Tag Archives: Wellington boots

First Blogiversary

by Tele Chhe - Flickr

One year ago I published my first posts here at Truth in Fiction making today my blogiversary! I haven’t always been a consistent blogger, something I’ll do my best to change this year, but I have enjoyed watching, researching, and writing for this blog.

Truth in Fiction doesn’t fit neatly into one category. I’m not solely a film or book blogger and although I enjoy writing the Historical Tourist feature, I don’t travel enough to devote an entire blog to it. So when I decided to mark one year of blogging by looking back on the most popular posts of the year, as measured by the number of page views recorded by WordPress, I was pleased to find that the posts covered a variety of categories.

The leader in page views benefits from an attention-grabbing title as well as curiosity about the subject. Wellington’s Boots was written after I spotted a pair of the Iron Duke’s creation, while visiting his former residence of Walmer Castle. The display also included Wellington’s 1839 letter to his shoemaker instructing how a pair of boots should be made. So far 423 people have learned the history behind these enduring boots!

When I visited Ireland’s Glasnevin Cemetery in 2009, I was surprised by the number of people who arrived for the guided walking tour. I assumed the cemetery in North Dublin would be off the beaten tourist track but it has been both a popular tourist destination and a popular post. Over the past year 239 people have viewed The Historical Tourist visits Glasnevin Cemetery and “glasnevin cemetery”, “www.glasnevintrust.ie”, and “glasnevin heritage centre” have all been used multiple times as search engine terms. I’m glad to see that this important historical place remains a popular choice.

My review of The Young Victoria is the most popular movie post on Truth in Fiction and ranks number three overall. Written as part of a Victoria Day-themed series of posts, The Young Victoria has been visited 226 times. Many of the visitors have been searching for whether parts of the film were true or false and among the search engine terms used to find the post, which I have left to their original wording and spelling, are: “the young victoria was albert shot?”, “why did the young victoria have to escorted on the stairs?”, “what did Melbourne advice young victoria to do that upset the people!”, and “young victoria king’s birthday speech”. Hopefully my review of the film was able to answer all of their questions!

Rounding out the top five are two very different book reviews. I raved about Morgan Llywelyn’s 1916: A Novel of the Irish Rebellion, in a post viewed 175 times so far, praising her meticulously researched fictional re-telling of the Easter Rising and her ability to bring historical figures to life as compelling characters.

I was less impressed by Gillian Gill’s joint biography of the Queen and her Prince Consort We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals, but the popularity of the film The Young Victoria likely helped generate the 134 views of this post.

On this anniversary I’d like to thank everyone who does read Truth in Fiction and especially the fellow blogging members of my family, who can always be relied upon to leave comments and offer encouragement. Hopefully my second year of blogging will continue to be as informative and fun as the first!

Image:
HAPPY BIRTHDAY
© Tela Chhe | Flickr Creative Commons

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Wellington’s Boots

Portrait of The Duke of Wellington by George Dawe, 1829

During the Regency period, men’s fashion underwent a change as knee breeches were exchanged for trousers. Although trousers had been entering fashion since 1800, they only became appropriate casual and semi-casual wear for men between 1810 and 1820. In America, James Madision (in office 1809-1817) was the first President to wear trousers instead of knee breeches, and the future Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, had been turned away from a fashionable London social club in 1800 both for tardiness and for wearing trousers, which were against the strict dress code.

Hessian boots, which had begun as standard issue military footwear but became widely worn, accompanied knee breeches. With a semi-pointed toe and a low heel, Hessians also included decorative tassels. In fact, Dickens’ famous character Jacob Marley likely wore Hessian boots in A Christmas Carol:

“The same face: the very same. Marley in his pigtail, usual waistcoat, tights and boots; the tassels on the latter bristling, like his pigtail, and his coat-skirts, and the hair upon his head.”

But Hessian boots were unsuitable for wearing under the newly acceptable trousers, so Wellington instructed his shoemaker Hoby of St. James Street, London to modify the popular boot. The result was cut higher in front to cover and protect the knee and had the back cut away, in order to make it easier to bend the leg. It was also cut closer to the leg. They quickly gained a reputation as hard wearing in battle yet comfortable for evening wear. After Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon, “Wellington boots” became extremely popular as stylish footwear that could be worn with trousers.

In an 1839 letter from his residence at Walmer Castle, the Duke instructed his shoemaker on how to make a pair of his boots:

“Mr Mitchell
I beg that you will make for me two pairs of Boots, of the usual form only four (or the thin of an hand) lines longer in the foot than usual. Send with new false soles that will fit this new size. If needed make them broader. If these boots should suit me I will send another [pair] of galoshes. If I fit them; and [a pair] of shoes of the same size. I beg to have these boots as soon as possible, as I am pained by those which I wear at present.
Your obedient Servant
Wellington.”

The boot evolved again when Charles Goodyear invented the vulcanization process for rubber. In 1852 Goodyear met American Hiram Hutchinson, who bought the patent to manufacture footwear and established his company A L’Aigle in France. The footwear was an immediate success, replacing wooden clogs among farmers. Four years later, entrepreneur Henry Lee Norris established the North British Rubber Company (which would later become the Hunter Rubber Company) in Scotland.

Initially produced in limited quantities, the popularity of the rubber Wellington boot skyrocketed during World War One. The United Kingdom Office of War hired the North British Rubber Company to produce a boot suitable for the trenches in France and Belgium, and during the course of the war nearly two million Wellington boots were sold to the army.

Wellingtons remain popular today and come in assorted colours and patterns to suit your fashion needs, although it’s hard to picture the Iron Duke wearing a pair of these!

A pair of the Duke of Wellington’s boots is on display at Walmer Castle, where he lived for 23 years.

For more information on changing men’s fashions in the Regency, visit Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion.

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Filed under British History, Historical Fashion, Historical Tales