Field Marshal His Grace Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington c. 1 May 1769 – 14 September 1852.
Portrait of The Duke of Wellington
National Gallery, London
Born to an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family in Ireland, Wellesley joined the army in 1787. He fought against the French in Flanders and in 1796 went to India, where he achieved considerable military success, taking part in the Mysore War against Tipu Sultan. During the subjugation of the Mahrattas he achieved a remarkable victory at Assaye (1803).
On 18 June 1815, the army of Napoleon faced an allied force of British, Belgain and Dutch troops on a ridge outside a small Belgian town called Waterloo. The British Army in Belgium was lead by a man described by contemporaries and historians alike as possibly the greatest British soldier of all time. From India, where he campaigned to create the British Raj, to being the mastermind of the Peninsular War, which drove the French armies from Portugal and Spain, Wellington had never lost an engagement.
Nonetheless, Napoleon Bonaparte was a master of warfare. If the allied troops folded, the road to Brussels would be open and Napoleon would again be able to plunge Europe into war. To prevent this, the armies of Wellington had a hold a ridge overlooking a farm, until the Prussian army under General Blucher could arrive and hopefully defeat the French. It was an extremely close, long, devastating battle. By 10 pm on June 18th 1815 nigh on eighty thousand soldiers lay dead on the fields of Waterloo. But the British allied forces and Wellington were victorious and the battle, and it’s ramifications would shape Europe for the century which followed it.