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The Road To & From Waterloo. Week 18. The End for Napoleon, London Parties, The Country Celebrates

The Allies advanced, carrying with them such booty as Napoleon’s beautifully-fitted carriage (shown in the moment of its capture in the print below), while in Paris the first wounded had begun to arrive the day Napoleon abdicated. Some of the Old Guard were spotted on the streets on the 25th and newspapers and posters appealed for linen and rags to make bandages.
Napoleons carriageBeyond the problems of the wounded, things were looking up. French government stocks rose with the news of Waterloo and kept rising – the abdication and the approach of the Allies pushed it even higher. Labretonnière noted that Paris was taking on an “aristocratic look” and the Tuileries Gardens was filled with “brilliant society”. The English visitor, Hobhouse, was asked why he looked gloomy and wrote that it was strange that the only person not looking happy in the crowd was a foreigner when “you consider that the Square Vendome, close by, is covered at one corner with wounded men, laying on straw.”
On the 25th Napoleon moved to Malmaison, the Empress Josephine’s old residence, fifteen miles west of Paris. As the Allies drove on hard for the capital he fled again on the 29th to Rochefort, a port on the Charente estuary in the South West, hoping at first to flee to America, but eventually surrendering to the British..
On Friday 30th June the Allies opened fire on the plain of St Denis, wakening the Parisians with cannon fire. The French Commission of Government dithered, fighting went on – and, finally, the capitulation was signed on July 3rd. It was all over.
In London that Sunday 25th June, one week after the battle, Londoners were not short of reading material. The Examiner printed “The London Gazette Extraordinary” recapping the events from the arrival of Major Percy onwards and also “Miscellaneous Information Respecting the Late Battles”, filled with a hodgepodge of news gleaned from letters, dispatches and downright speculation.
The whole of London Society seemed to be throwing itself into balls, routs and parties, despite the number of deaths and injuries amongst officers aDuke of Brunswickt Waterloo, which must have touched almost every aristocratic and upper class family in the country. The Morning Chronicle’s Mirror of Fashion for Monday 25th June lists eleven forthcoming parties including the Marchioness of Douglas’s “elegant ball and supper”, Mrs Tighe’s “large rout” and Lady Saltown’s “large assembly”. The only mention of mourning I could find was that of the Princess Charlotte on behalf of her father’s cousin, the Duke of Brunswick.(Shown left)
To end this story in a far less sophisticated town – Bury St Edmund’s – there is a rather charming report in the local Bury and Norwich Post recording that, “The glorious news of Lord Wellington’s Victory over Bonaparte was first received here on Thursday evening, amidst the most general joy; and which was most happily confirmed on the arrival of the mail at six the next morning; when by the vigilance of our most worthy postmaster the several newspapers were instantly delivered throughout the town and its vicinity.”

I hope you have enjoyed this series of posts tracing Napoleon’s route to Waterloo and how Londoners reacted to it. I began to be fascinated by the story when I was researching for a Waterloo trilogy of novels – The Brides of Waterloo – with two friends and fellow authors,Waterloo books Sarah Mallory and Annie Burrows. Inspired by the exploits of G Troop, Royal Artillery, the three novels are available as paperbacks and ebooks: why not visit our websites to find out more, including buy-links and snippets about research. http://www.melinda-hammond.co.uk , http://www.annie-burrows.co.uk , and http://www.louiseallenregency.com. Our heroes also tweet at @RandallsRogues!

I also became intrigued by the tourists who flocked to the scanned medbattlefield from the day after the battle. The story of this phenomenon is told in the words of six of them – the Poet Laureate, a lady travel writer, a schoolmaster, a journalist, a friend of Sir Walter Scott’s and an adventurous young man – in To the Field of Waterloo: the First Battlefield Tourists 1815-1816. It is available as an ebook for Kindle http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00VMQWN74/

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VMQWN74/

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The Road to Waterloo – Week Eight. The Tricolour Floats Throughout the Empire – and Is Lady Roseberry To Be Turned Naked Into the Streets?

Londoners would have been cheered to know just how Napoleon was struggling to produce a new constitution and hold the government together. On Saturday 22nd April he finally published the new document, breaking with the European-wide ambitions of his previous two Imperial constitutions by making it clear that this version was designed to “increase the prosperity of France by the strengthening of public liberty.” The new constitution was to be approved by a public plebiscite – always supposing the various disputing factions ever showed enough interest to vote. But at least the Emperor was cheered up on the 18th to receive the news that the Duke of Angoulême had capitulated. Grouchy wrote from Avignon, “Sire, I have the honour to announce to Your Majesty [that]… the tricolour flag floats throughout the territory of the Empire.”
The Monday newspapers carried reports that 200,000 Russian troops were marching towards the Rhine in support of the Allies but were not expected to be in position until May. “The same number of Prussians will very shortly be upon the French frontiers and it is asserted that 80,000 of them are already on the borders of the Rhine.”

