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The Duke of Wellington was the most famous Briton of the first half of the 19th century.
His victory over Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815
altered the course of history.
Waterloo, together with Trafalgar,
give Britain 100 years of domination. Britain becomes THE superpower.
Steely-eyed, lantern-jawed, for later generations
he came to embody the very essence of Britishness.
This one, I think, of Wellington is excellent.
You can see the determination.
You can see the Iron Duke.
But real men are not made of iron.
My heart is broken.
Next to a battle lost,
the greatest misery is a battle gained.
He's not just the stiff upper lip.
He's got all the sort of characteristics of someone
who's really quite complicated inside.
This is an intimate portrait of a hero,
seen through the eyes of those who knew him best -
the women he slept with...
"I am glad to see you are looking so beautiful," says he.
"May I pay you a visit?"
"When you like", say I.
..the intelligent, insightful women he chose to spend his time with...
He wishes to be the universal man.
It is incredible how his pride has a share has everything that he does.
..and through the eyes of the woman he was married to.
For your own dear sake, for Christ's sake,
do not use another woman as you have treated me.
General, politician, lover, wit, outsider -
the hero of Waterloo was far more complex than the public image,
and there was no more brutal observer of his inner drama than Wellington himself.
Would you believe that anybody could have been such a damned fool?
Drawing on his own vast, private correspondence,
as well as the diaries and memoirs of those around him,
this is the story of the flesh-and-blood human being
behind the iron mask.
In September 1805, the 36-year-old Arthur Wellesley,
as the future Duke of Wellington was then known,
arrived back in Britain from India.
The younger son of an Irish aristocratic family,
he'd spent the previous nine years fighting to expand the British Empire.
He came back from India very, very changed.
He went out as a very junior, very inexperienced officer.
He came back as Major General Sir Arthur Wellesley, KB -
Knight of the Bath.
He's become a man in India.
He's become a real soldier.
I think he came back from India a very confident,
almost arrogant figure.
Arthur Wellesley's victories in India
had established his reputation.
They had also made his fortune in booty seized from Indian princes.
He left behind a few debts to his tailor and that sort of thing.
And he came back with £40,000
which is, in those days, you know,
quite a reasonable amount of money.
A huge sum of money,
and given that he was a relatively penniless younger son
of an aristocratic family,
all of a sudden he's got serious private means.
Arthur Wellesley was now on a personal mission.
When he comes back from India, he basically says that he's come back
for one reason alone, and that is to marry - and to marry Kitty Pakenham.
Like Arthur himself,
Kitty Pakenham was a member of the Anglo-Irish Protestant aristocracy.
He had originally proposed to her before going to India,
but was rejected by her family.
He proposed not once but twice in the 1790s
to a not particularly distinguished family,
no more distinguished than his own family in Ireland,
and both times he'd been turned down as effectively not good enough.
He gets not only a wounding refusal,
but a set of comments on his lifestyle.
"Well, you're a young, impecunious cavalry officer,
"you haven't got much prospects."
That must have really hurt.
and I think that's a major motivation in his coming back
and of vindicating himself. "Here I am, now I'm a general.
"Now I've got plaudits. Now I've got money. What do you think now?"
But 12 long years had passed.
Kitty was now entering middle age,
painfully aware she was no longer the young beauty
Arthur Wellesley had left behind, as she wrote to a friend.
I am very much changed
within these last three years, and you know it.
So much that I doubt whether it would be in my power
to contribute to the comfort or happiness
of anybody who has not been in the habit of loving me for years.
I think Arthur was still in love with the Kitty that he remembered.
He's clearly got this picture in his mind of this very pretty,
lively young girl he last saw when she was 21, 22.
Sensibly, Kitty had suggested they take time to become reacquainted.
"No need," Arthur replied,
and responded by brusquely proposing marriage.
He's convinced it will be as it was before.
So, he doesn't go and see her.
KNOCK AT DOOR
And the first time he sees her is a few days before
they actually get married, in April 1806.
According to one account,
Arthur later confided his initial reaction to his brother.
'She's grown damned ugly, by Jove.'
The wedding nevertheless went ahead just a few days later.
It was a dreadful situation.
Out of perhaps pique,
he'd married the girl he was refused a few years earlier.
He married her, and then he found that she was, for his purposes,
far too inadequate, far too small for him, in a way.
He's grown in confidence enormously while he's been in India,
and hers seems to have drained away.
