The Waterloo Ceremony. An elaborate gesture performed annually by the Duke of Wellington, as he pays the rent on his grand stately home in Hampshire to the British Monarch. This symbolic ceremony is held every year on 18th June, the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.
The origin of the Waterloo Ceremony dates back to the early 19th century. In 1815, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, led the British army into battle against a formidable enemy – the French. The armies met at Waterloo, where Napoleon was defeated, bringing an end to nearly 23 years of war in Europe. The Duke of Wellington returned to England, victorious.
Returning to an extremely grateful nation in 1817, the nation bought Stratfield Saye House in Hampshire in order to give it to The Duke of Wellington. The Duke’s original plans were to tear down the house and build a magnificent Waterloo Palace in its place, but when this turned out to be too expensive, he took up residence in Stratfield Saye House itself. The house has served as the home of all the subsequent Dukes of Wellington, and all but the 1st and 6th Dukes are buried on the estate.
The current Duke is Arthur Valerian Wellesley, 8th Duke of Wellington. Every year, His Grace travels to Windsor Castle to pay the rent on Stratfield Saye House. However, this rent is purely symbolic, and no money actually changes hands. Instead, the Duke of Wellington presents The Queen with a French tricolour, to signify the victory over the French at Waterloo. The flag is made of silk, with gold embroidery, and a new one is made each year. The year in which it was used in the ceremony is printed on the corner of the flag in gold lettering.
When The Duke of Wellington comes in Her Majesty’s presence, he kneels before her and offers her the tricolour. She accepts his rent, upon which the flag is handed over to the Castle Superintendent , who takes it to the Guard Chamber.
A marble bust of the 1st Duke of Wellington stands on a pedestal in this chamber, and the French tricolour is hung over it.
The Duke of Wellington retires to his home for another year, his rent paid.