1st Duke of Wellington Arthur Wellesley Born In Dublin

Today on May 1, 1769, the Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley — the man who brought down Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo — was born in Ireland.

Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, was a prominent military and political figure of 19th century Britain. He instantly achieved legendary status across the empire after decisively beating Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Born into an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family, his father was the 1st Earl of Mornington. Interestingly, his actual birth date still remains elusive. However, biographers suggest it was likely on May 1, 1769, the day before his recorded christening. His mother, the Countess of Mornington, gave birth to Arthur at the family townhouse in Dublin. Their house has since been converted into the present-day Merrion Hotel.

Arthur Wellesley lost his father at a young age and was largely ignored by a disinterested mother. As a result, he developed into a shy and reserved boy. After withdrawing from Eton College and a private school in Brussels, he enrolled at a military academy in Angers, France. Ironically, the young Arthur had little desire for a military career. Instead, he wished to pursue his passion for music. Nevertheless, he followed his mother’s wishes and joined the Highland regiment at the age of 18.

The Duke of Wellington first action saw action while serving in the Netherlands and India. And, his superiors quickly took note of his impressive skills on the battlefield. After being promoted to the rank of field marshal, he took full command of the British forces stationed in the Iberian Peninsula. Wellesley rose to prominence after successfully leading the Allied forces in the Peninsular campaign against Napoleon. In 1813, he achieved a decisive victory at the Battle of Vitoria and drove the French imperial army out of Spain.

Shortly after Napoleon's abdication at Fontainebleau, Wellesley was hailed as a hero. He was granted the inaugural title of Duke of Wellington at a ceremony in Somerset County. The Prime Minister subsequently asked him to take command of Canada and lead the British forces to victory during the War of 1812. But he declined, citing that his services were still needed in Europe — and he was right! Less than two years later, the Duke of Wellington scored his most significant victory on the fields of Waterloo. Supported by the Prussian army under General Blucher, Arthur Wellesley brought down the French emperor for the last time.

The Duke of Wellington consistently showcased ingenuity on the battlefield. His contemporaries dubbed him as the Iron Duke. Wellesley often employed an adaptive-defensive style that allowed him to defeat numerically superior forces with a resounding effect. In total, he fought in more than sixty battles. Military academics still continue to study his tactics today.

Shortly after his triumphant return to England, Arthur Wellesley threw his hat into the political arena by becoming a member of the Tory party. In 1828, he resigned his position as Commander-in-Chief to serve as the country's next Prime Minister — a position he briefly held for two terms. He finished his career in the House of Lords and remained Commander-in-Chief of the British Army until his death at the age of 83.

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