I wouldn't say that it took long for them to find out
they didn't have much in common.
Soon afterwards, Arthur was made Chief Secretary for Ireland
in a Tory government.
The couple moved into the secretary's official residence
in Phoenix Park, Dublin.
Kitty, who came from a large, affectionate family,
was delighted to be close to home.
Arthur's memories of childhood were very different.
Kitty's family, the Pakenhams, were a very warm, loving family.
And I think that warmth was something that was
entirely missing from Arthur's upbringing.
His father died when he was very young, he was only 12.
And his mother, left on her own with the children,
I think, really regarded Arthur as sort of rather tiresome.
He was the middle son, didn't seem to be good at anything.
Arthur also felt little sentimentality
towards the land of his birth.
Because a man is born in a stable, that does not make him a horse.
Whether Arthur ever uttered this famous put-down is disputed,
but it summed up his attitude.
For him, Ireland, like India, was a colony - a volatile, unstable one.
I think Arthur was very much an Irishman of the rather
embattled Anglo-Irish Protestant descendancy.
Ireland had suffered a terrible civil war in 1798,
a bloody rebellion, bloodily repressed.
And that gives him, I think, a horror, a fear of the mob,
and this is what makes him, I think, such a political reactionary.
I lay it down as decided that Ireland, in a view to military operations,
must be considered as an enemy's country.
No political measure would alter the temper of the people of this country.
They are disaffected to the British Government.
Arthur's Irish aristocratic background would
shape his political outlook throughout his life, making him
simultaneously an outsider, and a staunch Conservative.
And if Ireland tried his patience, so did his wife.
Left to run the household, Kitty struggled.
Kitty had never run a household, never lived on her own,
never had any money of her own. She was 33.
She didn't have any idea, really, how to be
the counterpart in this marriage to this efficient man.
He gave her money, gave her an allowance,
and she quite often used that allowance not for paying
the household expenses, which is what was the intention,
but to support impoverished members of her family or impoverished friends.
I believe I may have given away money very injudiciously,
perhaps sometimes, often,
to spare myself the pain of refusing.
When the Duke found that out, he was indeed very annoyed.
He just felt that that was deceitful of her, and irresponsible.
I am much concerned that you should have
thought of concealing from me any lack of money.
The conclusion I draw from your conduct is that you must be mad,
and that you must consider me a brute.
Once and for all, you require no permission to talk to me
about any subject you please.
All I request is that a piece of work may not be made about trifles.
And you may not go into tears, because I don't think them deserving
of an uncommon degree of attention.
He found out, was absolutely furious.
It wasn't really so much that she'd bailed out her brother he minded,
but it was the way that she'd concealed it from him.
And this was to be a bit of a pattern in their marriage, I'm afraid.
She was frightened of him. She was frightened of him.
With brisk efficiency, Arthur quickly fathered two sons.
The first, named after himself, born in 1807,
the second, Charles, born in 1808.
But it was soon clear he had a wandering eye.
CARRIAGE DOOR OPENS AND CLOSES
A high-class courtesan called Harriette Wilson would later reveal
she had an affair with Arthur during this period.
She described his somewhat unsubtle seduction technique.
He bowed, and said, "How do you do?" then wanted to take hold of my hand.
"Really," said I, withdrawing my hand.
"For such a renowned hero, you have very little to say for yourself.
"I understood you came here to try and make yourself agreeable."
"What, child?" said he. "Do you think that I have nothing better to do
"than to make speeches to please ladies?"
"This is indeed very uphill work," thought I.
He wore a broad red ribbon
and looked very like a rat catcher.
I think there can be little doubt that he had visited
Harriette Wilson in her professional capacity.
I think there can be little doubt about that!
He liked women.
He liked women a lot.
He's a bit of a Regency dandy, really.
He was a sexually very active man,
a man of his cast and a man of his time.
It's likely Arthur Wellesley already had two illegitimate sons
at the time he was married.
And throughout his life, he would display
an 18th-century aristocrat's attitude to sex.
But in 1808, his real yearning was to return to the battlefield.
Almost the whole of Europe at this point was under
the sway of the French emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte.
His Revolutionary Armies had driven the British from the Continent
and defeated the other major powers.
It was a moment of national peril, similar to 1940.
Pretty much all the other allies,
that is, the key allies - Russia, Austria and Prussia -
had been knocked out of the war.
