From a very early age the Napoleonic wars intrigued me. Movies, documentaries, games along with my participation in re-enactment events made me see and experience what this kind of warfare entailed. I knew that Arthur Wellesley, better know as the Duke of Wellington, was the undefeated commander in the British army. Under his command the Anglo-allied army, with great help from field marchall Blücher’s Prussian army, was triumphant against the French Grande Armée under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte at the battle of Waterloo. The beautiful documentary “Wellington: The Iron Duke” gave me a wonderful insight in the life of Arthur Wellesley. It’s because of this documentary a great feeling of respect has grown for him and it’s why he became my greatest hero.
In this documentary there was mention of a house named “Apsley House”. It’s where Arthur Wellesley resided after his return from his last battles on the European fields. It’s more then 200 years after the climactic battle at Waterloo that I set foot in Apsley House.
A indescribable feeling fell over me when I stepped, together with my girlfriend whom I spend a wonderful weekend in London, trough the doorway into this majestic house located at 149 Piccadilly, London. Apsley House, I’ve read a lot about it and now I stood there myself. I’m quit a chatty one but standing there made me withdrew to a great silence. The thought that I was standing in probably the same spot where my hero has stood so many years ago ran trough my head. I wondered what went trough his mind when he entered this house for the first time. Only thing I knew for sure was that my mind was just full of awe.
A humble feeling befell me. Wherever my gaze fell I saw the testimony of great achievements. Entering further into the house stately man in their turn gazed down upon me. They looked at me from the canvas they were painted on. The great names from the time including my hero. After my girlfriend and I were welcomed by an ever so nice lady, from whom we received the audio-tour gadget, we continued our way trough Apsley House. For me the most impressive room was the “museum room”. It was there that all the gifts of the many grateful nations were on display. Of course I searched for the gestures of gratitude from my home country the Netherlands. And there I saw it on display among many others. The batons of a field marshal one of which was given to him by the king of the Netherlands. A baton made entirely of cold and it excelled in its simplicity because of it. In addition to all the grand gestures of gratitude some, what we call the trophies of battle, were hanging from the wall. It were the regimental Colours from some of the vanquished regiments of the French Grande Armée. As a soldier my self I know what the regimental Colours mean to us and to loose it in battle is to loose ones pride.
For a long time I wondered on trough Apsley House. I treated my self to a wonderful book that contains the accounts of the battle at Quatre Brass and Waterloo. Visiting Apsley House for me was a highlight in my interests for the Napoleonic wars and in my search to get to know what kind of man Arthur Wellesley was.
I recommend anyone who visits the beautiful city of London to also visit Apsley House. It’s not merely part of the English heritage but I do believe it’s part of our common heritage and absolutely worth to honor it with a visit.
Leaves me nothing more to do then wait and plan my next visit to London and most definitively to Apsley House.