Arthur Wellesley was born in Ireland on April 29th 1769, his father died when was young and Wellesley was taken out of school and sent to a military academy in France where he learnt to speak French and ride horses. When he returned to England his brother brought him a rank of ensign in the British army, lucky for Wellesley Britain was at peace. In 1793 the French Revolutionary Wars were in full swing, Wellesley made his military entrance in the Flanders Campaign during the War of the First Coalition. In 1796 Wellesley was sent to India as Lieutenant Colonel and commanded the 33rd regiment of foot with orders to defend British interests in India from France. Wellesley’s brother Richard Lord Mornington was made governor general of India, his plan for India was simple – make it part of the British Empire. Wellesley made this possible with victories against Tipu Sultan and The Maratha Empire. Wellington left India in 1804.
Britain’s assistance was requested in Portugal against the French during The Peninsular War, Wellesley arrived on July 13th 1808 and won the battle of Vimerio against the French commanded by General Junot. However Wellesley was soon outranked by the arrival Sir Harry Burrard and Sir Hew Dalrymple, Wellesley encouraged his superiors to finish the French off, but the older commanders were more cautious and instead on the August 30, 1808 singed the Convention of Sintra. The treaty allowed the French to leave with their loot, the media in Britain made a mockery of this. Wellesley was recalled to Britain and after questioning he was sent back to Portugal as Commander in Chief. Wellington soon saw victory against the French during the Battle of Talavera on the July 27th, 1809 the British government awarded Wellesley by creating him Viscount Wellington. Instead of pushing on to Madrid Wellington retreated to Portugal which surprised everyone but Wellington had a plan. French Marshall Andre Massena and his army marched into Portugal, Wellington and his allied army retreated to Lisbon, and the French army suddenly stopped, Wellington had secretly requested the Portuguese build a network of defences 500 squared miles around Lisbon, known as the lines of Torres Vedras it consisted of 152 forts. Furthermore Wellington had all the crops burnt, the French had no choice but to retreat, Wellington was soon becoming a likable figure back in Britain. Wellington needed to defeat the French in Spain, for this to be successful he needed to defeat the French in two fortress cities Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz. In 1812 Wellington captured Ciudad Rodrigo then marched his troops to Badajoz. At 22:00 on April 6th 1812 Wellington ordered the attack, after a breach in the wall was made the storming of Badajoz took place, many British were killed trying to enter as they marched into certain death, it was one of the bloodiest events in the Napoleonic wars, but eventually the French were defeated. Wellington went on to defeat Marshall Marmount at the Battle of Salamanca and in 1813 marched his troops to France and captured Toulouse. Napoleon abdicated and after the Treaty of Fontainebleau was banished to Elba and King Louis XVIII was restored, back in Britain Wellington was a hero and made a Duke.
Wellington represented Britain in The Congress of Vienna on March 7th 1815, the major European powers decided what to do with the future Europe now Napoleon was out of the picture, but Napoleon was to return, he had escaped his exile and was on his way to Paris with an army, Tsar Alexander of Russia said to Wellington “It is for you to save the world again” Wellington defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo on the 18th June 1815. Back in London Waterloo Bridge and Waterloo Station were named in celebration and statues of Wellington were erected – Wellington was a hero in Britain and Europe, he had saved monarchies from Napoleon. He brought Apsley house and joined the Tory party and was soon Prime Minister – he rode into Downing Street on his horse Copenhagen. Wellington worked hard to pass Catholic emancipation, and gradually power moved from the monarchy and House of Lords to House of Commons. Wellington died in 1852 aged 83. His carriage was pulled by 8 horses to St Pauls Cathedral – 1 million people lined the streets.
Source – BBC – Wellington, The Iron Duke
Duke of Wellington – Apsley House link
Congress of Vienna – Royal Collection Trust – link