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Apsley House was designed by Robert Adam in the late 18th-century, and sits at the far end of Piccadilly. It’s prime location made it the original No.1 London – as it was the first house encountered through the old city gates.
This grand home was the residence of Arthur Wellesley, better known as the Duke of Wellington. He bought it from the Baron Apsley in 1817, and lived there until his death in 1852.
Despite rising to the position of Prime Minister, he is perhaps best known for defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. An annual banquet is still held at the house every 18th June to celebrate his victory. A statue outside shows him sitting on Copenhagen – the trusty horse which rode him into battle. It was cast from the guns captured from the French.
The house now contains a fine museum detailing the Duke’s military and political career, as well as showing off his collection of paintings, porcelain, medals and memorabilia – including his own death mask.
The artwork is showcased in the Waterloo Gallery. At over 27 metres in length, it has works by Goya, Rubens, Velázquez and Murillo. There is also a three metre statue of Napoleon naked, chiselled out by Antonio Canova.
The most intriguing piece is undoubtedly that of the Duke himself, whose face has recently been discovered to cover that of Napoleon’s brother. Apparently the artist was so counting on a French victory, that he had to hastily cover it up when the news of the Duke’s came through!
If you enjoyed the Wellington Museum then you may also be interested in visiting the Wellington Arch, or his tomb in Westminster Abbey.