ELOPEMENT IN HIGH LIFE – A young married Lady of rank, and highly distinguished in the fashionable circles by her personal attractions, absconded from the neighbourhood of Berkeley-square, a few days since, in order to throw herself into the arms of a noble gallant, the brother of an English Duke. The fair inconstant had shown a restless disposition for some time before her indiscreet departure, which took place by her going out immediately after breakfast, and walking to a street adjoining the New Road, where Lord ____ awaited her arrival in his gig, ascending which, she was instantly driven off to their amorous retreat, which the afflicted husband, Sir ____, has not yet been able to discover. Lady ____, either from hurry or singular design, went off without a single article of apparel besides the dress she wore. Her Ladyship is only in her 25th year, and in the full bloom of beauty; and the only palliation that can be offered for this indiscreet transfer of her charms, is, that “her mother did so before her!”
This salacious titbit of gossip was located in a provincial newspaper, the Bristol Mirror, on the 16th September 1815, on page 4.
Page 2 of the same issue had a refutation of the allegation, interestingly above one which related to the Duchess of Richmond’s ball held on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo. The two claims, one spurious and one all too true, had something in common which would have been all too obvious to London high society. They both had a link to the Duke of Wellington.
LIES. – The statement of an elopement in high life, inserted in our fourth page (from a London paper) turns out to be UTTERLY FALSE. – The statement of a Female Conspiracy at Brussels, which has appeared in all the papers, and the object of which was said to be to make prisoners of the Duke of Wellington and his staff, at a ball given by the Duchess of Richmond, – is also a COMPLETE FICTION.
While the rumours of a conspiracy at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball might have been false, the former claim was, in fact, all too true. Let’s fill in the blanks on the names.
Lord ____ was Lord Charles Bentinck, younger brother of the 4th Duke of Portland. He was a widower with a young daughter (his first wife had been the former Miss Georgiana Seymour, daughter of the infamous eighteenth-century courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott and – reputedly – the Prince of Wales, later George IV).
The afflicted husband, Sir ____ was Sir William Abdy, Baronet, reckoned as the richest commoner in England but rumoured to be impotent and unable to satisfy his gregarious young wife. And what of that wife? Lady ___ was, therefore, Lady Anne Abdy, née Wellesley, the daughter of Richard Colley Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley and his Parisian wife, Hyacinthe Gabrielle née Rolland. Although Anne was not exactly doing what ‘her mother [had done] before her’, Hyacinthe Gabrielle had been Wellesley’s mistress for many years before their marriage, and all their children had been born illegitimate. Hyacinthe Gabrielle might, in 1815, have been a marchioness but popular gossip still remembered her reputation as a courtesan.
Anne was the niece of the great Duke of Wellington who had been at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball in Brussels on the 15th June 1815, when the news that Napoleon Bonaparte was on the march had reached him. He later victoriously commanded the allied forces at the Battle of Waterloo on the 18th June where some of the officers, having not had time to change, fought in the clothes they had been attired in for the Duchess’ ball, and many young men never returned to waltz in a ballroom again.
Brussels was known to be sympathetic to Bonaparte; a story had spread that Bonaparte suggested to the ladies of Brussels that they should encourage the Duchess of Richmond to hold her ball. It was even rumoured that he had men hidden outside waiting for his arrival only for one of the ladies to give the plot away. These rumours were totally false, the duchess had actually applied to the Duke of Wellington himself, asking his permission to hold her ball as it was known that the French were drawing close to the Belgian capital city.
Charles and Anne’s elopement, just weeks after the great battle, caused a scandal which set the gossip’s tongues wagging; they had been discussing Wellington’s great victory, now instead they tattled about the marital indiscretions of his niece.
Our book, A Right Royal Scandal: two marriages that changed history, documents the elopement and the ensuing Criminal Conversation trial and divorce. It follows the family through to the next generation when Charles and Anne’s eldest son made a marriage which was equally scandalous, if for different reasons.
And why a Right Royal Scandal? Because this is a branch of the British royal family’s tree, ancestors of Queen Elizabeth II, one which has not been researched in-depth before.
