"Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won." (Duke of Wellington, at Waterloo)
In September 1852 a steam train carried the body of Arthur Wellesley, first duke of Wellington, from Kent to London, where he was to be interred at St. Paul's Cathedral. A million would flock to pay their final respects at his huge funeral, and young Queen Victoria wept openly.
By the time of his death, Wellington had been prime minister twice, a shrewd personal advisor to four British monarchs, and one of the nation's most prominent politicians for three decades. Despite his nearly four decades of peacetime service in and out of politics, Wellington has remained one of the titans of the 19th century because of one June day in 1815. Then, as now, the duke of Wellington is best remembered for defeating Napoleon in the famous battle of Waterloo.
The fact Wellington is remembered for Waterloo belies his extraordinary military career, which saw him come up through fighting in the Netherlands and India before opposing Napoleon's forces on the Iberian Peninsula. By the time Wellington took command of allied forces during the 100 Days Campaign and decisively finished the Napoleonic Era at Waterloo, he had participated in about 60 battles and was one of Britain's greatest war heroes.
Historical memory of Wellington often stops there, but he spent half his lifetime in politics after Waterloo, serving as a prime minister in the 1820s and an influential Tory in the House of Lords in the 1830s and 1840s, serving all the while as commander in chief of Britain's military. Though he had earned the nickname Iron Duke at the height of his political unpopularity, the originally derisive nickname came to represent his stern will and personality.
Includes a bibliography for further reading.
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