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The Wake of Wellington

Englishness in 1852

Peter W. Sinnema

Publication Year: 2006

Soldier, hero, and politician, the Duke of Wellington is one of the best-known figures of nineteenth-century England. From his victory at Waterloo over Napoleon in 1815, he rose to become prime minister of his country. But Peter Sinnema finds equal fascination in Victorian England’s response to the Duke’s death. The Wake of Wellington considers Wellington’s spectacular funeral pageant in the fall of 1852—an unprecedented event that attracted one and a half million spectators to London—as a threshold event against which the life of the soldier-hero and High-Tory statesman could be re-viewed and represented. Canvassing a profuse and dramatically proliferating Wellingtoniana, Sinnema examines the various assumptions behind, and implications of, the Times’s celebrated claim that the Irish-born Wellington “was the very type and model of an Englishman.” The dead duke, as Sinnema demonstrates, was repeatedly caught up in interpretive practices that stressed the quasi-symbolic relations between hero and nation. The Wake of Wellington provides a unique view of how in death Wellington and his career were promoted as the consummation of a national destiny intimately bound up with Englishness itself, and with what it meant to be English at midcentury.

Published by: Ohio University Press


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Front Matter

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pp. i-v


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p. vii


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p. ix

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pp. xi-xii

The idea for this book originated in 1995 when I took up a postdoctoral fellowship at Birkbeck College, University of London, with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; the council has been generous with subsequent support in the form of a standard research grant with attached...

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pp. xiii-xxv

This is a book about the First Duke of Wellington’s posthumous symbolization as a rallying sign for the English nation. It examines the duke’s legacy as it was constructed, amplified, defended, and contested in Britain in and after 1852, the year of his death and his extraordinary state funeral. I am not interested in writing...

A Chronology of the Duke of Wellington

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pp. xxvii-xxx

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Chapter One. Aftereffects: Wellington and Englishness

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pp. 1-20

WELLINGTON'S death diversified considerably the field of possibilities for imaginative investments in him. As Graham Dawson has observed, the death of military heroes in the nineteenth century inevitably resulted in a proliferation of ennobling narratives in which their deeds “were invested with the new significance...

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Chapter Two. First Rehearsal: Exhibition

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pp. 21-34

THE STORY of the Crystal Palace and its assembly of manufactured articles in Hyde Park has been so frequently rehearsed that the 1851 exhibition’s status as one of “the most influential representative bod[ies] of the nineteenth century” is now widely accepted,¹ even if its capacity to successfully advertise and champion...

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Chapter Three. Second Rehearsal: Simplicity

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pp. 35-48

BEARING in mind that both exhibition and funeral were caught up in the same enterprise—the enhancement of national prestige via the pomp and circumstance of public display, as well as the marketing of English goods and of Englishness itself—the actual staging of the funeral can be viewed as an impressive exercise in deft planning and organization. Wellington’s death came quickly, and even...

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Chapter Four. The Waiting Game: Selling Wellington and Crowd Anxiety

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pp. 49-72

A MERE two weeks after Wellington’s death, the Age, a London weekly, noted with some disdain that “every shop window from Hammersmith to Bow [was] filled with scores on scores of pictures of the late Duke—pictures of him at every age, in every dress, in every attitude, and in every circumstance...

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Chapter Five. Obsequies and Sanctification

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pp. 73-92

WELLINGTON'S common sense and supposed love for the simple life were not, in the end, to result in a funeral that reflected the continence of his habits. Once the duke’s body was formally taken into the possession of the Crown, a guard of honor was placed around the coffin as it lay at Walmer, where more than ten thousand people viewed the casket as it awaited conveyance to London...

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Chapter Six. Irish Opposition

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pp. 93-111

THE WAR of words that took place between the English and Irish presses during the sixty-five days that Wellington’s body awaited burial was not so much an anomalous contest engendered by the unique circumstance of the duke’s death as it was a subplot in a continuing struggle between margin and center that received a pronounced charge from this circumstance and long outlived it. In this sense...

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Chapter Seven. Epilogue: The Hyde Park Corner Controversy

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pp. 112-130

IN 1881, the London Board of Works arranged to dismantle and move the triumphal arch at Hyde Park Corner 105 yards southeast along Constitution Hill in order to smooth the flow of congested traffic.When it learned of the plan, the Royal Academy of Arts was quick to suggest that the colossal memorial perched on top of Decimus Burton’s 1828 landmark be permanently removed. The sixty-ton...


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pp. 131-151


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pp. 153-160


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pp. 161-165

E-ISBN-13: 9780821442098
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821416792

Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 191944035
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Wake of Wellington

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Funeral rites and ceremonies -- Great Britain -- History -- 19th century.
  • Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, -- Duke of, 1769-1852 -- Death and burial
  • Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, Duke of, 1769-1852 -- Influence.
  • National characteristics, English -- History -- 19th century
  • England -- Civilization -- 19th century.
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