On a surprisingly mild day in the October of 1821, in the second year of the reign of King George IV, a heavily pregnant woman sat herself down on the doorstep of a gentleman’s house in Gloucester Street, Queen Square in London’s fashionable Bloomsbury district; she felt suddenly faint and needed to rest. A crowd gathered around her and some people, assuming she was a poor beggar, threw halfpence into her lap. At this point, two officers from the Mendicity Society arrived and took her to their rooms and then conveyed her to the sitting Magistrates at Hatton Garden and attempted to have her charged her under the Vagrant Act.[i] It was discovered that she had been relieved three times before, and on each occasion had been passed back to Birmingham in the West Midlands, her home parish.
The lady then began her defence and told the officers an extraordinary and hard to believe account of her life up to that point.
She gave her name as Mary, otherwise Tom Jones. She had been born a soldier’s daughter and after her father was killed when she was still a child she had dressed herself in boy’s clothes and enlisted in the 47th (Lancashire) Regiment of Foot, serving seven years in their ranks as a drummer boy. It was certainly unusual but not unknown for women to enlist and live as a man; Hannah Snell famously did so in the eighteenth century. Maybe Mary’s father had served with the 47th and the soldiers had taken in the young orphan (if so she was) letting her live amongst them and looking after her? But eventually, it was discovered that she was a girl and discharged. We are given no clue about the years in which Mary saw service in the 47th, but it must have been at some period in the first fifteen years of the 1800s. During those years the 1st Battalion of the 47th saw action in South America and India and the 2nd Battalion were stationed in Ireland for five years before, in 1809, being sent to garrison Gibraltar and they then saw action from 1811 in the Peninsular War. It, therefore, seems possible that Mary spent her years as a drummer boy with the 2nd Battalion during their seven years of garrison duty in Ireland and Gibraltar, and possibly deliberately allowed her sex to be discovered rather than risk her young life on the battlefield.
Shortly afterwards, at the age of nineteen years, she married a soldier in the otherwise known as the 7th Hussars or the ‘Saucy Seventh’, a regiment which was ‘the embodiment of dash and panache for which every cavalry regiment strives’.[ii]
Mary followed her husband’s regiment and was present at the Battle of Waterloo on the 18th June 1815 where their regimental Colonel, Henry Paget, Lord Uxbridge, was commander of the entire British Cavalry force (Paget famously lost his leg towards the end of the Battle and was subsequently created the Marquess of Anglesey). In the mayhem of the day she claimed that she once again dressed herself in male clothing and fought, as a volunteer, by the side of her husband. The 7th Hussars were in the thick of the battle from 5pm (they were not used before that) and were charged more than a dozen times. Mary told the officers that she was wounded three times on that day, slashed across her nose by a sabre, stabbed by an enemy bayonet in her left leg and received a musket ball in her right. Her unnamed husband sadly lost his life on the battlefield.
Staggering from the field, Mary came across a Captain belonging to her husband’s regiment who was dreadfully wounded in his head. She had him removed to a surgeon and safety and he recovered. Mary told the officers of the Mendicity Society that the grateful Captain now lived in Sloane Street and allowed her a shilling a day in return for saving his life. For some time after that fateful day in 1815 she had also received ninepence a day from King George IV, but that allowance had been taken from her on account of her drunkenness.[iii]
But Mary had turned her life around once more and married for a second time, to a soldier in the Guards by whom she was now with child. She asserted that she had not been begging, that she had merely sat down as she was feeling faint and had not solicited the ha’pennies which had been thrown into her lap. The officers could not prove the charge against her and so Mary was discharged.
We thought it was a fascinating tale and tried to prove or disprove the facts within it. Sadly the newspaper report on this ‘Female Soldier’ had not given us much to go on and we were left not even knowing if her alias of ‘Tom Jones’ related to her maiden surname, the surname of one of her two husbands or a name she had chosen at random. She did not give her father’s rank in the 47th regiment of foot, nor that of either of her two husbands. We thought that probably the only person we could track down was the injured Captain of the 7th Hussars who allowed poor Mary a shilling a day.
