An Earl Got A Shrine Built To His Own Severed Leg
Henry Paget, Earl of Uxbridge, fought at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. He survived, which is more than you can say for 23,000 other men fighting there under the Duke of Wellington. But a cannonball smashed his leg, soon before the battle ended.
“By God, sir, I've lost my leg!” said Lord Uxbridge. “By God, sir, so you have!” replied the Duke of Wellington.
So said one account, anyway. According to another, Uxbridge said, “I have got it at last,” while the Duke replied, “No? Have you, by God?” Us, we doubt all these transcriptions of British officers that show them never losing composure. We suspect Uxbridge said something more like “Argghgh! Gaaargh,” in too much agony to even fluently swear, while the Duke didn’t say anything in response at all, since he was somewhere else altogether, taking a shit.
But however the battle went, here’s what we do know. Afterward, a team of doctors amputated the leg. They preserved the saw they used in the procedure, later displaying it in a museum, and Uxbridge turned down the hefty annual pension that the country offered him for the loss.
The house where they amputated the leg buried it on the grounds and gave it its own tombstone. For the next half century, it attracted tourists, including royalty. Then the organizers kicked it up a notch. They unearthed the shattered leg bones and displayed them at the shrine. It was like those shrines to the body parts of saints, but weirder, because this wasn’t honoring a holy man, it was honoring an Englishman.
When Uxbridge’s family heard the bones were out in the open and complained, the house offered to sell them to them. That deal didn’t go through. Another half century later, after the bones has supposedly been reinterred, an heir found them in a box in the house’s study. She burned them in the furnace. This either saved her own descendants from a fearsome curse ... or doomed them to one.
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Top image: Jan Willem Pieneman