SIR JULIAN PAGET – GODFATHER OF HOUGOUMONT FARM
Sir Julian Paget was the Godfather of Hougoumont Farm. Hougoumont lost a devoted Patron when he died on the 25th September 2016.
He was an optimist, loved people, and was devoted to his regiment; he was meticulous in his historical research, eventually writing eleven books on military history, and was an expert adviser on the restoration of the farm.
Straight out of Oxford, aged 19 in 1940, Sir Julian followed his father and grandfather into the Coldstream Guards. After the end of WWII, he went to Staff College and then took up an internship at the Pentagon in Washington DC. (see note below)
For another 15 years Sir Julian and his wife Diana had postings in Africa and the Middle East, where Julian had time to read and write about military history, with a special interest in the Battle of Waterloo.
After leaving the Coldstream Guards, he set up a tour company called “Battles and Bottles” and shared with other enthusiasts his enjoyment of hands-on military history and his love of fine wines.
In the early 1980s the Duke of Wellington asked Julian to join the Council of the Association of Friends of the Waterloo Committee. As Vice President he became heavily involved in projects for protecting and maintaining the battlefield, and particularly Hougoumont Farm. He teamed up with Derek Saunders, and the two historians combed the farm and its surroundings for authentic clues to tell the tale of the battle within the Battle of Waterloo. They found bits and pieces of bullets and metal, uniforms and medals, guns and ammunition. They combined maps, plaques, personal memories and reminiscences, the sequence of events told nearly every half-hour during the battle, and the eyewitness accounts of soldiers in the English and French armies, with the stories told by the buildings themselves: the miracle of the Chapel, the discovery of the well, the outlines of the devastated chateau and farmer’s house. Their definitive book, Hougoumont: Key to Victory at Waterloo, was published in 1992.
The book was indispensable as a reference when renovations began in 2013 to restore the deteriorating farm to the way it was the day following the Battle of Waterloo. Sir Julian asked Pen and Sword to issue a new edition of his book and pledged that all of the profits would go towards the Hougoumont restoration. By then, well into his nineties, he visited Waterloo twice to check on progress and the final result of the renovations in 2015. A kind letter followed up his visit in April, 2015:
“I was most impressed by everything about Project Hougoumont and by the whole concept. The restoration is quite excellent, and far better than I expected. It is, to my mind, an ideal combination of past, present and future, which will be of real significance for future generations.”*
Note: A story that Julian loved to tell.
When Julian went to take up an exchange post at Washington DC in 1950, he met a pretty English traveller, Diana Farmer, on a blind date and proposed to her four days later. Without giving him a satisfactory reply she continued her travels around the USA, so Julian became very nervous that in time she might meet and become engaged to someone else. Without further delay he resolved to go to California to propose a second time. An impecunious Romeo, he posted himself Air Freight in a burlap bag to fly to the west coast. No airline employee would take pity and put him in a seat, so he flew in the hold and was nearly frozen to death when he arrived. It was well worth it – the astonished Diana said yes, and they were blissfully happy during the sixty years of their married life.
*Quote from a letter written to Justin Davies on 21/04/15