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The Case for the anti-hero - Why the Duke of Wellington had a near naked statue of Napoleon in his home!

I would like to put forward the case of the anti-hero, commonly referred to as the enemy or, in Batman and the Joker's case, the villain. Why am I choosing the term anti-hero? …. All shall become clear.

Wellington Statue, London

Apsley House, once known as 'Number 1 London', was the home of Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, a national hero famous for his victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. The floor of its main stairwell is held up by a brick pillar in the cellar, necessary for the giant marble statue located there and encircled by the principal staircase.

So what wonderful statue would a national hero decide to house in his home? Well, that of his arch nemesis Napoleon, naked and depicted as the Roman God Mars the Peacemaker.

An explanation on why there was ever an 11 foot tall, fig leaf wearing (interestingly with little to cover) statue of Napoleon at all, would require a separate blog. Here I would like to focus on what it is doing in the Duke of Wellington's house!

Is the Duke respectfully commemorating his foe? Sort of.

Was he merely displaying a gift presented to him by the Prince Regent (later George IV)? Partly.

Is he celebrating the capture of a prized possession of his enemy? Definitely not, Napoleon hated this statue and had it covered up when he saw it at the Louvre so no one could view it.

In fact, it was not the only nod to Napoleon in the Duke's house, he also collected a number of portraits of him.

But why? 

"Because every hero needs an anti-hero."

As time ticks since an enemy is beaten so it does for the memory of victory and achievement. So it doesn't harm to display a colossal statue of your defeated enemy in your stairwell, does it?

Comment below on other anti-heroes you can think of and which 'hero' needed to keep their memory alive.


Apsley House. English Heritage Guidebooks

Research visit to Apsley House, London

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