Turning to the 1815 Army List we found the names of twelve men who were Captains in the regiment at the time of the Battle of Waterloo. We then checked the newspaper reports which appeared in the wake of the battle listing the men who were killed, wounded or missing. From those we found that three Captains in the 7th Hussars were wounded in the battle, Captains Thomas William Robbins, William Verner and Peter Augustus Heyliger. If Mary’s story was correct then her Captain had to be one of those three men. We dug a little deeper.
Captain Peter Augustus Heyliger had been particularly noted for his bravery on the day by the Duke of Wellington, but his injury consisted of being shot through the arm. The wounds suffered by Captain Thomas William Robbins did not seem to be specifically mentioned. We then turned our attention to Captain William Verner who was raised in rank to a Major after the battle.[iv]
Verner, a native of Armagh in Northern Ireland, had left behind some memoirs and had described his experiences on the day. He had indeed received a severe head wound, caused by a musket ball, and had been taken to the surgeon. Later moved to Brussels he developed a fever and his life was feared of. Reputedly the Duke of Wellington visited the badly wounded Captain and brusquely told him that “You are not nearly so bad as you think”. With that Verner was up and about within a month but instead of attributing his recovery to either Mary or to the Duke of Wellington, he instead said it was down to the recuperative powers of Guinness porter. Verner married in London on the 19th October 1819 (his wife was Harriet, daughter of Colonel Wingfield and granddaughter of the 3rd Viscount Powerscourt) and subsequently is mentioned as living at 86 Eaton Square, but if Mary’s story was correct he must be the man whose life she helped to preserve and who allowed her a shilling a day. William Verner eventually retired from the army as a Lieutenant-Colonel and subsequently became Sir William Verner. We have yet to find that he mentioned any part played in the battle by a young female soldier who was widowed on the field.
There was at least one wife of a soldier with the 7th Hussars on the battlefield that day: could she possibly be Mary? If so she seems a little less forward than her tale to the Mendicity officers would have us believe but perhaps, even if she did not fight, she did indeed assist the badly injured Captain William Verner from the field in his hour of need, earning his lasting gratitude and assistance if not his public thanks. From William Verner’s Memoirs:
About this time we heard a person in a rough voice cry out, “What is the matter with you, are you afraid?” Upon turning to see we found that this was addressed by Sergt. Major Edwards of Captain Fraser’s Troop, to his wife, who had accompanied him ever since our arrival in the country upon a small pony. As soon as she was discovered by Captain Fraser, he asked her husband if he intended his wife to go into action with us, and ordered her immediately to the Rear.
Caledonian Mercury, 6th July 1815
Stamford Mercury, 26th October 1821
Heroic Option: The Irish in the British Army by Desmond Bowen and Jean Bowen, 2005
Reminiscences of William Verner (1782-1871) 7th Hussars, 1965
The Waterloo Archive: Volume III: British Sources edited by Gareth Glover
Waterloo Letters by Major General H.T. Siborne, 1993
Wellington’s Doctors: The British Army Medical Services in the Napoleonic Wars by Martin Howard, 2002
WO 65. War Office: printed annual army lists, National Archives
UCL Bloomsbury Project – Bloomsbury Institutions – Society for the Suppression of Mendicity
The Queen’s Own Hussars Museum
Churchill – Home of the Verners (Craigavon Historical Society Vol. 6 No. 3)
[i] The Society for the Suppression of Mendicity (also known as the Mendicity Society) was founded in 1818 to attempt to prevent people begging on the London streets by offering them charity if they left the area immediately.
[ii] The newspaper report on Mary’s arrest said her husband was in the 7th Dragoon Guards: the 7th (the Princess Royal’s) Dragoon Guards did not, however, see action at Waterloo (see National Army Museum) but the 7th (the Queen’s Own) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons (Hussars) did. We have therefore assumed the latter regiment was the one to which her husband belonged.
[iii] In an age when a soldier’s pay was nominally one shilling a day the allowance provided by the Captain seems generous. It is of course possible that the newspaper had got its facts a little wrong and Mary received a her allowances weekly rather than daily.
[iv] Vice Major Edward Hodge who was killed at Waterloo.
Header image: The Passage of the Bidassoa, 7th Queen’s Own Hussars 1813
The Battle of Waterloo was hard fought, and hard won by the Allied Forces. In the aftermath, as night fell, the men who were still able to answered the roll call of their names. The women travelling in the train of the army listened for news, desperately wanting to hear their loved ones listed as living.
