Period glossary : 29
A sheltered piece of water near a shore where ships may ride at anchor in safety. Often found in naval writings of the period to describe anchorages.
The expression 'to take the king's shilling, meant to sign up to join the army. Rather like with the 'prest' money for the 'impressed' man, a bonus payment of a shilling was offered to tempt lowly paid workers to leave their trade (an average daily wage during the Napoleonic period was 2p (at 12p to […]
One of Napoleon's most famous remarks for the English-speaking world is 'England is a nation of shopkeepers', ('L'Angleterre est une nation de boutiquiers'). Whilst Bourrienne, Napoleon's faithful secretary from 1795 to 1802, gives a version of it in his Mémoires (vol. 1, (Paris: Ladvocat, 1831) p. 274 – “Angleterre…a people which he [Napoleon] so disdainfully used to call a nation […]
At the Battle of Copenhagen 1801, Nelson was under the orders of the old admiral Sir Hyde Parker. Out of concern that the British fleet was getting the worst of it, Parker (who was anchored far from the action) ran up the signal flag for Nelson to disengage. Colonel William Stewart recounted Nelson's reaction (The […]
The name Tommy Atkins, used to describe the typical British soldier, probably originated in a War Office publication of 1815. This pamphlet showed how a Soldier's Book should be made out, and gave Pte Thomas Atkins as its example. Some have suggested that the Duke of Wellington suggested the name himself, in memory of a […]
A patronymic, which cannot be here explained. (E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898) The name Verhuel referred to a rumour that circulated attributing the paternity of Napoleon III to a Dutch admiral named Verhuel, thus implying that he was illegitimate. Napoleon III was the subject of a number of nicknames, including, “Badinguet”, “Boustrapa”, “Man […]
A “Walcheren Expedition” is a well-devised scheme, which is ruined by the stupidity of the agent chosen to carry it out. Lord Castlereagh's instructions were “to advance instantly in full force against Antwerp,” but Lord Chatham wasted his time and strength in reducing Flushing. Ultimately, the red-tape “Incapable” got possession of the island of Walcheren, but […]
'To meet your Waterloo' means to come to a final disaster. Most recent high profile usage of the expression was in the ABBA hit single of the late 70s 'Waterloo'.
There is no evidence that the Duke of Wellington invented the boot that now carries his name. The first 'Wellington boots' were made of leather and used at the battle in 1815. It is not clear when the boots were first made of rubber. The first company to sell rubber boots started in 1865, but […]