mud cottages. We saw the
small, but clean, auberge where the Duke of Welling-

i68 THE DUKE'S POSITION [ch. xii

ton slept on the night preceding and on the night of
the battle. It still bears the sign of his quarHer general.
The church is large for so small a village, and contains
many monuments to commemorate those who fell on
that glorious day. A mile and a half after we left
Waterloo we reached the hamlet of Mont St. Jean.
Here we mounted our horses, and soon reached the
battlefield. We ascended the plateau behind which,
and Mont St. Jean, the great body of our troops were
stationed previous to the battle. It was this plateau
which led Bonaparte to suppose that those whom he
could see on the crest of the hill were merely our rear-
guard. A solitary tree, close to the Charleroi road,
marks the centre of our position. The British line
extended about one mile and a half, beyond which
scarcely a shot was fired. Towards Ferme la Haye,
on the left, extends the hedge which was lined by
General Picton's brigade, and which, from a distance,
has all the appearance of earthworks, though none
were thrown up. Lord Hill told me that they had
just begun to throw up the earth, near La Haye
Sainte, when the attack began. From this hedge in
the second assault our troops were driven ; but they
retook the position afterwards. To the right extends
the fine brow which slopes towards Hougoumont.
It is still thickly strewn with caps, shoes, belts, and
broken parts of accoutrements. As we passed along,
the peasants came and offered us bullets, crosses, brass
eagles, and other trophies. From this brow the first
gun was fired by the Prince of Orange when the
French advanced to capture Hougoumont. The Duke
gave strict orders that our men were to fire on the
enemy's columns, and not upon their guns. When,
on one occasion, our men tried to dismount a French
gun, the Duke severely reprimanded the commander
for disobedience of orders. Here he stood during the
hottest part of the battle, directing almost every move-
ment himself. When the Nassau troops were driven


from the orchard, the Duke ordered the Guards to
retake it. These were his exact words as they began
to move off: " There, my lads, in with you. Let me
see no more of you ! "

He did not see those brave fellows any more.
Until five o'clock in the evening the Guards held that
position, in spite of every effort on the part of the
French to drive them out. At last came a lull in the
assault, the French desisted ; and a vigorous attack
was made upon the left of our line.

At five o'clock the Duke of Richmond left the Duke
of Wellington. 1 They both believed that the worst of
the fight was over. As the Duke of Wellington passed
to the left of his position, he noticed that the French
were changing their front. He saw an officer ride
along the French line, and heard a tremendous cheer,
which was kept up during that officer's progress. The
Duke felt sure that it was none other than Bonaparte
himself. This was probably the moment when Bona-
parte pointed his finger in the direction of Brussels, and
promised his troops the plunder of that city. Prisoners,
who came in after the battle, declare that this induce-
ment was held out to them. The Duke of Richmond
had the pleasure of informing some of our troops that
the Prussians were near at hand, which gave great
encouragement, as they were sorely pressed. He then
rode with his youngest son, Lord William, back to
Brussels. This lad, who had a serious fall from his
horse, showed great spirit, and refused to leave the
field without his father. The Duke of Richmond's
other two sons, Lord March and Lord George, re-
mained to the end of the battle. The latter, who was
the Duke of Wellington's aide-de-camp, was so over-
come by the hard work of the two previous days that

' In this connection, attention may be drawn to Lord Stanhope's " Notes of
Conversation" with the Duke many years after Waterloo. It is there made to
appear as though the Duke of Richmond left the field soon after the firing
began. This is evidently a mistake. The Duke of Richmond's own statements
three months after the battle may be relied upon.


he lay down close to the Duke, and slept, while the
shells and shot were flying over him in all directions !

