A Very Grand Affair: The Duke of Wellington's State Funeral,1852
‘I vow to God I don't know what I'll do
With my awkward son Arthur
He is food for powder… nothing more'
So said his mother. How wrong could she be?
But mothers do not always get things right!
Roll on the years, the training, the battles steeped in blood
After, the man the soldiers called ‘Old Nosey'
In old age still slept on a plain camp bed
Woke before dawn, entrenched by his campaigns
And then, as is the way, Death was the victor
None of your cheap cremation jobs for him
No eco-friendly degradable canvas bag affairs
We are talking top of the range, all stops out, no holds barred
100% state funeral with all the knobs and whistles
The Iron Duke died in 1852, aged 83, at Walmer Castle, Kent.
Lady Shelley even noted it in her diary
(All women have a weak spot for a uniform)
His body stayed at Walmer for 2 months
While parliament discussed the preparations
Thousands came to pay their last respects
A super-star celebrity's a draw
The Duke was then transferred by train to London
First class of course, no long delays en route
To lie in state at the Royal Military Hospital,
250,000 people filed to view the body
Till he was moved to the Horse Guards HQ
Next morning, the official mourning started
10,000 men marched in the funeral wake
Prince Albert at its head, in sombre dress
Wellington's coffin on a funeral carriage of bronze,
Drawn by twelve strong horses.
Near family and close friends walked behind.
The service was suitably grand,
And suitably long
The coffin went into the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral
To rest beside Lord Nelson, another hero
As the Dead March from Handel's Saul was played
Shops along the Strand rented out doorways,
Roofs and upper stories, all were packed
Memorial services were held in churches round Great Britain.
At 3 p.m. bells tolled in every church
The Ode on the death of the Duke of Wellington
By the Laureate, Tennyson, was a huge best seller
The funeral issues of The Times
Sold over 2 million copies.
There were Wellington funeral cakes
There was wine
There were locks of hair
There were letters
All advertised for sale.
Just as post- Waterloo,
All sorts of merchandise, appeared
From clocks to snuff boxes,
Everyone wanted a piece of him
He was the Churchillian figurehead of his day
Did he respect his soldiers?
‘The scum of the earth enlisted for drink'
Did he love Dublin, his place of origin?
‘Being born in a stable does not make on a horse'
Did he bow to blackmailers who tried to exploit his love life?
‘Publish and be damned.'
Was he sympathetic to others?
A comrade mid battle, told him
‘By God sir I've lost my leg'
Wellington replied, ‘by God sir so you have'
Was he an ardent lover?
Those of Napoleon's mistresses whom he sampled
All stated that the Duke performed better
Never a shrinking violet
Arthur was Fame writ large
And as you know
Nobody did a Funeral like the Victorians
So what's the post script?
What did he leave behind him?
Wellington boots, of course
New Zealand's capital
A plethora of pub names
A type of beef
And a statue in Glasgow wearing a traffic cone
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.I would like to translate this poem