Life of the Duke

The collections displayed in this room illustrate the Duke of Wellington’s military and political career, and his rise to fame. Make sure you see the pair of Wellington’s boots, a rare surviving example of the footwear he became so associated with.

Read the corresponding captions below to learn more about the items on display.

Small display case

The Duke of Wellington’s boots, c.1852 (top of case)

A pair of the Duke’s boots, made to his design, fitted tightly to the calf and worn under trousers. They became fashionable after the Battle of Waterloo and were known as ‘Wellington boots’. In 1856 the North British Rubber Company named their new rubber boots after them. It wasn’t until the army used them, as a solution to trench foot during the First World War, that they became the common item of footwear that we know today.

Miniature Wellington boots

A late 19th century children’s toy made from lacquered paper.

Main display cases

1. Field Marshall’s jacket belonging to Wellington, 1852

Said to have belonged to the Duke at the time of his death.

2. Bronze medal for the capture of Seringapatam, 1820

The medal was issued after Wellington became famous and celebrates his first Indian campaign (1799). On the back is a portrait of the Marquis of Wellesley, Wellington’s older brother and Governor General of India from 1798 to 1805.

3. Silver medal for Assaye, Vimeiro, Talavera & Busaco, 1820

Commemorating Wellington’s early campaigns: Assaye, India (1803), Vimeiro, Portugal (1808), Talavera, Spain (1809) (for which Wellington was created Viscount of Talavera and Wellington), and the last, Busaco, Spain (1810).

4. Bronze medal celebrating the Battle of Salamanca, 1812

Commemorating the defeat of the French at Salamanca and the liberation of Madrid, after which Wellington was created an Earl and then Marquis, becoming Commander of the Allied armies in Spain.

5. Silver medal for the Fête of Vitoria, 1813

Made to be worn during a fête held at Vauxhall Gardens in London (20 June 1813), celebrating Vitoria, the final battle of the Peninsular Wars.

6. Bronze token of Napoleon’s exile to Elba, 1814

A token depicting Napoleon seated backwards on an ass, with the devil leading him to his imprisonment on the island of Elba in Italy.

7. Waterloo Medal, issued 1816–17

Given for participation in the Battle of Ligny and Quatre Bras (16 June 1815) and the Battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815). This was the first British Army medal issued to all ranks and struck with the recipient’s name.

8. Bronze medal of the British Army entering Paris, 1815

Wellington was Commander-in-Chief during the Allied military occupation of France 1815–18. This medal shows the colonnade of the Louvre as the army entered Paris on 7 July 1815.

9. Wellington’s Lantern, c.1810

A decorative bronze lantern used by the Duke on campaign.

10. Wellington’s telescope and leather case, 1840

11. Evacuating a Fortress, 1842

Cartoon, by John Doyle, commenting on Queen Victoria’s stay at Walmer (Oct to Nov 1842), showing the Duke leaving the castle, with his possessions and housekeeper, while Queen Victoria moves into the castle behind him.

12. Wellington’s first house in Walmer, 1852

Hand coloured picture, from the Illustrated London News, of Wellington’s first house in Walmer, on Castle Road. He lived here, long before he became Lord Warden, with his wife Catherine, before leaving from Deal for the Peninsular Wars, 1808.

13. Paste pot showing Walmer Castle and the Duke riding on horseback, 1852

Made in Pegwell Bay, Kent, as a souvenir. The Duke spent up to a quarter of the year living at Walmer Castle, becoming a familiar and well-loved figure in the area.

14. Wellington’s blotting book and letter, 19 September 1844

Black leather bound blotting book with a letter and envelope written by Wellington, from Walmer, to Francis North, the 6th Earl of Guilford, accepting an invitation to dinner at Waldershare Park, near Dover.

15. Coffee pot, 1780s

A Wedgwood black basalt ware coffee pot belonging to the Duke of Wellington, used at Walmer.

16. Two hot water jugs, c.1830–50

Copper hot water jugs with handles covered in woven basketwork. Said to have been invented by and made for the Duke of Wellington at Walmer.

17. Wellington’s cocked hat, c.1840s

18. Wellington’s uniform jacket as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports

Wellington was made Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports on 20 January 1829 and continued in post until his death in 1852.

19. Miss E Mathias’s invitation to the Cinque Ports festival, 1839

An invitation to the tenth anniversary banquet held for the Duke, as Lord Warden, in a pavilion in Dover. Mathias was one of 500 women who sat in the ‘gallery of beauty’ eating jelly and ice cream, while the men banqueted below.

20. Silver Cinque Ports festival medal, 1839

21. Letter from the Duke, 1841

As Admiral of the Cinque Ports the duke was responsible for keeping the sea-lanes of the Channel clear for shipping. In this letter, he is ordering soundings to be taken (measuring the depth of water) over the Channel sands.

22. Bust of the Duke in black enamelled earthenware, 1815

23. Glazed Parian ware bust of the Duke, c.1845

24. Reverse print on glass, Britannia

Crowning the Duke with Victory, 1815

25. Box with enamel portrait of the Marquis Wellington, 1812–13

26. Mirror with pincushion, 1820

27. Cream jug commemorating Battle of Vitoria, 1813

28. Brown salt-glazed stoneware toby jug of the Duke, 1835

29. Paste pot lid of the Duke, 1810

30. Parian ware seated figure of Wellington, 1852

31. Paste pot lid ‘Wellington’, c.1845–50

32. Bronze bust of Wellington in Roman costume, 1811

33. Bronze medal of Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson and the Duke, 1815

34. Silver medal with profile heads of Wellington and Blucher, 1845

35. Bronze medal with Wellington as a Roman General, 1820

36. Miniature of Wellington in Roman Armour on ivory, 1815

37. Early Staffordshire figure of Wellington, c.1830s

38. Staffordshire figure of Wellington, c.1845–50

39. Wax bust of the Duke, May 1822

Find out more

  • History of Walmer Castle

    Read the full history of Walmer Castle, from its days as a Tudor fort, defending the coast from invasion, to its transformation into the elegant residence we see today. 

  • The Death Room collection

    Explore the Death Room collection, which includes the bronze death mask of the Duke of Wellington and a locket of his hair.

'step into englands story