One such woman was young Mrs Tolmie: daughter of a corporal in the Royal North British Dragoons (the Scots Greys), she had travelled with the army, working as a nurse in Portugal and tending to the sick and injured. One man, whose life she had saved, married her in between battles. That man was Adam Tolmie, either a trooper in the same regiment as her father by the time of Waterloo or an infantryman in the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment of Foot. As the Scots Greys did not see action in Portugal during the Peninsular War, if Eliza was in Portugal and her father was serving in the Scots Greys, she had travelled independently: the Scots Greys were sent to Belgium following Napoléon Bonaparte’s escape from Elba in the February of 1815.
Later that year Eliza had followed her menfolk to Waterloo, a valiant effort as she was by this time heavily pregnant. The two men fought in the action at Quatre Bras on the 16th June, where her father, Corporal Woods, a veteran of the armed service, was thrown from his horse and trampled under the charge (but survived relatively unscathed) and her husband had his left shoulder ripped open by an enemy bayonet. Eliza spent the evening dressing her husband’s wound by the light of the campfire.
And so the army, under the command of the Duke of Wellington, progressed to the Battle of Waterloo on the 18th June 1815. As night fell on the battlefield Eliza, fearing she was both an orphan and a widow, took a lamp and set out to look for the two men, determined to bury them if they were dead or tend to them if they lived.
The majority of the wounded had already been taken off the field, but the dead still lay there. Eliza called out the names of her husband and father as she went, hoping for an answer in return. She passed a platoon of armed French grenadiers nestled in a hovel and forming a guard of honour to a dead general, but they let Eliza pass unmolested. Eliza searched throughout the night and by dawn had found the field where the Scottish regiments had fought, and where nearly 1,200 men had died. She began to recognise faces; finally a young drummer boy who had regained consciousness on the field told her that her husband and father had been on the front line, about 300m distant. Eliza hurried to the spot he pointed out.
There she found the body of her father who had been killed by shrapnel, but her husband, although he was badly injured, still clung to life. With the help of two other women she managed to move him to Mont Saint Jean where his wounds could be cleaned and bandaged and there, as a result of the stresses of the night, Eliza went into labour and gave birth to a daughter who was named Margaret. One version has the Duke of Wellington himself passing by shortly after the birth and, taking the babe in his arms, he kissed her forehead and told his staff officers, “Gentlemen, this is the child of Waterloo!”.
Adam Tolmie did recover, and he returned to his native Scotland shortly afterwards, having done with the army. The family settled first in Cockpen and then in Lasswade, Midlothian, where a further seven children were born to the couple (Jane 1817, Andrew 1819, James 1822, Eliza 1824, Isabella 1826, Mary Ann 1828 and William Edward in 1831).
On the 3rd June 1834, at Ceres in Fife, Margaret Tolmie (whose home parish was given as Lasswade) married James Thomson, a tailor from Ceres. Margaret, who was widowed between 1851 and 1861, followed in her mother’s footsteps and worked as a nurse, surviving in her old age on ‘private means’. By 1881 Margaret was living in Pathhead in Fife and, on the 22nd October 1901, she died there at 11 Commercial Street, aged 86 years, of old age and a fractured thigh. Her unmarried daughter Eliza, who had lived with her mother in her later years, had been present at the death.
The death certificate of Margaret Thomson, née Tolmie, names her parents as Adam Tolmie, a contractor, and his wife Eliza née Wood. Margaret’s death was reported as far away as New Zealand.
BORN ON THE FIELD OF WATERLOO.
Kirkcaldy has just lost one of its prideful possessions in the death of rare old Margaret Tolmie. She had the unique distinction of having been born on the famous field of Waterloo on the day following the historic battle, her mother having been a daughter of a corporal in the 2nd Royal North British Dragoons (Scots Greys) and her father a trooper in the same regiment. With other “daughters of the regiment” Margaret’s mother sallied out from Brussels to seek for the living among the dead, though the wounded had already been removed. “Home they brought her warrior dead;” but “Meg’s” mother would not have it so. She searched and searched. And at last she found him, buried beneath a heap of dead. He still lived, and helped by two other women she bore him to a place of succour. But the excitement of the day overcame her, and on the red field of Waterloo the baby “Meg” was born. Truly, Kirkcaldy had cause to be proud of Margaret Tolmie.
