20 March 1821. Death of a confidential postman
Richard Temple, Marquess of Buckingham, writes to his London confidant and fixer, William Henry Fremantle:
The date of my letter compared with that of the receipt of it will have shewn you that you ought to have got it a day sooner. But the poor wretch who carried my post bag on Sunday night was thrown from his horse & killed on the spot & my bag lay with him all night in the road.
It was unlucky indeed for the poor postman, whose name history has not recorded. It could have been more unlucky for the Duke of Wellington if the letter the postman was carrying had been stolen.
The letter, marked “Confidential”, offered advice to be conveyed by Fremantle to Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, the nation’s conquering hero on the battlefield—and in the bedroom.
Five or six years earlier, the Duke had an encounter with Lady Westmeath. Beautiful, dark eyed and rapacious, Emily was struggling through a tempestuous, sometimes violent marriage. Now, as tortuous divorce proceedings got under way, there seemed no hope that the Duke of Wellington’s name could be kept out of it.
One accusation made by Emily was that her mother had suggested she sleep with the Duke to advance the family fortunes. Perhaps she did so in the winter of 1815/16, or on others that presented themselves. She would not have been the first woman to fall for the Duke’s advances. Whether she dallied or not, her husband saw it as an opportunity to lay a trap for his wife and to drag the Duke of Wellington into the divorce proceedings.
It took a while for the bitter Westmeath affair to unravel. Although the Duke of Wellington was mentioned in court documents, his reputation came to no harm as by then his reputation as a womaniser was well established. This satirical print drawn by Isaac Cruikshank in 1819 leaves little to the imagination:
The ladies are saying:
“Bless what a spanker! I hope it won’t fire it at me, I could never support such a thing!”
“It can’t do any harm, for he has fired it so often in various Countries, that it is nearly wore out!”
As I said, it leaves little to the imagination.