General Colquett, 1 who was regarded as a quiet,
stupid sort of man, appears to have shown great pre-
sence of mind at a critical moment. While he was in
the centre of a square a shell fell unexploded at his
feet. He instantly sprang from his horse, raised the
shell from the ground, and threw it outside the square.
It exploded almost immediately. Thus at the risk of
his own life he saved the lives of many of his men.
When the French cuirassiers charged past our squares
the artillery were ordered to cut the traces and retire.
This had been done more than once, when a gunner,
tired of running away, lay down under his gun. As
the French rode by, they cut at him with their sabres,
but he managed to evade their blows, and as they
retreated he fired on them, and wounded several.
Whenever the cuirassiers charged our squares the
men allowed them to advance to about ten paces, and
then poured a volley into them. I am told that the
scream that followed was awful to hear, as nearly
every man and horse was wounded. On one occasion,
when the commanding officer shouted, "Why don't
you fire?" the men coolly answered, "Let us alone,
sir; let us do it our own w 7 ay." As the French cavalry
swept by, only those at the corners of the square fired,
so that they might not wound their comrades in the
other squares. The men appear to have been as cool
as possible on these occasions.

When Lord Uxbridge was wounded, he happened
to be talking to the Duke of Wellington. It was a
near thing for the Duke on several occasions. His
sword scabbard was bent by a spent ball, and, as he
said of himself, " the finger of God was upon me."
The distance separating the two armies was not much
more than three hundred yards ! The French position
was to the full as strong as, if not stronger than our

1 Lieut. -Colonel Colquett, 1st Foot Guards.


own. It is strange that from whichever side one looks,
the opposite position appears to be the most formidable.
From the nature of the ground the attacking army
would appear to be at a disadvantage. Many of the
British regiments had marched from Leuze beyond
Enghien, on the preceding day and night. Among
them was the distinguished 52nd Light Infantry, which
had suffered dreadfully from the rains and privations
of every kind during their long march.
■ On June 15 the Duchess of Richmond gave a
ball at Brussels, and the Duke of Wellington was
present at it. During that evening the Prince of
Orange arrived in order to receive his instructions.
While they were looking over the maps in the pre-
sence of the Duke of Richmond, Wellington said : " If
the Prussians are beat, which I think is very probable,
we shall be obliged to retreat. If we do, that is the
spot where we must lick those fellows." He pointed
with his finger to the exact spot where, three days
later, the battle was fought. The Duke of Richmond
tells me that he at once marked the map with a pencil,
and that mark I saw.

The Duke of Wellington had, some time previously,
written to Lord Bathurst in these words : " If Brussels
is to be defended there is a spot near Waterloo where
it can be done."

I mention this on the best possible authority, to
show that the Duke was not taken by surprise, as
people say that he was. Owing to the length of
frontier, it was not possible to concentrate his forces
on any particular spot; but they were all within reach,
and were on the ground in ample time, in spite of the
state of the roads, caused by the heavy rains so un-
usual at that season of the year.

Much stress has been laid on Napoleon's alleged
error in not attacking the right of our position. A
gentleman informed me he heard that the Duke had
expressed anxiety during the battle for the fate of


Hal. Lord Hill, on the other hand, says he is con-
vinced from conversation with the Duke, that it would
have been ill judged on the part of the French to have
attacked Hal, and that, consequently, the idea never
entered the mind of Napoleon.

My own impression is that had the French deter-
mined to turn our right — from which they were
stopped by Colville's division keeping them in check
by threatening their left — the Duke would have re-
treated in the direction of Hal, for he had declared
at Brussels that he would not risk a defeat to preserve
that city.

I am ashamed of myself for forgetting the Duke's
conversation on this subject with Lord Hill, for I was
present at it. I think the Duke used these words :
" How could the French go to the right, when we had
Hougoumont ? " I am almost certain that those were
his exact words.

When, on June 17, the Duke of Wellington reached
Blucher's headquarters — thirty-five miles away — he
found the Prussian army so disorganised by defeat
that Blucher could not promise to be of any use to
the Duke until the 19th. In these circumstances they
agreed that the British and the Prussians should make
a joint attack on the French on that day, unless
Bonaparte anticipated them.

When, at about half-past eleven on June 18, the
French advanced, the Duke sent to Blucher for assist-
ance. At two o'clock the Prussians were seen near
Ohain, but could get no further for some time. They
did not reach the battlefield until seven in the evening;
only just in time to share in the glory and to follow
up the pursuit.

