1. 'Poor Arthur' Playing Violine.
2. General Wellington: India, Portugal and Spain.
3. Field-Marshal Wellington: Waterloo Campaign.
4. After Waterloo.
5. The Politician.
6. The Old Man Seized With an Epileptic Fit.
Wellington was "the most unpretentious,
"Yes, I must say, of the two, I prefer Napoleon as a person.
"Wellington, the man fertile in genius."
"Wellington was 'running scared' of Napoleon,
Picture: Portrait of Wellington in old age
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
In 1852 Wellington was seized with an epileptic fit,
"Poor Arthur" Playing Violine
Arthur Wellesley was born in Dublin on 1 May 1769. Arthur's exact date of birth is a matter of some contention. He was baptised Arthur Wesley, which was changed to Arthur Wellesley. Arthur was the third son of Garret Wesley, 1st Earl of Mornington.
Arthur was seen as an awkward child by his mother the Countess of Mornington. She declared, "I vow to God I don't know what I shall do with my awkward son Arthur". "Poor Arthur" started life as a violin-playing Anglo-Irish aristocrat.
A tall, awkward, lonely, violin-playing boy whose father died when he was twelve, he did not want to be a soldier. He wanted to work in a bank. As a member of the Protestant British squire-archy ruling Ireland, Wellington was touchy about his Irish origins. When an enthusiastic Celt commended him as a famous Irishman, he replied "A man can be born in a stable, and yet not be an animal."
Wellesley's family members were prominent Tory politicians. He entered education in Eaton and was rather unfriendly boy. Lack of success there led to a move to Brussels to receive further education. In 1786 he studied in the French military academy at Angers, in Anjou, becoming fluent in French language and making friends with the French officers. Wellington "made very slow progress, labouring gloomily in the Fourth Form, his name appearing in the lists at number fifty-four out of a total of seventy-nine boys, many if not most of them younger than himself."
In Ireland, Wellesley lived the frivolous life of an aristocrat, gambling heavily and playing music. In 1792 Wellesley proposed to Catherine 'Kitty' Pakenham but she turned him down.
She was the 'Longford Lilly', who was perceived as being one of the superbe beauties of Ireland's capital's society. Then he went overseas with the troops and make some money to pay off his gambling debts, while she faithfully waited for him. In 1806 Wellesley returned as general and a knight and married her. This is reported that Wellesley, the "general with hooked nose" said of her during the marriage service, "She has grown ugly by Jove". The couple had little in common. Arthur carried a portrait of another woman with him. She was Italian beauty and opera singer Giuseppina Grassini.
General Wellington in India, Portugal and Spain.
Wellesley was a beneficiary of archaic system of purchase of commissions in British army. Researcher Barbero sumed up the beginnings of Wellington's military career: "Before he became the Duke of Wellington Wellesley had been an ensign at the age of 18, and a lieutenant-colonel at 24, in six years, he had received five promotions, all of them in return for payment, and he had passed seven different regiments, without having served a single day in battle. (Barbero - "The Battle" p 24)
Deserter and hero.
Generally there is no doubting his courage under fire. He demonstrated it in Spain and Waterloo, when General Ompteda was shot dead near the high road, and de Lancey was mortally wounded by a cannonball close by, as was one of his most trusted ADCs and friends, Sir Gordon, while to the right both the Prince of Orange and General Alteen were down.
Wellington in India.
Picture: storming of Seringapatam in 1799. It was the final confrontation between the British and Tippu Sultan.
After his regiment was sent to India in 1796 Wellesley began to distinguish himself in the field. He first gained fame by leading the capture of Seringapatam in southern India in 1799. When the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War broke out, the British assembled large force of 4,000 British troops and 21,000 local Indian sepoys. There were also Nizam of Hyderabad's 10 infantry battalions and 15,000 cavalry. Together, the British army numbered over 50,000 soldiers.
Tipu's force consisted of only 30,000 soldiers. Seringapatam was besieged by the British forces on April 5, 1799. It was the capital for the Muslim rulers of the kingdom of Mysore. British forces under the command of Governor-General Richard Wellesley invested the city. Tipu played for time knowing that it would be difficult for the British to operate once the monsoon season arrived.
