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The Duke of Wellington

Peninsula - opening

The Peninsula Campaign - preparations, 1806-1808

The Iberian peninsulaThe Iberian peninsulaWellesley returned home and in 1806 to marriage with Kitty Pakenham, who had refused his initial proposal ten years earlier.

The union proved to be of mixed fortunes, to say the least. Wellesley's political career, however, was advanced with his election to Parliament at Rye, in Cornwall and at Newport, Isle of Wight, and with his appointment to the lucrative post of Irish Chief Secretary in April 1807.

Soon after, he was despatched on his latest mission under Lord Cathcart to secure the Danish fleet at Copenhagen and avert a mooted blockade of Britain by Napoleon. Its success was celebrated in the name of Wellesley's most prized charger, today buried in the grounds of Stratfield Saye.

The opening stage, 1808-1809

Arroyo de MelinosArroyo de MelinosGeneral John MooreGeneral John MooreWellesley embarked on possibly his most formative military experience to date, and significantly his first as outright commander - the Peninsula Campaign in Portugal and Spain.

This followed the movement of troops by Napoleon in support of his Iberian allies, which precipitated the abdication of King Charles IV and his replacement by Napoleon's own brother, Joseph.

The move sparked the beginning of a widespread civil insurrection against the French - one upon which the British and their allies were anxious to capitalise.

Wellesley landed his expeditionary force of 15,000 men near the mouth of the strategically vital Tagus River in August 1808 and marched inland to confront the French at Rolica and Vimeiro.

The outcome was a bloody success for the British; its aftermath, the armistice known as the Convention of Cintra, and its authors, who included the reluctant Wellesley and other senior officers, were roundly condemned in the press when its exceptionally generous terms for the evacuation of the French were made public.

Wellesley nevertheless survived an official investigation and following the heroic death of his replacement General John Moore in January 1809, he was appointed to lead the next expedition in April that year.

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