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tiny bats

Wellington's Pants!

Posted by fullofowls on Feb.12th.2011 at 19:30
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Now that I've gotten your attention (especially those of you for whom "pants" = "underpants" instead of "trousers")-- a funny story about Wellington being unable to read somebody's handwriting, from Futility Closet:

The following story has been told, but I have not met with it in its absolute correctness. The Duke of Wellington received a letter, while sitting in the House of Lords, from an eminent landscape designer and great authority on botanical matters, J.C. Loudon. The duke had lost sight of him for some years. It was a note to this effect: ‘My Lord Duke–It would gratify me extremely if you would permit me to visit Strathfieldsaye at any time convenient to your grace, and to inspect the Waterloo beeches. Your grace’s faithful servant, J.C. Loudon.’ The Waterloo beeches were trees that had been planted immediately after the battle of Waterloo, as a memorial of the great fight. The duke read the letter twice, the writing of which was not very clear, and, with his usual promptness and politeness, replied as follows, having read the signature as ‘J.C. London,’ instead of ‘J.C. Loudon.’ ‘My dear Bishop of London–It will always give me great pleasure to see you at Strathfieldsaye. Pray come there whenever it suits your convenience, whether I am at home or not. My servant will receive orders to show you as many pairs of my breeches as you may wish, but why you should wish to inspect those I wore at the battle of Waterloo is quite beyond the comprehension of Yours most truly, Wellington.’ The letter was received, as may be supposed, with great surprise by the Bishop of London. He showed it to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to other discreet persons; they came to the melancholy conclusion that the great Duke of Wellington had evidently lost his senses. The Bishop of London (Blomfield) declared that he had not written to the duke for two years and to receive this extraordinary intimation puzzled the whole bench of bishops. Explanations, however, of a satisfactory kind, followed and the friendship of these worthy men was not changed.

– William Augustus Fraser, quoted in Wit, Wisdom and Foibles of the Great, 1918

I guess this is the nineteenth-century equivalent of the "T. S. Eliot" scene from Catch-22.


eglantine_br at 2011-02-13 01:14 (UTC) (Link)
Pants is trousers to me. But I laughed so loud at this that my family asked why.

Very funny. Did poor Wellington ever get it straightened out?
fullofowls at 2011-02-13 15:45 (UTC) (Link)
Explanations, however, of a satisfactory kind, followed and the friendship of these worthy men was not changed.
That probably means he did get at least part of it straightened out eventually.
anteros_lmc at 2011-02-13 12:47 (UTC) (Link)
Hehe! What a lovely story! I'm glad I'm not the only one that is endlessly entertained by Age of Sail undergarments ;)
latin_cat at 2011-02-13 13:29 (UTC) (Link)
*giggles so hard* Considering some of the requests he got from 'fans' after Waterloo I wouldn't be surprised if he sent that reply. XD

There is, however, a story about the Duke's pants (as in the underwear sense) concerning Gerald Wellesley's (7th Duke of Wellington) devotion to the 'Wellington Legacy'. It was largely due to the 7th Duke's enthusiasm that the Wellesleys came back to live at Stratfield Saye in 1940s after it had been empty for decades, and the restoration of the building began;

"However, the First Duke would have regretted the obsessive idolatry of his memory, even amongst his own family. Gerry's share in this was gently mocked in Lees-Milne's diary. 'He showed me the Great Duke's Garter robes unpacked for the first time since his death and in perfect preservation, even the long brown curl with the wig-maker's name attached to the label. Gerry held up the Great Duke's underpants to the light, looked intently at the fork, and said solemnly, 'I am glad to see no signs of sweat - or anything else,' as though this were the occassion for personal congratulation.'"

- From Wellington: A Journey Through My Family by Jane Wellesley, 2008
fullofowls at 2011-02-13 15:44 (UTC) (Link)

also, it's interesting how Stratfieldsaye became Stratfield Saye.
latin_cat at 2011-02-13 16:28 (UTC) (Link)
It's varied between Stratfieldsaye, Strathfieldsaye, Strathfield Saye and Stratfield Saye (The latter being the modern name for the House and nearby village). I think it's mainly to do with the fact that there was no standardised spelling, so people wrote place names down how they liked - though Wellington, I believe, always wrote it as Strathfieldsaye in his correspondence.
nodbear at 2011-02-14 14:32 (UTC) (Link)
Remind me of the barely contained rage and frustration of CAptains and Admirals against the pun pushers of the Admiralty - its a wonder indeed what the heroes of those great actions by land and sea accomplished despite it all!
and as another from the pants = underwear school of English its good to see some army undregarments hitting the spotlight - a change of focus for us age of sail lingerie commemtators !
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