Only Britain really is still in the ring against Napoleon.
Then, in 1808, there was an uprising against French rule in Spain.
For the British, it provided an opportunity.
And for the ambitious, restless Arthur Wellesley,
a chance to escape the desk job.
Wellesley was dispatched with a small army to assist the Spanish.
He would spend five years in the Iberian Peninsula
without once returning home to see his family.
While the cramped confines of his marriage magnified Arthur's faults,
the vast plains of Spain and Portugal provided the stage for his greatness.
His modest headquarters on the Spanish-Portuguese border
presented a stark contrast
with the grand chateaux favoured by Napoleon,
and the two men were very different commanders.
Napoleon tended to consider his soldiers as a dispensable item.
Wellington was very protective towards his soldiers,
and the principal reason for that is that he never enjoyed
the sort of resources in men or material that Napoleon had.
Although bolstered by Spanish and Portuguese troops,
he was often outnumbered, and never gave battle unless he had to.
The mark of a great general is to know when to retreat,
and have the courage to do it.
Wellesley made sure his troops were well fed without stealing.
He insisted on paying for everything.
I think he'd seen what French armies did,
and the anger and the hatred they left behind them,
and he made sure, as far as possible, that his troops behaved well.
meticulous attention to detail,
and a humane pragmatism -
these were the hallmarks of his command.
But for all the care he took of them, he was famously
contemptuous of the men who served beneath him.
The French system of conscription
brings together a fair sample of all classes.
Ours is composed of the scum of the earth,
the mere scum of the earth. It is only wonderful
that we should be able to make so much of them afterwards.
Unlike Napoleon, he had no great emotional rapport with his men.
The key word with Napoleon was glory, the wonder of being Emperor.
"Vive L'Empereur!" And he would glow, and his troops would glow
in this amazing relationship that they had with each other.
Wellington was quite different.
Wellington wanted his men to fear him and respect him.
He wanted his men to do what he told them.
He wanted them to be disciplined,
he wanted them to obey his orders.
That is the difference between the French and English soldier.
With the French, glory is the cause.
With us, the result.
His men may not have loved him, but they trusted him.
Through a succession of battles, he slowly moulded them
into an unbeatable force.
The French met their match.
Because these red-coated soldiers just didn't move.
They stood rooted to the spot, and that is, of course,
something that the Grande Armee had never encountered before.
By the summer of 1812, the British had driven the French into northern Spain.
On July 22nd, they confronted a French army
led by Marshal Auguste de Marmont outside the town of Salamanca.
In the battle that followed, Wellesley would show that,
although a cautious general,
when required, he could display flair, initiative and daring.
As dawn breaks on the 22nd, Marshal Marmont is standing here
with one of his divisional commanders, on this very spot.
He's looking at the hills behind me.
Wellington has actually hidden the whole of his army
behind that hill, but Marmont doesn't know that,
and what Marmont sees in the far distance is dust. A lot of dust.
This is Wellington's baggage train,
but he perceives this to be Wellington's army
continuing their westerly movement and not wanting to give battle.
Thinking the British were retreating,
Marmont dispatched a division in pursuit.
Wellington's command post is on that hill
in front of the village of Las Torres.
And it's about 1500 hours when, purportedly,
Wellington is watching what is going on to his front,
when he realises that that division has over-extended itself.
He realises this is his opportunity and in an instant,
he reacts. Purportedly, he's chewing on a chicken bone at the time
and he throws the chicken bone over his shoulder, shouting,
"By God, that will do!" Marmont is dead. He's made a fatal mistake.
He ordered his men to attack.
The French were taken by surprise.
In the words of one Frenchman,
40,000 French soldiers are destroyed in 40 minutes.
Salamanca helped establish Wellesley's reputation
as one of the greatest generals in Europe.
He was exultant.
I never saw an army get such a beating in so short a time.
I am afraid to state the extent of the enemy's loss.
What havoc in little more than four hours!
The people of Salamanca swear that my mother is a saint,
and the daughter of a saint,
to which circumstance, I owe all my good fortune!
Kitty was now living in London.
Her life could not have been more different.
Raising their two sons alone,
she kept a diary that revealed the tedium of her existence.
My time, I am conscious, is terribly dawdled away.
So uninteresting, so unvaried is my life
that to keep a daily journal is almost impossible.
