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The Funeral Procession of Arthur, Duke of Wellington

11 of 11 portraits of Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester

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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

Artistsback to top

  • Ackermann & Co (active 1829-1859), Printseller and publisher. Artist or producer associated with 76 portraits.
  • Samuel Henry Gordon Alken (1810-1894), Artist. Artist or producer associated with 1 portrait.
  • George Augustus Sala (1828-1895), Journalist. Artist or producer associated with 1 portrait, Sitter in 17 portraits.

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This portraitback to top

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 More information about this work can be found in the Heinz Archive and Library's record for this work.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 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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Events of 1853back to top

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.

Art and science

David Livingstone makes a six month journey from the Zambezi river to the west coast of Africa.
Harriet Martineau translates The Positive Philosophy of August Comte. A scientific approach to understanding the natural world and human and social relations, positivism has an important influence on the development of the social sciences.
Holman Hunt exhibits his The Light of the World


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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