Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington
hero of the Battle of Waterloo
Arthur Wellesley was born in
Dublin, Ireland, in 1769, the fourth son of
Garrett Wellesley, Earl of Mornington. He was
educated at Eton College and at a military
college in France.
Wellesley entered the army as
an ensign in 73rd Highlanders in 1787, passed
rapidly through the lower ranks, became Major of
the 33rd, and purchased the Lieutenant-Colonelcy
of that regiment in 1793 with money advanced to
him by his eldest brother.
Wellesley first saw combat in
the campaign of 1794-1795, when the British force
under the Duke of York was driven out of Holland.
Although the British lost the campaign, Wellesley
gained a reputation as a brave soldier.
In 1796, Wellesley's regiment
was sent to India. He was
promoted to Colonel by brevet soon after his
arrival, and to Major General in 1801. In 1803 he
was given command of the British forces in the
Mahratta War. In less than four months he had
defeated the Mahratta chiefs and firmly
established British power in India.
Wellesley returned to England
in 1805, and was elected to Parliament the
following year. Two years later he was appointed
Chief Secretary of Ireland. While in this
position he worked for new laws that would
establish fair rents for tenants. He also laid
the foundation for organization of the Irish
In 1808, Spain revolted against
the British sent troops there to help the
Spanish. Wellesley was promoted to Lieutenant
General and given command of one of the British
divisions fighting in the Iberian Peninsula.
Three weeks after landing in Portugal he defeated
the French in the Battle of Vimeiro and forced
In 1809, Wellesley was made
commander of all British forces in the Peninsular
War. Although he received little help from Spain
or Portugal, he led his small army to victory
after victory, slowly driving all French forces
from the peninsula. In April 1814, he won the
Battle of Toulouse, and the British troops were
able to enter France. Napoleon abdicated his
throne, and the war ended.
Upon his return to England,
Wellesley was given the title Duke of Wellington.
In July 1814, Wellington was
appointed Ambassador to France. The following
year he represented Great Britain at the Congress
of Vienna. He was at Vienna when news arrived
that Napoleon had escaped from exile and returned
After signing the declaration
that named Napoleon "the enemy and disturber
of the peace of the world," Wellington took
command of the allied forces in The Netherlands.
At the subsequent Battle of Waterloo, Wellington
rode at the head of his troops and, with Prince
Gebhard Blücher's Prussian army, completely
crushed Napoleon's power. He remained in France
as commander of the army of occupation until
Wellington held various
government and diplomatic posts in England until
1827, when he became Commander in Chief of the
Army; he resigned the latter post in 1828 to
become Prime Minister.
Wellington belonged to the Tory
Party, but he alienated many in his party by
pushing through a Catholic emancipation act that
gave the vote to Roman Catholics and removed
political liabilities from them. His opposition
to a parliamentary reform bill made his
government unpopular, and in 1830 he was forced
The Tory Party returned to
power in 1834, but Wellington refused the post of
Prime Minister. In 1841 he became a member of Sir
Robert Peel's cabinet and again served as
Commander in Chief of the Army. He retired in
Arthur Wellesley, Duke of
Wellington, died on September 14, 1852, and was
buried in Saint Paul's Cathedral.
World Book Encyclopedia
Chicago: World Book-Childcraft International,
Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1957
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