King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
The Duke of Wellington

The Duel: 21 March 1829

Letter to Winchelsea from WellingtonLetter to Winchelsea from WellingtonBatterseaBatterseaThe duel took place at 8 am on the morning of Saturday 21 March 1829.

Present were the Duke of Wellington, accompanied by his second, Sir Henry Hardinge (1785-1856), a Peninsula campaign veteran who had lost one of his hands at Quatre Bras and was now Secretary for War in Wellington's government, and his opponent the 9th Earl of Winchilsea with his second, Edward Boscawen, the first Earl of Falmouth (1787-1841). A physician, John Hume, stood ready in case of the worst.

Unsurprisingly, considering the huge publicity the story eventually generated, all the participants were sworn to secrecy - Hume had received his summons the night before and was told only that the duel involved men of considerable rank.

He was then conveyed to the undisclosed venue the following morning in a carriage belonging to Hardinge.

Hume arrived in Battersea between seven and eight o'clock in the morning. The physician greeted Wellington and Hardinge who were already present on horseback.

Hume was entrusted with a set of duelling pistols - probably Hardinge's, as Wellington's were considered old fashioned and unreliable - which he concealed beneath his coat to avoid attracting attention.

By this stage, the overdue Winchilsea and Falmouth had at last appeared, their coachman having mistakenly driven the men to Putney instead of Battersea Bridge.

The five men walked further into the fields to find suitable ground but were distracted by a group of workmen and to avoid drawing further attention to themselves were compelled to jump across one the many drainage ditches into another, quieter, field alongside the river bank.

The duellists then began composing themselves during what might possibly be the final minutes of their lives.

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