And yet, by not doing so, I lose the pleasure of knowing
how he and I were employed at the same time.
She has this idea in her journal,
a rather lovely idea, in fact, of writing a journal
which will have her doings down one side and his down the other.
But the very, very sad thing is that those journals...
pretty much all of the right side is blank,
because she rarely got letters from him. He never confided in her.
He never told her what was going on.
Kitty's diary has never been published.
But it's still in the possession of the Wellington family.
Her diaries are just really heart-breakingly sad.
Or at least I find it heart-breaking,
thinking of her as my great-great-great grandmother.
At one point, she writes in her diary
just three words, "Alone and sad".
Alone and sad...
I fear indolence is again creeping about me.
I am fatigued by a regular course of insignificant operations
and dissatisfied with myself when idle.
I have nothing to say to this languid day.
I am tired.
This unvaried life fatigues, but must be endured.
So, ends a melancholy year.
Heaven spare me from such another.
She has the look of a woman who's battling with depression.
The languor that seems to come over her, the very opposite of what Arthur is going through.
The vigour that he seems to find in the field of action.
She, left behind, just dwindles, really.
Only in her two sons did Kitty find distraction
from her darkest thoughts.
My darling children,
may no degree of suffering tempt me
to forget my duty to you.
I little imagined the extent of my crime
when I so earnestly wished to die.
Her eldest, Arthur, he didn't remember his father,
but he was surrounded by busts or images of his father.
And there was one particular bust,
and he would go and rub the nose on the bust
and then he would sort of...touch his own nose.
And he would lament, he would say to his mother,
"My nose is such a time growing."
He wanted to be his father.
On October 7th, 1813, just a few months short
of his oldest son's seventh birthday,
Arthur Wellesley crossed the Bidasoa River into France.
A year earlier, Napoleon had been forced into his catastrophic
retreat from Moscow.
With British troops on French soil,
in the spring of 1814, he abdicated.
Wellesley had played a key role in his downfall.
Spain, in its way, though less spectacular,
I would submit, is as catastrophic
to the Napoleonic Empire as is Russia.
Something like a quarter of a million men
were held down in the Peninsula, who could have been fighting
in Central Europe because of Wellington's campaigns.
It was a vital element.
On May 3rd, 1814, Arthur Wellesley was made
Duke of Wellington by a grateful nation.
He entered Paris in triumph,
the saviour of Europe,
and quickly set about enjoying himself.
He was the most celebrated man, practically, in the world.
Every single woman in the land,
practically, was throwing themselves at his feet.
Did he have affairs? Yes, he had lots of affairs.
He was a bit naughty. I mean, he used his time in Paris
to have quite a bit of fun.
He rather prided himself on having a couple of mistresses
that Napoleon had had earlier on.
There's definitely something of the rutting stag going on here.
"I can prove that I'm more of a man than you
"because I'm going to take on all your old girlfriends."
One of Napoleon's mistresses that Wellington inherited
was the actress, Mademoiselle Georges.
His relationship with Mademoiselle Georges gives us the pleasing news
that when asked to compare, as lovers, Napoleon and Wellington,
that Wellington was very much the strongest and the best.
Wellington ran into an old acquaintance
while riding down the Champs-Elysees one day.
He quickly rekindled the friendship.
"I am glad to see you are looking so beautiful," says he. "May I pay you a visit?"
"When you like," say I. "I'll come tonight at eight o'clock."
His Lordship was punctual and came to me in a very gay equipage.
He was all over orders and ribbons of different colours, bows,
and stars, and he looked pretty well.
He kissed me by main force.
Wellington was made British ambassador and took up residence
in a house that had once belonged to Napoleon's sister.
He invited his wife Kitty to join him.
But Wellington's open philandering made hers a humiliating position.
He was perfectly prepared to almost insult his wife
by taking her to Paris and behaving very poorly even when she was there.
Friends of Wellington said, "You really shouldn't
"behave like that, it's a terrible thing to do to your wife."
He was extraordinarily insensitive to that,
more almost disdainful of his wife Kitty.
Was he cruel to her?
I think probably one would have to admit
that he had on occasions
been cruel to her.
Maybe many husbands have been guilty of this
over generations and centuries.
At this time, Wellington began to gather around him
a veritable harem of beautiful, aristocratic ladies,
far younger than himself,
united in their adoration of the great hero.
One of the best known was Lady Frances Shelley.
