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Waterloo : The funeral procession of Arthur Duke of Wellington


<p style='text-align: justify;'>Wellington died in September 1852, aged eighty-three. He was given a state funeral, a formal occasion watched by huge crowds and captured vividly in this panoramic folding print of the procession. Wellington was laid to rest in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral, next to another hero of the Napoleonic Wars, Horatio, Viscount Nelson. His funeral casket was there decorated with banners made for the funeral procession. One from Prussia was removed during the First World War and never reinstated.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>One of the artists, G. A. Sala, gave the following account of the creation of the work in his <i>The life and adventures of George Augustus Sala</i> (London, 1895): ‘The great Duke of Wellington died on September the 14th, in that year [1852]; and immediately after his decease, Messrs. Ackermann gave me a commission to execute a work far more important than any I had hitherto produced for them. It was to etch on a series of large steel plates a panoramic view of the funeral procession of the great Duke. The many thousands of figures in the cortége were first etched on the plates and subsequently aquatinted. The figures and carriages fell to my share; the horses—of which there were many hundreds—were engraved by Henry Alken, a well-known animal painter, and the son of an even better-known artist in the same branch of art, old “Harry” Alken; and at these plates we worked unremittingly for many weeks.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Plenty of materials had been supplied to us by the authorities of the Horse Guards for the uniforms of the troops which were to take part in the ceremony; and equal courtesy in this respect was shown to us both by the Corporation of the City of London and by the Dean of St. Paul’s. I saw the pageant itself, which took place on the 18th November, 1852, from three different points of view. Sir Richard Mayne, the Chief Commissioner of Police, had, in the first instance, granted me a pass “between the lines,” so that I was enabled to walk inside the serried ranks of military and police, who were keeping the grounds from Hyde Park Corner to Fleet Street; there my pass enabled me to slip through the lines and reach a certain house, a stationer’s shop on the south side, on the first floor of which some friends of mine had secured seats. The procession, I may say, occupied many hours in passing; and when the military part of the pageant had come to an end, I made my way out of the house in Fleet Street, passed between the lines again, and trudged up Ludgate Hill into St. Paul’s, and into the metropolitan basilica itself. The funeral service was conducted by the Dean, Henry Hart Milman. Of that circumstance I have ample warranty, since I find a note of my own on the title-page of Dr. Milman’s “Annals of St. Paul’s Cathedral,” which I bought in 1869, as follows: “I remember to have seen him at the funeral of the great Duke of Wellington at St. Paul’s in 1852—a wonderfully ancient-looking, bowed-down man, creeping up the nave at the head of the procession.”</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>We had finished aquatinting the plates about Christmas; when, utterly worn out with hard work, I took a trip to Paris. I was suffering from something else, more serious than fatigue. The fumes of the acids used in biting-in the plates, and the glare of the bright metal itself, when the varnish was removed, had played, as I feared, almost irreparable havoc with my only valid optic; and, for the second time in my life, I was within measurable distance of blindness. Happily, this affliction was spared me, and my sight grew strong enough to cover, during the next thirty years or so, very many thousands of pages with a small and more or less legible handwriting. I never, however, touched an etching needle or graver again; although, I believe that my kind people at home still keep, in a case specially made for the purpose, all the engraver’s tools and chattels which I used.’</p>

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