Addresses don’t come much grander than ‘Number One London’, the popular name for Apsley House.
On a recent visit to London and finding ourselves close to Hyde Park Corner where I was enjoying watching the Household Cavalry, we came upon this wonderful eighteenth century house quite by chance.
It was the home of the Duke of Wellington following his victory over Napoleon at Waterloo, and it seems to have changed very little since the days of the Iron Duke.
There’s a statue of Napoleon, a fine art collection with paintings by Velazquez and Rubens, and an amazing collection of silver and porcelain.
The house is delightful and full of interest but best of all I loved the Waterloo Gallery where splendid balls used to be held. I could imagine the room packed with the very echelons of society, ladies in their pretty pastel gowns, the gallants in their smart uniform, footmen moving between them offering champagne.
Married to Charles Arbuthnot, a politician who was also a great friend of Wellington, we can only speculate whether the friendship was indeed innocent or a ménage à trois? She was certainly a noted society lady in a perfect position to comment upon events, and became a noted diarist. Her observations and memories of life within the British establishment were full of gossip and detail, finally published in 1950 as The Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot. A rich and useful source for any fan of early nineteenth century London. She sounds such a fascinating woman that I’d like to know more about her. But do call at Number One, London. Apsley House is most definitely worth a visit.