Wellington condescends to converse with me as a friend!
I hope my head won't be turned.
The other night, when the Duke was taking care of me after the opera,
the crowd made a way for us with the greatest respect.
The Duke turned towards me, and said in the gayest tone,
"It's a fine thing to be a great man, is it not?"
Equally devoted was political hostess Harriet Arbuthnot,
the wife of a close friend of Wellington's.
It is quite refreshing to be in constant
and habitual intercourse with a mind so enlightened,
so superior as his is, which is familiar with every subject
and which, at the same time, can find amusement in the most
ordinary occupations of life.
May God preserve him to us!
Intriguingly, it's likely that many of these relationships
were not sexual.
Curious man. A very curious man.
This incredibly powerful character,
who I think has an ambivalence about his relationship with women.
Some women are just there to be made love to and chucked aside,
and others are there to be friendly with and to be able to come out
with your inner thoughts and share deep, emotional feelings with.
I'm very struck by how important his friendships
with women were to him.
Women whose intellect he respected, he treated them
in a sense, as his equal. And I think that is quite unusual.
I mean, of course, the poor Kitty -
that was one of the problems.
She was lacking in confidence,
she wasn't that well informed about world affairs.
She was exactly the opposite of the sort of woman
whose company he enjoyed.
But Wellington's enjoyment of Paris
and the pleasure of female company was about to be rudely interrupted.
On February 26th, 1815,
Napoleon escaped from captivity on the island of Elba, off Italy.
Troops sent to arrest him,
The newly restored French king fled.
Napoleon was back in power.
Wellington was in Vienna for the grand congress
that had been called to discuss the terms of the peace.
Once more, Europe turned to him
to lead the allied forces against Napoleon.
Wellington would now meet the French Emperor himself
on the field of battle for the first time.
The two armies met at Waterloo,
just outside Brussels, on June 18th, 1815.
For eight hours of savage hand-to-hand fighting,
the fate of Europe hung in the balance.
The present Duke retains an extraordinary memento
of that historic day.
A note, written by Wellington in the heat of the battle.
He sends this to Colonel MacDonald
in the Chateau d'Hougoumont,
which was an incredibly important position.
And he writes, sometime, I think, in the early afternoon,
"I see that the fire has communicated
"from the haystack to the roof of the chateau.
"You must, however, still keep your men in those parts
"to which the fire does not reach.
"Take care that no men are lost
"by the falling in of the roof or floors."
Incredible attention to detail, he'd obviously seen
with his telescope that roof of the chateau was on fire
and that, to me, completely embodies
the action during the battle.
The British managed to hold on to the chateau at Hougoumont.
But elsewhere on the battlefield, by early evening
they were facing defeat.
Then, at the last moment, Prussian reinforcements arrived.
The French were driven from the field.
Waterloo, together with Trafalgar,
give Britain 100 years of domination,
Britain becomes THE superpower.
This was the moment when Europe embarked on
100 years of virtual Continent-wide peace
because of the finality and totality of the victory at Waterloo -
But the victory came at a price.
The British and their allies
lost more than 22,000 men, dead and wounded.
Not for the first time after a battle,
the Iron Duke was traumatised.
While in the thick of it,
I am too occupied to feel anything,
but it is wretched just after.
It is impossible to think of glory.
Both mind and feelings are exhausted.
Next to a battle lost,
the greatest misery
is a battle gained.
Wellington would never fight another battle.
On returning to England, the Duke bought Apsley House in London
with the money awarded to him by a grateful nation.
In the foyer, he placed a large statue of the youthful Napoleon
that he had acquired in Paris.
The French were later outraged to discover
he was using it as a hat stand.
It would have been easy for Wellington to retire
from public life and enjoy the wealth and acclaim
his victories had bought him.
But he didn't.
I can't imagine that he would've,
for a moment, contemplated retirement.
He felt an overwhelming duty to perform public service.
Not yet 50, the Duke entered the murky world of politics,
joining the Tory government as Master of the Ordnance,
a senior military post with Cabinet rank.
He'd stepped down from his pedestal
and his vigorous sexual appetite quickly became a target
for Britain's robust tradition of satire and caricature.
'What a spanker! I hope he won't fire it at me!'
'It can't do any harm. He has fired it so often it is nearly worn out.'
At this time, he acquired a new female admirer -
Princess Lieven, the wife of the Russian Ambassador in London.