(New Zealand Herald, Volume XXXVIII, issue 11848, 28th December 1901, page 2)
Kirkcaldy is some distance away from Pathhead – could this be a clue as to where her parents originated from? Or is it referencing her marriage at Ceres in Fife, where she lived for many years?
Researching Margaret’s life has, however, raised many questions for which we have not found the answers, and we are hoping that someone reading this might be able to fill in the gaps for us. Most sources do not name Margaret’s parents, merely giving the story of her birth. In some, Margaret’s mother is also a Margaret, saying that the daughter was named for the mother, but one source references some French tourists talking to Margaret in her old age, and in that her mother is named as Kate Maborlan, not Eliza Woods. As Eliza is named as her mother on the official record of her death, we have chosen to go with that, but it is possible that her mother did not survive the battlefield birth in 1815, and that Adam Tolmie swiftly remarried and Eliza is therefore Margaret’s stepmother.
And if anyone more experienced than us in tracing military records could locate either Adam Tolmie or Corporal Woods or Wood we would be delighted to hear from you. We have drawn a total blank in trying to find any mention at all which fits the known facts, although Woods is a very common name and Tolmie could easily have been mistranscribed for something else.
William Humbley, an army officer, gave his newborn son a name almost impossible to live up to – William Wellington Waterloo Humbley. Even more than that Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, stood as the child’s godfather. Little William Wellington Waterloo was born on the actual day of the battle, the 18th June 1815, at Sandgate in Kent according to information in the Cambridge University Alumni 1261-1900, but was not baptized until nearly a year later.
William Wellington Waterloo, of Eynesbury (now part of St Neot’s but then a neighbouring village), was baptized on the 10th June 1816 at the parish church in Boxworth, Cambridgeshire. His father, William Humbley of the 95th Foot, had served in both the Peninsular War campaigns and at the Battle of Waterloo (the 95th was also known as the Rifle Brigade, made famous by Bernard Cornwell in his Sharpe novels).
William Humbley had been a First Lieutenant at the time of Waterloo, and a note against his name on the Waterloo Roll Call says:
This officer had been present at almost every battle and action in the Peninsular, and when the long-looked-for silver war medal was given, in 1848, he received one with thirteen clasps. Severely wounded at Waterloo. Attained the rank of lt.-col. unattached, 1851, and died 26th October 1857, at Eynesbury.
His severe wound in that battle had been caused by a musket ball in each shoulder, one of which stayed there till his dying day.
Four years after the birth of William Wellington Waterloo, William Humbley and his wife Mary had a daughter, and this child they named Vimiera Violetta Vittoria, Vimiera almost certainly for Vimiero in Portugal, and the battle there in 1808 in which the British, under General Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington, defeated the French forces and halted their invasion of Portugal. William Humbley, in the 95th, would have taken part in that battle: Vittoria obviously commemorated the Battle of Vitoria in 1813. Like her elder brother, Vimiera Violetta Vittoria was also baptized at Boxworth, on 11th August 1820, her father being named as a Captain of the Rifle Brigade of Tempsford in Bedfordshire. In later life, Vimiera used the name Victoria in place of Vittoria; she married Richard Rickett Wells, son of John Wells, a conveyancer from Eynesbury, in 1840.
Other battles that Captain William Humbley of the Rifle Brigade saw action in included Roliça, Corunna, Barossa, Salamanca, Nivelle, Orthes, and Toulouse; he was, in all, five times wounded severely in battle. He was placed on half-pay on Christmas Day 1818 and remained without employment until he was recalled to the army in 1854, at the age of 62 years, on the outbreak of the Crimean War.
William Wellington Waterloo Humbley grew up to marry, in 1857, Elizabeth Nelson Watson, an heiress from Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, although her middle name was not given in honour of the naval hero Admiral Horatio Nelson, but in a rather more mundane fashion was for her father, William Nelson Watson, Esquire.
