This is one of three artificial legs made for Henry Paget, Lord Uxbridge, who commanded the British cavalry at the Battle of Waterloo. He was hit on the right knee by a canister shot, after the missile had passed over the neck of Wellington’s horse, Copenhagen.
It is said that at the end of the day, near the farm of La Haye Sainte, an interchange occured between Lord Uxbridge and the Duke. Supposedly Uxbridge had said, ‘By God, sir, I’ve lost my leg! ’ to which the Duke replied, ‘By God, sir, so you have!’
Uxbridge was carried off the field by his faithful aide-de-camp, Captain Horace Seymour, and some Hanoverian soldiers. He bravely suffered an above-knee amputation. This was carried out by Dr Hume, Wellington’s personal physician at the farm of Maison Tremblant in Waterloo village. The severed leg of the Marquess of Anglesey (as he became after the battle) was a notorious tourist attraction for years after the battle, while Paget himself suffered prolonged pain from the stump and the wound did not heal until 1816.
This artificial leg is of far better quality than most amputees would receive. Many leg prostheses were made of wood, some just ‘peg legs’. A few were constructed of metal and had locking hinges, so that the knee could be bent or fixed straight as needed.
This leg however is a finely constructed product, replacing a simpler ‘clapper leg’ (as it made a clapping sound while walking!) that was fashioned for Paget by the limb maker, James Potts of Chelsea. Patented as the ‘Anglesey Leg’, it was commercially advertised until 1914. Carved from fruitwood, the limb articulated and was controlled by prepared kangaroo tendon strips, so that as the knee bent, the foot flexed up at the ankle, thus preventing the toes catching on the cobbled streets.
Three such legs which belonged to the Marquess are known. One is in the Household Cavalry Museum in Whitehall, another in Plas Newydd, on the island of Anglesey, and the third in Museé Wellington, in Waterloo village, where Wellington had his headquarters.
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This object is in the collection of Household Cavalry Museum