Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

67

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington : biography

1 May 1769 – 14 September 1852

Wellington’s casket was decorated with banners which were made for his funeral procession. Originally, there was one for Prussia, which was removed during World War I and never reinstated.

Most of the book A Biographical Sketch of the Military and Political Career of the Late Duke of Wellington by Weymouth newspaper proprietor Joseph Drew is a detailed contemporary account of his death, lying in state and funeral.Joseph Drew (1814–1883), Biographical Sketch of the Military and Political Career of the Late Duke of Wellington, 1852

After his death Irish and English newspapers disputed whether Wellington had been born an Irishman or Englishman.Sinnema (2006). pp. 93–111. During his life he had openly disliked being referred to as an "Irishman".Longford (1971). pp. 128–129.

Owing to its links with Wellington, as the former commanding officer and colonel of the regiment, the title "33rd (The Duke of Wellington’s) Regiment" was granted to the 33rd Regiment of Foot, on 18 June 1853 (the 38th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo) by Queen Victoria.

Notes

Political career

Wellington entered politics again, when he was appointed Master-General of the Ordnance in the Tory government of Lord Liverpool on 26 December 1818. He also became Governor of Plymouth on 9 October 1819. He was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British Army on 22 January 1827Holmes (2002). p. 268. and Constable of the Tower of London on 5 February 1827.

Prime Minister

Along with Robert Peel, Wellington became an increasingly influential member of the Tory party, and in 1828 he resigned as Commander-in-Chief and became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.Holmes (2002). pp. 270–271.

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. He moved in only because his own home, Apsley House, required extensive renovations. During this time he was largely instrumental in the foundation of King’s College London. On 20 January 1829 Wellington was appointed Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. As prime minister, Wellington was conservative, fearing the anarchy of the French Revolution would spread to England.

Catholic Emancipation

The highlight of his term was Catholic Emancipation; the granting of almost full civil rights to Catholics in the United Kingdom. The change was prompted by the landslide by-election win of Daniel O’Connell, an Irish Catholic proponent of emancipation, who was elected despite not being legally allowed to sit in Parliament.

In the House of Lords, facing stiff opposition, Wellington spoke for Catholic Emancipation, giving one of the best speeches of his career. He was Irish, and later governed the country, so had some understanding of the grievances of the Catholic communities there; as Chief Secretary, he had given an undertaking that the remaining Penal Laws would only be enforced as "mildly" as possible. The Catholic Relief Act 1829 was passed with a majority of 105. Many Tories voted against the Act, and it passed only with the help of the Whigs.Holmes (2002). p. 277. Wellington had threatened to resign as Prime Minister if the King (George IV) did not give his Royal Assent.Thompson, N. Wellington after Waterloo, pg 95.

The Earl of Winchilsea accused the Duke of, "an insidious design for the infringement of our liberties and the introduction of Popery into every department of the State".Holmes (2002). p. 275. Wellington responded by immediately challenging Winchilsea to a duel. On 21 March 1829, Wellington and Winchilsea met on Battersea fields. When it came time to fire, the Duke took aim and Winchilsea kept his arm down. The Duke fired wide to the right. Accounts differ as to whether he missed on purpose; Wellington, noted for his poor aim, claimed he did, other reports more sympathetic to Winchilsea claimed he had aimed to kill. Winchilsea did not fire, a plan he and his second almost certainly decided upon before the duel. Honour was saved and Winchilsea wrote Wellington an apology.