Dartmoor

At home there were reports in the papers of the inquests on seven American prisoners of war shot attempting to escape from Dartmoor prisoner of war camp, a bleak institution high on the moors. The print above is from Ackermann’s Repository in 1810 when the prison was newly built. The smaller enclosure to the right is the barracks for the troops guarding the prisoners.
The court and fashionable news included the scandalous information that the Consistory Court had “pronounced a sentence of divorce in favour of Lord Roseberry, on the grounds of adultery between Lady Roseberry and Sir H. St. J. Mildmay.” The case was so splendidly lurid that I think I will have to devote an entire post to it later. When the bill of divorce reached the Committee stage in the House of Commons in June, the question of Lady Roseberry’s allowance from her husband arose:
According to Hansard, “Mr. M. A. Taylor rose and said, he did not think the sum proposed in this clause sufficient to provide Lady Roseberry with the common necessaries of life. He was one of those who could not accede to…an opinion…that after a woman has committed an act of adultery, she ought to be turned naked into the streets, without the means of sustaining existence…He would appeal to the feelings of the House, whether it was; possible for Lady Roseberry, after the splendour in which she had been accustomed to live, to support herself upon the miserable pittance of 300l. per annum. It might be said, that this limited income must be considered as a part of the punishment of her crime.”
On Monday the Morning Post writes of receiving a report “of a petition of peace with Bonaparte been clandestinely circulated for signatures in the City of London. We cannot believe this rumour or that any considerable number of citizens would put a their name to so degrading a paper.”
In the House of Commons Mr. Bathurst proposed an Aliens Act to protect against subversive French aliens. It was rejected as unnecessary – apparently the House shared the Morning Post’s opinion of the loyalty of British citizens.
A proclamation from King Louis XVIII to all French citizens was widely reported. He promised to welcome back “into his arms” all who had previously supported Napoleon and warned that “already does Europe advance to dethrone him. She advances Frenchman! Her innumerable phalanxes will soon pass your frontiers…”
Under the heading “Pugilism”, the Morning Chronicle stated on Wednesday that “for years we have not had to report a fight so determined and so desperate Road to a fightas that which brought together by amateurs yesterday on Hounslow Heath, between Harry Harmer, of first rate science, and Shelton the navigator.” The vast crowd watched 28 brutal rounds lasting 26 minutes ending in the defeat of Shelton following “a dreadful blow to the side of the head.”

The print Road to A Fight by Henry Alken (1821) shows the sporting gentlemen all rushing to the ringside.
To end on a rather more sophisticated note, the papers were enthusiastic about the Marchioness of Landsdowne’s Rout. “Landsdowne House was opened on Thursday night to nearly the whole of the Fashionable world. That magnificent mansion appeared in all the blaze of meridian splendour; its interior embellishments never appeared to greater advantage. All the beautiful apartments notwithstanding their majestic proportions, were filled with beauty and elegance… At midnight the scene was at its zenith; at one o’clock a few began to retire, and about three the party broke up.”
Guests included five ambassadors and what reads like all the nobility in residence in London. The print is from Ackermann’s Repository for May 1811 and is captioned, “Landsdowne House, Berkley Square.Landsdowne House

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Jane Austen by Candlelight – or was it a lamp?

In September 1813 Jane Austen was staying with her brother Henry at his Henrietta Street address in Covent Garden, along with their brother Edward, his daughter Fanny and two of Fanny’s younger sisters. On the 16th Jane wrote to her sister Cassandra, ‘We are now all four of us young Ladies sitting around the Circular Table in the inner room writing our Letters, while the two Brothers are having a comfortable coze in the room adjoining.’1-Barretts bill minor crop

It is a charming picture, but how were the four ladies illuminating their work? Probably not with smelly tallow dip candles, unless they were in an economical mood. Those were made from mutton fat, usually contained bits of meat, smelled strongly and, in homes with any pretence to gentility, were Candle advert cropconfined to the service areas.

There was an “economy” candle available – tallow with a wick that had been dipped in wax which must have reduced the smell a little and, according to The Candle & Soap Company’s advert of August 1802 shown left, (The Statesman newspaper), would not “Gutter except from bad handling or carrying about.”

However, we know that the Austens bought pure wax candles from Penlington’s, a tallow chandlers at the sign of the Crown and Beehive, Charles   Street (now Wellington Street), a short walk from the Covent Garden piazza and Henrietta Street. It evidently produced superior candles, for the family would order from them by mail: on 1 November 1800 Jane tells Cassandra, who has just passed through London on her way to Kent, that their mother was ‘rather vexed’ because Cassandra did not call at Penlington’s but that she had sent a written order, ‘which does just as well.’

I don’t have a bill from Penlington’s, but the one shown at the top is from the very smart shop, Barrett & Beaumont, Wax Chandlers to Their Majesties – you can see the royal coat of arms to the left and the Prince of Wales’s feathers on the right, denoting the royal warrents.  The bill, for two pounds eight shillings and six pence is for twelve candles – I think it says “sperm” for spermaceti (ie whale oil) and three “Wax Moons”, which are a mystery to me.Candle magnifier

A single candle, or even a branch of candles, does not produce a very bright light, so for detailed work there were methods of focusing and concentrating the light. One method was to place a glass globe filled with water in front of the flame and this photograph (right) shows a device for giving a group of sewers stronger light from just one candle. (Birmingham Museums Reserve Collection).

Argaud lampThe first lamp designed on scientific principles was the Argand lamp, patented in 1780. It used a wick drawing on a reservoir of whale (spermaceti) or vegetable oil and they were made in very handsome designs in silver or in Sheffield plate. The photograph (left) is of one at Soho House, Birmingham, the home of Matthew Boulton, the manufacturer. This particular pattern is silver plate, of about 1800.

Soho House also contains another lamp by Matthew Boulton & Plate Company, this time of c.1820 (shown below). It is a neat little bedside lamp made to burn colza (rape seed) oil. With our frequent power cuts out here in the country I rather covet this little lamp.colza lampIf anyone knows what a “wax moon” might be, I’d love to hear from you!

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New Blog!

Bear with me while I set this blog up!

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