Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington


Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington : biography

1 May 1769 – 14 September 1852
Argaum and Gawilghur

Despite the damage done to the Maratha army, the battle did not end the war. A few months later in November, Wellesley attacked a larger force near Argaum, leading his army to victory again, with an astonishing 5,000 enemy dead at the cost of only 361 British casualties.Holmes (2002). p. 82. A further successful attack at the fortress at Gawilghur, combined with the victory of General Lake at Delhi forced the Maratha to sign a peace settlement at Anjangaon (not concluded until a year later) called as the Treaty of Surji-Anjangaon.Holmes (2002). p. 83.

Military historian, Richard Holmes, remarked that his experiences in India had an important influence on his personality and military tactics, teaching him much about military matters that would prove vital to his success in the Peninsular War.Holmes (2002). p. 88. These included a strong sense of discipline through drill and order,Holmes (2002). p. 87. the use of diplomacy to gain allies, and the vital necessity for a secure supply line. He also established a high regard for the acquisition of intelligence through scouts and spies. His personal tastes also developed, including dressing himself in white trousers, a dark tunic, with Hessian boots and black cocked hat (that later became synonymous as his style).Holmes (2002). p. 86.

Leaving India

Wellesley had grown tired of his time in India, remarking "I have served as long in India as any man ought who can serve anywhere else". In June 1804 he applied for permission to return home and as a reward for his service in India he was made a Knight of the Bath in September. Whilst in India, Wellesley had amassed a fortune of £42,000 (considerable at the time), consisting mainly of prize money from his campaign.Holmes (2002). p. 84. When his brother’s term as Governor-General of India ended in March 1805, the brothers returned together to England on HMS Howe. Arthur, coincidentally, stopped on his voyage at the little island of Saint Helena and stayed in the same building to which Napoleon I would later be exiled.Holmes (2002). p. 85.

Back in Britain

Wellesley then served in the abortive Anglo-Russian expedition to north Germany in 1805, taking a brigade to Elbe.Roberts (2003). pp. xxiii. Upon this return from the campaign, Wellesley received good news; owing to his new title and status, Kitty Pakenham’s family had consented to his marrying her. Wellesley and Kitty were married in Dublin on 10 April 1806.Holmes (2002). p. 96. The marriage would later prove to be unsatisfactory and the two would spend years apart while Wellesley was campaigning.Neillands (2003). p. 38. He then took a period of extended leave from the army and was elected Tory member of Parliament for Rye in January 1806. A year later, he was elected MP for Newport on the Isle of Wight and was then appointed to serve as Chief Secretary for Ireland, under the Duke of Richmond. At the same time, he was made a privy counsellor. While in Ireland, he gave a verbal promise that the remaining Penal Laws would be enforced with great moderation, perhaps an indication of his later willingness to support Catholic Emancipation.Longford (1971) p.174

War on Denmark

Wellesley was in Ireland in May 1807 when he heard of the British expedition to Denmark. He decided to go, stepping down from his political appointments and was appointed to command an infantry brigade in the Second Battle of Copenhagen which took place in August. He fought at the Køge, during which the men under his command took 1,500 prisoners, with Wellesley later present during the surrender.

By 30 September, he had returned to England and was raised to the rank of lieutenant general on 25 April 1808. In June 1808 he accepted the command of an expedition of 9,000 men. Preparing to sail for an attack on the Spanish colonies in South America (to assist the Latin American patriot Francisco de Miranda) his force was instead ordered to sail for Portugal, to take part in the Peninsular Campaign and rendezvous with 5,000 troops from Gibraltar.Neillands (2003). p. 39.Holmes (2002). pp. 102–103.