Just Good Friends

Woodford House, Kettering, Northamptonshire

Woodford House, Kettering, Northamptonshire

The Duke of Wellington’s connections with Northamptonshire were perhaps deeper than one might suspect. I recently came across another little document written in the hand of one of Britain’s most iconic heroes addressed to a lady who had lived close to the place of my own birth. Apart from once duelling with George Finch-Hatton who had lived at Kirby Hall near Gretton, Wellington was a very close friend with Harriet Arbuthnot from Woodford House near Kettering. During the 1820s she was known as the “closest woman friend” of the celebrated Field Marshall and British Prime Minister, though any suggestion that they may have been anything other than ‘just good friends’ was refuted in the book ‘Wellington and the Arbuthnots’ by E.A. Smith. sdfsfsThen again, the Iron Duke was not the first to attract the affections of the wife to Charles Arbuthnot, a British diplomat, friend to Wellington and Tory politician. Until his death Harriet had described Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, as her “dearest and best friend”, before turning her sociable attentions to Wellington. sdfsdfsdsCoincidentally, Wellington had been born in Ireland, and Castlereagh had been the 2nd Marquess of Londonderry. What surprises me more than anything is my lack of knowledge of such fascinating local history and the impact it may or may not have had on a national level. Throughout my education not one single history lesson mentioned any connection that our county or surrounding counties may have had in the larger picture or scheme of things. I strongly believe that such knowledge may have induced further independent research at a much earlier age and may even have encouraged a minimum of interest in those of my contemporaries who were simply fed up with just war, Kings, Queens, ‘1066 and all that’. dfsfsfHolding a piece of paper that had once been written and signed by the great Duke is one thing. To see the words Woodford and Kettering written in his own hand from Thursday 16th September 1819: quite thrilling.


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One response to “Just Good Friends

  1. Tom Oliff

    Great stuff Richard , as always a good read .

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