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Wellington and the legacy

What comes to your mind when you hear the word


As for me, I can think of 4 things:

  • The Duke of Wellington
  • The capital of New-Zealand
  • Wellington boots aka the Wellies
  • Beef Wellington

Let’s see if there is a connection between these things and if there is anything else to think of.

The Duke of Wellington

When we hear The Duke of Wellington, we normally think of ‘The Iron Duke’, Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, but it is a title as well. The name is derived from Wellington in Somerset and was created in 1814 for Arthur Wellesley for his many victories over Napoleon’s forces. But who was Arthur Wellesley and more importantly, what sort of personality did he have?


Wellington had Irish ancestry and was born in Dublin, as the son of Garret Wesley, 1st Earl of Mornington and the eldest daughter of The 1st Viscount Dungannon. Despite his aristocratic origins, the family stuggled financially after his father died. This was one of the reasons why Arthur Wesley (he later changed his name, see below) started a military career, although at first he was not interested.


During his very first battle in 1794 in Flanders, he realised how unorganised the British army was. After this experience he started to study battles and military science and planned every single battle he lead. This has become one of his distinctive features.


Wellington was a bit of a Poker face, meaning he did not really express his feelings in public. However, on one occasion, after the Battle of Badajoz he cried at the sight of the lost soldiers. During his career he always amied for having as few victims as possible.


During the battles, Wellington wore dark uniforms without decoration. In this way he was not an easy target as the enemies could not distinguish him from the officers in the field. If you like, this could be considered as the forerunner of modern camouflage.


He changed his surname from Wesley to Wellesley in 1789.

The 1st Duke of Wellington at age 26


He participated in 60 battles during his career and did not lose any. His success layed in not having a thirst for blood, or victory for the sake of it. He always retreated if that meant avoiding heavy casulties, or defeat. Other ruthless leaders, like Napoleon or even Nelson died fighting or lost wars. At the peak of his career, after the Battle of Waterloo, aged 46 Wellington retired from the battlefield


He was popular not only due to his military success, but because of his appearance as well. He did not wear wigs, he kept his hair short instead, claiming this was more practical at the battlefield.


Wellington had a ‘vigorous sexual appetite’ and was fond of intelligent and attractive women. He had several affairs during his marriage.


Wellington was not faint hearted. When in 1824 a Publisher sent a letter to him saying they would not publish the memories of one of Wellington’s former misstresses, Harriett Wilson if Wellington paid them not to publish, Wellington apparently said: ‘Publish and be damned!’


The descendants of the 1st Duke of Wellington are still around. Arthur Charles Valerain Wellesley, the 9th Duke of Wellington was born in 1945 and his heir is the handsome Arthur Gerald Wellesley, the Earl of Mornington.

A more mature Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington

The capital of New-Zealand, Wellington

Indeed, there is a connection between the name of the city and the 1st Duke of Wellington. The first settlers named the town after the duke in 1840 as the duke supported the colonisation principles of the New Zealand Company.


The Wellies

Oh yes, there is definitely a connection between the boots and the Duke.

During the 18th century there were two styles of boot which were fashionable: the English, John Bull (or tall boot) and the Hessian boot – also called the Souvaroff boot.

The latter was worn by German soldiers in the 18th century and has become fashionable in England during the Regency period among aristocrats and dandies. The Hessian boots had a low heel, semi-pointed toes, reached just below the knee and had a decorative tassel at the top of each shaft with a V-notch in front.

The 1st Duke of Wellington wearing Hessian Boots

Wellington instructed his shoemaker, George Hoby of St James’s Street to modify the Hessian boots according to his ideas. The new boot was made of soft calfskin leather and was cut to fit more closely around the leg. The heels were low cut and the boot stopped mid calf which made the boots suitable both for riding and for an informal evening wear. No wonder that the fashion icon of the era, Beau Brummel spotted the new design instantly and made it fashionable among dandies.

Wellington boots

How were they transformed to rubber boots?

Charles Goodyear invented the vulcanisation of rubber in 1844 and as a result more and more things were produced in rubber. Another American indusrialist, Hiram Hutchinson bought the patent to produce footwear and set up his factory in France. Rubber boots were big success, because they exchanged the wooden clogs that were not water resistants and worn by the majority of the people working on fields.

Beef Wellington

This is the only thing that does not have anything to do with the Duke. In fact, nobody knows exactly where the name of this dish comes from. According to a British journalist, the meat baked in pastry was a well-established part of English cuisine, and just like the bœuf en croûte of the French which might imply that Beef Wellington was a patriotic name of a continental dish. However, she says there are no 19th-century recipes for the dish. Moreover, the first mention of Beef Wellington is from 1903 in an American newspaper, The Los Angeles Times.

Beef Wellington

I had an idea regarding the English name of the dish. The English call the French ‘frogs’ and the French call the English ‘roast beef’ (rostbif) in return. Wouldn’t it be possible that the Duke of Wellington was hated by the French, because of the many defeats in the Napoleonic wars and they just simply started to call the Duke, ‘Wellington Beef’? However, the French are prouder than calling one of their most famous dishes after a British person…

On top of above…

…there was a battleship named after the 1st Duke of Wellington, the HMS Duke of Wellington (1852)



…there is Wellington Rocks in the High Rocks, a geological conservation review site west of Tunbridge Wells in Kent and East Sussex. In the Victorian period it was fashionable to decorate rock gardens with Wellington rocks. Perhaps the reason for calling these rocks ‘Wellington’ was that they were as hard and tough as the duke… (?)

Wellington rocks in the High Rocks

…the Wellingtonia gigantia (or Californian redwood or Giant sequoia), the mammoth conifer which has become a very fashionable tree in Victorian gardens and which was brought to England in 1852 and named Wellingtonia by John Lindley of the Horicurtual Society to commemorate the lately deceased duke.



…there are many pubs in Britain named after the Duke of Wellington.






All in all, the Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington was indeed an excellent soldier and statesman and contributed a lot to British history. No wonder his name lives on today in these things.

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