Lieutenant General Henry William Paget, who became 2nd Earl of Uxbridge and Marquis of Anglesey (1768-1854)
As I said in my last brief story, when I visited the site of the Battle of Waterloo for the bicentenary, it was the personal stories of those who fought there which inspired my emotion and General Uxbridge’s story is one of those that could have come out of a novel.
General Uxbridge, as he was at the time of the battle of Waterloo, began his military career in the 7th (or the Queen’s Own) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons (Hussars). He became Colonel of the Regiment in 1801. He commanded the cavalry in Spain and Portugal during the Peninsular wars. But he was then wrapped up in a real romantic, rakish, scandal, as he seduced the wife of Henry Wellesley, a political envoy, who happened to be the future Duke of Wellington’s brother. Henry Wellesley’s suffering was described by Viscount Castlereagh in a letter to King George III on the 5th June 1809. “He was overwhelmed by domestic misfortune.”
Henry’s wife, Lady Charlotte, daughter of the 1st Earl of Cadogan, had run off with Lord Paget (who was later the 2nd Earl of Uxbridge). Lord Paget had eight children with his first wife, who were left behind, and Lady Charlotte left four children. In 1810 Henry Wellesley and Lord Paget (Uxbridge) obtained divorces from their respective wives (note Paget’s wife was also discovered to be having an affair – you wonder then how many of the eight children were his ~The Dangerous Love of a Rogue style 😉 ). Paget then married Lady Charlotte, and was sued for £24,000 for the harm he’d done, a huge sum in that day.
Robert Ward wrote to Lord Lonsdale about the affair on the 8th March 1809. ‘Lady Charlotte Wellesley seems to have been the utter victim of her seducer, after resisting him long and sincerely; she has even often retained Sir Arthur Wellesley near her in public for the express purpose of avoiding Lord P’s importunities. She has written to Arbuthnot, W’s friend to say she knows she has consigned herself to perdition and unhappiness for life but was irresistibly driven to it by what she could not avoid. Lord P. has written in a similar way to his father, adding he had sought death frequently in Spain, to avoid this misfortune and that the greatest benefit that could now befall him wd. be to have his brains blown out. Wellesley is like one distracted’ Lonsdale wrote again three days later. ‘I was correct I find what I stated respecting the elopement, and Ld Uxbridge, half heart-broken, has written, Pole tells me, in these words to Ly. Charlotte, “Madam, I implore you as an old and dying man, to restore to his father a son; to disconsolate a wife, her husband, and to unprotected children, their father, Uxbridge.” Ly.Charlotte resents this as a letter that would not have been written to a housemaid, and Lord P. is profligate enough to intimate to his father that he joins in the resentment. The times seem indeed to be out of joint.’
Of course for Lord Paget’s and Lady Charlotte’s first year, officially, together they were ostracised by polite society as they lived together while still being married to others. Wellington was furious and Uxbridge’s military career was over for a while. But at least when he was called to a pistol duel on Wimbledon Common by Col Henry Cadogan (Charlotte’s brother), he acted honourably. When Cadogan missed, Uxbridge refused to return fire, knowing himself to be in the wrong.
Wellington’s next encounter with Uxbridge was not until the Battle of Waterloo, when Uxbridge, now as a General was appointed to lead the cavalry. When Wellington received the news that he must fight with Uxbridge he said, “Lord Uxbridge has the reputation of running away with everybody he can, I’ll take good care he don’t run away with me.”
Uxbridge was considered one of the heroes of the battle though, even by Wellington, and following their victory was appointed the rank of Marquis (Marquess in today’s spelling).
He was injured in the battle though. When he was caught in the leg by a cannonball. He was watching the battle with the Duke of Wellington and responded. “By God, sir. I’ve lost my leg.” To which Wellington replied. “By God, sir. So you have.”
The French cannon fire from the near ridge at reenactment of The Battle of Waterloo, Belgium, June 2015
It was near the end of the battle, and Uxbridge was carried off the field and taken back to the inn which Wellington was using as his headquarters in the village of Waterloo, where his damaged leg was amputated. John Robert Hume, the surgeon, recorded Uxbridge’s operation in his notes, and pointedly mentions Uxbridge’s silence, bravery and calmness throughout the operation, when he would have had no painkillers. The only indication that he found it difficult was that he commented on the knife perhaps being too blunt. The surgeon would have first cut a flap of skin if possible to fold over the amputation site, to enable better healing.
The owner of the inn M. Hyacinthe Joseph-Marie Paris asked if he could bury the leg of one of the heroes of the battle in his garden, and he gave it its own tomb stone. People then came to visit the inn and the tomb for years to see the place where Uxbridge’s leg was buried. It became a monument which macabre tourists favoured.
This is the inscription recorded on the stone in the garden of the inn, in Waterloo village.
The leg was taken from the grave at one point and rather gruesomely displayed in the Wellington museum which is now established in the inn, but after complaints it was reburied, and now it is believed to have gone missing. However, the museum does have the artificial leg which Uxbridge used following his amputation, which was the first ever moving prosthetic leg as far as anyone is aware.
Lord Uxbridge lived on into his 80s with Charlotte and regularly when people asked him how he was, the answer that he gave was, ‘I have one foot in the grave.‘
There are still more Waterloo stories to come, follow my blog via email not to miss them.
*********It’s the lase weekend for the discount of The Lost Love of a Soldier**********
If you would like to read my fictional story set around the lead up to the Battle of Waterloo, then now is the time to do it, Harper Collins have put on some amazing deals this month to commemorate the battle. In one country the deal only lasts two weeks, though, I have not put the amounts as they are different in different countries, just click on the cover of The Lost Love of a Soldier in the side bar to find out your great cut price deal.
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Look at all the book covers in the side bar to see the fictional stories I write… especially the limited time offer for Magical Weddings, which contains my story,
The Jealous Love of a Scoundrel