Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, KP, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS (c. 29 April/1 May 1769 – 14 September 1852), was an Anglo-Irish soldier and statesman, and one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century. He is often referred to as simply “The Duke of Wellington”, even after his death, when there have been subsequent Dukes of Wellington.

Born in Ireland to a prominent family of Hiberno-Norman origins and Old English culture, he was commissioned an ensign in the British Army in 1787. Serving in Ireland as aide-de-camp to two successive Lords Lieutenant of Ireland he was also elected as a Member of Parliament in the Irish House of Commons. A colonel by 1796, Wellesley saw action in the Netherlands and later India where he fought in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War at the Battle of Seringapatam. He was later appointed governor of Seringapatam and Mysore.

Wellesley rose to prominence as a general during the Peninsular campaign of the Napoleonic Wars, and was promoted to the rank of field marshal after leading the allied forces to victory against the French at the Battle of Vitoria in 1813. Following Napoleon’s exile in 1814, he served as the ambassador to France and was granted a Dukedom. During the Hundred Days in 1815, he commanded the allied army which, with a Prussian army under Blücher, defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. Wellesley’s battle record is exemplary, ultimately participating in some 60 battles throughout his military career.

He was twice Prime Minister under the Tory party and oversaw the passage of the Catholic Relief Act 1829. He was Prime Minister from 1828–30 and served briefly in 1834. He was unable to prevent the passage of the Reform Act of 1832 and continued as one of the leading figures in the House of Lords until his retirement. He remained Commander-in-Chief of the British Army until his death in 1852.

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One Response to Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

  1. alfy says:

    As deskarati fans might expect I need to apply a corrective to simple hagiographical biographies of national heroes.
    1. The Peninsular Campaign
    “Why did it take him six years to clear the French out of the Peninsula, when he had the backing of the Spanish and Portuguese monarchies, and the full support of the local people?”
    2. The Battle of Waterloo
    Wellington came close to being defeated had not Blucher arrived with his Prussian forces.
    3. The Great Reform Act
    Why did Wellington oppose what is now seen as one of the great landmarks in Parliamentary democracy?

    A fuller exposition of these points may be posted later.

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