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The Duke of Wellington's years of the sword ended abruptly while he was still in his prime Weeping for the dead of Waterloo he prayed he had fought his last battle So he had; it might be supposed that the rest of his career would prove to be one long aftermath Yet such was the power of this extraordinary man to propel himself into the path of great events that the second half of his active life was as eventful as the first and as a subjective story that rocketed between the zenith and the nadir of fortune it was uniue If he was indeed the Iron Duke it was iron which had been returned again and again to the fireWellington was in one sense a ready made Pillar of State for the new Europe During the first years after Waterloo he was the ruler of occupied France in all but name When he returned to his native land he was full of good resolutions to be a public servant rather than a Tory party politician But the tragedies of Peterloo and the Cato Street Conspiracy followed by the rowdyism of ueen Caroline's trial uickly alienated him from the parties of change and welded him to that of law and order He spent the next twenty five years discovering that repression is not enoughThe violent death of his close friend Lord Castlereagh left him to maneuver with the antipathetic Canning and he finally found himself at the head of a divided Tory party and Prime Minister of a country loudly demanding every variety of reform The granting of Catholic emancipation highlighted by a personal duel in Battersea Fields raised him to be a pinnacle of fame which neither he nor anyone else had enjoyed since Waterloo Then as anti hero in the struggle over the constitutional Reform Bill a victim of his own delusion that reform was tantamount to revolution Wellington's character acuired a lurid glint Yet in the end it seems that the Bill was his crucible as well as his torment for he emerged years later at the time of the Irish famine as the statesman who dared to say Right about face to the Tory peers and so enable Peel to abolish the Corn LawsMany other strands had gradually come together in Wellington's character to make of it at last the ideal he had always held out for himself the retained servant of king and people Lady Longford's first part of this biography Wellington The Years of the Sword was greeted with enormous acclaim and this second and final volume is a pleasure to read lucid sympathetic balanced rich in personal details but solid and scholarly too It triumphantly succeeds in making the Duke of Wellington into an unforgettable appealing and human character

10 thoughts on “Wellington: Pillar of State

  1. says:

    Published the year I started university Wellington Pillar of State would have made me furious had if I had read it at that time It was everything that my undergraduate professors s told me that history should not be; it was written by the descendant of its subject with the avowed purpose of making a hero out of an arch conservative aristocrat who devoted his political career to opposing progress on all fronts Longford's book however has aged very well and today stands as a masterpiece of conservative writingIn Wellington The Years of the Sword Longford portrays Wellington as having been very ambitious during his years in the armed forces Although he was tremendously talented a major component of his success was his desire to succeed and his willingness to use his connections to the utmost in order to advance As a politician he was indifferent to success He neither intrigued nor energetically promoted himself He fell into being premier minister He lost his position two years later and made no efforts to recover it He did however agree to hold the the office for a one month period in order to allow Robert Peel who was out of the country to return and assume the positionLongford's thesis is that Wellington was a Pillar of State in that it was he who would persuade the most reactionary conservatives to accept change once it was clear that further resistance might set of a revolution similar to those that broke out freuently during his life time in France Wellington resisted the abolition of the rotten boroughs expansion of the voter franchise low church theology Greek independence Italian unification worker rights and low church theology During his brief two year term he did however emancipate the Catholics of the British Isles the only progressive cause that he ever took a leadership cause in promoting After much agonizing he resolutely did nothing to help the victims of the potato famine in his native Ireland Perhaps Longford is right after all The approach of Wellington and his fellow aristocrats to fighting change with determination before accepting the inevitable bore wonderful fruits England never experienced a communist or fascist revolution In the aftermath of WWII it led the way for the Europe in its creation of the modern welfare state Whether one agrees with Longford or not her research is impeccable and she presents both sides of every issue that she discussesLike her famous daughter Antonia Fraser Longford love inside and outside of marriage with remarkable finesse and exuisite colour Wellington Pillar of State is a fine work that should please readers with a wide variety of political views

  2. says:

    It is a well researched book thanks to the author's access due to her social position and relatives to numerous archives generally unavailable to a regular researcher EL is also in awe of her famous relative and takes his side in every situation To her Wellington can do no wrong Still as celebrity biographies go this one is decent A solid 3 out of 5

  3. says:

    I don't particularly like Longford's style of writing For sometime this was probably the definitive work at least there was an index this time unlike volume one of my edition which lacks any index glaring error for an important work despite its weaknesses but since surpassed by Rory Muir