Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) (2/5)

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Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington is another of Britain’s greatest war time leaders. However, his legacy has tragically faded into near-obscurity in the mind of the everyday Brit due to the relative age of his accomplishments. He was born into an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family at 24 Upper Merrion-street, Dublin on the 29th of April, 1769, and enjoyed a privileged childhood as a member of the aristocratic elite.

He was sent to Eton boarding school and expected to receive a full education at Britain’s most prestigious institute, the death of his father caused funding to be a concern and he was withdrawn from studies – an occurrence that Arthur most likely welcomed, considering that he found himself to be very lonely at the college. His family then moved to Brussels, where he would later enter the French Royal Academy of Equitation where he did exceedingly well for himself, becoming a fluent speaker of French – which became very crucial for his political career later – and a number of other skills.

His military career was initially uneventful in light of the fact that he wished to pursue a career as a musician, his rejection by a lady in court owing to his poor prospects motivated him to greatness. Burning his violins, Wellesley made a life-changing – and nation-defining – decision to commit fully to both military and political interests, later being elected as a Member of Parliament for an Irish constituency as a member of the Tories.

As Prime Minister, his premiership was known for Roman Catholic emancipation, and the benevolent restoration of civil rights to the largely oppressed Roman Catholic population of the United Kingdom. However, he is remembered today as more of a soldier than a politician. Indeed, his military career would flourish, and by the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars he had been promoted to Major-General. His successes in the Peninsular War against Napoleonic Spain rose him to prominence, distinguishing himself as a man of great military intellect.

Most famously, however, he is remembered as the architect of the British victory at Waterloo. The Battle of Waterloo is perhaps one of Britain’s most significant military engagements, as it ended France’s attempts to dominate continental Europe and crushed the ambition of Emperor Napoleon, who would then go into exile and die only a few years later. Most importantly, Wellesley secured Britain’s position as the preeminent global power for nearly a century, and thwarted a very serious threat of invasion.

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