Discover Britain

The Iron Duke

The Countess of Mornington infamously declared of her third son, “My ugly boy Arthur is food for powder [cannon fodder] and nothing more”. It was a rash prediction that would be thoroughly disproved because Arthur Wellesley – later the 1st Duke of Wellington – became one of the world’s greatest generals, forever remembered for the iconic victory over Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. So how did young Arthur grow up to make such a mark? And how did he fare in the decades after his stellar military career, when it is often forgotten that he served twice as Prime Minister?

The story begins 250 years ago, with Arthur’s birth in Dublin on 1 May 1769 to the Earl and Countess of Mornington. Becoming fatherless at 12, he

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