As the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo was celebrated on 18 June, a remarkable glimpse into the Duke of Wellington’s preparations for battle will be offered for sale at auction.
The letter, written by the Duke on 8 May 1815 as he made crucial plans for his most decisive conflict and the final vanquishing of Napoleon’s ambitions, comprises a single sentence requesting `medicines and materials required for the use of this army` to be sent `as soon as possible`. It was addressed to `The Right Honble The Secretary of War` (Earl Bathurst) and was received in Whitehall just four days later on 12 May.
“The Duke of Wellington was a prolific correspondent,” notes Robert Ansell, the Books & Manuscripts consultant at Lawrences Auctioneers in Crewkerne, Somerset, where the letter will be sold on 31 July. “However, this letter reveals much about him in just a single sentence. Napoleon’s army was beginning its advance on Brussels and the King of the Netherlands had just placed his own soldiers under the Duke of Wellington’s command. In this brief missive, Wellington shows himself to be organized and concerned for the care and welfare of his men. On the same day, we know from Dispatches that he wrote to Lord Stewart discussing tactics and deciding to commence the battle when he had mustered as many as 450,000 men. Napoleon hoped to try and frustrate supplies to such a large army by the use of false intelligence. On the day, Wellington had 67,000 men to Napoleon’s 69,000. We hope that the current considerable interest in the anniversary of this notable battle will attract keen bidders to this simple but vital letter.”
The letter (31 by 19cm), now framed and glazed, has been consigned for sale from a lady in Dorset whose family have owned it for over a century. It is signed `Your Lordship’s most obedient Humble Servant, Wellington` and is expected to make £1000-1500. Further details from the auctioneers on (01460) 73041, www.lawrences.co.uk