More combative than many of his other lady friends,
she would display a shrewd, insightful understanding
of the Duke's complex psychology.
He wishes to be the universal man.
It is incredible how his pride has a share in everything that he does.
It plunges him into despair not to be able
to do something or to do it badly.
It is a strange vanity.
Like Churchill 130 years later,
Wellington now found himself fighting a very different battle,
one for which his talents were less obviously suited.
He was returning to a country transformed
since his youth by the Industrial Revolution,
presenting a profound challenge
to his conservative outlook.
What you have is a society which is becoming increasingly urban.
Britain is no longer a predominantly agricultural country.
There's a tension here for Wellington in that he continues
to believe in the right, the duty and the obligation of landowners
to exercise dominant political influence. That never changed.
As Britain industrialised,
there were growing demands for an extension of the right to vote,
limited, at that time, to a small proportion of the population -
demands that had been fuelled by the experience of war.
If you can give a man arms and send him onto a battlefield,
why can't you give him a vote
and send him into the privacy of the ballot box?
That's the argument. You know, if a man can die for his country,
can't he have civil and political rights?
On 16th August, 1819, a crowd of around 70,000 gathered
at St Peter's Fields in Manchester to demand political reform.
Local magistrates called on the cavalry to arrest the speakers.
They charged the crowd, killing at least 11 people.
Among them, a veteran of Waterloo.
The massacre would become known as Peterloo, in ironic
remembrance of Wellington's famous victory four years earlier.
Wellington congratulated the magistrates in Manchester
on their actions.
Shaped by Ireland, scarred by memories of the French Revolution,
he had no sympathy with the radicals,
as he wrote to Harriet Arbuthnot.
It is very clear to me that they won't be quiet
till a large number of them "bite the dust", as the French say,
or till some of their leaders are hanged,
which would be a most fortunate result.
The following year, in 1820, government agents thwarted a plot,
known as the Cato Street Conspiracy, to murder the entire Cabinet.
Wellington's female admirers were horrified.
I have had such a fright about him and all those I love best
in the world, that I am now in a shake when I think about it.
How could such a plot be conceived against the Duke,
whom every English person ought to worship?
Wellington's own anger, though, was directed at his wife.
The Cato Street Conspiracy became
a reason for Wellington
finding fault with Kitty,
because one of the reasons that they used to justify
their actions was that he was so unkind to his wife.
And it absolutely infuriated him.
One thing he couldn't bear
is her confiding to others about any aspect of their life.
However he treated her, he expected her to be totally discreet.
Your whole family have complained of my conduct towards you
without reason. Your whole conduct is one of watching
and spying on me.
It really makes my life a burden to me.
If it goes on, I must live somewhere else.
It is the meanest, dirtiest trick of which anyone can be guilty.
By now, Kitty was spending most of her time at Stratfield Saye,
the country house in Hampshire
that Wellington had bought following the Battle of Waterloo.
She was distraught at what she regarded as unfounded allegations.
His letter provoked a rare outburst of anger.
I hope that I forgive you.
I would and I am sure I could have made you happy
had you suffered me to try,
but thrust from you, I was not allowed.
For God's - for your own dear sake - for Christ's sake,
do not use another woman as you have treated me.
Never write to a human being such letters.
They have destroyed me.
The couple now effectively lived separate lives,
Wellington staying mostly in London.
On the rare occasions he entertained in Stratfield Saye,
he had no hesitation in imposing his lady friends on Kitty.
I have been obliged to promise the Duke
to visit him in the country.
You have no idea how much it bores me.
So, it's always cold there and his wife is stupid.
What's to be done?
Homely and simple,
Kitty could not compete with the standards of fashionable London.
She is like the housekeeper and dresses herself
exactly like a shepherdess, with an old hat made by herself
stuck at the back of her head, and a dirty basket under her arm.
The Duke says he is sure she is mad!
She made his house so dull that nobody would go to it.
In 1822, Harriet Arbuthnot asked the Duke why he married Kitty.
Her diary entry for that day contains Wellington's only
recorded comments on what remains the central mystery of his life.
Would you believe that anybody could have been such a damned fool?
I was not the least in love with her.
I married her because they asked me to do it and I did not know myself.
I thought I should never care for anybody again
and that I should be with the Army.
In short, I was a fool.
I think Arthur really is rewriting history.
The truth is, if you look back to his letters of the period,
the letters of the time don't support the idea
that he was bumped into marriage.
