On display in UK, dinner set with Indian motifs gifted to 1st Duke of Wellington
Silver cutlery adorned with elephants and other motifs presented to Arthur Wellesley, who led the colonial army against Tipu Sultan and the Marathas in early 19th century, has gone on display for the first time in a stately house in Hyde Park Corner.
Apsley House, the London townhouse of the Dukes of Wellington, has put on display a range of items associated with the eight years that Wellesley spent in India (1797-1805). He was the first Duke of Wellington, and later went on to defeat Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
The dinner set is the highlight, spread over a banqueting table in the Waterloo Gallery. Made in London, it was purchased with money raised by Wellesley’s fellow officers who had fought with him in the Deccan region as a mark of their appreciation.
Besides the ornate dinner set, the display includes several books that Wellesley, a colonel, carried with him to learn about India during his voyage to colonial Calcutta; a sword presented to him in Calcutta; and jewellery, ceramics and a book linked to Tipu Sultan.
Keen to know about India, he purchased a travelling library of 200 volumes. The original handwritten list of the books he bought in London is on display. His collection included Jonathan Swift’s ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ and ‘A View of the English Interests in India’ by William Fullarton, besides volumes on Indian history, politics and economics.
Josephine Oxley, keeper of the Wellington Collection, says: “It has been fascinating to uncover the stories of how Wellington developed his skills, both personal and military in India”.
“My favourite discovery has been the books that Wellington took to India with him, how wonderful to find them still in the current Duke of Wellington’s library and think they went thousands of miles to India and came back and now the public can see a selection of them for the first time,” she added.
Wellesley’s career in India was aided by his brother, Richard Wellesley, who was appointed governor-general of Bengal (1798-1805). On return from India, Wellesley took on Napoleon on the battlefield and went on to be the prime minister twice.