To facilitate the battle, Wellesley bribed Tipu's prime minister, Mir Saadiq, to call the Mysurian army away from the walls for their pay just prior to the assault. On May 2, a gap in the wall was created by artillery and two days later the attack commenced. One of the storming columns was commanded by Arthur Wellesley, the governor-general's younger brother and the future Duke of Wellington. The city was quickly secured, with the invaders only meeting pockets of resistance.
Picture: Battle of Assaye September 23, 1803. General Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) defeated the Mahratta army in south-central India.
During the subjugation of the Mahrattas, the now-General Wellesley achieved victory at Assaye in 1803. Wellesley had 7,500 troops (4,500 infantry, 2,000 cavalry, artillerymen with 20 cannons, etc.) Ragojee Bhonsla's and Sindhia's Indian forces consisted of 20,000 infantry, 30,000 cavalry and numerous artillery pieces. Although the Marathas imported artillery and muskets, many of their troops still used the bows and arrows.
The casualties were low,
This was Wellesley's first major success, and one that he always held in the highest estimation.
Wellington defeated the French
Wellington was a micromanager, and kept tight control of his troops and commanders on the battlefield. He seldom gave his officers much scope for initiative (the exception being the commander of his cavalry). He made the descisions, at times even down to battalion and battery level. For example at Waterloo he personally selected the positions of each infantry brigade, ordered to reinforce Hougoumont with battalion of Nassau, etc. etc.
There is no doubt that Wellington had a keen appreciation for terrain. He deployed his infantry on the reverse slope to conceal them and to avoid casualties from artillery fire. "Operating with relatively small army ... Wellington wrung maximum results from slender resources through patience, thorough preparation, plain common sense, and calm courage. Superior judge of terrain, expert tactician, good understanding of strategy..." (Esposito, Elting - "A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars")
Wellington had a tendency to pick battlefields where he did not need to reveal the full strength of his forces to his enemy. He did this by using sites with slight reverse slopes, the French could never be quite sure how many men he had in reserve on the reverse slope of the battlefield and out of sight. The reverse slope also worked as a shield for his men from artillery fire. The reverse slope tactic was also used repeatedly to defeat the French attacking columns. By placing the ridge between his own army and his opponent's, and having his troops lie down, Wellington was able to surprise the enemy by having his troops leap up at the last moment and deliver volleys of musketry at point-blank range. So often were the enemy beaten in this manner that it came to be said that "they came on in the old style and were driven off in the old style."
Wellington is viewed as a defensive general. For example Jac Weller described Wellington as overly cautious and very defensive minded. However some of his victories were offensive battles. In fact, when on the defensive Wellington actually made mistakes, most famously at the battle of Fuentes de Oñoro, where his disastrous misplacement of a division was only retrieved by his quick thinking and the steadiness of the British and Portuguese troops in retreating under fire. The offensive tactics that had characterised Wellington’s generalship in India and at Salamanca and Vitoria were absent at Waterloo.
In the major battles in Spain Wellington outnumbered the French, which is a positive thing:
Wellington "The Undefeated" Myth
According to Jac Weller the Battle of Busaco was "a technical defeat [for Wellington] although claimed as victory" and the allignement of troops at Talavera was not very well thought. Weller wrote that "if Talavera was a victory because the French withdrew then Busaco was a defeat because the British were forced to withdraw." Of all the bigger battles only Salamanca was the one where Wellington not deliberately set out to fight "at that place and at that time." At El Bodon Wellington was caught too dispersed by Marshal Marmont and was driven back several miles in disorder.
French General Souham defeated Wellington at Torquemada (Villa Muriel). Wellington was resting his retreating army along the Carrion River when Souham attacked. The British were caught and the 5th Fighting Division was mauled taking half thousand casualties. Then Souham forced Wellington to relieve the siege of Burgos.
Majority of the sieges were failures for Wellington. The siege of Burgos was a very costly defeat. Wellington called later "The worst situation I ever was." The defeat at Burgos forced Wellington to withdraw all the way to Portugal and give up Mardid.
PS. It took one year for Bonaparte in Italy with his depleted, amateur, tattered, poorly fed and equipped army to defeat the professional enemy and without the aid of guerillas. Wellington's campaign Spain looks flat and long despite all the [numerous!] advantages he enjoyed over the enemy.
