Duke of Wellington
A Tower personality
The ‘Iron Duke’ – an outstanding general and later Prime Minister – served as Constable of the Tower of London for 26 years.
The Waterloo Barracks, where the Crown Jewels are now on display, was built while he was Constable and named after his famous victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
At the time Wellington became Constable in 1826, the post of Yeoman Warder could be bought for 250 guineas, or even inherited within families. The Duke brought these practices to an end, making appointments based on distinguished military service.
He also made improvements to the Tower itself. By 1841, in the words of the Surgeon-Major, the moat was ‘impregnated with putrid animal and excrementitious matter... and emitting a most obnoxious smell’. Several men from the garrison died and 80 were in hospital due to the poor water supply. Local cholera outbreaks were blamed on the moat. The duke drained it and created the dry ditch, or fosse, that visitors see today.
Wellington was not very keen on visitors – he proposed that the public should be kept out of the Tower as they were a nuisance and a threat to security.
Portrait of the Duke of Wellington © Courtesy of the Trustees of the Stratfield Saye Preservation Trust