Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions at National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery presents this small exhibition about the life of Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Curator Paul Cox says: “The Duke of Wellington’s victory over Napoleon at Waterloo is well known. This exhibition provides an opportunity to examine less familiar aspects of his life, including the long political career during which he saw through important forward-looking legislation, but suffered a dramatic loss of popularity.”
The display charts his failures and successes on the battlefield, also giving a personal insight into Wellesley’s life post-war. Portraits highlight lesser-known information about the soldier, including his highly unorthodox relationships with women. He was married to Catherine “Kitty” Pakenham in 1806, but the marriage was disastrous. He had affairs but, more unusually, platonic relationships with women, namely Harriet Arbuthnot and Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts. Kitty died in 1831, and Baroness Burdett-Coutts, at the age of 32, proposed to the 77-year-old Wellesley. He refused.
The exhibition includes parts of the Panoramic View of the Entire Funeral Procession of Arthur, Duke of Wellington: a 67-foot-long print. The entire print is shown as a moving image on a screen, above the samples, the duration of which is an epic eight minutes. The real print will be shown for the first time in a free one-hour event in the Victorian Galleries on 18th June 2015. An iPad app allows visitors to download and explore the entire print at their leisure.
Francisco Goya’s Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington depicts Wellesley in his familiar red military uniform, but was altered twice to show his increasing collection of battle honours and awards. Amongst these is the Order of the Golden Fleece, which was presented to him by the Spanish government in 1812.
A delightful collection of satirical prints is also being shown, illustrating his “eventful and often difficult political career”, recording the ebb and flow of his public popularity. Well worth a visit, this intimate exhibition gives the viewer a fuller sense of who Arthur Wellesley really was.
Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions is at the National Portrait Gallery from 12th March until 7th June 2015, for further information visit here.