Wednesday, December 13, 2006

When history surprises you...

My research book for December is a biography of the Duke of Wellington, who will be an important figure in the alternate history that's tentatively set to be my next project. (Actually, he's trying to take over the story, much to my annoyance. I keep TELLING him the lead is supposed to be my youthful Everyman figure, but he won't listen, repeatedly pointing out that he's much more interesting than some Callow Youth from Central Casting. And he's right, dang it. "I need an Everyman" apparently isn't a route to building an intriguing character. Must work on that. Or just give up and let my muse run wild with the ghost of Wellington.)

Anyway, I just learned that Wellington was around 5'8" or 5'9". So, about the height of an average modern Englishman or just a little shorter. He would've been a few inches taller than the national average ~1800, but not tall for an aristocrat--people rich enough to have a plentiful and reasonably nutritious diet were as tall as we are now. For some reason this surprised me. I'd always pictured him as at least 6'0", maybe taller. I'm not sure why. I think some of his portraits exaggerate his height for heroic effect (the only way a 5'9" man could look as tall as he does in one of his equestrian portraits would be to ride a rather small pony), and he was slim and wiry, which tends to make a person look taller.

Still, I'm having to completely readjust my mental image. Next time I get in a argument with the ghost of Wellington, I'll get right up in his face, since we're about the same height... :-)

1 comment:

belmanoir said...

that's really funny! it kind of reminds me of how the man in the iron mask couldn't be louis xiv's twin brother because he is consistently described as tall, well-made, &c...and so is louis...BUT louis is wearing 6-inch heels and a periwig.