Duke of Wellington

About Apsley House - Wellington Collection

Arthur Wellesley was known as the First Duke of Wellington, (Pakenham et al.). Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1769, he gained notoriety for his military service in India, (Pakenham et al.). His fame grew even larger when he defeated Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Napoleon, the self-crowned emperor of France, had assembled the largest and strongest land army in Europe at the time and threatened to occupy the entire continent. The battle of Waterloo in Belgium came on the heels of Napoleon’s escape and return from banishment on the island of Elba. He raised a new army around 72,000 strong and marched into Belgium to defeat the divided English and Prussian forces before they could unify and outnumber his strength, (Pakenham et al.).

The coalition against Napoleon was commanded by Wellington who was renowned for his defensive capabilities and drew Napoleon out, despite having few men than Napoleon on his own. Wellington’s troops held on until Prussian reinforcements arrived and broke Napoleon’s army’s back. The defeat what absolute and catastrophic for Napoleon and effectively ended his reign as the French sovereign.

Wellington then went on to become Prime Minister in 1828, serving until 1830, as a representative of the conservative Tory Party, (Pakenham et al.). He opposed the Reform Act and was eventually removed from office as protests and unrest grew throughout the country and the Whig Party once again took power for the first time since the late 1700’s, (Pakenham et al.). Despite his opposition to reform, he did pass the Catholic Relief Act in 1829, which emancipated Catholics and provided them with full civil rights, a massive step in a deeply Protestant country, (Pakenham et al.).

This is important in relation to the novel because he is the Prime Minister for most of it and it will be his government that is removed from power in the coming election that Mr. Brook is running in. If we reflect, we see that Mr. Brook joined and ran under the Whig Party, but there is evidence to suggest he doesn’t truly back reform. Specifically, when we analyze the interaction between him and Will Ladislaw where Brook, in a way, tells Ladislaw that he doesn’t want to go too far or get too carried away and undermine the constitution.

This is significant because the Whig Party used the Reform Bill as a campaign to retake power, but didn’t necessarily believe in it. In fact, the Whig government that replaced Wellington and the divided Tories fell in 1832, but was propped up and eventually the Reform Bill was passed, (Pakenham et al.). The Tories were too divided and were unable to mount a strong enough defense. Thus, we see yet again how cleverly and subtly George Eliot works accurate political sentiments and happenings into the text of Middlemarch as well as its characters. Mr. Brook is really rounded out and brought to life as a quite accurate reflection and representation of politicians at that time, especially Whigs who may have been running under the notion of reform simply to gain election.


Works Cited

Pakenham, Elizabeth, et al. “Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 10 Sept. 2020, www.britannica.com/biography/Arthur-Wellesley-1st-Duke-of-Wellington. 

Associated Place(s)

Event date:

1828 to 1830

Parent Chronology: