Arthur Wellesley (Duke of Wellington) 1769-1852


Arthur Wellesley
Arthur Wellesley rose to prominence as a General during the Peninsular Campaign, leading the Allied forces to victory against the French. After the Battle of Vitoria in 1813, was raised to the peerage as the Duke of Wellington.

Born in Dangan Castle, Leinster, to a prominent Anglo-Irish family, he was commissioned an ensign in the British Army in 1787. In his early career, Arthur Wellesley saw action in the Netherlands and later India where he fought in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War. His first engagement with the enemy on Portuguese soil resulted in the victorious battles of Roliça and Vimeiro, which put an end to the First Invasion of Portugal.

Escaping censure for the terms under which the French left the country, Arthur Wellesley returned the following year to command allied forces against Soult’s Second Invasion. The brilliant victory at the Second Battle of Porto, which he considered one of his finest achievements, dislodged an enemy in superior number from well-defended positions, obliging the French to retreat in disarray to Spain.

Drawing maximum advantage from the terrain, his defence of Lisbon behind the line of Torres Vedres frustrated Massená’s Third Invasion, As the total number of French troops always heavily outnumbered those of the Allies, Arthur Wellesley was always cautious during his incursions into Spain. He once commented “As this is the only army England has, it behoves me to take care of it." He nonetheless produced victories at Vitoria, Salamanca and Badajoz, finally driving the French out of Spain, carrying the attack onto French territory. As commander in chief of Allied forces he brought about the French Emperor’s final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. Never far from politics, Arthur Wellesley was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom under the Tory party and oversaw the passage of Catholic emancipation in 1829. He continued as Prime Minister until 1830. Although unable to prevent the passage of the Reform Act of 1832, he continued as one the leading figures in the House of Lords until his retirement. Arthur Wellesley remained Commander-in-Chief of the British Army until his death.

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Arriving in Oporto to select a port wine for his college, Englishman Horace Grimpil soon finds himself embroiled in the conflicting interests of the British and Portuguese communities, where he is an ignorant outsider.

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