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The Funeral Procession of Arthur, Duke of Wellington

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The Funeral Procession of Arthur, Duke of Wellington

by Samuel Henry Gordon Alken, and by George Augustus Sala, published by Ackermann & Co
hand coloured etching and aquatint, 1 March 1853
9 in. x 805 1/8 in. (229 mm x 20450 mm) overall
Purchased, 1911
Reference Collection
NPG D42981

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The Duke of Wellington's funeral in November 1852 was one of the most spectacular ever seen in England. The procession to St Paul's Cathedral was watched by a crowd estimated at a million and a half people. This printed panorama, over sixty-six feet long, was published to commemorate the event. An iPad app on the funeral procession is available from www.npg.org.uk/wellington. More information about this work can be found in the Heinz Archive and Library's record for this work.

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  • Cox, Paul, Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions, 2015 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 12 March - 7 June 2015), p. 50 Read entry

    The Duke of Wellington died at Walmer Castle on 14 September 1852. By that time the resentment he had incurred among large sectons of society while in government had largely been forgotten, and the nation mourned the man that the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson described in his Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington as 'The last great Englishman'. His body was laid in state at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, where the crowds were so great that a number of visitors were crushed to death. There then followed the grandest of state funerals. The procession in which the coffin was conveyed to St Paul's Cathedral included soldiers from every regiement in the army and was watched by a crowd estimated at a million and a half people. The funeral carraige itself, which can be seen today at Stratfield Saye, was not well received: commentators thought it over-ornate and ugly and its enormous size dwarfed the coffin. At over 18 tons in weight, it sank into the mud at one point in its journey and sailors had to relieve the exhausted horses to pull it the last part of the distance. A final indignity occurred when the mechanism designed to lower the coffin failed to work, delaying the funeral ceremony in St Paul's by an hour. What did move onlookers was the simple sight of Wellington's horse, led by his groom, with the Duke's empty boots reversed in the stirrups.

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Current affairs

Britain and America sign a treaty establishing an International Copyright agreement. Dickens, whose Bleak House is also published this year, was a particularly outspoken critic of these laws, as his works were freely published in America without any protection over copyright or royalties. He had lobbied the American Congress over the issue during his North American reading tour of 1842.

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International

Diplomatic row over Napoleon's call to the Turkish empire to restore Roman Catholic rights in the Holy Land. Russia asserts her role of protecting the rights of all Christians in the Ottoman empire; French and British fleets are dispatched to the Dardanelles. The Turkish sultan, declaring that he will look after the rights of Christians, heightens tension, and the Crimean war begins with Turkey declaring war on Russia.

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