Whilst talking about Sarah , 4th daughter of the 2nd Duke of Richmond today, I mentioned that, after eventually being granted an expensive divorce from Sir Charles Bunbury by an Act of Parliament , she found happiness at the age of 36 in her second marriage to George Napier in August 1781. I went on to mention that four of their sons played important roles in the Napoleonic Wars, three being generals and one a captain in the Royal Navy. I was then asked to explain the connection with the Napier on the plinth in Trafalgar Square! All I knew is that the one remaining empty plinth is used for contemporary commisioned artworks! And that last year Antony Gormley’s exhibition “One & Other” caused great excitement as ‘real live people’ as opposed to ‘dead kings, queens, generals and admirals’ were invited to put on their own display as a representation of the whole of humanity!
The South West plinth occupied in 1855 is home to Charles James Napier. He was Sarah’s eldest son born in 1782. He went on to become a career soldier, commanding the 50th Regiment of Foot in the Peninsular wars winning an ‘Army Gold Medal’ but being left for dead after the battle of Corunna. He was rescued by a French drummer and taken prisoner but a year later was again fighting at the battle of Busacco for which he won a ‘Silver Medal with two clasps’. During his middle years he was special advisor to the Greek government which was still under Ottoman rule. Both he and his wife suffered with cholera and after her death he returned to bring up his daughters. In the late 1830’s Napier was sent to the north of England to oversee the unrest caused by Chartists who were seen as dangerous revolutioneries. Despite being sympathetic to the cause, the absence of a police force, meant that Napier’s role was to maintain order. From the 1840’s on Napier was involved with India and in his latter years, aged 60, he was appointed Major-General to the command of the Indian army. He became famous for conquering the area of Sindh province in present day Pakistan.
On his final return to England, despite suffering liver failure, Napier managed to be a pall-bearer at the Duke of Wellington’s state funeral in St Paul’s Cathedral in 1852. He died the following year and is buried at the Garrison Chapel, Portsmouth