Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
|Other names||Arthur Wesley|
Dangan Castle, County Meath, Ireland
|Occupation||soldier, diplomat, statesman|
|Title||Duke of Wellington|
Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852) was a politician, diplomat, and military officer of the United Kingdom who is chiefly remembered for helping win and end the Napoleonic Wars in the Battle of Waterloo. He was born in Ireland, prior to the 1800 Act of Union, but always considered himself British, saying "being born in a stables doesn't make one a horse".
He was the third son of the Earl of Mornington, a title in the Irish House of Lords. His father died when he was 13, and his eldest brother, Richard Wellesley, was only 21. Richard entered politics. His next oldest brother, William Wellesley-Pole, entered the Royal Navy, after attending Eton, Richard purchased Arthur an Army Commission. His younger brothers, Gerald Valerian Wellesley and Henry Wellesley, entered the church and became a diplomat.
Arthur also ran for the Irish House of Parliament for Trim, his family's rotten borough, when his elder brother William moved on from that position to run in a rotten borough for the United Kingdom Parliament.
Arthur participated in several minor skirmishes with revolutionary France, when that war was mainly a Naval War, with his brother buying him a series of more prestigious commissions, culminating in his command of a whole battalion.
In 1797 Arthur, and his battalion, travelled to India. His brother Richard later also served in India, as its Governor-General, and, during this period, Arthur won several significant victories over armies of Indian Princes not yet under the thumb of the East India Company. He as promoted several ranks to Major General.
He returned to London, in 1805. There are several accounts of Arthur, the recently returned General, having his sole encounter with Horation Nelson, the nation's Naval hero, in a London waiting room, three weeks before his death at the height of the Battle of Trafalgar.
In 1808 he had command of a British expeditionary force, in Portugal, then an ally of the United Kingdom. Hugh Dalrympole, a superior officer, stepped in, and granted the commander of the French force Wellesley had defeated some unnecessary concessions, and both officers were recalled, and command given to John Moore.
Following an inquiry, in Britain, Dalrympole was censured, and was never employed again. Wellesley was cleared, and, since Moore had died in Portugal, command was restored to Wellesley, in 1809.
The Portugese put their forces under Wellesley's command, and, during the 1809-1813 period, he won a startling series of victories in Portugal and Spain. When Wellesley had entered Portugal, in 1809, French emporer Napoleon Bonaparte had been master of almost all Europe, either through conquest, or unequal treaties with unhappy allies. But by 1813, following his unsuccessful attempt to conquer Russian, in 1812, and the defection, and subsequent attack by several of his former allies, France was under pressure. In 1813 Wellesley's force crossed the Grench border, and took Toulouse
Napoleon surrendered in April 1814.
Wellesley then transitioned from military commander, to diplomat, and played a key role in setting the boundaries of the nations restored to sovereignty, after the French defeat.
Wellesley took to the field again, in February 1815. Following the peace, hundreds of thousands of captured French soldiers, loyal to Napoleon, who had been prisoners of war, when Napoleon was defeated, had been returned to France, and Napoleon had called on their help to overthrow the newly restored French King, and restore his empire.
Wellesley's last battle, and the only one where Napoleon lead the opposing force, was the Battle of Waterloo. This bloody battle was also Napoleon's last battle.
Following Napoleon's final defeat, and the re-establishment of independent regime in the territory the French empire had conquered, Wellesley re-entered politics, serving as cabinet member in several Tory administrations, until he became Prime Minister, himself. He was Prime Minister from 1828 to 1832, and then, briefly, for a month, in 1834.
While he was Prime Minister Wellesley sat in the unelected House of Lords, instead of the House of Commons, as did roughly half of 18th- and 19th-century Prime Ministers. Wellesley continued to play a role in politics, from the House of Lords, until 1846, but never served in cabinet again.