London Files: 5 Things to See at the Duke’s Home
On our trip to London last autumn, we visited a duke’s home. Yes, an actual duke lives there!
Of course, we had to pay admission and tromp around the house with the rest of the hoi polloi. And we didn’t see the duke or his private family quarters.
But we did see many of the artifacts, awards, and collectibles acquired by the current duke’s great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather:
The First Duke of Wellington
Following his defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, the victorious Wellington acquired a London home, Apsley House.
If you’re a fan of Regency/late Georgian history, Apsley House is a must-see. One note–photography wasn’t allowed and visitors were well-supervised, so most of these pictures are not my own.
Here are some of the highlights from our visit:
The Spoils of War
Wellington returned from the continent with portraits of the man he vanquished, Napoleon Bonaparte, as well as this massive statue of the French Emperor by Canova.
The Duke placed this very tall statue in the stairwell of the main staircase. Interestingly, this staircase was tucked away to the side of the house. Wellington had done some remodeling and added some rooms.
Also displayed in this stairwell is the Duke’s portrait and a portrait of Napoleon.
The Piccadilly Drawing Room
The Duke collected many, many works of art, as you’ll see in these pictures. Great paintings hang floor to ceiling. This room includes this painting, Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Waterloo Despatch.
Wellington commissioned Waterloo Despatch in 1816.
The Striped Drawing Room
So-called because of the striped wallpaper and upholstery, this room houses Wellington’s collection of portraits, including one of another hero of Waterloo, Henry Paget, first Marquess of Anglesey, as well as a painting of the Battle of Waterloo.
The Waterloo Museum
The grateful leaders of Europe presented Wellington with an interesting choice of gift–china–massive, ornate services by some of the finest porcelain makers in Europe. There’s the Prussian Service, the Saxon Service, and the Austrian Service, beautiful one-of-a-kind pieces displayed in the museum.
A grateful Louis King Louis XVIII of France gifted Wellington with an Egyptian Service made by the Sevres porcelain factory. Napoleon commissioned this set in 1809 as a consolation gift to his wife Josephine when he divorced her.
Here’s a similar Egyptian Service from Sevres which Napoleon commissioned to present to the Russian Czar. Note the ornate center display of Egyptian buildings.
The Wellington Museum also houses a silver-gilt shield and matching candelabra, gifts from the merchants of London, as well as swords and batons.
The Waterloo Gallery
The front cover of our guidebook shows the opulence of this room:
Wellington could seat eighty-five guests for his annual banquet commemorating the victory at Waterloo.
Like the other rooms at Apsley House, the Waterloo Gallery’s walls are filled with paintings from Wellington’s collection.
Most of the images here are available by Creative Commons license on Wikimedia Commons. The Piccadilly Drawing Room and Waterloo Gallery are my pictures of the English Heritage guide book. For more information and much better photography, visit the Apsley House website.
Is a visit to Apsley House on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments!