Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington


Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington : biography

1 May 1769 – 14 September 1852

Meeting Lord Nelson

In September 1805, the then Major-General Wellesley, newly returned from his campaigns in India and not yet particularly well-known to the public, reported to the office of the Secretary for War to request a new assignment. In the waiting room, he met Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, already a legendary figure after his victories at the Nile and Copenhagen, and who was briefly in England after months chasing the French Toulon fleet to the West Indies and back. Some 30 years later, Wellington recalled a conversation that Nelson began with him which Wellesley found "almost all on his side in a style so vain and silly as to surprise and almost disgust me".Holmes (2002). p. 92. Nelson left the room to inquire who the young general was and on his return switched to a very different tone, discussing the war, the state of the colonies and the geopolitical situation as between equals. On this second discussion Wellington recalled, "I don’t know that I ever had a conversation that interested me more".Lambert (2005). p. 283. This was the only time that the two men met; Nelson was killed at his great victory at Trafalgar just seven weeks later.


The Iron Duke

This commonly used nickname originally related to his consistent political resolve rather than to any particular incident. In various cases its editorial use appears to be disparaging. It is likely that its use became more widespread after an incident in 1832 in which he installed metal shutters to prevent rioters breaking windows at Apsley House. The term may have been made increasingly popular by Punch cartoons published in 1844–45.Holmes (2002). pp. 285–288, 302–303.

Wellington had various other nicknames:

  • Officers under his command called him "The Beau", as he was a fine dresser,Holmes (2002). p. 178. or "The Peer" after he was made a Viscount.
  • Spanish troops called him "The Eagle", whilst Portuguese troops called him "Douro Douro" after his river crossing at Oporto in 1809.Morgan (2004). p. 135.
  • "Beau Douro"; Wellington found this amusing when hearing it used by a Colonel of the Coldstream Guards.
  • "Sepoy General"; Napoleon used this term as an insult to Wellington’s military service in India, publicly considering him an unworthy opponent. The name was used in the French newspaper Le Moniteur Universel, as a means of propaganda.Roberts (2003). pp. 74, 78–79.
  • "The Beef"; It is a theory that the Beef Wellington dish is a reference to Wellington, although some chefs dispute this.Scott, Wright (2006) p. 26.

In addition:

  • His name was given to Wellington boots, after the custom-made boots he wore instead of traditional Hessian boots.