They're all written by someone
absolutely in love in or in love with the idea of love, perhaps.
Observing Kitty at Stratfield Saye, Lady Shelley even mocked her
for her devotion to her two sons.
She was a slave of the boys when they came home for the holidays.
I have seen her carrying their fishing nets, their stumps,
their balls, their bats - apparently not perceiving how bad
it was for them to regard a woman, far less their mother,
as a simple drudge.
In consequence, her sons pitied, without respecting her.
It wasn't true. Kitty's two sons had always adored her.
It was their relationship with their father that was cold and distant.
By now the oldest, Arthur, was growing to manhood.
He later described his relationship
with the man whose title he would one day inherit.
My father never showed the least affection.
We were taught to go to his room first thing every morning
after we were dressed, and without interrupting his correspondence,
for we always found him writing, he would look up for a moment and say,
"Good morning." That was positively all the loving intercourse
that passed between us during the day.
In 1825, it looked briefly as if the Duke's philandering
and lack of interest in his own home and family
were about to catch up with him.
Wellington's old friend, the courtesan, Harriette Wilson,
had decided it was time to cash in.
She wrote a kiss-and-tell memoir, blackmailing a number
of her former clients to keep their names out of the book.
Legend has it the Duke responded with the famous words,
"Publish and be damned."
He was not prepared in any way to be blackmailed.
I think he was sufficiently confident of his own position
and probably had not done anything that was so unusual for the time.
Once again, the caricaturists had fun with the revelations.
But the public appeared uninterested.
His reputation doesn't seem to suffer from it at all.
The public accepted that a man of his type,
a man of his cast,
will do things like that.
The later Victorians wouldn't have approved at all,
but he got away with it at the time.
So little was the damage to the Duke's reputation
that just three years later, in 1828, he reached the pinnacle
of any political career -
appointed Prime Minister in a Tory government.
The job did not come naturally to him.
One man wants one thing and one another.
They agree with what I say in the morning, and in the evening
up they start with some crochet which deranges the whole plan.
I have been accustomed to carry on things in quite a different manner.
I assembled my officers, laid down my plan,
and it was carried into effect without any more words.
Wellington doesn't really ever accommodate
to the political mind-set.
Prime Ministers... Really, you have to manage your ministers.
You have to use an element of carrot and stick.
You have to work with them. He wasn't terribly good at that.
He was quite dictatorial.
Wellington quickly found himself confronted with the great issue
of the day - the growing clamour for reform of the electoral system.
It was a system which had hardly changed since the medieval period.
In a number of cases, parliamentary boroughs
were just owned by great landowners and could be bought and sold.
But Wellington remained firmly opposed to any change.
Not only do I think parliamentary reform unnecessary,
but it would be so injurious that society,
as now established in the Empire,
could not survive under the system, which must be its consequence.
I shall, therefore, at all times and under all circumstances, oppose it.
He genuinely believed that constituencies with a small
number of voters did actually ensure that the right people
were elected to the House of Commons.
He was mistaken, but I think he believed that
for perfectly reasonable reasons.
He sees reform as the road to revolution,
tyranny and worst of all, of course, civil war.
When the Duke repeated his implacable opposition
to reform in the House of Lords, there was outrage.
Even his friends were exasperated.
Why has the Duke pushed things to an extremity?
Why could he not have held his tongue?
You cannot conceive how universally he is blamed.
His peremptory declaration against any sort of reform
has dissatisfied the upper class,
aroused fear amongst the middle class and exasperated the populace.
Wellington's stance left him isolated
and led to the fall of his Tory government.
When the Whigs introduced their own reform bill,
it was rejected by the House of Lords.
The country teetered on the brink of disaster.
The immediate reaction was outrage
and violence in a number of cities.
Bristol was out of control for more than a week.
Nottingham and Derby, also.
Britain was, I think I'd say, close to revolution.
Wellington becomes a personal focus of hostility.
There's no doubt that he is seen as the arch anti-reformer
in this period.
You see his sort of historic reputation as the victor of Waterloo
under sustained assault.
Crowds made for Apsley House and broke the windows,
and they had to be defended with iron shutters.
Wellington was a man out of tune with the times.
And as revolutionary mobs swirled around his home,
inside, a private tragedy
was playing itself out.
Kitty was dying.
