Today on May 1, 1769, Arthur Wellesley, the man who would eventually defeat Napoleon, is born in Dublin.
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, was a leading military commander and political figure during 19th-century Britain. He achieved legendary status across the entire empire after decisively defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. After a successful career in the military, he entered the arena of British politics and served as Prime Minister for two terms. Wellesley was born into an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family to the 1st Earl of Mornington. His actual birth date remains elusive. However, biographers suggest it was on May 1, the day before his christening. He was likely born at his parent's townhouse in Dublin, which has since become the Merrion Hotel. As a young man, he spent most of his time living between Dublin and Dangan Castle, and later enrolled at Eton College for three years.
Wellesley joined the British army at the age of 18 and first saw action in The Netherlands and India. His impressive contributions on the battlefield certainly did not go unnoticed. After being promoted to the rank of field marshal, he took full command of the British forces across the Iberian Peninsula. Wellesley rose to prominence after successfully leading the Peninsular campaign against the Napoleon. In 1813, he led the allied forces to victory against Napoleon at the Battle of Vitoria. Wellesley drove the French army out of Spain, playing a critical role in the downfall of the French Emperor. Two years later, he achieved his most significant victory on the fields of Waterloo with the support of the Prussian army under General Blucher.
Wellesley’s ingenuity on the battlefield has since become legendary, which earned him the nickname The Iron Duke. He often employed an adaptive defensive style that allowed him to defeat numerically superior forces with great effect. In total, he fought in more than sixty battles and military academics continue to study his tactics today. Shortly after his triumphant return to England, he joined the political arena as a member of the Tory party. He briefly served as the Prime Minister twice and finished his career in the House of Lords. Arthur Wellesley remained Commander-in-Chief of the British Army until his death at the age of 83.