Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles: A Celebration of Waterloo
The first 20 years of the 1800s were an extraordinary time, not just in England, but nearly every country in existence. There were enough major events to stock a century’s worth of days, and multitudes of larger-than-life players to inhabit these international stages. Politicians, statesmen, military heroes (and a few losers), musicians, writers, artists, architects: there must have been something in the water to have encouraged all these stellar personalities.
The year 1815 may well have been the epitome, considering that Napoleon was finally banished from France, thus his glorious plans for European dominance came to nothing. A lesser-known hero played a supporting role in the battle that ended the Napoleonic Wars.
Thanks to friend and fellow-Regency devotee, Susana Ellis, here is his story. It is factual: believe me, we couldn’t have made this up. It wouldn’t have been half as entertaining!
The Story of Lord Uxbridge’s Leg
Henry Paget, Earl of Uxbridge, later Marquess of Anglesey, lost his leg at Waterloo. That really isn’t so unusual, as army surgeons hacked off many limbs to save soldiers’ lives. But what’s interesting is the journey that Lord Uxbridge’s leg took before it finally met its end.
Lord Uxbridge must have been something of a romantic fellow, because in 1809 he left his wife of fourteen years and ran off with Lady Charlotte Cadogan, who was married to the Duke of Wellington’s younger brother at the time. Perhaps not the greatest choice for a military man, but the course of true love generally does not run smoothly, or so they say. In any case, you can’t hold a good man down, and by the time a culminating battle with Napoleon came around, Uxbridge was made second-in-command and given charge of the cavalry, which gave a good account of itself at the Battle of Quatre-Bras two days before Waterloo.
Unfortunately, Lord Uxbridge’s right leg was hit by cannon fire. He famously said to Wellington, who was nearby, “By God, sir, I’ve lost my leg!” Wellington’s response: “By God, sir, so you have!”
During the amputation, Uxbridge was quoted as saying, “I have had a pretty long run. I have been a beau these 47 years and it would not be fair to cut the young men out any longer.”
He must not have done too badly, though. He had six
more children with his second wife—they had each
divorced their former spouses and married in 1810—
for a total of eighteen children (ten with his first wife and eight with the second).
The saw used in the amputation is on display at the National Army Museum http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Army_Museum in Chelsea.
So… what happened to his right leg?
The leg was removed at Lord Uxbridge’s headquarters, which was still occupied by a Belgian by the name of M. Hyacinthe Joseph-Marie Paris, who requested and was given permission to bury it in his backyard.
Amazingly, the site became somewhat of a macabre tourist attraction. Visitors were shown the bloody chair on which Uxbridge sat during the amputation, and then were escorted to the garden, where they saw the grave maker that said:
Here lies the Leg of the illustrious and valiant Earl Uxbridge, Lieutenant-General of His Britannic Majesty, Commander in Chief of the English, Belgian and Dutch cavalry, wounded on the 18 June 1815 at the memorable battle of Waterloo, who by his heroism, assisted in the triumph of the cause of mankind, gloriously decided by the resounding victory of the said day.
Paris and his descendants made a nice profit from Uxbridge’s leg until 1878, when Uxbridge’s son came to visit and found the bones on open display. Apparently they had been exposed in a storm that uprooted the willow tree next to them. The Belgian ambassador demanded the return of the bones to the family, but the Paris family offered to sell them instead. Ordered to return them, the family kept them hidden, and in 1934, after the last M. Paris died in Brussels, his widow found them in his study. Fearful of a scandal, she incinerated them in her central heating furnace.
So no, you can no longer visit Lord Uxbridge’s leg or its burial place. However, one of his artificial legs is on display at Plas Newydd http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plas_Newydd_(Anglesey), the country seat of the Marquess of Anglesey (a title Uxbridge assumed later).
Loss of his leg did not prevent him from continuing his military career. He rose to Field Marshal and Knight of the Garter, served twice as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and twice as Master-General of the Ordnance.
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Susana Ellis is one of the nine contributors to a new anthology, to be officially released tomorrow, April 1. Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles: A Celebration of Waterloo
June 18, 1815 was the day Napoleon Bonaparte's Grande Armée was definitively routed by the ragtag band of soldiers from the Duke of Wellington's Allied Army in a little Belgian town called Waterloo. The cost in men's lives was high—22,000 dead or wounded for the Allied Army and 24,000 for the French. But the war with Napoleon that had dragged on for a dozen years was over for good, and the British people once more felt secure on their island shores.
Susana adds, “The bicentenary of the famous battle seemed like an excellent opportunity to use that setting for a story, and before I knew it, I had eight other authors eager to join me, and to make a long story short, on April 1, 2015 our Waterloo-themed anthology will be released to the world.”
There are other pages at this site devoted to the anthology, especially the one dated March 26, which provides individual story blurbs and another copy of the truly gorgeous cover. It is currently available for pre-order at Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00V4TAP38
In addition, all readers are invited to:
· the Book Release Facebook Party on April 1st
· the Rafflecopter (ends April 18th)
There will also be a print version. Details will be at the BBB web-site, as soon as available. Enjoy!