Apsley House, the home of the Duke of Wellington, has announced that several of the 1st Duke’s military dress uniforms will be displayed for the first time in a new exhibition opening next year.

(c) Wellington Collection, Apsley House

As a much decorated officer, the 1st Duke of Wellington was awarded the highest military rank of Field Marshal, or its equivalent, in eight nations’ armies. For each award, he had to have a dress uniform made for the title (being so lauded can be expensive), and five of those dress uniforms will go on show in his London home.

Three of the uniforms that will be included in the exhibition have never been shown in public before.

Wellington’s magnificent dress uniforms have been noted for their specific colour and decoration, with each one intended to make a highly visible show and indicate his rank at grand or ceremonial occasions, such as events at court or the annual Waterloo banquet held at Apsley House.

The grandeur of the house and the uniforms are a stark contrast to the man, who was an army officer, and while aware of the need to be showy when needed, he preferred a rather simpler lifestyle, and his private quarters in the house were far more modest. Nevertheless, he understood the importance and symbolism of his ranks, which the Apsley House display will be recreating.

(c) Wellington Collection, Apsley House

While the uniforms will be on display on the first floor, the basement gallery will house more objects and items belonging to the 1st Duke, many of which have never been publicly displayed before.

Highlights include a writing set he used in the field, along with battle orders from 1815, a telescope he used to survey battlegrounds, plus a pair of handmade boots that would become synonymous with his name, Wellington. Other objects include portrait miniatures of Wellington and his wife, Catherine, 1st Duchess of Wellington (Kitty as she was known), plus a letter written to her, plighting his troth. In contrast to the splendour of his dress uniforms, Wellington’s woollen nightcap and a rather snazzy pair of slippers; a gift from Lady Douro in 1841, which he regarded as “too fine for a veteran”, shed light on his most informal and personal attire.

Bearing witness to another episode in his very full life, are a pair of duelling pistols.

(c) Wellington Collection, Apsley House

The exhibition will open on 27th March 2024 – and will also be the last chance to see Apsley House in its current appearance, as in 2025, Apsley House will embark on a major rehang of Wellington’s collection of Dutch paintings.

Apsley House is managed by English Heritage, so it is free to visit for members or from £11 for non-member adults.

Dr Olivia Fryman, Keeper of the Wellington Collection, Aspley House says: “2024 and 2025 promise to be exceptional years for Apsley House. With over 30 rarely seen objects going on public display and an exhibition about the 1st Duke of Wellington as an art collector, there will be so much more for our visitors to enjoy.”


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One comment
  1. NG says:

    IIRC his officers called him “The Beau” because of his very simple, yet very elegant dress style – usually a longish dark-blue coat

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