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Ref  WL5   A Token of Love

A fine quality high carat gold and royal blue guilloche enamel chain and locket, dated July 1847. The locket is set with a rose-cut diamond flower, a Forget-me-not or Myosotis, symbolising unforgotten love . Enclosed are two locks of hair under crystal and the inscription : The Hair of His Grace The Duke of Wellington July 1847. Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington [1769 - 1852], was Britain's greatest military commander. His brilliant tactics and leadership brought about major victories over the French in the Peninsular War of 1808-1814 and, most famously, at Waterloo where he defeated Napoleon on 18 June, 1815. The Duke then became a politician [Prime Minister from 1828-1830] and a distinguished elder statesman. But Wellington was also a ladies' man. In 1847, at the age of 78, he received a proposal of marriage from Angela Burdett-Coutts, 1st Baroness Burdett-Coutts, then aged 32 and the richest heiress in the country. Angela and the Duke were undoubtedly close. She had her own apartment in Wellington's house, Stratfield Saye, which had an adjoining staircase to the Duke’s quarters on the ground floor. When they were apart he wrote to her daily, sometimes twice a day. It has been estimated that during the relationship Wellington sent Miss Burdett-Coutts, over 800 letters. But the Duke felt he could not accept her marriage proposal due to his advanced age and wrote her this letter :

‘I have passed every Moment of the Evening and Night since I quitted you in reflecting upon our conversation of yesterday, Every Word of which I have considered repeatedly. My first Duty towards you is that of Friend, Guardian, Protector! You are Young, my Dearest! You have before you the prospect of at least twenty years of enjoyment and Happiness in Life. I entreat you again in this way, not to throw yourself away upon a Man old enough to be your Grandfather, who, however strong, Hearty and Healthy at present, must and will certainly in time feel the consequences and Infirmities of Age.’

God Bless you My Dearest

Believe me Ever Yours.  Wn.

His refusal did not harm their relationship, in fact it bought them closer together. They remained so until the Duke's death in 1852. The locket measures 1 and 1/4 inches by 3/4 of an inch and the chain is 22 inches long. Of such superior quality it is entirely possible the locket was a gift from the Duke to the Baroness. Edna Healey, author of Lady Unknown : The Life of Angela Burdett-Coutts speculated: 'Was he her lover? Undoubtedly their relationship was very close. The tone of his letters, the winding staircase to his private rooms, the intertwined locks of hair show how close it was. But it is easier to believe that she secretly married him than that she was his mistress. There is no proof of such a marriage, only persistent rumours in both their families.' A token of love ......

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1 of May, 1851
The Duke of Wellington in Winterhalter's  painting The First of May [1851]

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Baroness Burdett-Coutts

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