Kitty had some form of stomach cancer, we think,
and was pretty ill for the last two years of her life.
In those last weeks, finally,
Wellington became the devoted husband.
He sits with her and he holds her hand.
She feels up his sleeve to see if the armlet she'd given him
20 years ago is still there, and she finds it is.
He insisted that he had always worn it,
and that must have given her some comfort.
Kitty herself had never ceased to love the Duke,
as she wrote a few weeks before her death.
'With all my heart and soul, I have loved him
'straight from the first time I knew him -
'I was not then 15 - to the present hour.'
He remained her hero throughout her life.
I mean, this is the saddest...
He was her hero from the moment she probably first met him,
when she was quite young.
Kitty died in April 1831, aged 58.
At the very end, the Duke had done his duty to the woman
he'd been married to for quarter of a century.
But his comments about her to Harriet Arbuthnot
shortly afterwards were harsh.
The Duchess was one of the most foolish women that ever existed.
She spoilt my sons by making everything give way to them
and teaching them to have too high ideas of their own consequence.
She was in debt £10,000 at Stratfield Saye when she died,
and I discovered debts of another £10,000 or more.
The debts preyed upon her mind. She was constantly wretched about them.
Outside the iron shutters of Apsley House,
the country, too, appeared to be moving towards terminal crisis.
Wellington's stubborn opposition to any type of reform
looked likely to provoke what he had always most dreaded,
ever since his earliest days in Ireland - anarchy and civil strife.
he pulled back from the brink.
He did, in the end, retreat on the point of
the Great Reform Bill and he...
In the end, the bill only carried
because he advised the House of Lords
to allow the bill to pass.
The gut opponent of reform gives way to the man who believes
above all else, in the sanctity of the King's government.
How is the King's government to be carried on?
That is the thing that wins the day for Wellington.
Like the great general he was, in politics as in war -
Wellington knew when to retreat.
In the end, he had little choice.
But over the remaining two decades of his life,
pragmatism and moderation would be his guiding principles.
Wellington is the living embodiment of this new idea
of conservatism. In other words, you maintain
the essentials of British society,
but where necessary, you reform abuses, where they are proven.
You don't stand in the way of change.
He was certainly not part of the "ultras", as they were
known in those days - the extreme right wing of the Tory Party.
He would not have been a supporter of Ukip,
or any of the right-wing elements of British politics today.
The Duke lived on into the age of photography.
A single image exists of him.
The first Duke on his 75th birthday
on May 1st, 1844,
went to the studio, Monsieur Claudet.
And his image was etched onto this plate,
and you can see, quite clearly, his features.
The great warrior's face is surprisingly benign.
Many of the portraits and images of the Duke
in the later part of his life
portrayed him as a rather gentle old man.
He loved children, not just his own grandchildren,
but children of friends.
And, in a way, I think that perhaps somewhere,
there was a real regret
that he hadn't experienced that with his own sons.
His heir, Arthur, continued to live in dread of the moment
when he would have to step into his father's shoes.
Think what it will be when the Duke of Wellington is announced,
and only I come in.
Wellington died in September 1852, aged 83.
Over a million people lined the streets for his funeral.
The traumas of the Reform Bill era were long forgotten
and he was once more the hero of Waterloo.
There is a massive funeral.
It was a huge outpouring of grief that probably wasn't seen again
for a public figure until Churchill's death in the 1960s.
Queen Victoria says, "We've lost more than a man,
"we've lost the very soul of this country."
And she wasn't the only person to hold that view.
The term the "Iron Duke" had been coined just a few years before
and over the coming decades, this was the image that would be
fixed in the public mind.
I think the Victorians, in many ways,
recast Wellington in their own self-image,
and he becomes the vision of that steely, blue-eyed,
lantern-jawed, unyielding hero.
And yet, when you look at the real, flesh-and-blood Arthur Wellesley,
was he's rather a different character. Men aren't made of iron.
Wellington remains an enigma.
Bluff and direct, he was capable of great sensitivity and kindness.
The sadness of his life was that these personal qualities
were so rarely displayed to those closest to him.
I don't think I could say that I'm proud of him as a person.
He won all the battles and he achieved what he set out to do,
but there were other casualties along the way.
I judge him to have been a bad husband
and an inadequate father.
But I have huge respect for him
in terms of how he conducted his public life.
Like many great men before and since, Wellington was not
always a great human being.
But he remains a British hero.