2 JUNE 1961, Page 25

The Dashing Whig

WHEN Captain Elphinstone of the Seventh Hussars was captured in the skirmish at Genappe, the day before Waterloo, and brought before Napoleon, he was asked, 'Who commands the cavalry?' and replied, 'Lord Uxbridge.' No,' said Napoleon: 'Paget.' In fact, Paget and Uxbridge were one and the same: indeed, the central figure of this admirable 'Life and Letters' began as Henry Bayly; became the Honourable Mr. Paget when his father succeeded to a peer- age through a devious female line and changed the family name; Lord Paget when a family earldom was revived; Earl of Uxbridge when his father died; and was eventually created Marquess ot Anglesey. But the point of Napoleon's re- mark was that the name of Paget was known to the enemy, on the eve of Waterloo, as that of a redoubtable cavalry commander—and on the strength of little more than one campaign, and that lasting only a few weeks: the screening, with five regiments of cavalry, of Moore's retreat to Corunna, six and a half years before.

Wellington would have preferred the cautious Combermere to the dashing Uxbridge as cavalry commander for the Waterloo campaign: he had always handled cavalry carefully himself. But the Horse Guards overruled him; Uxbridge led a cavalry charge in person which was tactically successful, strategically purposeless, and lost him a leg; and an old friendship with Wellington was revived which had been somewhat in abeyance since the resounding scandal occasioned by his running off with the Duke's sister-in-law in 1808 —the cause of a couple of divorces, a duel, and nine children by a second marriage to add to the eight by his first.

But the friendship was to be broken again later when, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland at the time of Wellington's first ministry, Anglesey out- spokenly and unexpectedly proclaimed his sym- pathy with the Catholics, and was relieved of his office (only to be reappointed by Grey when the Tories fell in 1830). By that time Anglesey was a Whig and a reformer: backed the Bill, and lived to be made Master-General of the Ordnance for the second time at the age of seventy-seven by Lord John Russell. His successor there was the un- happy Raglan, another Waterloo veteran—it may be that Anglesey deserves some of the blame that has been laid upon Raglan alone for the inade- quacies and muddle of the Crimean campaign, which Raglan had to undertake largely with the equipment and the administrative system he had inherited from his predecessor.

Like Wellington, Anglesey was essentially an eighteenth-century nobleman, though he lived to be a highly respected Victorian. Dashing and even raffish as a young man (he entered man- hood by way of the Grand Tour and a dose of the pox), he was often arrogant and always the aristocrat, even when he had become a reformer and something even of a radical. He was fan- tastically rich, always in debt, and plagued by ne'er-do-well children. His courage was that not only of the cavalry charge but of a man who put up with a lifetime of neuralgia and who learned at forty-seven to be as graceful on horse- back with one real leg and a dummy as he had once been with a couple of the best. Altogether, an engaging character. His great-great-grand- son has done an admirable job with his papers; and the publishers have done both marquesses proud with a positively ducal elegance of type, illustration and binding.