The Duke of Wellington

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    Lord Arthur Wellesley the Duke of Wellington 6575.jpg

    Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington KG KP GCB GCH PC FRS, was one of the leading military and political figures of the nineteenth century. He is often referred to as one of the greatest English generals of all time, except that he was Irish. His supposed response (not recorded until after his death) to people pointing out his Irish birth was something along the lines of 'If a man is born in a stable, that doesn't make him a horse', a sentiment which didn't stop him marrying an Irish woman or the Irish building a 200-foot-tall monument in his honour. To be fair his comments stemmed from a dislike of the Protestant and often power-abusing Irish Nobility rather than the "normal" Irish.

    His military career was rapid, reaching the rank of Colonel in 12 years. Despite an extremely impressive military career in India, he did not come to real prominence until the Napoleonic Wars,[1] and was promoted to the rank of Field Marshal after leading the allied forces to victory against the French at the Battle of Vitoria in 1813. Following Napoleon's exile in 1814, he served as the ambassador to France and was granted a dukedom. During the Hundred Days in 1815, he commanded the allied army which defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.

    One of Britain's more quotable war leaders after Winston Churchill. Perhaps his most famous quote is "Our army is the scum of the earth - the merest scum of the earth." This is something of a Beam Me Up, Scotty, however, as it sounds far harsher than intended due to people leaving out the second part: "...so it really is wonderful that we should have made them the fine fellows they are.[2]."

    He was an opponent of parliamentary reform, and was given the epithet of the Iron Duke because of the iron shutters he had fixed to his windows to stop the pro-reform mob from breaking them. When Parliament burned down in 1834, the Duke advised it be rebuilt in the same place, with one side against the river Thames, reasoning that that made it more difficult to be surrounded by a revolutionary mob.

    As Prime Minister he, among other things, passed the Catholic Relief Act, removing the legal blocks against Catholicism. This one exception to his usual ultra-conservative politics is perhaps attributable to a combination of his Irish background and his old Peninsular War army being one-third Catholic. It can also be regarded as an earlier example of 'Nixon in China' - if even the ultra-Tory Duke thought Catholic emancipation was necessary, it was more convincing to undecideds than if it had remained a purely Whig cause. Wellington remained one of the leading figures in the House of Lords until his retirement and Commander-in-Chief of the British Army until his death.

    Yes, he had boots named after him. No, they were not rubber. They were leather, but the rubber ones are of the same style. The dish Beef Wellington might be named after him.

    He will also wear any kind of trousers he likes, damn you.

    The Duke of Wellington provides examples of the following tropes:
    The Duke of Wellington in fiction:

    Fan Works

    Film

    • Waterloo: Naturally. Splendidly played by Christopher Plummer who was a natural for the role.

    Literature

    • Obviously we see him in Sharpe.
    • Appears as a secondary character in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Gets his own short story, "The Duke Of Wellington Misplaces His Horse", in the follow-up short story collection The Ladies of Grace Adieu.
    • Flashman encounters the Duke once or twice, or at least references his opinions. Most notably in the first novel, where he receives a medal from Queen Victoria and a handshake from Wellington; it's the second one he is most proud of.
    • Has a fairly prominent role in the fifth book of the Temeraire series, Victory of Eagles.

    Live-Action TV

    • Stephen Fry does a most awesome depiction of him in Blackadder The Third as an ignorant, bellowing, violent bully, who sees tactical ability and inspired leadership as entirely secondary to the truly important quality needed for an army: shouting.

    Web Comics

    1. Ironically, Napoleon too was not born in the nation that he is famous for being from; his birthplace had been transferred from Genoese to French control a mere two years before his birth (and he was originally called the much more Italian "Napoleone di Buonaparte"), making the Napoleonic wars between the French led by an Italian and the English led by an Irishman. He also shared a birthday with Napoleon. Makes one wonder...
    2. As another point, in The Mask of Command, historian John Keegan claims that that quote was given in the context of a criticism of pay arrangements which gave better allowances for the dependents of militiamen then those volunteering to serve abroad on the grounds that it brought a low quality of recruit for the later.