A matched silver and Old Sheffield Plate rectangular entree dish and cover with gadroon edging; the silver cover made by Benjamin Smith, London 1819 (marks rubbed) with contemporary presentation inscription within armorial above motto: COELUM NON ANIMUM, with matched Old Sheffield plate dish and handle
Engraved: Presented by Lieut Col.the Rt. Hon Earl of Waldegrave to his brother officers of the 54th Regt. As a mark of his esteem & respect 1st Jany 1819 .
Overall length: 325mm / 12 3/4 inches; overall width: 245mm / 9 5/8 inches, overall height approx: 125mm / 5 inches
The silver cover to this dish formed part of a gift by Lieutenant Colonel John Waldegrave, 6th Earl Waldegrave (1785-1835) to his brother officers on his retirement from the 54th Regiment of Foot in 1819.
The second son of George Waldegrave, 4th Earl Waldegrave (1751-1789), John inherited the title when his elder brother, the short lived fifth earl, drowned in the Thames as a schoolboy at Eton. A spendthrift, the 6th earl was the black sheep of a highly distinguished family. The 2nd earl, James Waldegrave (1715-1763) was a confidant of George II for whom he tried to form a government in 1757. He failed in favour of William Pitt the elder but earned the Order of the Garter for his pains.
The 6th earl spurned a life in public service preferring to follow his father into the army, buying a commission in the 55th Foot on leaving Eton in 1801. Over the next few years, by purchase and exchange of commissions, he served in several different regiments: suppressing Luddite disturbances at home and fighting overseas as a Light Dragoon in the Peninsular Campaign. In 1812 he purchased the Lieutenant-Colonelcy of the 54th (West Norfolk) Regiment of Foot leading the regiment during the final years of the Napoleonic War in campaigns in Swedish Pomerania on the Baltic coast, Northern Germany and the Netherlands. At Waterloo, the 54th was in the 4th Division which formed part of II Corps commanded by General Hill who was charged with defending Wellington’s right flank and the route to the Channel ports. As such the regiment played no part in the action but it did capture Cambrai in the aftermath and then follow the army of occupation to Paris where Waldegrave was appointed to the duke of Wellington’s staff.
In 1811, John mother Elizabeth Laura Waldegrave, Countess of Waldegrave (1760-1816) was ceded ownership of Strawberry Hill, the famed gothic villa of her late great uncle Horace Walpole (1717-1797). To secure his inheritance,her cash-strapped son sought to legitimize his long-term relationship with Ann King, the daughter of an army chaplain with whom he already had at least one child John, born in 1814 . Ahead of Waterloo, rumours circulated in the army that the earl had already illicitly married Ann. In April 1815, General Hill’s ADC Captain Digby Mackworth of the 7th Foot commented that “[Lord Waldegrave] has greatly distressed his family by a very impudent marriage. Many people think the marriage has not actually taken place, though he introduces the lady whereever as Lady Waldegrave. I know nothing of him but his appearance and manner are not those of a sensible man, and I am sure his conduct might even a fool blush to be guilty of it”.
To scotch the gossip, and with Ann pregnant again, the couple married in Paris on 3rd October 1815 after the fall of the city to the allies when the earl was serving on the staff of the duke of Wellington. Four months later, on 6 February 1816, George (later 7th Earl Waldegrave) was born at the family residence in London, the first of several more children.
Nevertheless, the Waldegraves wedding in Paris, hastily conducted in the aftermath of Waterloo, came back to haunt the earl’s family and to embroil the ageing duke of Wellington in legal proceedings. After the 6th earl’s death in 1835, the legitimacy of George to succeed as 7th earl was challenged by the late earl’s younger brother on the basis that marriage overseas by a serving officer was only permitted by English law during actual hostilities, within British lines, and that the ceremony should have been authorised in advance by the 6th earl’s commanding officer, Wellington.
On 14 July 1837, the case reached the House of Lords. The Rev William Cantley who had conducted the ceremony in Paris, at the Hotel Sebastiani where the earl was lodged, accepted that permission was needed for the marriage of private soldiers serving overseas but he was unaware it was required for colonels. However, some officers were present at the ceremony and “there was no attempt at secrecy that I know of”.
The duke of Wellington was then summoned to give evidence and to be cross-examined. He stated that the earl was lodged in Paris just 150 yards from his own headquarters, well within the legal jurisdiction of the army of occupation which, despite the return to power of the French King Louis XVIII, extended across Paris. “I do not recollect hearing of the marriage before it took place” said the duke but he was satisfied that the marriage met the legal criteria of being conducted within British lines.
Counsel for Captain Waldegrave again argued that, as it had been completed after the end of hostilities, the marriage should have been conducted either under French law or in a recognised British place of worship, such as the British ambassador’s chapel in Paris. But the lawyer faced an impossible task persuading the judge against the testimony of the duke of Wellington who was the hero of Waterloo and, by then, a former prime minister. The case was thrown out clearing the way for George to succeed as 7th earl.
But that was not quite the end of the story. The 7th earl was even more irresponsible and hopeless with money than his father. In 1840 he married his elder illegitimate brother’s nineteen year old widow Frances (1821-79). A year later, she joined her husband in Queen’s Bench prison where he had been confined for a year for drunkenly assaulting a police officer. On his release, steeped in debt, George sold by auction the magnificent contents of Strawberry Hill although following his early death due to his excess drinking in 1846, Frances re-married and returned to the near-derelict mansion to restore it.
On the death of the 7th earl, the 6th earl’s brother William Waldegrave, promoted admiral since the infamous court case, finally inherited his longed-for title, aged 58.