Happy weekend! London Gambit is now up for pre-order and has it’s own pages on this site (the trade paperback will be available about the same time as the e-book, but won’t be up for pre-order). Above is a picture of Apsley House, the Duke of Wellington London residence, that I took on a research trip a few years ago. The denouement of London Gambit takes place at a banquet at Apsley House on the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo. The timeline of the series naturally put the book in June 1818, three years after Waterloo. Perhaps because I was subconsciously aware of this, echoes of the battle reverberate through the book. I needed a major social event for the denouement of the book, and I really wanted it to revolve round the anniversary of Waterloo on 18 June. I knew from a research visit to Apsley House, that Wellington had given banquets for Waterloo veterans on the anniversary of the battle.
Apsley House (which stands on the edge of Hyde Park at Hyde Park Corner) was designed by Robert Adam and built in the 1770s for the second Earl of Bathurst (who had been Baron Apsley before he succeeded to the earldom). Wellington’s brother Richard, Marquess Wellesley, purchased Apsley House in 1807 and engaged James Wyatt to improve it (with the assistance of Thomas Cundy). Though the grateful nation was offered to build Wellington a London home, Wellington instead bought Apsley House from his brother in 1817 (to help Richard out of financial difficulties). In 1818 Wellington engaged Benjamin Dean Wyatt, James Wyatt’s son, to make repairs to the house. Wyatt installed the nude statue of Napoleon by Antonio Canova, which Wellington had acquired, at the base of the stairs.
But Wellington was still British ambassador to France in 1818. He probably didn’t give his first banquet for Waterloo veterans at Apsley House until 1820, and the first of his banquets took place in a dining room that could only seat 35, so the guests were limited to senior officers. After the Waterloo Gallery was completed in 1830, up to 85 guests could attend, including guests who had not been present at the battle, but the guest list was limited to men. While I worked on the first draft of London Gambit, I danced round what to do with the Waterloo anniversary. In the end I decided that Wellington could have come to London for the Waterloo anniversary in 1818 even if he did not in fact do so, and that he could have held a banquet with the guest list I needed. I blogged more about this recently on History Hoydens.
Hope everyone is having a great weekend! Mélanie and I had a lot of fun seeing a local production of Kismet last night and today we went to a “Pajama jam” (pic below) to which Mélanie insisted on wearing her ballgown and didn’t mind a bit that she looked different. She is very much my daughter!