Monday 15 June 2015

The Waterloo Chair

As we approach the two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, my eye has been taken by a remarkable and historic piece of furniture carved by Thomas Chippendale as a gift to the Prince Regent. This stunning item, with a provenance to set a Georgian's heart racing, is the Waterloo Chair. I was lucky enough to see it in the flesh, as it were, and it really did steal my breath.
Courtesy of the Royal Collection
As Wellington made his final, victorious advance at Waterloo, he did so from beside an elm tree that stood on a ridge overlooking the field of conflict. This tree became a place of pilgrimage for those who visited the site of the battle and as the years passed they took its bark and boughs, wanting a souvenir of the momentous events. Tired of these relentless battlefield tourists to his land, in 1818 the farmer who owned the tree decided that the only thing to do was chop it down, thus ending the pilgrimage once and for all. As plans were made to remove the tree, John Children, a librarian at the British Museum, purchased the tree himself and had it sent over to England and to the workshop of Thomas Chippendale the Younger.
Courtesy of the Royal Collection
Courtesy of the Royal Collection
Chippendale fashioned the wood into an ornate chair and, in February 1821, it was delivered to Carlton House as a gift to the Prince Regent. The chair is elaborately carved with images of Waterloo, as well as a relief of a lion crushing the French standard, and celebratory inscriptions:
The chair
Carved from the Wellington Elm
Which stood near the centre
Of the British Lines
On the field of Waterloo
Is Humbly presented to
His Most Gracious Majesty
George the Fourth
Courtesy of the Royal Collection
Courtesy of the Royal Collection
The Marquess of Wellesley, Wellington's elder brother, supplied a second inscription in Latin, which was accompanied on the chair by carvings of laurel wreaths and other signifiers of victory in the field of conflict.

A second chair was made from the remaining wood for Children's own use and, in 1837, he presented this to Duke of Wellington in recognition of the remarkable victory we commemorate this week. 

The Duke of Wellington's Waterloo Chair is noted in the Daily News, Wednesday, October 27, 1852

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

Pen and Sword
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)


Rachel Knowles said...

The chair is on display at the Waterloo at Windsor exhibition and there is a drawing of the tree from which it was made in the Drawings Gallery which is included in my review of the exhibition here: Waterloo at Windsor exhibition

Catherine Curzon said...

Wonderful, thank you!