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Encyclopedia > Arthur Wellesley
The Duke of Wellington
Image:Field_Marshal_Arthur_Wellesley_KG_CCB_GCH_CoR_1st_Duke_of_Wellington.jpg
Period in Office: January, 1828November, 1830
PM Predecessor: The Viscount Goderich
PM Successor: The Earl Grey
Date of Birth: 1 May 1769
Place of Birth: Unknown, possibily Dublin or County Meath
Date of Death: 14 September 1852
Place of Death: Walmer, Kent
Political Party: Tory

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1 May 176914 September 1852) was an Anglo-Irish soldier and statesman, widely considered one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century. He came from an established family of noblemen – his father was the Earl of Mornington, his eldest brother, who would inherit his father's Earldom, would be created Marquess Wellesley, and two of his other brothers would be raised to the peerage as Baron Maryborough and Baron Cowley. Commissioned an ensign in the British Army, he would rise to prominence in the Napoleonic Wars, eventually reaching the rank of field marshal.


Wellington commanded the Allied forces during the Peninsular War, pushing the French Army out of Spain and reaching southern France. Victorious and hailed as a hero in England, he was obligated to return to Europe to command the Anglo-Allied forces at Waterloo, after which St. Helena. Wellington is often compared to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, with whom he shared many characteristics, chiefly a transition to politics after a highly successful military career. He served as a Tory Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on two separate occasions, and was one of the leading figures in the House of Lords until his retirement in 1846.

Contents

Early life

Believed to have been born in either Dublin, or at his families lands in County Meath Ireland, the third son of Garret Wesley, 1st Earl of Mornington, his exact date of birth is a matter of some contention. All that exists is a church registry of the event marked a few days after it must have occurred. The most likely date is May 1, but any day for a few days before or after is possible. He was baptised Arthur Wesley, which was legally changed to Arthur Wellesley in March of 1798.


Wellesley was educated at Eton from 1781 to 1785, then moved to Belgium) to receive further education. In 1787, his father purchased Wellesley a commission as an France, after having received earlier training in England. His first assignment was as aide-de-camp to two successive Lords Lieutenant of Ireland (17871793). He was promoted to lieutenant in 1788; two years later, he was elected as an independent MP for Trim in the Irish House of Commons (in 1790), a position he held until 1797. He rose rapidly in rank (largely through the purchase system, which at that time allowed, and, indeed, generally required, officers in the British Army to purchase their rank) becoming lieutenant colonel in the 33rd Regiment of Foot in 1793. He then fought in Holland between 1794 and 1795, and was present at Boxtel.


In 1796, after a promotion to colonel, he accompanied his division to India. The next year, his elder brother, Richard Wellesley, 2nd Earl of Mornington, was appointed Governor-General of India, and when war broke out in 1799 against the Sultan of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, Arthur Wellesley commanded a division of his own. While serving in that capacity, he was appointed Governor of Seringapatam and Mysore, positions he held until 1805. He fought at Assaye, Argaum, and stormed the fortress at Gawilghur. Following the successful conclusion of that campaign, he was appointed to the supreme military and political command in the Deccan; while in that position he defeated the robber chieftain Dhundia Wagh (who had ironically escaped prison in Seringapatam during the last battle of the Mysore war) and the Marathas (in 1803). In 1804, he was created a Knight of the Bath, which would be the first of numerous honours throughout his lifetime. When his brother's term ended in 1805, he returned with him to England.


Upon his return to England, Wellesley was elected MP for Rye (in the British House of Commons) for six months in 1806; a year later, he was elected MP for Newport, Isle of Wight, a constituency he would represent for two years. During this time, he was an established Tory, and in April 1807 (while representing St Michael), he was invested a Privy Councillor. Additionally, he served as Chief Secretary for Ireland for some time. However, his political life would soon come to an abrupt end, and he would sail to Europe to participate in the Napoleonic Wars.


Napoleonic Wars

It was in the following years that Wellesley undertook the events that made his place in history. Since 1789, France had been embroiled in the French Revolution, and Napoleon had reached the heights of power in Europe. The British government was casting about for ways to end Napoleon's threat; and Wellesley began to supply them.


First came an expedition to Denmark in 1807, which soon led to Lord Wellesley's promotion to Lieutenant General and a transfer to the theatre of the Peninsular War. Although that war was not going particularly well, it was the one place where the British (and the Portuguese) had managed to put up a fight on the European mainland against France and her allies. Wellesley defeated the French at the Battle of Roliça and the Battle of Vimeiro in 1808. The resulting Convention of Cintra, which stipulated that the British army would transport the French out of Lisbon, was controversial, and Wellesley was briefly recalled to Britain. In the meantime, however, Napoleon himself had come to Spain, and when the chief commander Sir John Moore died during the Battle of Corunna, Wellesley was appointed Commander-in-Chief of all British forces in Portugal.


