Wellington’s Butler - A Lock of the Iron Duke’s Hair, 1852
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Overall: 19cm (7.5in) x 16cm (6.2in)
Manuscript envelope addressed to the front ‘Immediate / Mr .C. Collins / Duke of Wellington’s / Piccadilly / London’, and the open flap inscribed ‘This contains / a lock of the Duke of Wellington’s Hair’ and bearing the black wax ducal seal, and pinned with a circular glazed locket with gilt frame containing hair from the head of Arthur, 1st Duke of Wellington, K.G. Framed and glazed.
Christopher Collins (1802-1875) acted as a personal confidential servant to the first Duke of Wellington from about 1824 until the Duke's death in 1852. He travelled with Wellington on most of his journeys, including the mission to St. Petersburg for Tsar Alexander I’s funeral in February to April 1826. By 1853 Collins headed a household staff of 25 servants, but was financially second to the chef Louis Auvrey. He continued in the service of the second Duke into the 1860s and during this period preserved a large quantity of the first Duke’s correspondence, now held as the Papers of Christopher Collins at the University of Southampton. The wide ranging papers include a memorandum by Collins on the fits suffered by the duke between 1839 and 1852. Other letters provide insights into the duke’s habits and needs. In 1839 Collins was told he should have a fire lit in the duke’s room at Walmer Castle, and lay on hot water for tea and boiling sea water for his feet. In 1842 Collins was ordered to London from Stratfield Saye to collect Wellington's ceremonial sword from Messrs. Coutts and prepare his field marshal's uniform. Collins was witness the duke’s final moments in 1852 and as such was sought by the portraitist, Thomas Jones Barker, with questions to help him with a deathbed picture - “You kindly promised you would give me some information regarding the last moments of the late Duke of Wellington. I am now about to begin the picture, and I should be much obliged if you would answer the following questions: How was the Duke dressed at the time of his death? What colour dressing gown? Whether a pillow was placed before him? And a blanket round his legs?”