On the 1 8th the wind set down the valley from
Hougoumont towards Ohain. I am told that the
approach of the Prussians, above clouds of smoke
which hid the ground, was one of the grandest sights
imaginable. To our weary, hard-pressed troops they


had all the appearance of a celestial army. It was
indeed a pity that they did not arrive sooner, for the
battle would have sooner ended, and many valuable
lives would have been spared. The Duke himself told
me in Paris that the battle was won before the
Prussians arrived.

I am told that, at Brussels, the firing on the 18th
was not nearly so much heard as it had been on the
16th, although so much nearer.

Throughout the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon re-
mained on a mound, within cannon shot, but beyond
the range of musketry fire. He certainly was not in
the observator}-" after the battle began ; nor could he
have from that spot directed the movements of his
troops. That observatory was built for topographical
reasons by a former Governor of the Netherlands,
something like a century ago.

The Duke of Wellington told me that after the battle
he gave orders to the peasantry to burn the dead left
upon the field. The Duke of Richmond says that there
was great difficult}'- in persuading them to do so. In
many instances, they preferred to cover the bodies
lightly with earth, with the worst consequences. As
he was passing along the forest of Soignies, the Duke
saw a little dog scratching the ground. On his return
he noticed that the dog had succeeded in remov-
ing the earth from a body, and was actually lying
upon it !

A great part of the field of battle was ploughed up
when I saw it. In other parts the green oats, now
just cut, and the clover, had concealed much from the
keen eye of the plunderer. The ground was covered
with those freshly made graves, where French and
English lie side by side. The burial-place of Sir
William Ponsonby shows that his gallantry was not
tempered by prudence. This recklessness was, I hear,
too often the fault of our cavalry. Owing to a lack of
discipline, or what the Duke called " massing," our


cavalry was often cut up after having effected its
purpose. A new system — he thinks — is necessary.
When the Emperor of Russia, at the cavalry review,
drew the Duke's attention to this weakness, the Duke
of Wellington agreed with him, and said that it had
always prevented our cavalry from making the im-
pression which it might have done. 1

In the garden of La Haye Sainte a deep trench has
been dug ; and here all those brave Highlanders are
buried together.

The chapel of Hougoumont is the only portion of
the farm which escaped the flames which enveloped
it late in the day. The woman of the house gravely
assured us that the foot of our Saviour on the Cross
stopped the leaping flames, which rolled back the
moment they touched it. I noticed that a small
detached house had also escaped.

The farm — as it is called — of Hougoumont has more
the appearance of having at one time been a fortified
chateau. There is no trace of its history to be found.
The thickness of its walls, and its valuable position,
well merited its gallant defence. It is not too much
to say that the fortunes of the day turned upon the
fate of Hougoumont. Had we been driven from
that farm our right would have remained completely

We had just finished a minute inspection of that
most interesting spot when a thunderstorm, which
had long been threatening, burst upon us. We hastily

1 This is noteworthy in connection with Colonel Quintal's trial. (Note by
Lady Shelley.) — [In Captain Gronow's "Recollections and Anecdotes"
(ed. 1877, p. 79), we are told that the Duke said: " The cavalry of other
European armies have won victories for their generals, but mine have invari-
ably got me into scrapes. It is true that they have always fought gallantly
and bravely, and have generally got themselves out of their difficulties by
sheer pluck." The Duke said to Lord Stanhope (" Notes of Conv." p. 220) :
"The French cavalry is more often manageable and useful than the English,
because it is always kept in hand, and may be stopped at the word of com-
mand. This partly results from our horses being better and kept in higher
condition." — Ed.]


mounted our horses and galloped to our auberge at
Waterloo, where we ate a cold dinner.

