Wellesley, Arthur, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769 -1852)

Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, was an Anglo-Irish soldier and statesman who was one of the leading military and political figures of nineteenth-century Britain. His defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 put him in the top rank of Britain's military heroes. Arthur Wesley was born in Dublin into an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family belonging to the Protestant Ascendancy, as The Hon. Arthur Wesley, to Garret Colley Wesley, 1st Earl of Mornington, and his wife Anne, eldest daughter of the 1st Viscount Dungannon. In 1781 Arthur's father died, and his eldest brother Richard inherited his father's earldom. Arthur enrolled at Eton, where he studied from 1781 to 1784. His loneliness there caused him to hate it. In 1785 a lack of success at Eton, combined with a shortage of family funds due to his father's death, forced Arthur and his mother to move to Brussels. Until his early twenties, Arthur showed little sign of distinction and his mother grew increasingly concerned at his idleness. A year later, Arthur enrolled in the French Royal Academy of Equitation in Angers, where he progressed significantly, becoming a good horseman and learning French. He also entered politics, being elected as a Member of Parliament for Trim (Co. Meath) in the Irish House of Commons. In 1798, he changed the spelling of his surname from Wesley to Wellesley.. He was commissioned as an ensign in the British Army in 1787, serving in Ireland as aide-de-camp to two successive Lords Lieutenant of Ireland. By 1796 he was a Colonel, and saw action in the Netherlands and in India, where he fought in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War at the Battle of Seringapatam. He was appointed Governor of Seringapatam and Mysore in 1799, and, as a newly appointed Major-General, won a decisive victory over the Maratha Confederacy at the Battle of Assaye in 1803. He rose to prominence as a General during the Peninsular campaign of the Napoleonic Wars, and was promoted to the rank of Field Marshal after leading the allied forces to victory against the French Empire at the Battle of Vitoria in 1813. Following Napoleon's exile in 1814, he served as ambassador to France. During the Hundred Days in 1815, he commanded the allied army that defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, together with a Prussian army under Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. Wellesley's battle record is exemplary; he ultimately participated in some sixty battles during the course of his military career. Following his victory at Talavera, Wellesley was elevated to the peerage of the United Kingdom on 26 August 1809 as Viscount Wellington, of Talavera and of Wellington, with the subsidiary title of Baron Douro, of Wellesley. As reward for his victory at the Battle of Salamanca in 1812, he was created Earl, and then Marquess of Wellington, and given command of all Allied armies in Spain. After the campaign, hailed as the conquering hero by the British, Wellesley was named Duke of Wellington in 1814. After ending his active military career, Wellington returned to politics. He was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British Army on 22 January 1827, but in 1828 he resigned as Commander-in-Chief to become Prime Minister – a position he held twice for the Tory party, from 1828 to 1830, and for a little less than a month in 1834. He oversaw the passage of the Catholic Relief Act 1829, but opposed the Reform Act 1832. He continued as one of the leading figures in the House of Lords until his retirement. Wellesley's government fell in 1830. In the summer and autumn of that year, a wave of riots swept the country. Wellesley stuck to the Tory policy of no reform and no expansion of suffrage, and as a result lost a vote of no confidence on 15 November 1830. Wellington was gradually superseded as leader of the Tories by Robert Peel, while the party evolved into the Conservatives. In Peel's first cabinet (1834–1835), Wellington became Foreign Secretary, while in the second (1841–1846) he was a Minister without Portfolio, and Leader of the House of Lords Wellington was also re-appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British Army on 15 August 1842 following the resignation of Lord Hill. In 1793 he had sought the hand of Catherine Sarah Dorothea "Kitty" Pakenham, the daughter of Edward Pakenham, 2nd Baron Longford, but her family considered him to be a young man, in debt, with very poor prospects. But in 1806, owing to his new title and status, Kitty Pakenham's family consented to his marrying her. They were married in Dublin on 10 April 1806, but the marriage would prove to be unsatisfactory as the two would spend years apart while Wellesley was campaigning. He was also pursuing other sexual and romantic partners. However, the marriage produced two sons, Arthur, in 1812, and Charles, in 1813. Wellesley and Kitty lived apart for most of the time, and occupied separate rooms in the house when they were together. Kitty died of cancer in 1831. The Duke died at Walmer Castle in Deal on 14 September 1852 - his residence as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. His death was recorded as being due to the after effects of a stroke culminating in a series of seizures. He was aged 83. A state funeral took place on 18 November 1852 in London. He was buried in a sarcophagus of luxulyanite in St Paul's Cathedral, next to Lord Nelson.
Seat / Residence(s): Stratfield Saye House
Stamp(s) Stamp Information
Wellesley, Arthur, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769 - 1852) (Stamp 1) Coronet: Duke
Wellesley, Arthur, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769 - 1852) (Stamp 3) Monogram: W
Monogram: W
Coronet: Duke