Biography of The Duke of Wellington

Portrait of the Duke of Wellington

The Duke of Wellington was a military commander famous for being the victor of the Battle of Waterloo and also later, Prime Minister of Great Britain.

When and Where was he Born?

1st May 1769. Dublin, Ireland. Christened Arthur Wellesley.

Family Background:

Arthur Wellseley (later the Duke of Wellington) was the son of the 1st Earl of Mornington.

Education:

Eton College.
Military School in Angers, France.

Timeline of Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington:

Arthur Wellesley was never very successful at school. It was only at military college that he found his true vocation.

1787: He is appointed to an Ensign’s Commission in the 73rd Foot and then rose rapidly through the ranks in other regiments to the post of Captain.

1790: Wellington becomes a Member of Parliament for Trim in the Irish Parliament. He also serves as an Aide-de-camp for two Lord Lieutenants of Ireland. His brother buys him command of the 33rd Regiment of Foot which he led into combat in Flanders.

1797: He takes his Regiment to India and is involved part in the invasion of Mysore and the defeat of the ruler Tippoo Sahib. He then becomes ruler of the conquered lands of Seringapatam.

1803: He helps to break the influence of the Mahratta power at Ahmednagar, Assaye and Argaum.

1805: He returns home to England and is knighted.

1806: Wellington is elected as the Member of Parliament for Rye in Sussex. He marries Lady Katherine Packenham.

1807: The Government appoint him Irish Secretary but he soon leads a force to fight against the Danes at Sjaelland. Apsley House, London is bought by his elder brother Richard before it was passed on to Arthur.

Apply House, London
Apsley House, Piccadilly London named after its first owner 
and often known as Number 1 London due to its proximity to the Toll Gate. 
Taken over by the Wellesley family in 1807 (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1808: Lieutenant-General Wellesley is given command of a British Expeditionary Force in Portugal and wins a battle at Vimeiro.

1809: Wellington assumes overall control of the British, Portuguese and Spanish forces in the Peninsula War against Napoleon and after a faltering start achieves several minor victories and is elevated to Viscount Wellington.

1812: He wins a decisive Victory at the Battle of Salamanca. After a long campaign lasting several years he at last saw the French out of the area.

1814: After Napoleon’s abdication he returns to England and is feted by all and sundry and is created the Duke of Wellington. He is appointed Ambassador to the Court of King Louis the Eighteenth in France and takes part in the Congress of Vienna.

1815: Napoleon manages to escape from imprisonment on the island of Elba and rally his forces. Wellington again becomes Allied Commander and on Sunday 18th June he leads his army against Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, near Brussels in Belgium. It was, as he described it, “a damn near run thing” and the finely balanced battle only went in the Allied favour with the arrival of the Prussian army, led by General Von Blucher, later in the day. Thus Napoleon was finally defeated and went into permanent exile on the lonely British island of St. Helena in the North Atlantic. Wellington becomes military ruler of France until 1818.

1818: On his return to England he takes a post in the British Government and becomes a confirmed Tory, believing in strong government and isolation from the rest of Europe. He is appointed as Master-General of the Ordnance.

1826: He is made Constable of the Tower of London.

1828: Wellington becomes Prime Minister, although rather reluctantly. The former victor over Napoleon was now not one of Britain’s strongest Prime Ministers and he allowed the repealing of the Test Act and the Corporation Act and the setting up of the Catholic Emancipation Act, all of which he had actually opposed in the past, but which the public groundswell demanded.

Statue of Duke of Wellington
Wellington Statue near Apsley House, London (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1829: He assists Sir Robert Peel in his efforts to reorganise the Metropolitan Police Force in London.

1830: Wellington receives the nickname the “Iron Duke” after iron shutters were placed on the windows of his London home after rioters smashed them after his opposition to parliamentary reform. He is forced to resign after a parliamentary defeat in the House of Commons, on the 15th November.

1834: When the Tory’s were again in power he refuses to continue as Prime Minister again and steps down in favour of Sir Robert Peel. He is still in government however, and is named as Foreign Secretary.

1835: He takes several other government posts including Chief of the Army and becaomes a mentor to Queen Victoria.

1846: He retires from public life.

1848: Wellington is brought out of retirement to organise a military force to protect London against possible Chartist violence at a large meeting held at Kennington Common.

When and Where did he Die?

14th September 1852. Walmer Castle, Kent, England.

Age at Death:

83.

Marriage:

1806 to Lady Katherine Packenham.

Site of Grave:

Crypt, St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, England.

Wellington's tomb
Wellington’s Tomb, St Paul’s Cathedral (copyright Anthony Blagg)

Places of Interest:

LONDON:

Apsley House, now the Wellington Museum, Piccadilly.
Wellington Arch.

Wellington Arch
Wellington Arch, London, near Apsley House (copyright Anthony Blagg)

The Guard’s Museum, Wellington Barracks, Birdcage Walk.
St. Paul’s Cathedral.

HAMPSHIRE:

Stratfield Saye House, given to him by the British Government for his victory at the Battle of Waterloo.

KENT:

Walmer Castle, his residence as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.
Royal Engineers Museum, Gillingham.

SCOTLAND:

Statue to Wellington in Waterloo Place, Edinburgh.

Wellington Statue, Edinburgh
Wellington directs the traffic on North Bridge from Waterloo Place, Edinburgh (copyright Anthony Blagg)

WALES:

Regimental Museum of the First Queen’s Dragoon Guards, Cardiff.

Further Information:

The Battle of Waterloo Website.

Napoleon’s Battles (Waterloo).