Monday, 6 May 2013

Regency Snippets - Army Officers

"Among the officers a chivalrous sense of honour was more than an instinct. It was a code. They were almost too ready to take on a bully hat and too punish a cheat. Charles Napier flattered himself that his leg was as straight a one as ever bore up the body of a gentleman or kicked a blackguard. He regarded the treatment of women as the measure of civilisation; the tenderness towards the helpless and adherence to one's word constituted for him the tests of a gentleman. A man who broke his parole was beneath contempt; George Napier held it up to his children as the unforgivable offence - that and cowardice. One rode straight, spoke the truth and never showed fear. There was little outward religion in Wellington's officers;skylarking and often uproariously noisy, they were like a pack of schoolboys. Yet under the surface was a deep fund of Christian feeling; their beau ideal was a man like John Colborne of the 52nd - upright, fearless and gentle - or John Vandeleur - his friends never heard to speak harshly of any man. 'The British army is what it is," said Wellington long afterweards, (after the Battle of Waterloo?) "because it is officered by gentlemen; men who would scorn to do a dishonourable thing and who have something more at stake than a reputation for military smartness."

The Age of Elegance. Arthur Bryant.