HUMBLEY – WATSON. On the 27th ult., at S. George’s, Hanover square, London, Captain Wm. W. W. Humbley, late of the 9th Lancers, only son of Colonel Humbley, of Eynesbury, St. Neot’s, Huntingdonshire, to Elizabeth Nelson, only surviving daughter of the late Wm. Nelson Watson, of Gainsborough.
Sheffield Independent, 4th July 1857
Still, with Wellington, Waterloo and Nelson amongst the couple’s names, they were a fitting tribute to the military victories of the British army and navy of their time. The couple, who were later to divorce, continued the naming tradition with their son, William Wellesley Humbley, born in 1868.
So, the question remains, did William Wellington Waterloo Humbley live up to his name? It seems he did; perhaps with forenames such as those he had little choice but to follow his father into the British army, and Humbley junior achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (unattached), as his father had before him. Harts Army List of 1888 has this to say of Humbley junior:
Lt. Colonel W.W.W. Humbley served with the 9th Lancers in the Sutlej campaign in 1846, including the battle of Sobraon (Medal).
Lieutenant-Colonel William Wellington Waterloo Humbley lived, appropriately enough, at Waterloo Cottage in his birthplace of Eynesbury.
Perhaps we should also spare a thought for William Waterloo Wellington Rolleston Napoleon Buonaparte Guelph Saunders, born in 1867 at Sutton Courtenay in Berkshire, the son of William and Maria Saunders? Quite what his parents were thinking when they gave their infant son such a mouthful of a name, with both opposing sides of the famous battle covered, is anyone’s guess!
Journal of a Cavalry Officer: Including the Memorable Sikh Campaign of 1845-46 by William Wellington Waterloo Humbley, M.A., Trinity College, Cambridge; Fellow of the Cambridge Philosophical Society; Captain, 9th Queen’s Royal Lancers.
Jackets of Green by Arthur Bryant.
The information that the Duke of Wellington stood godfather to William Wellington Waterloo Humbley is from the West Kent Guardian newspaper dated the 19th March 1842. Additional information on the battles at which William Humbley of the 95th was present is taken from the London Standard, 17th April 1844, and Vimiera’s wedding from the Cambridge Independent Press, 4th January 1840. She perhaps initially married without her father’s permission, with a second marriage to make the ceremony legal: her first marriage to RR Wells took place on 3rd January 1840 at St Peter Cornhill, where she was listed as 21 years of age, and on the 10th February 1840 the couple married once more, at St Andrew Holborn, with Vimeira this time listed as a minor.
We would very much like to welcome our latest guest, Shannon Selin who has so very kindly offered to write an article about Napoleon and the Prince Regent for us. Shannon is the author of Napoleon in America, which imagines what might have happened if Napoleon had escaped from St. Helena and wound up in the United States in 1821. She blogs about Napoleonic and 19th century history at shannonselin.com. Shannon’s book is available from Amazon in paperback or from Amazon as an E-book by clicking on the links.
There has recently been publicity about the letter Napoleon Bonaparte wrote to King George IV (then the Prince Regent) requesting asylum in England after his 1815 abdication from the throne of France. The letter, which is on display at Windsor Castle as part of the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, reads:
“Royal Highness, Prey to the factions which divide my country, and to the enmity of the greatest powers of Europe, I have terminated my political career, and I come, like Themistocles, to seat myself at the hearth of the British people. I put myself under the protection of their laws, which I claim from your Royal Highness, as the most powerful, the most constant, and the most generous of my enemies. Rochefort, 13 July 1815. Napoleon.”
Before writing this, Napoleon said to his advisors, “I am not acquainted with the Prince Regent; but from all I have heard of him I cannot avoid placing reliance on his noble character.” According to Lord Holland, on reading the letter the Prince Regent reportedly said, “Upon my word, a very proper letter: much more so, I must say, than any I ever received from Louis XVIII.” These words are surprising in the context of Prinny’s general view of Napoleon. Member of Parliament Samuel Whitbread wrote in April 1814: “I hear [the Regent] says I am the worst man God Almighty every formed, except Bonaparte….”
