Old Beaky


I’ve been editing my forthcoming Regency and it led me to rediscover some of the Duke of Wellington’s more, er, pithy sayings.

“Mistaken for me, is he? That’s strange, for no one ever mistakes me for Mr. Jones.” (On being told that the artist George Jones was often mistaken for him.)

“I have seen their backs before, madam.” His rejoinder to a society hostess in Vienna who was appalled that French officers had turned their backs on him at a social gathering.

When asked what was the most inane comment he had overheard in his life, he attributed this to a Portuguese general, who told his troops before battle: “Remember men, you are Portuguese!”
And of course, there’s the laconic “I believe I forgot to tell you I was made a duke” postscript in a letter to his brother.

The one statement of his which stays with me above all others is this: “Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won.”

This painting by the aforementioned Mr Jones brings it home all the more:


A Highlander, Black Watch, attending a General of Hussars, possibly Lord Uxbridge: a study for ‘The Battle of Waterloo’.

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2 Responses to Old Beaky

  1. Don’t forget his advice when the pavilion for the Great Exhibition was overrun with small birds because the builders had enclosed full grown trees within it. Shooting them wasn’t possible – a case of people in glass pavilions shouldn’t shoot guns. Victoria is said to have mentioned the problem to the Duke, whose response was a pithy “Sparrowhawks, Ma’am.”

    I don’t care if it’s apocryphal. It’s a wonderful rejoinder!

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