Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, (1769-1852) was a British Field Marshall and Prime Minister. Regarded as one of the greatest general in history, he commanded the British, Spanish, and Portuguese forces against the French troops in Spain, obtaining a decisive victory at the Battle of Vitoria in 1813. In 1815, Arthur Wellesley defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, in Belgium, achieving renown. He was a remarkably practical man, who always spoke concisely and rarely expressed emotions. Although he has often been portrayed as a defensive general, most of his battles were offensive, such as Argaum, Assaye, Oporto, Salamanca, Vitoria, Toulouse, etc. But for most of the Peninsular War, where Wellington earned his fame, his troops lacked the numbers for an attack. Besides, the Iberian Peninsula provided excellent defensive terrain and he was never slow to take advantage of it. During the time he was Prime Minister, Wellington was given the nickname "Iron Duke", because he got iron shutters erected on the windows of his London home, Apsley House, to prevent them from being smashed by angry crowds.
Arthur Wellesley was born on May 1, 1769, in Dublin, Ireland, to Garret Wesley, 1st Earl of Mornington, and Anne, the eldest daughter of Arthur Hill, Viscount Dungannon. He went to the diocesan school in Trim. He then enrolled at Eton, where he studied from 1781 to 1784. As he was not a good student at Eton, Arthur joined the army in 1787, on his mother initiative. He fought against the French in Flanders during the French Revolutionary Wars and in 1796 went to India. His brother Richard was appointed governor general there in 1797. In India, Wellesley obtained considerable military experience there, as he took part in the Mysore War against Tipu Sultan.
In 1804, Arthur Wellesley returned to England and became a member of Parliament. In 1806, he married Catherine Pakenham, with whom he had two children: Arthur and Charles. Although he had been appointed chief secretary of Ireland in 1807, his political career came to an end in that year, when he returned to active service against the French. In 1808, he took command of the British, Spanish, and Portuguese forces in the Peninsular War (1808-1814). There, he eventually forced the occupying French to withdraw from Spain and Portugal. When Napoleon abdicated in 1814, Wellesley returned home as a hero and was created Duke of Wellington. After the victors had exiled Napoleon to Elba in 1814, he served as ambassador to France. Since Napoleon’s confinement on Elba was short-lived, returning to France in 1815, Wellington became commander of the allied armies. Just before the arrival of Prussian forces, led by Gebhard von Blucher, Wellington defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815. The threat of Napoleon was at an end.
Wellington entered politics again in 1819, when he was appointed Master-General of the Ordnance in the Tory government of Lord Liverpool. In 1827 he was also appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British Army (a post he retained until his death). Along with Robert Peel, Wellington became an increasingly influential member of the Tory party, and in 1828 he became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. During his first seven months as prime minister he chose not to live in the official residence at 10 Downing Street, finding it too small. As Prime Minister, Wellington granted Catholic Emancipation, giving almost full civil rights to Catholics in the United Kingdom. He believed in strong, authoritative government and an isolationist policy. Wellington’s government fell in 1830. When they returned to power in 1834, Wellington declined the office of Prime Minister, which went instead to Robert Peel. From 1834-1835 Wellington served as foreign minister, retiring in 1846. Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington died on September 14, 1852, and was given a state funeral.