I was much impressed by the attachment of our land-
lady to the Duke of Wellington. She showed us the
room and the bed that he had slept in after that
glorious day ; and she presented me with the cup out
of which he had drunk. The auberge is a very neat,
small house. I fear one cannot hope that its hostess's
affection for the Duke is altogether disinterested, as
she will certainly make her fortune by his association
with that house. She owns that she hid herself in the
cellar during the battle. It is a remarkable fact that
not one of the houses in the village was touched.
One small cottage and garden was in the very centre
of the firing, and yet it escaped entirely.

On our way home we passed through the forest in
total darkness. Occasional flashes of lightning gave
us glimpses of the narrow defile, and heightened the
sublimit}'' of the feelings excited by our experiences
during the whole of this most interesting day.

• • • ■ •

On the following day we visited the Palace of
Laeken, having ridden along the Allee Verte, by the
side of the canal, where on Sunday evenings the
whole population of Brussels assembles to smoke, eat,
and drink.

Laeken is prettily situated on rising ground. A
bright green lawn stretches towards the Antwerp
road. Sheep were grazing upon it, which reminded me
of England. The house would make an excellent
residence for a nobleman. It is not so large as many
country seats in England. The furniture and the
decorations are of the Empire style. It was a
favourite residence of Napoleon. The parquets are
very fine indeed. The carpets and much of the furni-
ture has been removed to the palace at Brussels for
the Coronation. The little bed of the young Princess
is in the same alcove as the Queen's, who is an ex-


cellent mother, and an elegant, pleasing woman, though
not handsome. The Prince of Orange strikingly
resembles both his parents. The father, by the way,
is frightful. The King is very unpopular, and so also
is the Prince. They are not on good terms, owing
to the Prince having resisted the King's wish that
he should dismiss an aide-de-camp, whom he persists
in keeping about his person.

I am afraid that the early promise of good qualities
the Prince showed is burnt up by the sun of
prosperity !

We visited Antwerp, and saw the famous basin,
deepened by Napoleon to contain fifty-three sail of the
line with all their ;guns on board, and ready to put to
sea at a moment's notice. We saw the place where
Carnot moored the fleet, and where our shells from
the land side burnt one of the vessels. The Arsenal,
the Rope Houses, etc., have been destroyed, as stipu-
lated by Treaty. We saw the site for the new city, on
the opposite side of the river, which would soon have
been built under the despotic commands of Bonaparte,
to the effect that every proprietor of a house in old
Antwerp should build one in the new city. This
order had been given without regard either to the
swampy condition of the soil or to the expense

Carnot, the Revolutionist, was described to be as
fond of plunder as his neighbours, and levied contri-
butions on all sides. We ascended the tower of the
cathedral, and espied Walcheren and the course of
the Scheldt.

Belgian manners are very different from French
manners. The people are slow, stupid, and obsti-
nate. Their country is fertile, damp, and foggy.
Nothing but the patience of a Dutchman could stand
the enniiie of the coche a Veau — a favourite conveyance
in these parts. We, watched people sitting on deck,
smoking, or doing nothing at all ; perfectly silent, and


moving at the rate of about three miles an hour. I
never saw water so still. The dykes are bordered
with rows of tall poplars, limes, or willows.

As we returned to Brussels we saw people catching
frogs in the meadows, killing them expertly with

On our return to Brussels we were much dis-
appointed at hearing that the Duke of Wellington
would not be able to attend the Inauguration of the
King, which had been for some time arranged for
September 21. We were told the reason as a pro-
found secret. It appears that the Prussians were
determined to possess the Luxembourg territory ; and
there was no one but the Duke who would dare to
oppose them. The Duke has been entirely successful
in that matter. Luxembourg had been by treaty
annexed to the Netherlands.

There has been a good deal of antagonism against
the Inauguration of the King. On September 20 the
Archbishop of Ghent caused placards to be stuck up,
threatening to excommunicate any one who should
take the oath of allegiance to a Protestant King.

