Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), nicknamed ‘The Iron Duke’, British military commander best known for his victory over Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815 and his service in the Peninsular War. He was born in Dublin in 1769, though his family soon re-located to London, where he attended Eton -- which he hated. Wellesley entered the British army in 1787, mostly because his mother wanted him to be gainfully employed and saw few prospects for him elsewhere. At first, he was but a half-hearted soldier, more interested in balls, gambling (he was often in debt) and music (he was a fair amateur violinist). Eventually, he began to take his duties more seriously.
He served in Europe against the French during the abortive 1793-1795 Flanders campaign, which was mostly unsuccessful. In 1797, his regiment was sent to India, where he saw active service in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War and the Second Anglo-Maratha War, both part of the eventual British conquest of India. He returned to Britain in 1805 and sat as an MP for Rye between 1806 and 1809, becoming Irish Secretary in 1807.
Later that year, General Wellesley was given command of a division in an expedition to force the Danes to give up their fleet to the British before it was seized by the French. The expedition was a success. In 1808, the now-Lieutenant General Wellesley was sent to the aid of the Portuguese against the French. In 1809, he became commander-in-chief of the British forces on the Iberian Peninsula. Here, he gained great military distinction, and, in 1815 after Napoleon’s return from exile on Elba was placed in command of the Allied forces in Belgium. He faced Napoleon in battle for the first and only time at Waterloo, where he won a decisive victory.
He was raised to the peerage as the Duke of Wellington in recognition of his achievements and sat in the House of Lords for the remainder of his life. Arthur Wellesley died in 1852 and was buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral. His London home at Apsley House, Piccadilly, is now the Wellington Museum.
See: Francisco de Goya. Portrait
of the Duke of Wellington. Francisco de Goya? The
Duke of Wellington.
Sir Thomas Lawrence. Portrait of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. Catherine, 1st Duchess of Wellington.
Franz Xaver Winterhalter. The First of May. The Duke of Wellington Presenting a Casket on Prince Arthur's Birthday.
Wellington: The Iron Duke by Richard Holmes. HarperCollins UK, 2003.
Wellington: A Personal History by Christopher Hibbert. Da Capo Press, 1999.
To War with Wellington: From the Peninsula to Waterloo by Peter Snow. John Murray Publishers.
Wellington by Elizabeth Longford, Thomas Pakenham. The History Press, 2006.
Wellington: The Years of the Sword by Elizabeth Longford. Littlehampton Book Services Ltd, 1969.
Wellington: A Military Life by Gordon Corrigan. Hambledon Continuum, 2006.
Despatches, Correspondence, and Memoranda of Field Marshall Arthur, Duke of Wellington, K.G.: 1831-1832. Nabu Press, 2010.