WELLINGTON, 1st duke of

Arthur Wellesley

b. 1 May 1769, Dublin, Ireland
d. 14 Sep 1852, Walmer Castle, Walmer, Kent, England

Ministerial offices: Chief Secretary for Ireland (3 Apr 1807 - Apr 1809)
Master-General of the Ordnance (1 Jan 1819 - Apr 1827)
First Lord Commissioner of the Treasury (22 Jan 1828 - 16 Nov 1830, 17 Nov 1834 - 9 Dec 1834)
Leader of the House of Lords (22 Jan 1828 - 16 Nov 1830, 17 Nov 1834 - Apr 1835, 3 Sep 1841 - Jul 1846)
Foreign Secretary (17 Nov 1834 - Apr 1835)
Minister without Portfolio (3 Sep 1841 - Jun 1846)
Names/titles: Original name: Arthur Wesley (last name changed to Wellesley in 1798); Sir Arthur Wellesley [from 25 Feb 1805, Knight of the Bath]; Baron Douro of Wellesley, Viscount Wellington of Talavera and of Wellington [from 4 Sep 1809]; Earl of Wellington [from 28 Feb 1812]; Marquess of Wellington [from 3 Oct 1812]; Marquess of Douro and 1st Duke of Wellington [from 11 May 1814]
Biography:

Arthur Wellesley was the fifth son of the 1st Viscount Wellesley, president of a musical academy in Dublin. He was educated at Eton and entered the Royal Academy of Equitation in Angers, France, in 1786. However, in 1787 he joined the British army as an Ensign and was elected to the Irish Parliament in 1790. After his promotion to the rank of Colonel Wellesley went to India (1796-1805), where he fought in several wars against local Indian rulers. On his return to England, he was elected to Parliament (MP, 1806-1809) and was appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland (1807-1809) in the Cabinet of the Duke of Portland. Wellesley participated in the Peninsula War (1808-1814) in Portugal and Spain against the French Empire, winning many notable battles. He was made Field Marshal (21 Jun 1813) and created Duke of Wellington (11 May 1814). Appointed Commander of the Allied Armies for the renewed campaign against Napoléon I, Wellington won the Battle of Waterloo (18 Jun 1815). After this victory he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Army of Occupation (Oct 1815 - Nov 1818) and later became Commander-in-Chief of the British Army (22 Jan 1827 - Apr 1827, Aug 1827 - 14 Feb 1828, 15 Sep 1842 - 14 Sep 1852).

After the resignation of Viscount Goderich, Wellington was asked to form a new administration and kissed the King's hands on 22 Jan 1828 as First Lord of the Treasury and prime minister. He also became Leader of the Conservative Party in the Lords (Jan 1828 - Jul 1846) and proceeded with conversion of British political elite to Catholic Emancipation. The Catholic Emancipation Bill passed both Houses and became law on 13 Apr 1829. However problems, including a bad winter in 1829-1830, unemployment and economic difficulties, and the death of King George IV (26 Jun 1830) resulted in national tension and loss of support for the Tories. The General Election of 1830 suggested growing support for reform, but Wellington spoke uncompromisingly against it, was defeated in the House of Commons, and resigned (16 Nov 1830). He was again asked to form a government in May 1832 after the resignation of Earl Grey, but failed to form an alternative ministry. On 17 Nov 1834 King William IV sent for Wellington and asked him to form a government, but Wellington, having assumed the offices of First Lord of the Treasury (17 Nov 1834 - 9 Dec 1834) and Foreign Secretary (1834-1835), recommended to send for Robert Peel, who was in Rome. When Peel returned and formed his government, Wellington became Leader of the Opposition in the Lords (1835-1841) and was a member of the Cabinet in the 1830s and 1840s. Biography source: [1, pp. 124-132].


[1] "Facts About the British Prime Ministers: A Compilation of Biographical and Historical Information", ed. by Dermot Englefield, Janet Seaton, Isobel White (New York: H.W. Wilson Co., 1995).
Image: portrait of the Duke of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence.
Last updated on: 26 Jun 2009 04:22:09