The morning of the 21st was ushered in by the ring-
ing of bells. The day was fine, though very cold.
We went to the cathedral, which was hung with
Brussels tapestry. It is, I think, nearly as fine as the
Gobelins. The subjects depicted seemed to me to be
unsuitcd to the occasion. There were martyrdoms in
profusion. One represented the Jews in the act of
plunging their daggers into the holy wafers, and blood
spurting out. It seemed to me incongruous to produce
so distinct a proof of the Real Presence at the Coro-
nation of a Protestant King !

The people lined the streets in civilian dress, but
carried muskets. They wore the Orange cockade in
their hats, and laurel wreaths around their necks !
I was much amused at seeing them drilled into some
sort of order preparatory to the King's arrival. His
1 — 12


Majesty passed under our windows at eleven o'clock
in a very handsome coach, drawn by beautiful horses.
The two princes were with him. They saluted me
as I stood at my window. The coach was followed
by a ridiculous cortege, consisting of all the fiacres in
Brussels. There was scarcely a gentleman's carriage
in the whole procession. Every vehicle was over-
loaded, and Messieurs les Etats Generaux, with their
stodgy Dutch faces, did not enhance the dignity of
the show. They were on their way to the

We started off at once with the Richmonds to
Baron Capellan's house in the Grande Place. From
the balcony we obtained a magnificent coup tfozil of
the whole scene. The steps of the church were
covered with people, and every window in the Place,
decorated with tapestry, was full of spectators. The
Queen, with the ladies of her Court in full dress, stood
on the balcony of an adjoining house. Immediately
facing the Pare a scaffolding had been erected for the
ceremonial. The procession arrived in much the same
manner as before, except that the fiacres preceded the
King, and voided their cargoes on the steps of the
cathedral, ready to receive the King.

Although the ceremonial lasted two hours, at least
half of it had been skipped. Then the heralds threw
money among the dense crowd assembled to witness
the proceedings. There was no cheering; and as the
King, under a gorgeous canopy, walked to his palace,
not a Viva cheered the progress of the new monarch
or his family !

Our time passed agreeably in sketching the scene
before our eyes. When Baron Capellan discovered
that I was the lady who always rode with the Duke of
Wellington, he paid me every possible attention. He
begged permission to fetch Shelley, for whom, until
then, there was no room.

As the Baron is really attached to the Duke, I was


pleased at even this slight proof of his gratitude to the
saviour of his country — a title which the Baron him-
self had given him.

After the ceremony was over, the Duchess of
Richmond, Lad} r Jane Lennox, and I went with
Shelley to the Palace, and waited in the ante-room to
see the Royal Family at dinner.

Their quizzes, Messieurs les Etats Generaux,
seeing a row of ladies in the palace, mistook us for
the Court, and made us the most ridiculous bows
imaginable. This kept us in a fever of suppressed
laughter. One man wore a striped pea-green coat,
waistcoat, and breeches, with an interregnum of shirt
between. His waist had evidently increased since the
suit was last worn at the Stadtholder's Court. His
head had the appearance of having lost its wig, and
the expression on his face was irresistibly comic. We
were told that he had lost his sword in the crowd,
and only found out his loss at that very moment.
His appearance made such an impression upon me,
that I wished for the pencil of a Hogarth to make that
man immortal.

General Faghel took me under his arm to the
dinner, where the Prince of Orange spoke to me, and
named me to the Queen. We soon tired of this, and
returned home, leaving the Duchess of Richmond with
the Royal Family.

After dinner at our hotel, we went out to see the
illuminations, which were not especially remarkable —
not nearly so good as those of London.

The next morning we left Brussels, passed through
Enghien, and slept at Tournay. Next day we set off
for Lille. On our approach to that city we found
ourselves amongst Don Quixote's windmills, the town
being surrounded by about three hundred of them,
which might be mistaken for an army by any one much
less mad than the knight. Here, as at Valenciennes,
the town was garrisoned by the bourgeoisie — a

180 HOMEWARD BOUND [ch. xii

privilege upon which the inhabitants set great store.
St. Omers, where we slept, appears to be the most

Online LibraryFrances (Winckley) ShelleyThe diary of Frances lady Shelley (Volume 1) → online text (page 14 of 33)