Date added: 9 Feb 2015
(The story of Napoleon's charger, Marengo)
There has long been a misunderstanding about who captured at Waterloo Napoleon's Barb charger, Marengo, whose skeleton is displayed in the National Army Museum.
The Royal United Services Institute Museum, now closed, gave credit to William, 11th Baron Petre, but he was not at Waterloo. It seems more likely that Marengo was captured by my great, great grandfather, Henry William Petre, a lieutenant in the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons. He was allowed to keep Marengo and had him shipped back to England where, it seems, the horse was stabled on the estates of his mother's family, the Howards of Corby Castle, and then by his cousin Lord Petre.
The misunderstanding would have gained currency because it seems that Henry's cousin, Lord Petre, eventually sold the horse to Lieutenant Colonel J J W Angerstein and it was Angerstein who had one of Marengo's hooves, post mortem, turned into the snuff box which is traditionally placed every day before the Captain of the Guard at lunch in the Officers Mess at St James's Palace.
When Marengo was famously painted some ten years later by James West, the horse was recorded as belonging to Captain Howard (of Corby Castle) who was a future father-in-law to both Henry and his cousin, Lord Petre. The Petre and Howard families were much intermarried!Jill, Duchess of Hamilton in her book, 'Marengo, The Myth of Napoleon's Horse' sorts out the confusion, writing that it was my great, great grandfather, Lieutenant Henry Petre of the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons, who is said to have recognised Marengo and saved him "from the looters, tended to his wound and led him to the village of Waterloo". She also points out the close connections between the Petre and Howard families and how a horse could pass from one to another before being eventually sold.
I am sure that Henry Petre was just pleased, in the aftermath of the Battle, to have taken possession of Napoleon's charger and he would have had no concept of the considerable public interest that Marengo was to attract several years later. Henry Petre himself was placed on half pay in 1819 and, ten years later, inherited the family's Dunkenhalgh estate in Lancashire from his elder brother. He died in 1852.
I was privileged, as a Sandhurst cadet, to witness, in the presence of HM The Queen, the parade on Horseguards in 1965 of the Colours of the Regiments that fought at Waterloo. I also inherited from my father, Major-General DAB Clarke , who organised the 150th Anniversary celebrations, a medal struck by the City of London in 1965 "in honour of the Regiments that fought at the Battle of Waterloo".
Henry Petre's great grandson, Captain Bobby Petre of the Scots Guards, riding Lucky Cottage, won the 100th Grand National in 1946.