This English Field Marshal’s Baton was presented to the future Duke of Wellington for his military successes against Napoleon’s Army in Spain. It was the first ever Field Marshal’s Baton given to a British general, and started a tradition that continues to this day.
Marshal Jourdan, who was the General of the French armies under Joseph Bonaparte, King of Spain, was defeated at the Battle of Vitoria on 21st June 1813. Amongst other trophies (the colours of the French 100th Regiment, 143 brass guns, and more), was Marshal Jourdan’s Baton, which was sent by the Duke of Wellington to the Prince Regent, from whom His Grace received the following letter, dated Carlton House, 3rd July, 1813:
To Field Marshal THE MARQUIS OF WELLINGTON, &C. &C., K.G.
“Your glorious conduct is beyond all human praise, and far above my reward. I know no language the world affords worthy to express it. I feel I have nothing left to say but most devoutly to offer up my prayers of gratitude to Providence that it has in its omnipotent bounty, blessed my country and myself with such a General. You have sent me among the trophies of your unrivalled fame, the Staff of a French Marshal, and I send you in return that of England. The British Army will hail it with rapturous enthusiasm, while the whole Universe will acknowledge those valorous exploits which have so imperiously called for it. That uninterrupted health and still increasing laurels may continue to crown you through a glorious and long career of life, are the never ceasing and most ardent wishes of,
My Dear Lord,
Your very sincere and faithful friend,
The base of baton has the following inscription:
From His Royal Highness, George Augustus Frederic, Regent of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, to Arthur, Marquess of Wellington KG, Field Marshal of England. 1813
The origins of a commander’s baton are remote and can be seen in Egyptian and Roman art. In Europe they are variations of the ones Roman consuls received. Wellington’s was the first baton to be awarded to a British commander. British field marshals had not carried them, so the award reflects the importance of his successes in the Peninsular War (1807-14). It was designed by the Prince Regent and based on the French baton, red rather than blue, and surmounted by a figure of St George slaying the dragon.
Vitoria was a turning point in defeating Napoleon’s ambitions not just in the Peninsular War but across Europe. News of Wellington’s victory rallied the Prussian-Russian alliance after defeats by Napoleon and contributed to Austria’s decision to re-enter the war against France, culminating in Napoleon’s defeat and abdication in 1814.
Among the many honours given to Wellington was the rank of Field Marshal, or its equivalent, in the armies of eight nations: British, Austrian, Hanoverian, Dutch, Portuguese, Prussian, Russian and Spanish. Each nation provided him with a baton as a symbol of his rank.
In addition to the original baton, he was subsequently presented with two further British batons. All the surviving batons are on display in Apsley House, the former London residence of the Duke. The Russian baton was stolen from Apsley House in 1965 and has never been recovered.
Find it here
This object is in the collection of Apsley House – English Heritage