Thursday, December 01, 2011
One Foot in the Grave
The Duke answered: "By god, sir! So you have!
This exchange was presumably followed by some uncomfortable silence, and then the Duke eventually helped his fallen comrade to a nearby house. Paget's leg could not be salvaged by the medical science of the time, and it was amputated without any anesthetic. During the operation, Paget displayed superhuman stoicism, his moustache scarcely flickering as they sawed through his shin.
The owner of the house, one M. Hyacinthe Joseph-Marie Paris, asked if he could keep the leg and bury it in his garden. Paget had no problem with this, and the leg received a "good Christian burial," along with a proper gravestone that bore the following description:
Here lies the Leg of the illustrious and valiant Earl Uxbridge, Lieutenant-General of His Britannic Majesty, Commander in Chief of the English, Belgian and Dutch cavalry, wounded on the 18 June 1815 at the memorable battle of Waterloo, who, by his heroism, assisted in the triumph of the cause of mankind, gloriously decided by the resounding victory of the said day.
Word of the grave-site spread quickly, and soon villagers started showing up to take a look for themselves. Paris was only too happy to allow them in, provided that they pay a modest fee. Soon, countless travelers journeyed to Waterloo to see the grave of the heroic appendage. The leg became so prominent that the King of Prussia even arranged a visit. Paris' descendants continued to profit from the grave and it remained an attraction until the bones were disinterred in 1878. Fifty-six years later in1934, a newly widowed Mrs. Paris discovered the leg bones in her husband's study along with documents linking them to the Henry Paget. Fearing an international incident, she threw the bones into the furnace and burned them to ashes. One hopes that she was then haunted by an angry spectral leg, but sadly those details are lost in history.
But don't take my word for it!
You can read about it in a book