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Duke of Wellington
, 1841

by John Lucas

mezotint (sheet: 83.6 cm x 56.8 cm)

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), army officer and hero, was prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1828 to 1830. Born Arthur Wesley, he enjoyed his first significant military victory in western India in 1803. Returning to England, he became MP for Rye, then in 1807, chief secretary for Ireland. That year, the Spanish revolted against French occupation and in 1809 Wellesley, as he was by then known, became overall commander of British forces in the Iberian Peninsula. In July 1812 he defeated the French at Salamanca, Spain. Napoleon abdicated, and Wellesley was created Duke of Wellington. In February 1815 Napoleon escaped from Elba and returned to France. On 18 June, in Belgium, Wellington defeated Napoleon decisively at Waterloo. Returning to English politics, he opposed popularly-demanded political reforms to do with food prices, support for the sick, old and impoverished, and child labour. In 1828 he accepted the position of Tory prime minister from George IV. He faced rising agitation on the part of the common people until finally, in November 1830, he resigned. Twenty-two years later, more than one and a half million people lined the streets as his coffin was taken to St Paul’s for burial.

Although Wellington had little direct influence on Australian affairs, he was the great hero of the British empire through the early years of the colonies, and settlers read about him avidly in early newspapers. Many Australian places and structures are named in his honour.

In this print and the painting after which it was made, Wellington is pictured in the uniform of the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire. Wellington owned vast acreage in Hampshire; he was appointed Lord Lieutenant of the county in 1820, retaining the post for life.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2016
Accession number: 2016.73