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Museum secures Duke of Wellington cloak worn at the Battle of Waterloo

Campaign cloak worn by the Duke of Wellington, 1803-1815
Campaign cloak worn by the Duke of Wellington, 1803-1815

The National Army Museum (NAM) is delighted to announce that it has acquired the campaign cloak worn by the Duke of Wellington during the Waterloo Campaign in the 200th anniversary year of the Battle.

The mud-spattered cloak, which is made from blue wool and is trimmed with a navy collar and facings, was secured through an auction at Sotheby’s where it sold for £38,000 (£47,500 with premium). It will join a number of other Waterloo and Napoleonic related items in the NAM’s permanent collection, which includes a portrait of the Duke wearing a similar cloak.

Speaking of the success, Assistant Director (Collections) Ian Maine said:

'We are absolutely delighted to have acquired this item in the year marking the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo. The history of the object is surprisingly well documented and can be traced back to Lady Caroline Lamb, who had an affair with Wellington in the summer of 1815 and therefore we are confident that it was indeed worn by the Duke during the Waterloo campaign. We are as always, extremely grateful to our supporters who have helped make this possible and look forward to the opportunity to research this fascinating item further.'

Lady Caroline is now better remembered for her affair with the poet Lord Byron. However, she made a conquest of Wellington in Brussels as he celebrated his greatest military victory and it is easy to imagine the Duke giving her the cloak as a memento.

The first documented owner was Grosvenor Charles Bedford, an extremely well-connected man who worked as a civil servant in the exchequer and was given the cloak just eight years after the famous battle. In his diary entry for 14 May 1823, Bedford recounts how he and a close friend were shown around the Hunterian Collection at the Royal College of Surgeons by their mutual friend, the surgeon and anatomist Anthony Carlisle. He presented Bedford with the cloak, informing its new owner that it had been given to him by Lady Caroline, who had received it from the Duke. The cloak has passed down by family descent since that time and has never been sold or publically exhibited.

Wellington himself was entirely unsentimental about this relic of his greatest victory – commenting that one cloak was as good as another. The National Army Museum has an Edward Stroehling (1768-1826) portrait of Wellington, which depicts a cloak of a very similar design to the current example.

Notes for editors

For more information, please contact the National Army Museum press office at pr@nam.ac.uk or 020 7881 2433.

National Army Museum

The National Army Museum is the leading authority on the history of the British Army. Founded in 1960 by Royal Charter and established for the purpose of collecting, preserving and exhibiting objects and records relating to the Land Forces of the British Crown it is a museum that moves, inspires, challenges, educates and entertains. The Museum tells the story of the British Army, the personal experiences of the soldiers who have served and connects the British public and its Army demonstrating how the role of the Army and its actions are still relevant today.


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