Wellesley was an Anglo-Irish general and statesman, victor of the Battle of Waterloo and twice British prime minister.
Arthur Wesley was born in Dublin in early May 1769. In 1798, his aristocratic Anglo-Irish family changed their name to Wellesley.
He was an unremarkable student at Eton, but seems to have found his calling when he joined the army in 1787. He fought against the French in Flanders and in 1796 went to India. His brother Richard was appointed governor general there in 1797. Wellesley 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).
Back in England he was knighted and became a member of parliament. In 1807, he was appointed chief secretary for Ireland. But his political career came to an abrupt end in the same year, when he returned to active service against the French. In 1808, he assumed control of the British, Portuguese and Spanish forces in the Peninsular War (1808 - 1814), eventually forcing the occupying French to withdraw from Spain and Portugal. When Napoleon abdicated in 1814, Wellesley returned home a hero and was created duke of Wellington.
He attended the Congress of Vienna and served for a briefly as ambassador to France, but in 1815 Napoleon returned. Wellington became commander of the allied armies. With the help of Prussian forces under Gebhard von Blucher he defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815. The threat of Napoleon was at an end.
In 1818, Wellington was given a post in Lord Liverpool's Tory government. In 1827, he became commander in chief of the British army, but in 1828 reluctantly accepted the post of prime minister. He believed in strong, authoritative government and an isolationist policy, although he antagonised sections of his party by forcing through the Catholic Emancipation Act (1829). His opposition to parliamentary reform made him unpopular, and he earned the nickname of the 'Iron Duke' when he erected iron shutters on the windows of his London home, Apsley House, to prevent them being smashed by angry crowds.
Wellington's government fell in 1830. When they returned to power in 1834, Wellington declined the office of prime minister, which went instead to Robert Peel. From 1834-1835 Wellington served as foreign minister. He retired in 1846. He died on 14 September 1852 and was given a state funeral.