Field-Marshal Wellington in the Waterloo Campaign.
Wellington's performance on the primary theater of war, in 1815 in Belgium, was far from being impressive. I would say, of all three commanders (Blucher, Wellington and Napoleon) the 'Iron Duke' was the least impressive.
Wellington was extremally unwilling to stand on his own against Napoleon. One could almost venture to say that Wellington was 'running scared' of Napoleon, and thats why he not wanted to face him alone. Had the Prussians not been at Waterloo, this battle would not have been fought in the first place. Wellington's troops would hastily march to Antwerp or Ostende and embark. Shortly before battle Wellington wrote a very long letter, in French, to the Duc de Berry, brother of King Louis XVIII. Wellington advised him that the French court would do well to go to Antwerp and take refuge in the citadel, that way, should Wellington's army be forced to evacuate Belgium, the royal party would be able to board an English ship.
"Wellington's plan for the battle itself was straightforward and is largely apparent from his selection of ground, deployment and events during the battle, rather than from any specific written orders. On the night of 17 June when his second-in-command and cavalry commander, the Earl of Uxbridge, asked what his plan might be, the response was hardly illuminating. 'Well, Bonaparte has not given me any idea of his projects: and as my plans will depend upon his, how can you expect me to tell you what mine are ?' ...
After the battle Blücher suggested they call it the Battle of La Belle Alliance, but Wellington had other plans. He raced back to his headquarters and wrote his famous dispatch, explaining just how he had won the battle of Waterloo.
"Waterloo-mania" swept Britain with noisy re-enactments of this great British victory. A combination of politics and pride refused to allow that Napoleon's destruction was due to anything other than British pluck and dash and the genius of Wellington. It is a tale of arrogance and conceit that denigrated Prussia and enormously elevated the reputation of Wellington. The present state of affairs is not better, welcome to the dodgy world of hype, in which the Duke is pumped up like mammoth beach ball.
Wellington's dispatches are full of comments on how the British army would have been beaten if he had not been there. According to Jac Weller such attitude led him to neglect an elementary aspect of good leadership, the competent subordinates. Wellington was a control freak, he attempted to control everything and constantly complained of being "poorly served" by his generals and officers.
Thomas Sydenham wrote about Wellington: "I observed that in talking about Waterloo he
invariably mentioned it with some expression of horror, such as, 'it was a tremendous
affair', 'it was a terrible battle', or 'it was a dreadful day,' holding up his arms above
his head and shaking his hands. He repeatedly said he never had taken so much pains about
a battle, that no battle had ever cost him so much terrible anxiety."
Map: The Second Stage of Waterloo, Napoleon against two armies:
the shrinking German-British-Netherland to his front and the Prussian army on his flank.
Duke of Wellington - The Politician.
The Duke of Wellington is today more famous as a soldier than as a politician. In fact, as the Prime Minister, he was known for his measures to repress reform.he was a notably unpopular politician. His individualistic and essentially unpolitical temperament, combined with a strong indifference to the opinions of others, frequently put him at odds with fellows politicians.
"One of the greatest defects in the character of the Duke as a statesman is, his neither anticipating public opinion, nor keeping abreast with it. ...
In 1826 ill-health notwithstanding, Wellington went to Russia as bearer of the king's congratulations to the Emperor Nicholas on his accession. On his way he reviewed the Polish troops in Warsaw commanded by Tsar's brother Grand Duke Constantine. Russia was believed to be on the verge of war with Turkey on behalf of the Greeks, when Alexander died; and Wellington's real mission was to ascertain the views of the new emperor, and induce him ‘to forgo, or at least suspend, an appeal to arms.’
In 1828 Wellington replaced Lord Goderich as prime minister. As the Prime Minister, Wellington was known for conservative politician. After his first Cabinet meeting as PM: "An extraordinary affair. I gave them their orders and they wanted to stay and discuss them." During his first seven months as Prime Minister he chose not to live in the official residence at 10 Dwoning Street, finding it too small. He only relented and moved in because his own home, required extensive renovations.
