Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, Marquess of Douro, Marquess of Wellington, Earl of Wellington, Viscount Wellington of Talavera and of Wellington, Baron Douro.
Nicknamed "the Iron Duke", Arthur Wellesley was born on the 1st of May, 1769, in Dublin, Ireland, and died on the 14th of September, 1852, in Walmer Castle, Kent, England).
He would become one of the most famous British military commanders of all time. After brilliantly leading the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars he would later become Prime Minister of Great Britain (1828–30).
When in 1808 the Portuguese rose against Napoleon, Wellesley was ordered to support them. Ready for battle, he left Cork on 12 July 1808.
Wellesley did not intend to be “half beaten before the battle began”—the usual effect on continental armies of Napoleon’s supremacy. With “steady troops” he expected to master the French attack.
His “thin red line” of British infantry did indeed defeat Gen.Junot’s columns at the Battles of Roliça (August 17) and Vimeiro (August 21).
The arrival of two superior British officers prevented a pursuit: Wellesley was superseded in command immediately after the latter battle, first by Gen Burrard, and then by General Dalrymple. The shameful Convention of Sintra was subsequently signed, stipulating that the British Royal Navy would transport the French army out of Lisbon with all their loot.
The 25,747 French (of whom 20,900 were under arms) were transported in English ships. Junot landed at La Rochelle on 11 Oct. 1808 with his two mistresses on his arms. Junot's men were back in Spain, fighting to put down the Spanish uprising, as late November, early December. By 13 December elements of Delaborde's division entered Vitoria. Although displeased with Junot's performance Napoleon eventually wrote to him, "You have done nothing dishonorable; you have returned my troops, my eagles and my cannons, but I certainly hoped you would do better...you have won this convention by your courage, not by your dispositions; and it is with reason that the English complain that their generals signed it..."
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Lord Byron´s poetic travelogue, reflects his view on the event in stanzas 24-26:
Due to public outrage, Dalrymple, Burrard and Wellesley were recalled to Britain to face a Court of Enquiry. Wellesley had agreed to sign the preliminary armistice, but had not signed the actual Convention, and was cleared. Though acquitted, Wellesley returned to Ireland as chief secretary.
Though rewarded with a peerage for his offensive, Viscount Wellington retreated with his greatly outnumbered force to his Portuguese base, defeating Marshal André Masséna at Bussaco on the way (September 27, 1810).
He had secretly fortified the famous “lines of Torres Vedras” across the Lisbon peninsula. Masséna’s evacuation of Portugal in the spring of 1811 and the loss of Fuentes de Oñoro (May 3–5) triumphantly justified Wellington’s defensive, scorched-earth policy and confirmed his soldiers’ trust in him.
He was nicknamed “nosey” by his men, and “the beau” by his officers, for his slim five feet nine inches, the perfectly cut civilian clothes he preferred to wear, his wavy brown hair, and brilliant blue eyes.
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington - oil on canvas by Sir Thomas Lawrence.