Duke of Wellington | Antoine Claudet

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The photo above by Antoine Claudet was of a figure one would not normally associate with photography or modernity: the Duke of Wellington. Claudet was a disciple of Louis Daguerre, who became active in London and was appointed a court photographer to both Queen Victoria and Napoleon III. Remarkably little of his work survives, for most of them were lost in a fire in his studio shortly after his death.

The Iron Duke was a remarkable man. After his military victories, he was twice the premier of Britain, made a duke in Spain and Portugal, a prince in the Netherlands, and was honored with the topmost military rank by seven continental powers — not to mention giving his name to a dish and an item of clothing.

The photo itself taken in 1844 was a remarkable bridge across centuries. Memories of Elizabeth the First or the English Civil War were as fresh and recent to Wellington (born 1769) as Wellington or Lincoln is to us. The photo was different from latter paintings and engravings based upon it — unlike the kindly old man which smiled down from the paintings, the photo showed a crankier, more determined Wellington — a face you truly expect from the Victor of Waterloo.

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