Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington, 1769 - 1852

portrait of Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington
Portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1814)
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Born: 1 May 1769, Dublin, Ireland
Died: 14 September 1852, Walmer, Kent, England, UK

Arthur Wellesley, fourth son of the Earl of Mornington, was a poor scholar and an idle young man well into his twenties. His brother Richard Wesley purchased him an Army commission in March 1787, but even after joining the military, he was more interested in gambling and playing his violins than his career. This continued until 1793, when he asked for the hand of Kitty Pakenham and was turned down by her brother, the third Baron Longford, due to his poor prospects and empty wallet. He immediately burned his instruments, dedicating himself to his military career.

He was soon dispatched to the Netherlands as part of the Flanders Campaign, under the Duke of York. While the campaign was unsuccessful, he said he "learned what not to do, and that is always a valuable lesson". Later, he was sent India on behalf of the British East India Company. He distinguished himself in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore and Second Anglo-Maratha Wars. He left India in 1804; for his service he was promoted to major-general, made a Knight of the Bath, and won permission to marry Kitty Pakenham.

He took leave from the Army and in 1806 was elected as a Tory to represent Rye in Parliament. A year later he was elected for Newport on the Isle of Wight, was appointed chief secretary of Ireland, and a seat on the Privy Council. He returned to the army to for the war on Denmark, earning promotion to lieutenant general, and then, while preparing to sail to attack Spanish colonies in South America was dispatched to Portugal for the Peninsular War against Napoleon's forces. He proved himself a genius at defensive warfare, and he earned the title Duke of Wellington.

After the Peninsular War Napoleon was exiled to Elba, his escape and return to France kicked off the Hundred Days War, which ended with Napoleons defeat at Waterloo. As a national hero, Wellesley was well-placed to take political office, and he took his chance, working his way up to Prime Minister. Riots toppled his government in 1830, although he continued to be involved in politics until retiring in 1846. He was Commander-In-Chief from 1827 until his death from a stroke which ended in a series of epileptic seizures.

Biography from Wikipedia and A Web of English History

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