London Newspaper Group CN/WPN 1979
"Nothing so silly as for a subaltern to wed, said the Colonel..."
By Christopher Long
Chelsea's National Army Museum, in its annual report which like the museum will fascinate those interested in soldiers, weapons, warfare and the social, domestic and decorative aspects of military life offers three glimpses of 18th century attitudes to marriage:
"I am entirely against officers having wives till they are in a post to be able to keep them from following them about. There never was a subaltern good for anything after he was married and very few captains. I have a notion an honest married man who loves his wife and children can't be so brave upon any desperate attaque or in any warm service as another when he thinks as he goes on that his woman and children must starve." (Col. Henry Hawley, 33rd Foot, May 1725).
"There is nothing so silly as for subaltern officers to marry, unless where they meet with women of very great fortunes indeed. What can be the event of their marrying otherwise, but entailing misery and beggary on their wives and their posterity". (Col. James, quoted from Henry Fielding's Amelia, London 1751).
"I always encourage our young people to go to balls and assemblies. It softens their manners and makes 'em civil, and commonly, I go along with them to see how they conduct themselves. I am only afraid they should fall in love and marry.
"Whenever I perceive the symptoms or anyone else makes the discovery, we fall upon the delinquent without mercy, till he grows out of conceit with his new passion. By this method we have broke through many an amorous alliance and dissolved many ties of eternal love and affection...
I am not, however, always successful... two or three... have triumphed over my endeavours, but are seated on the stool of repentance for the remainder of their days." (Lt. Col. James Wolfe later General Wolfe of Quebec aged 27, in a letter to his mother in December 1753).
While it's hard to imagine how these three men would have got on with today's female supporters or opponents of radical feminism, the excerpts demonstrate that the National Army Museum in Royal Hospital Road is concerned with far more than mere guns and gore.
Highlights of the year ahead is the expected completion of the £600,000 new extension of the museum although it is unlikely to be open to the public until 1981.
The extension will cover the history of the British Army and the land forces of the Empire from 1914 until today.
© (1979) Christopher Long. Copyright, Syndication & All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
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