Returning to Iberia in April 1809, he defeated the army of King Joseph of Spain (Napoleon's eldest brother) at the Battle of Talavera in 1809. For this, he was raised to the peerage as Viscount Wellington, of Talavera and of Wellington in the County of Somerset. He proceeded to drive French forces out of Portugal entirely in 18101811, fighting at Busaco, Lisbon, and at Fuentes de Oñoro. In May of 1811, he was promoted to General for his services in Portugal.


Driving into Spain he defeated the French again at Salamanca, then took Madrid in 1812. Around this time, he was created Earl of Wellington. A French counter_attack that year put British forces in a precarious position, but Lord Wellington was given command of all Allied armies in Spain and created Marquess of Wellington on the third of October. Promoted to field marshal, Wellington led a new offensive in 1813, culminating in the Battle of Vittoria, which pushed the enemies back into France. He invaded France, and finally defeated the French forces at Toulouse; after this battle, Napoleon was exiled to Elba in 1814.


Hailed as the conquering hero, Wellington was created Duke of Wellington, a title still held by his descendants. He was soon appointed ambassador to France, then took Lord Castlereagh's place as First Plenipotentiary to the Congress of Vienna, where he strongly advocated allowing France to keep its place in the European balance of power. On 2 January 1815, he was created a Knight Grand Cross, Order of the Bath.


On February 26, 1815, Napoleon left his exile on Elba and returned to France. Regaining control of the country by May, he then faced a reformation of the alliance against him. Wellington left Vienna to command the Anglo-Allied forces during the Belgium, along with Prussian forces under Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, and the Anglo-Allied forces fought the French in the inconclusive Battle of Quatre Bras. Two days later, on 18 June, Wellington and von Blücher finally defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. The French Emperor abdicated once again on June 22, and was spirited away by the British to distant St Helena.


Later life

Politics beckoned once again in 1819, when Wellington was appointed Master-General of the Ordnance in the Tory government of Lord Liverpool. In 1827, he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, a position he would hold for the remainder of his life, except during his premiership. Along with Robert Peel, Wellington became one of the rising stars of the Tory party, and by 1828, had become Prime Minister.


As Prime Minister, Wellington was the picture of the arch-conservative, though oddly enough the highlight of his term was Catholic Emancipation, the granting of almost full civil rights to Catholics in the United Kingdom. The change was forced by the landslide by-election win of Daniel O'Connell, a Catholic proponent of emancipation, who was elected despite not being legally allowed to sit in Parliament. Lord Winchilsea accused the Duke of having "treacherously plotted the destruction of the Protestant constitution". Wellington responded by immediately challenging Winchilsea to a duel. The duel is also one of the reasons for the founding of King's College London. On March 21, 1829, Wellington and Winchilsea met on Battersea fields. When it came time to fire, the Duke deliberately aimed wide and Winchilsea fired into the air. He subsequently wrote Wellington a grovelling apology. In the House of Lords, facing stiff opposition, Wellington spoke for Catholic emancipation, giving one of the best speeches of his career [1] (http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/town/terrace/adw03/polspeech/catholic.htm). The Catholic Emancipation Act was passed with a majority of 105.


Wellington's government fell in 1830. In the summer and autumn of that year, a wave of riots swept the country. The Whig Party had been out of power for all but a few years since the 1770s, and saw political reform in response to the unrest as the key to their return. Wellington stuck to the Tory policy of no reform and no expansion of the franchise, and as a result lost a vote of no confidence on November 15, 1830. He was replaced as Prime Minister by Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey.


The Whigs introduced the first Reform Act, but Wellington and the Tories worked to prevent its passage. The bill passed in the House of Commons, but was defeated in the House of Lords. An election followed in direct response, and the Whigs were returned with an even larger majority. A second Reform Act was introduced, and defeated in the same way, and another wave of near insurrection swept the country. During this time, Wellington was greeted by a hostile reaction from the crowds at the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, and eventually the bill was passed after the Whigs threatened to have the House of Lords packed with their own followers if it were not. Though passed, Wellington was never reconciled to the change; when Parliament first met after the first election under the widened franchise, Wellington is reported to have said "I never saw so many shocking bad hats in my life". During this time, Wellington was gradually superseded as leader of the Tories by Robert Peel; when the Tories were brought back to power in 1834, Wellington declined to become Prime Minister, and Peel was selected instead. Unfortunately Peel was in Italy, and for three weeks in November and December 1834, Wellington acted as a caretaker, taking the responsibilities of Prime Minister and most of the other ministries. In Peel's first Cabinet (18341835), Wellington became Foreign Secretary, while in the second (18411846) he was a Minister without Portfolio and Leader of the House of Lords.


