A Sad Looking British Survivor of the Napoleonic Wars

The Years Were Not Kind to This Former British Soldier

British Veteran and His Wife

A Hard Life

This is a picture of a British veteran of the Napoleonic wars, posing with his wife. He can be seen wearing a campaign medal, commemorating the fact that he served in Spain.

This photograph was taken in 1850, 35 years after the battle of Waterloo. It is hard to know how old the former soldier was when this picture was taken but we can see that years of poverty and hard living have left their mark. Note the man's shabby clothes, and battered top hat, despite the fact that the rarity and importance of having one's portrait taken meant that people usually wore their best outfits for the occasion. The man's face is like a history book - he must have seen some horrible things. His hands are rugged from a life of hard work.

His wife is wearing her Sunday best, and has a look of impoverished gentility with her gloves and bonnet.

We will probably never know their story together. Were they childhood sweethearts? Did she wait for him to come back from the war? Did he drown himself in gin to forget the things that he had done during the war? All that is left of this man and woman and their stories is this one picture. But it is more than we have for the majority of the men who fought in the Napoleonic wars. Of the thousands who marched with Napoleon or against him - the majority has left no photos or portraits.