A recent biography of Palmerston suggests that news of Waterloo was brought to London by a Royal Navy officer:
‘a dusty chaise and four raced to London from Broadstairs carrying a naval officer, Commander James White of HMS Peruvian …. and a despatch from Wellington to the Prince Regent ….’
There was such an officer (Cdr James Kearney White?) and a brig-sloop of the name serving in 1815 but is this story authentic? If so, the date must have been 19 or 20 June 1815. Can anyone offer a view?
I have since found a piece in The Times of 23 June 1815 (p.2 col.A) referring to a London Gazette Extraordinary of the previous day, Thursday 22 June, which reports that:
‘Major the Honourable H. Percy arrived late last night [?21 June] with a dispatch from Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington KG to Earl Bathurst, his Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for the War Department, …..’
sent from Waterloo June 19 1815.
Facts confound what had the makings of a very promising story …
This story might still have sea-legs. Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post, or the Plymouth and Cornish Advertiser reported on the evening of Thursday June 22 1815 that:
‘Star-office, Four o’clock: A Telegraphic Dispatch to the Admiralty has this instant announced that there is a Messenger on the road from the Coast, with Dispatches from the Duke of Wellington.’
Research into the Admiralty In-Letters for this period (ADM1, National Archives, Kew) would confirm the existance of the telegraphic dispatch and the provenance of Wellington’s Dispatches and probably the (?Royal Navy) vessel on which they arrived.
A post-Script timed an hour earlier from the War Department mentions a packet from Ostend with news of the battle but not the result, whereas a longer post-script give unoffical accounts of a victory.
If this messenger mentioned at 4.00pm in London (The Star-office)was Major Percy and he was landed on the south-east coast, as is likely, he would have arrived at the War Office in London either very late on 20th or the morning of 21st.
This notice in a leading West Country newspaper printed late in the evening of 20th June was received I imagine from the Admiralty at Plymouth, probably by packet boat or fast post-chaise from the Admiralty telegraph station at Portsmouth.
This indicates that news of the messenger was known on the British coast during the morning of 20th June, and very likely first brought to london by Admiralty telegraph from accounts from a Navy vessel.