Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

The Duke of Wellington

Sir Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.png
The Duke of Wellington, by Thomas Lawrence. Painted c. 1815–16, after the Battle of Waterloo.[1]
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
17 November 1834 – 9 December 1834
MonarchWilliam IV
Preceded byThe Viscount Melbourne
Succeeded bySir Robert Peel
In office
22 January 1828 – 16 November 1830
MonarchGeorge IV
William IV
Preceded byThe Viscount Goderich
Succeeded byThe Earl Grey
Leader of the House of Lords
In office
3 September 1841 – 27 June 1846
Prime MinisterSir Robert Peel
Preceded byThe Viscount Melbourne
Succeeded byThe Marquess of Lansdowne
In office
14 November 1834 – 18 April 1835
Prime MinisterSir Robert Peel
Preceded byThe Viscount Melbourne
Succeeded byThe Viscount Melbourne
In office
22 January 1828 – 22 November 1830
Preceded byThe Viscount Goderich
Succeeded byThe Earl Grey
Foreign Secretary
In office
14 November 1834 – 18 April 1835
Prime MinisterSir Robert Peel
Preceded byThe Viscount Palmerston
Succeeded byThe Viscount Palmerston
Home Secretary
In office
17 November 1834 – 15 December 1834
Preceded byThe Viscount Duncannon
Succeeded byHenry Goulburn
Secretary of State for War and the Colonies
In office
17 November 1834 – 9 December 1834
Preceded byThomas Spring Rice
Succeeded byThe Earl of Aberdeen
Personal details
Arthur Wesley

1 May 1769
6 Merrion Street, Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland[2]
Died14 September 1852(1852-09-14) (aged 83)
Walmer Castle, Kent, England
Resting placeSt Paul's Cathedral, London
Political party
Catherine Pakenham
(m. 1806; died 1831)
ChildrenArthur Wellesley, 2nd Duke of Wellington
Lord Charles Wellesley
ParentsGarret Wellesley, 1st Earl of Mornington
Anne Hill-Trevor
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Army
Years of service1787–1852
RankField Marshal
CommandsCommander-in-Chief of the British Army

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS (1 May 1769 – 14 September 1852) was an Anglo-Irish soldier and Tory statesman who was one of the leading military and political figures of 19th-century Britain, serving twice as Prime Minister. His victory against Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 puts him in the first rank of Britain's military heroes.

Wellesley was born in Dublin into the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland. He was commissioned as 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. He was a colonel by 1796, and saw action in the Netherlands and in India, where he fought in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War at the Battle of Seringapatam. He was appointed governor of Seringapatam and Mysore in 1799 and, as a newly appointed major-general, won a decisive victory over the Maratha Confederacy at the Battle of Assaye in 1803.

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 Empire 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, together with a Prussian army under Blücher, defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. Wellington's battle record is exemplary; he ultimately participated in some 60 battles during the course of his military career.

Wellington is famous for his adaptive defensive style of warfare, resulting in several victories against numerically superior forces while minimising his own losses. He is regarded as one of the greatest defensive commanders of all time, and many of his tactics and battle plans are still studied in military academies around the world.

After the end of his active military career, Wellington returned to politics. He was twice British prime minister as part of the Tory party: from 1828 to 1830, and for a little less than a month in 1834. He oversaw the passage of the Catholic Relief Act 1829, but opposed the Reform Act 1832. He continued as one of the leading figures in the House of Lords until his retirement and remained Commander-in-Chief of the British Army until his death.

Early life and education

Wellesley spent much of his early childhood at his family's ancestral home, Dangan Castle (engraving, 1842).

Wellesley was born into an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family in Ireland as The Hon. Arthur Wesley,[2] the third of five surviving sons (fourth otherwise) of Anne and Garret Wesley, 1st Earl of Mornington. His mother was the eldest daughter of The 1st Viscount Dungannon. As such, he belonged to the Protestant Ascendancy.[4] His biographers mostly follow the same contemporary newspaper evidence in saying that he was born on 1 May 1769,[5] the day before he was baptised.[6] His birthplace is uncertain. He was most likely born at his parents' townhouse, 24 Upper Merrion Street, Dublin, now the Merrion Hotel.[7] But his mother Anne, Countess of Mornington, recalled in 1815 that he had been born at 6 Merrion Street, Dublin.[8] Other places have been put forward as the location of his birth, including Mornington House (the house next door on Upper Merrion), as his father had asserted; the Dublin packet boat;[9] and the mansion in the family estate of Athy (consumed in the fires of 1916), as the Duke apparently put on his 1851 census return.[10]

He spent most of his childhood at his family's two homes, the first a large house in Dublin and the second Dangan Castle, 3 miles (5 km) north of Summerhill on the Trim Road (now the R158) in County Meath.[11] In 1781, Arthur's father died and his eldest brother Richard inherited his father's earldom.[12]

He went to the diocesan school in Trim when at Dangan, Mr Whyte's Academy when in Dublin, and Brown's School in Chelsea when in London. He then enrolled at Eton College, where he studied from 1781 to 1784.[12] His loneliness there caused him to hate it, and makes it highly unlikely that he actually said "The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton", a quotation which is often attributed to him. Moreover, Eton had no playing fields at the time. In 1785, a lack of success at Eton, combined with a shortage of family funds due to his father's death, forced the young Wellesley and his mother to move to Brussels.[13] Until his early twenties, Arthur showed little sign of distinction and his mother grew increasingly concerned at his idleness, stating, "I don't know what I shall do with my awkward son Arthur."[13]

A year later, Arthur enrolled in the French Royal Academy of Equitation in Angers, where he progressed significantly, becoming a good horseman and learning French, which later proved very useful.[14] Upon returning to England in late 1786, he astonished his mother with his improvement.[15]

Other Languages
العربية: آرثر ويلزلي
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Артур Ўэлсьлі
brezhoneg: Arthur Wellesley
français: Arthur Wellesley
ქართული: ართურ უელსლი
latviešu: Arturs Velzlijs
lietuvių: Arthur Wellesley
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ဝယ်လင်တန်၊ လော့
Nederlands: Arthur Wellesley
norsk nynorsk: Arthur Wellesley
slovenščina: Arthur Wellesley
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Arthur Wellesley, 1. vojvoda od Wellingtona
українська: Артур Веллслі