The Prince Regent detested Napoleon and was a great supporter of France’s Bourbon monarchy. During Napoleon’s reign, he provided refuge in the UK for Louis XVIII and his family. Prinny openly advocated the return of the Bourbons to power, in contrast with the more cautious approach taken by his cabinet. Britain’s foreign minister, Lord Castlereagh, feared that Britain’s European allies would regard British patronage of the Bourbons as an attempt to scuttle the 1814 peace negotiations with Napoleon. To get around this, the Prince Regent made a personal overture to Russia’s Tsar Alexander, through Russian ambassador Prince Lieven, entreating him to dethrone Napoleon.
Not surprisingly, Napoleon’s 1815 request for British asylum was refused. Napoleon was instead exiled to the island of St. Helena, where he remained until his death in 1821. For a while Napoleon continued to harbour illusions that Prinny had no particular dislike of him. He blamed his exile on those surrounding the Prince. He told British Admiral Pulteney Malcolm that “if old George [III] were well he would have been better treated, he was not so much in the hands of his ministers as the Regent; besides, he would have seen the bad consequences to royalty of debasing a person who had once worn a crown by the choice of a nation. The Regent should remember the flattering messages he sent to him at the Peace of Amiens.”
Napoleon considered writing to Prince George from exile. When he learned that the letter would be opened and read by British officials before it was delivered, he decided not to, considering that inconsistent with both his and the Regent’s dignity.
Napoleon was not entirely unaware of Prinny’s true character. Pressing Admiral Malcolm for details about English drinking habits, Napoleon said, “It was the fashion when the Prince Regent was young. I have been told he sometimes sat at table till he fell off his chair; was it not so?”
Napoleon also thought it strange that the Prince Regent should choose as his mistress the Marchioness of Hertford, a lady who was over fifty and already a grandmother. “It appears that you like old women in England.”
The longer Napoleon sat pondering his fate, the more it dawned on him that the Prince Regent might not be his advocate. He told his companion General Gourgaud, “When Louis XVIII dies, great events may take place; and if Lord Holland should then be Prime Minister of England, they may bring me back to Europe. But what I most hope for is the death of the Prince Regent, which will place the young Princess Charlotte on the English throne. She will bring me back to Europe.”
In the end, Napoleon was probably not far off thinking the thoughts the caricaturist George Cruikshank puts in his mouth as he addresses Prinny, the “Sun”: “To thee I call— But with no friendly voice, & add thy name—G—P—Rt!. to tell thee how I hate thy beams, that bring to my remembrance from what state I fell &c.”
On the 19th June 1815, the day after the battle of Waterloo, a daughter was born to a serving officer of the British army and his wife at Brussels, named in honour of the battle and the victory as Waterloo Deacon.
Her father was Ensign Thomas Deacon of the 2nd Battalion of the 73rd Foot; he had not been present at Waterloo having been injured at the battle of Quatre Bras on the 16th June. His wife, Martha, together with their three children, had accompanied her husband to war. Martha, formerly Martha Durand, daughter of John Hodson Durand whose own nabob father had acquired a large fortune in India, had married Thomas Deacon at St. George’s, Hanover Square, 31st August 1809.
The following is taken from the account of Thomas Morris who served alongside Deacon at Quatre Bras.
Ensign Deacon, of our regiment, was on my right, close to me, when we were charging the enemy, and a private on my left being killed by a musket-ball, through the temple the officer said, “Who is that, Morris?” I replied, “Sam Shortly;” and, pointing to the officer’s arm, where a musket ball had passed through, taking with it a portion of the shirt-sleeve, I said, “You are wounded, Sir.” “God bless me! so I am,” said he, and dropping his sword, made the best of his way to the rear. After getting his wound dressed, he went in search of his wife, who, with her three children, he had left with the baggage guard. During the whole night, he sought her in vain; and the exertion he used was more than he could bear, and he was conveyed by the baggage-train to Brussels.
