The Objects

9th Jul 1815

One leg.jpg
Source: © National Trust
Plas Newydd, Anglesey

The Anglesey Leg

Contributed by: Martin Fitzpatrick

Henry William Paget, Earl of Uxbridge, was made Marquess of Anglesey following his distinguished role at Waterloo. On the morning of the battle he declared, ‘We shall have sharp work today’. They did indeed. As commander of the heavy cavalry at a key point in the battle he led a successful charge routing 15,000 French infantry. Unfortunately, the cavalry failed to re-group after its initial success, leaving it vulnerable to attack from the French cavalry which decimated their ranks. Uxbridge blamed himself for the failure, believing that he would have been able to exercise better control if he had charged with the second rank.

For the rest of the battle he spent his time encouraging the light brigades. He was lucky to survive for he had eight or nine horses shot from under him. Towards the end of the battle, at Wellington’s side, Uxbridge was hit by grapeshot in his right knee. It is said that he exclaimed ‘By God, sir, I've lost my leg!’ and that Wellington replied, ‘By God, sir, so you have! That night, the leg was amputated. Uxbridge was calm throughout, and the following day, with typical phlegm, he declared to the Marquise d’Asshe, ‘Well Marquise, you see I shan’t be able to dance with you again except with a wooden leg.’

His wooden leg, or rather wooden legs, were far different from existing wooden legs known as ‘clappers’ for the noise they made. He had made for himself the first articulated artificial limb ever devised—the ‘Anglesey leg’, and he had different legs made for different activities – he had a leg for walking and a leg for riding. That shown (in the museum at Plas Newydd, Anglesey), is an Anglesey leg of c. 1830 – patented by James Potts of Chelsea in 1828 – which even in his sixties enabled the Marquess to walk miles a day.