Hi, I'm Jim Flink for About.com. Today we're profiling one of the leading British military figures of the 19th century, Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington.Wellesley rose to prominence during the Napoleonic Wars, leading the victorious allied forces over the French in the Battle of Vitoria in 1813. He's most famous for commanding the allied army that succeeded in conquering Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 during the Hundred Days War. Wellesley then went on to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the reign of King George IV and of King William IV.Wellesley was born in Ireland, educated at Eton, and lived a life of aristocracy during his upbringing. But it was not until he embarked on a military career that he found personal distinction.Assigned to campaigns in the Netherlands, India and Denmark, he quickly gained fame for his command of allied troops during the Peninsular War. He is credited with liberating Spain, and was awarded part of the royal collection of art from Spanish King Ferdinand for his efforts.But it was his role at Waterloo that entrenched the Duke in history. In February, 1815, Wellesley led the German-Allied army in a campaign against Napoleon, who had sought to divide the allied forces, and crush them one by one. Wellesley led a force of more than 70,000 soldiers in an assault on Napoleon’s forces. During the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon made early progress, handing Wellesley's forces heavy casualties. But as the battle wore on, Wellesley's multi-pronged attack strategy eventually won out. Napoleon was defeated.The Treaty of Paris was signed in November of 1815. Later in life, Wellesley went on to become Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, and Constable of the Tower of London. In 1828, he accepted the position of prime minister as a member of the Tory party, though he frustrated his own political allies by pushing through the Catholic Emancipation Act the next year. When he was offered the prime minister post again in 1834, he declined.He died in 1852 at the age of 83. He continues to be regarded as The Duke of Wellington, though it is a title many have held since and continue to hold today. So, while there are many Dukes of Wellington, there is but one man known as "The" Duke of Wellington.And that's a profile of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington. For more information, be sure to check out About.com.
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