The poor wife, in the meantime, who had heard from some of the men that her husband was wounded, passed the whole night in searching for him among the wounded, as they passed. At length, she was informed that he had been conveyed to Brussels, and her chief anxiety then, was how to get there. Conveyances, there were none to be got; and she was in the last state of pregnancy; but, encouraged by the hope of finding her husband, she made the best of her way on foot, with her children, exposed to the violence of the terrific storm of thunder, lightning, and rain, which continued, unabated, for about ten hours. Faint, exhausted, and wet to the skin, having no other clothes than a black silk dress, and light shawl, yet, she happily surmounted all these difficulties; reached Brussels on the morning of the 18th, and found her husband in very comfortable quarters, where she also was accommodated; and the next day gave birth to a fine girl, which was afterwards christened “Waterloo Deacon.” He never joined us again, but went out with his family, to the first battalion, in the East Indies.
The full name of the little girl was Isabella Fleura Waterloo Deacon.
The Morning Post newspaper gave a list of the ‘State of the Wounded British Officers remaining at Brussels, July 12, 1815’. On this list, we find, under the 73rd Regiment of Foot, Ensign Deacon, mentioned as recovering from wounds to his arm which bears out the above. The supplement to the London Gazette published on Saturday, July 1st had listed his wounds as ‘severe.’
Ensign Deacon, subsequently promoted to Lieutenant after his recovery, travelled with the 73rd Foot to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and there he was appointed Fort Adjutant, first at Trincomalee, 1819-23, and then at Colombo, 1824-25. Several of his children sadly perished there; in the cemetery at Trincomalee are the remains of Eliza Deacon who died 1st March 1818 aged 11 months and Anne Deacon who died 7th November 1820 aged 7 months, both recorded as the daughters of Lieutenant Deacon of the 73rd and in the Dutch cemetery at Galle on the island of Sri Lanka is the following tombstone:
Here lies the remains of MARGARET MARY DURAND DEACON, daughter of Lieut. THOMAS DEACON, Staff Officer at this Station, and of MARTHA ANN, his wife, who died Jany. 14th, 1831, aged 18 months and 12 days; also of EDWARD DURAND DEACON, son of the above, who died 18th July, 1832, aged 18 months; also of HENRY AUGUSTUS DURAND DEACON son of the above, who died 20th July, 1832, aged 2 months and 26 days.
In 1822 Thomas Deacon transferred to the 16th Foot and in 1824 into the Ceylon Rifles. By 1836 he was Captain in the 28th Foot and in 1847 of the 25th Foot. His daughter Louisa Maria Deacon, who must have been one of the children who made that walk to find their father amidst the mayhem of battle in 1815, married William Moir, Deputy Assistant Commissary-General at Kandy on the 17th October 1824.
Isabella Fleura Waterloo Deacon lived a long life and travelled far, possibly made of the same mettle as her parents. She died at 14 St Andrew’s Road in Southsea, Hampshire, where she lived with her niece and her niece’s husband, Mary Elizabeth Isabella de Courcy and Alfred Malpas Tippetts, Surgeon Major General, aged 84 years on the 22nd February 1900. Mary Elizabeth Isabella de Courcy Tippetts was the daughter of Colonel Charles Clement Deacon who was born around 1811, brother of Isabella Fleura Waterloo and another of those three Deacon children who were present at the battle in 1815.
One further ‘Waterloo Child’ can also be mentioned, as recounted in 1818 just three years after the battle by Christopher Kelly, the father being an unnamed member of the 27th (Inniskilling) Foot, and present at Waterloo.
A private of the twenty-seventh regiment, who was severely wounded, was carried off the field by his wife, then far advanced in pregnancy: she also was severely wounded by a shell, and both of them remained a considerable time in one of the hospitals at Antwerp in a hopeless state. The poor man had lost both his arms, and the woman was extremely lame, and here gave birth to a daughter, to whom it is said the Duke of York has stood sponsor, and who has been baptized by the name of Frederica McMullen Waterloo.
The bravery of these two wives was certainly equal to that of their husbands.
Recollections of Military Service, in 1813, 1814 & 1815, Through Germany, Holland, and France; including some details of the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo by Thomas Morris, late Sergeant of the 2nd Battalion of the 73rd Regiment of Foot, 1845
The memorable Battle of Waterloo by Christopher Kelly Esqr, 1818
List of Inscriptions on Tombstones and Monuments in Ceylon, of historical or local interest with an obituary of persons un-commemorated by J. Penry Lewis, C.M.G., Ceylon Civil Service, retired, 1913
The Morning Post, 1st July 1815 and 21st July 1815