Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Henry William Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey KG (1768-1854) 1825c.

Francis William Wilkin 

Portrait of Henry William Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey KG (1768-1854), Francis William Wilkin
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Oil on canvas
19th Century
36 x 28 inches 91 x 71 cm
 
Provenance:
Presumably by descent from the sitter; Almeric Paget, 1st Lord Queenbrough, the sitter’s grandson; By whose estate sold, Christies, London, 28th April 1950, lot 28 (as by Beechey).
This portrait of Wellington’s cavalry commander at Waterloo was painted by Francis William Wilkin, an artist regularly commissioned by the sitter. Despite Anglesey’s fame, the picture had lost its identity, and, when recently sold at auction, was catalogued simply as a portrait of an unknown military commander. However, the Garter star and the Waterloo medal alone mark this out as a portrait of Anglesey, as does the Hussars uniform.

Military glory, high political office, and sexual scandal has guaranteed Henry Paget a place amongst the most illustrious British heroes of the nineteenth century. He began life as an MP, for the family seat of Caernarfon, but soon after the outbreak of war with the French in 1794 raised his own regiment and travelled to the continent. His early career was littered with successes, such as the cavalry charge at Castricum in 1799. But a passionate affair with Lady Charlotte Wellesley brought an abrupt end to his military progress. An affair would ordinarily have had little effect on a senior military commander, being good for esprit de corps, but in the fact that Charlotte was Wellington’s sister-in-law brought an extra delicacy to the matter. Wellington abruptly halted Paget’s command.

Napoleon’s escape from Elba in 1815 compelled Wellington to recall Paget to frontline duties. He was given the command of the heavy cavalry at Waterloo, where he smashed D’Erlon’s corps d’armee. One of the final cannon shots of the day took off Paget’s leg, leading to the famous conversation with Wellington; By God, sir, I''ve lost my leg! - to which Wellington replied, By God, sir, so you have!. Paget was made a Marques by the Prince Regent some five days later in gratitude. He later held political office under Wellington, Canning and finally Lord John Russell, serving variously as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and Paymaster General.
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