Wellington retired from political life in 1846, although he remained Commander in Chief of the Forces, and returned briefly to the spotlight in 1848 when he helped organize a military force to protect London during that year of European revolution. He died in 1852, and was buried in St Paul's Cathedral.


In 1838 a proposal to build a statue of Wellington resulted in the building of a giant statue of him on his horse Copenhagen, placed above the Arch at Constitution Hill in London directly outside Apsley House, his former London home, in 1846. The enormous scale of the 40 ton, 30 feet high monument resulted in its removal in 1883 and the following year it was transported to Aldershot where it still stands near the Royal Garrison Church.

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His Grace The Duke of Wellington

Titles & Honours

Peerage of the United Kingdom

British & Irish Honours

International Honours & Titles

Nicknames

Apart from giving his name to "Wellington boots", the Duke of Wellington also had several nicknames.

  • The "Iron Duke", after an incident in 1830 in which he installed metal shutters to prevent rioters breaking windows at Apsley House
  • Officers under his command called him "The Beau", thanks to him being a fine dresser or "The Peer" after he was created a Duke.
  • Regular soldiers under his command called him "Old Nosey" because of his long nose.

The Duke of Wellington's Government, January 1828–November 1830

Changes

  • May, 1828Sir George Murray becomes Colonial Secretary on the death of Huskisson.
  • June, 1828—Lord Aberdeen succeeds Lord Dudley as Foreign Secretary. Aberdeen's successor at the Duchy of Lancaster is not in the Cabinet. William Vesey Fitzgerald succeeds Grant as President of the Board of Trade and Treasurer of the Navy. Lord Palmerston leaves the Cabinet. His successor as Secretary at War is not in the Cabinet.
  • September, 1828Lord Melville becomes First Lord of the Admiralty. He is succeeded as President of the Board of Control by Lord Ellenborough, who remains also Lord Privy Seal
  • June, 1829Lord Rosslyn succeeds Lord Ellenborough as Lord Privy Seal. Ellenborough remains at the Board of Control.

The Duke of Wellington's Caretaker Government October 1834–November 1834

Other offices were in commission.


References


Preceded by:
William Elliot
Chief Secretary for Ireland
1807–1809
Succeeded by:
Robert Dundas
Preceded by:
The Earl of Mulgrave
Master_General of the Ordnance
1819–1827
Succeeded by:
The Marquess of Anglesey
Preceded by:
The Duke of York
Commander_in_Chief of the Forces
1827–1828
Succeeded by:
The Viscount Hill
Preceded by:
The Viscount Goderich
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
1828–1830
Succeeded by:
The Earl Grey
Leader of the House of Lords
1828–1830
Preceded by:
The Earl of Liverpool
Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports
1829–1852
Succeeded by:
The Marquess of Dalhousie
Preceded by:
The Viscount Duncannon
Home Secretary
(pro tem), 1834
Succeeded by:
Henry Goulburn
Preceded by:
Thomas Spring Rice
Secretary of State for War and the Colonies
(pro tem), 1834
Succeeded by:
The Earl of Aberdeen
Preceded by:
The Viscount Melbourne
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
(pro tem), 1834
Succeeded by:
Sir Robert Peel
Preceded by:
The Viscount Melbourne
Leader of the House of Lords
1834–1835
Succeeded by:
The Viscount Melbourne
Preceded by:
The Viscount Palmerston
Foreign Secretary
1834–1835
Succeeded by:
The Viscount Palmerston
Preceded by:
The Viscount Melbourne
Leader of the House of Lords
1841–1846
Succeeded by:
The Marquess of Lansdowne
Preceded by:
The Viscount Hill
Commander_in_Chief of the Forces
1842–1852
Succeeded by:
The Viscount Hardinge





Preceded by:
New Creation
Duke of Wellington
Succeeded by:
Arthur Wellesley















  Results from FactBites:
 
Arthur Wellesley (680 words)
Wellesley was born on May 1, 1769, in Dublin and educated at Eton College and the Military Academy of Angers in France.
Arthur took part in several military campaigns; in the Battle of Assaye in 1803, he subdued the Marathas, then the dominant people of India.
Wellesley was involved in the struggle against Napoleon.
Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) (21983 words)
Wellesley had already furnished a ‘memorandum upon operations in the Mahratta territory’, and as soon as he learnt that Madras troops were to be used, he offered his services, pointing out that his pursuit of Dhoondiah had made him well acquainted with the country and people.
Wellesley was appointed to the staff of the Kent district on 30 October, and a month afterwards he was given command of a brigade in the expedition to Hanover under Lord Cathcart.
Wellesley concurred in the principle of it, thinking that, as the French had not been cut off from Lisbon, it was best to allow them to evacuate Portugal; and on 22 August he signed, by Dalrymple's desire, the armistice which was the prelude to it, though he disapproved of some details.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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