When Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington died on 14 September 1852, England mourned more deeply and extravagantly than it had ever before in its history, and more deeply and extravagantly, too, than it ever has mourned since. Wellington had served the Crown for 65 years, the last 40 as England’s most trusted military advisor and most decorated war hero. Accordingly, when Wellington died, the Ready for first macmillan 3rd edition pdf decided immediately that nothing but a state funeral of unsurpassed pageantry could possibly do the great man justice. For two months, Prince Albert and others planned and schemed, and on 18 November 1852 Britons witnessed a spectacle of mourning beyond anything they had ever seen—one that filled many with profound sadness, but also left many appalled by its gaudy scale.
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Born Arthur Wesley to a comparably poor Irish peer in 1769, Wellington seemed during his early life singularly unlikely to become a national hero. This brilliant military career was followed by a stormier one in politics, for Wellington returned to England after two decades of almost continuous service abroad to find an England that he scarcely recognized, transformed as it was by the combined effects of steam power, urbanization, and working-class unrest. That Wellington should have an extraordinary funeral surely seemed natural to the Crown. From the early years of the century, despite his reputation for stoicism and austerity, Wellington had always been an object of considerable fanfare because of the patriotic fervor his military exploits inspired. Only a few men got such funerals during the nineteenth century, to be sure. But the first two-thirds of the century constituted a sort of high-water mark in England for excessive funeral pageantry and expenditure, from the very highest class almost to the lowest. Wellington’s funeral was the pinnacle of that bonanza, not just because of his unique stature in England but also because he died at this precise moment in time: a moment when, conceptually speaking, England’s commodity culture had reached its first significant peak and when, practically speaking, the Crown had two months before any public funeral could take place and so had all the time it required to plan an unprecedented show.
Meanwhile, Prince Albert took the lead in planning a funeral of unparalleled magnificence. Horse Guards to the funeral service at St. 11,000 of it on the car alone. And had this been all, Wellington’s funeral might be remembered as the most opulent example of the long tradition of glorious burials for England’s great men. But Wellington’s death also provoked an unprecedented frenzy of other commercial activity, very little of which had anything to do with the Crown. By keeping the Duke before the public eye, the long delay between his death and funeral rather whetted this commercial appetite, which intensified throughout the autumn of 1852.