His fear of mob rule was strengthened by the riots and sabotage that followed rising rural unemployment. His opposition to reform caused his popularity to plummet to such an extent that crowds gathered to throw missiles at his London home. "Wellington was very unpopular in 1832, and was in danger of attack on the streets, even assassination. On Waterloo Day he survived an attempt to drag him from his horse, a hail of stones in Holborn, and tried to take shelter at Lincoln's Inn, only to be chased by the mob when he emerged again."
H. Maxwell, in 'Life of Wellington' described Wellington's 'extreme unpopularity' in England: "His matchless services to King were forgotten; for many months Wellington had continued to receive warnings of the danger in which he went of his life; warnings which he put aside lightly enough, although causing the ground floor windows of Apsley House to be protected by iron shutters, organising a complete system of domestic defence, and, when travelling, carrying loaded firearms in his carriage." (Herbert Maxwell - "Life of Wellington" London 1907)
"The duke left the smashed windows at Apsley house unmended for a long time. ... The iron shutters may have originally given rise to the sobriquet 'the Iron Duke." (Christopher Hibbert - "Wellington")
According to Andrew Roberts, Wellington was perhaps one of the worst prime ministers in the United Kongdom. He served as a Tory Prime Minister on two separate occasions, and was one of the leading figures in the House of Lords until his retirement in 1846.
Oddly enough, the highlight of his term was Catholic Emancipation, the granting of almost full civil rights to Catholics in the United Kingdom. Wellington considered Catholic Emancipation to be a political, not a religious question. He felt that resistance was dangerous because of the result of the County Clare election. (ext.link) Wellington probed anti-Catholic opinion before forming his Cabinet in 1828: anti-Catholic hard-liners were excluded. Wellington then adopted many of Canning's policies, with a 'mixed' government containing Ultras, liberals and some ex-Whigs.
The Old Man Seized With an Epileptic Fit.
Famous for his sardonic wit and towering temper, an indifferent husband and severe father, forbiddingly aloof yet capable of enormous charm Wellington was an interesting person.
He was however renowned for the excellent quality of the wine he drank and served.
Wellington was well-known for his fine sartorial taste, he was particularly fond of trousers - only just entering the gentleman's wardrobe during his life time. On one occasion the Duke was turned away from the Almack's Assembly Rooms for wearing trousers rather than the more conventional knee breeches. Wellington quietly left without a word of protest.
According to E. W. Sheppard "A Short History of the British Army" (publ. in 1959 in London) "Few men with such an undeniable claim to greatness can have united in themselves so many unpleasant personal characteristics.... gratitude, courtesy, good fellowship were all foreign to his repellent nature; and his behavior towards certain individuals who were unfortunate enough to fall out of his good graces gives one to believe that his own verdict on Napoleon - that he was 'no gentleman' - might with even greater appositeness have been self-applied."
Christopher Duffy wrote: "Yes, I must say, of the two, I prefer Napoleon as a person. Wellington I think had this fundamental coldness in his heart. He would weep when he met casualties, but basically he was a cold-hearted bastard." "He is very largely responsible for what became the image of a type of English gentleman: reserved, aloof, cold, soberly dressed, which did not exist before the time of Wellington."
Mark Adkin writes about Wellington: "... a somewhat cold, aloof manner, not over-generous with his praise, ... It is claimed that when, as an old man, Wellington had been asked if there was anything in his life he could have done better, he replied, 'Yes, I should have given more praise."
In September 1852, Wellington was seized with an epileptic fit, became speechless, and died.
The titles of Duke of Wellington and Marquess Douro were bestowed upon Arthur Wellesley, 1st Marquess of Wellington, in 1814. The subsidiary titles of the Duke of Wellington are:
The Viscountcy of Wellesley and the Barony and Earldom of Mornington are in the Peerage of Ireland; the rest are in the Peerage of the United Kingdom.
The Dukes of Wellington also hold several foreign titles of:
Sources and Links.
"Diary of Colonel Bayly, 1796-1830"
Sheppard "A Short History of the British Army"
Maxwell - "Life of Wellington"
Hibbert - "Wellington"
Corrigan - "Wellington: A Military Life"
Schneer - "Arthur Wellesley and the Cintra Convention: A New Look at an Old Puzzle."
Longford - "Wellington: Pillar of State"
Longford - "Wellington" - describes the career of this phenomenal, great man.
Longford - "Wellington; the Years of the Sword" - reveals the subtlety and full variety of Wellington's genius.