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Início arrow Equitação arrow Historic Horses arrow Copenhagen-O cavalo de Wellington

Copenhagen-O cavalo de Wellington
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Like all commanders at the Time of the Lines, Sir Arthur Wellesley had numerous chargers at his disposal - he lost twelve during his first three years in the Peninsular - but inevitably it is the horse which joined him there and which he rode at Waterloo that achieved lasting fame.


Copenhagen did not arrive in the Peninsular until the after the allies advance into Spain - and then not as Sir Arthur's mount. 

Foaled in 1808, a chestnut stallion of 15.1 hands, he was imposing rather than handsome, having something of the "Whistlejacket" about him, including an "uncertain temperament". His grandsire was the unbeaten racehorse "Eclipse" (bred by the Duke of Cumberland), his sire "Meteor", and his dam was "Lady Catherine", herself sired by "John Bull", winner of the 1792 Epsom Derby. Lady Catherine was the charger of Colonel the Earl Grosvenor, who took her on the expedition to Copenhagen in August 1807 in which Sir Arthur Wellesley served as divisional commander. Arriving in Denmark she was found to be in foal, and as befits a lady of breeding, was promptly evacuated again back to England where she gave birth. As some sort of private battle honour, her colt was named Copenhagen, after the victorious (if somewhat controversial) campaign.

Lord Grosvenor had high hopes of Copenhagen as a racehorse, but he was to be disappointed. After the horse ran ten races as a three-year-old, it was clear that he would not emulate his distinguished grandsire, and so Grosvenor sold him to General Sir Charles Stewart, then Adjutant General to Wellington in the Peninsular. Adding insult to injury for a potential denizen of the Turf, Copenhagen's name was expunged from the General Stud Book when it was discovered that his granddam was not a Thoroughbred at all, but only a hunter mare of dubious pedigree.

When Stewart was invalided home in 1812, he offered his charger to Wellington who bought him for 400 guineas, and the Duke and ex-racehorse stayed together for the rest of the war and beyond - as Prime Minister in 1828 he rode Copenhagen up Downing Street to No.10.

 Copenhagen was a superb battle horse. Unflinching amidst gunfire he repeatedly exhibited great stamina and fortitude. In one famous recorded incident during the Battle of Quatre-Bras, Wellington was observing the enemy from an exposed forward position when a squadron of French dragoons appeared and charged at him. Behind Wellington lay a stiff fence and ditch and a battalion of the 92nd Highlanders. Shouting at the Highlanders to lie down, Wellington in best hunting tradition, put Copenhagen at this considerable obstacle, and clearing ditch, fence and soldiers in one, left the dragoons to face volleys of musket shot from the Scots.

Copenhagen at Stratfield Saye 
Copenhagen at Stratfield Saye, by James Ward, R.A., 1824

Surviving Waterloo unscathed with his master, Copenhagen returned to retirement at Stratfield Saye, the Duke's country  seat, where he occasionally carried the Duke in the hunting field. In his old age he was a great pet of the family, particularly of the Duchess, who once wrote "he trots after me eating bread out of my hand, and wagging his tail like a little dog". On his death in 1836, he was honoured by an obituary in 'The Times' and buried with full military honours under the Turkey Oak in the Ice House Paddock at Stratfield Saye, where his grave-stone (errected by the second Duke) may be seen today.

Copenhagen's gravestone 

Wellington was never overly fond nor sentimental toward the horse, but said of him: "There may have been many faster horses, no doubt many handsomer, but for bottom and endurance I never saw his fellow".


Of course when Lord Douro came to ride the Lines two hundred years on,  a mount at least similar in appearance to Copenhagen had to be provided. And so it was.

The magnificent chestnut Arab "Izamal de Palhares" owned by Rui Brazão fortunately didn't have to prove his mettle under gunfire, but certainly proved a worthy companion for the test, finishing the stage in the best condition of all the participants.

Here  you can judge just how closely Izamal resembles Copenhagen - at least from the hocks up!







 Copenhagen's obituary

 Image  "The Times", February 18th 1836

Death of a famous Waterloo hero
- On the 12th of February died at Straithfieldsaye, of old age, Copenhagen, the horse which carried the Duke of Wellington so nobly on the field of Waterloo... He lost an eye some years before his death, and has not been used by the noble owner for any purpose during the last ten years. By the orders of his grace a salute was fired over his grave, and thus he was buried as he had lived, with military honours. This horse has long been an attraction to stangers,who were accustomed to feed him over the rails with bread, and the Duke himself preserved a special regard for him, which cannot be wondered at, upon considering that he bore him 16 hours safe through the grandest battle that has occurred in the history of the world. The late amiable Duchess was likewise particularly attached to him, and wore a bracelet made from his hair.


Copenhagen's Hoof

When the time came to bury Copenhagen, the Duke was understandably not at his best, but the occasion was made much worse when he noticed that one hoof had been removed from the body and he flew into a terrible passion about the mutilation. Some years later, after Wellington's own death, the Second Duke was surprised when one day an aged retainer was ushered into his presence bearing an object wrapped in a copy of "The Times" - it was the missing hoof, and sheepishly the servant confessed to being the culprit. He said that he could never bring himself to face the wrath of the Iron Duke himself.

The hoof did not rejoin its fellows with the rest of the horse, but was instead made into an ink-stand, and apparently still exists in Apsley House today.

see -"The Horse in War" J.M. Brereton, David & Charles, 1976, ISBN 0 7153 712



 Copenhagen and Marengo

Some time after Copenhagen died the newly opened "War Museum" in London  approached the Duke about disinterring the horse in order to keep his skeleton in the Museum alongside the skeleton of Napoleon's horse, Marengo. But the Duke thwarted the idea by saying he was not sure exactly where the horse had been buried. Of course, he knew precisely where Copenhagen's remains were - under the turkey oak - but preferred to keep his loyal friend at home with him.

Marengo,  captured after Waterloo by William Petre, and brought back to England, had died in 1831, and his skeleton, (also minus a hoof or rather with one substitute) is still on display at the National Army Museum in Chelsea. The hoof was given to the officers of the Brigade of Guards by General Angerstein as a snuff box.

There's a picture of Marengo on the Army Museum's web site .

Actualizado em ( 08-Oct-2014 )

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