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Wellington: The Iron Duke

Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769 – 1852) was one of the most famous citizens of Regency Britain. Born in Ireland of English ancestry, he entered the military early and rose quickly. He achieved prominence in the Peninsular campaign of the Napoleonic Wars. Following Napoleon’s defeat in 1814, he was named ambassador to France and was granted a dukedom. After Napoleon’s escape,Wellington led the allies to victory at the Battle of Waterloo. He served as Prime Minister twice and Commander-in-Chief of the British Army until his death in 1852.  (See pic at 26 years old)

As for his private life,Wellington was not known for being social. In 1806 he married Catherine “Kitty” Pakenham in Dublin. Initially, he’d been turned down for being in debt. Later, he married her because he considered himself pressed to do so but was disappointed by his over-emotional, easily depressed wife who was often in debt and an incompetent housekeeper. They lived apart for long periods while he was on campaign. The unaffected and simple-minded duchess died in 1831. They had two sons.

Wellington had a long-term friendship with Harriet Arbuthnot and her husband Charles who was 26 years her elder. She was a well-known diarist of her time and chronicled many famous people. Though they probably did not have an affair, Harriet gave to Wellington all that was missing from his relationship with his wife. When Harriet died in 1834,Wellington maintained his relationship with Charles to the extent that they lived together until Charles’ death a couple of years before Wellington’s. Wellington conducted numerous affairs and kept a succession of mistresses.  (See daguerreotype dated 18440

Prior to his marriage to Kitty,Wellington had a short-lived affair with the famous courtesan Hariett Wilson. In 1824 Wellington received a letter from Wilson’s publisher offering to refrain from including him in an edition of theWilson’s racy memoirs in exchange for financial consideration. (The price was £10 per year or £200 for a one-time payment). The Duke returned the missive, after scrawling across it, “Publish and be damned.” The worst that Harriet wrote was that he boring. Rita Bay

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