Just nine days after the 200th anniversary of The Battle of Waterloo 20 Marketors and their guests met outside Bank Station – under Sir Francis Leggatt Chantrey’s statue of the Duke of Wellington astride his famous warhorse, Copenhagan.
This was the start of the first Fellowship Walk of the year where we were to discover more about ‘The Iron Duke’ and his City connections. Our City Guide, John Steel, informed us that the statue, erected on the 29th anniversary of the battle in 1844, was paid for by the Livery Companies in return for the Duke helping with the building of King William Street.
Onwards to the Guildhall. This is where Wellington received the Freedom of the City of London. We discover another statue has been erected to him here where he finds himself in august company alongside the likes of Sir Winston Churchill, Lord Nelson and William Pitt the Younger. John then regaled us with a few interesting facts:
- Napoleon ‘small man syndrome’ is a myth. He wasn’t small. He was 5’ 7”which was considered average height at the time.
- Throughout his military career Wellington fought 60 battles and won every one that he led. Unfortunately his professional life meant that he didn’t get to spend much time with his wife and children. However he did find time to take a mistress – the courtesan Henrietta Wilson.
It was time to move on to Wren’s masterpiece, St Paul’s Cathedral where there are fitting tributes to both the Duke and the Battle of Waterloo.
- 13,000 people attended his funeral on 18 November 1852. This also marked the only year to date when there was no Lord Mayor’s Show because the nation was in mourning for one of their greatest battle heroes who also served as Prime Minister.
- Following the Duke’s death it was decided that a fitting monument to an extraordinary man should be created to reside in St Paul’s. The sculptor, Alfred Stevens, who won the commission to produce this masterpiece sadly died before he could finish it, so John Tweed completed the work.
Passing by the war torn and age ravaged flags of a selection of Battle of Waterloo regiments fluttering from the ceiling, we wend our way down the steps to the crypt, where we discover Wellington’s massive sarcophagus. There is a surrounding mosaic floor, which was laid by the women of Woking Jail. A revered hush came over us all as we stood to admire the great man’s final resting place.
On leaving the Cathedral it was only a short stroll to enjoy lunch and fellowship at the French brasserie, Cote, just to show there are no hard feelings!