The first adventure for The Duke of Wellington Tour was a private, yes, private tour of Apsley House. I had been to Apsley House twice, but was eager to see what the private tour entailed. Boy, was I ever happy when I learned as part of a private tour, we could snap all the pictures we wanted of anything and everything in the house. Ok, right then and there the entire trip was worth it. I was ecstatic. On previous visits, picture-taking was not allowed anywhere in the house. Take a look:
The huge arched screen to enter the park is to the left. An equestrian statue of Wellington, along with other war memorials are across from the house, including the Wellington Arch.
Hello! Anybody home? Duke! Are you in? Artie, we are waiting!!
In this room are many beautiful settings and other pieces given to the Duke as gifts through the years. Also shown are some items such as the batons and swords of the Duke, Napoleon, and other Peninsular war heroes. I am always eager to see the Tipu Sultan‘s sword that Arthur Wellesley obtained in the Battle of Seringapatam (Sharpe’s Tiger by Bernard Cornwell).
This fun statue by Antonio Canova was commissioned by Napoleon, but when finished, he did not like it at all. Later, this statue was placed in the foyer of Napoleon’s greatest rival and defeater, the Duke of Wellington. Special reinforcement was put under the statue so it would not crash through to the basement as it weighs many tons. To the left is our awesome Scottish guide.
A decent portrait of Napoleon standing complements this one of the Duke to the right and makes a nice pair as you arrive at the top of the staircase.
Following are some pictures from the Piccadilly Drawing Room in the front of the building on the second floor of Apsley House. I took some photos of the wonderful details of the molding and of some of the artwork. Much of the artwork was acquired after the Battle of Vitoria as Joseph Bonaparte was fleeing Spain. The Duke sent a letter to the real King of Spain telling him that he recovered much of the art and the King told the Duke to just keep it as a thank you. There are about 165 pieces in the collection. Much of it was not recovered and soldiers were using the canvasses to shield themselves from the rain.
From a placard in the room:
“The Piccadilly Drawing Room was designed in 1774 by Sir Robert Adam, whose frieze, doors, ceiling ornament, and marble chimney-piece remain. In 1828 Benjamin Dean Wyatt radically altered the room by removing from Adam’s apse the niches and columns and replacing the predominantly green color scheme with white and gold. The tabaret (alternate satin and watered silk stripes), wall hangings, curtains, and carpet are copied from original fragments.”
The next room we visited on the second level of Apsley House was the recently refurbished dining room displaying the wonderful Portuguese centerpiece on the large dining table.
From the placard in the dining room:
“The Dining Room was built by Benjamin Dean Wyatt in 1819, partly on the site of Robert Adam’s Powdering Room of the 1770s, and was the first addition to the Robert Adam house to be commissioned by the first Duke of Wellington. Wyatt used the Grecian style characteristic of the Regency. The annual Waterloo banquets for senior officers who had fought with the Duke at Waterloo were held here until 1829, after which they were held in the new Waterloo Gallery where Peninsular heroes could also be included.
On the table stands the centrepiece of the Portuguese Service (26 ft/8m long), the greatest surviving example of Portuguese neoclassical silver. It was designed by Domingos António de Sequeira, made in Lisbon 1812-16 and presented to the Duke of Wellington by the Portuguese Council of Regency in gratitude for his victories against the French in the Peninsular War. Parts of the Portuguese Service, of over a thousand pieces of silver and silver-gilt designed to go with the centrepiece, are on display in the Plate and China Room downstairs.
The sideboard incorporated a central support for the Wellington Shield (the shield is now on display in the Plate and China Room). The cut-glass chandelier is English, c. 1830. The portraits, mainly gifts from the sitters, are of sovereigns involved in the final defeat of Napoleon and the peace settlement after Waterloo.”
One of my favorite rooms is next: the Striped Drawing Room. This room looks out on the smallish backyard of Apsley House, as well as the bigger backyard, Hyde Park.
Two beautiful malachite tables are situated between the three windows in the room. From the placard on one of the tables:
“This pair of console tables was one of several diplomatic gifts presented by Tsar Nicholas I to Wellington on his visit to the Russian court in St. Petersburg in 1826 where he attended the funeral of Tsar Alexander I. Furniture with malachite veneer was highly prized and these tables are outstanding for the quality of their craftsmanship. The malachite tops with gilt-bronze mounts were designed by Ivan Galberg. The tops and gilts were made in the Peterhof stone carving factory and the gilt bronze mounts were made in the workshop of Friedrich Rachenberg both in St. Petersberg.”
A couple of other family and drawing rooms were next, but I am skipping those to get to the most awesome Waterloo Gallery, which takes up the length of the house on the side nearest the screen going into Hyde Park.
The beautiful windows looking out towards the screen and park entrance could be closed easily.
Our guide shut the wooden panels and then slid pocket mirrors over the panels.
And, voilà! The lighting would have been better for most of my pictures after the windows were hidden. Who knew? I wonder if these were the windows that had iron shutters put on to fend off protesters in the day, hence the term “Iron Duke.”
The last small drawing room before we circled back to the Piccadilly Drawing Room contained some of the Duke’s memorabilia. By the way, the current Duke of Wellington lives in a small apartment in London (but not at Apsley House.) He is 99 years old. His son, the Marquess of Douro, and some of his family still live at Apsley House and I assume they use the third floor as their living quarters. The current Duke’s grandson is the Earl of Mornington and he and his family live in Hampshire at Stratfield Saye. He and his wife have a twins, a boy and girl.
I hope you have enjoyed my pictures from Apsley House. In the next couple of days I will probably add in some post cards that I bought in the small shop. I will probably not see the house again for a while. This visit was made all the better by being able to take pictures (even if they were of questionable quality from my phone camera). I enjoyed every minute in this house and did as well on the previous visits. I leave with one last shot of Canova’s Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker. By the way, there is a copy of this statue in Milan in a courtyard in the Palazzo Brera.