|About the Book|
For most of us Wellington equals Waterloo. But Waterloo was one peak only in the career of this phenomenal man, and it is the achievement of this major biography that it reveals the subtlety and full variety of Wellingtons genius as well as theMoreFor most of us Wellington equals Waterloo. But Waterloo was one peak only in the career of this phenomenal man, and it is the achievement of this major biography that it reveals the subtlety and full variety of Wellingtons genius as well as the fascinating complexity of England in his time.He was born Arthur Wesley, third son of the Earl of Mornington, in 1769--the same year as Napoleon. His family, which belonged to the ruling caste of Englishmen in Ireland, was long on the tradition of proud service to the King and chronically short of funds. Neither his childhood nor his years at Eton were happy- but when he went to Anjou at seventeen, to study at Frances Royal Academy of Equitation, he came into his own, learned well, and emerged qualified and cosmopolitan.He joined the British Army as an ensign and, for the next few years, rose through the ranks. He courted Kitty Pakenham but her family would not allow his suit--his family was not rich enough-- so he went to India at the age of twenty-seven still a bachelor.It was in India that he made his name. There he became a scholar and a soldier. He returned a Knight of the Bath, a major-general, a hero to his countrymen and acceptable, at last, to the Pakenhams. (He had courted Kitty by post over the twelve intervening years- it was scarcely surprising that the woman he married proved different indeed from the charming girl he had left.)When he was forty, the youngest lieutenant-general in the army, he took command of the allied armies in the Peninsular War. With Napoleons downfall, abdication and exile to Elba, the hero of Europe began a gay career as ambassador to Paris. All the ladies, from the formidable Madame de Staël to the melting Signora Grassini, vied--often successfully--for his favors. His behavior with them and as a diplomat caused some disquiet, and there was evident relief when he was dispatched to the Congress of Vienna. When word came of Napoleons escape, Wellington took command once more, and after the spectacular eve-of-battle ball in Brussels, led the British and Dutch-Belgian armies to triumph at Waterloo.Lady Longfords unique biography draws on new material from private papers and Wellingtons own uninhibited correspondence. Wellington: The Years of the Sword is a worthy successor to her superb Queen Victoria: Born to Succeed.