Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), later the 1st Duke of Wellington, was one of the greatest military commanders in British history. Remembered for his major victories over the French in the Peninsular War (1808-1814) and most famously at Waterloo in 1815, the Duke later went on to serve twice as Britain’s Prime Minister.
As thanks for his defeat of Napoleon, European leaders showered Wellington with gifts such as porcelain, paintings and silver. Similarly, monuments were quickly proposed, with plans for the Wellington Monument in the Blackdown Hills, Devon, first drawn up in 1815, the same year as Wellington’s victory at Waterloo.
Today, a number of monuments to the Duke of Wellington are dotted across the globe. Here’s our pick of some of the most striking that you can visit today in the UK and Ireland.
1. Wellington Monument, Park Lane, London
Situated at the southern-western end of Park Lane in London, the Wellington Monument is a statue representing Achilles as a memorial to the 1st Duke of Wellington. Inaugurated on 18 June 1822, the 36-ft high memorial by sculptor Richard Westmacott was made out of melted-down captured enemy cannon.
It proved somewhat controversial, since it was London’s first public nude sculpture since antiquity. Today, it is a famous landmark.
2. Equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington, Glasgow, Scotland
The statue of the 1st Duke of Wellington astride a horse outside the Royal Exchange, now known as the Gallery of Modern Art, is one of Glasgow’s most famous landmarks.
Sculpted by Italian artist Carlo Marochetti, the monument was funded by public subscription and erected in 1844 to mark the successful end of the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. Today, the Category A listed sculpture is frequently capped with a traffic cone.
3. Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner, London
Originally intended as an outer entrance to Buckingham Palace, the Wellington Arch is one of London’s best-known landmarks. Built in 1825-1827, it originally stood facing the Hyde Park Screen but was moved to its present position on Hyde Park Corner in the 1880s.
Designed by Decimus Burton, its original design was never completed. Instead, a huge statue of the Duke of Wellington was placed atop it in 1846, to much outcry: it was seen as an eyesore. It was because of this that the monument acquired the vernacular name Wellington Arch, rather than the formal Constitution Arch.
The Wellington statue was removed and replaced with a bronze quadriga (an ancient four-horse chariot) by Adrian Jones in 1912. Nonetheless, the landmark is still named after Wellington and is often recognised as commemorating the former British figure as a result.
4. Wellington Monument, Somerset, England
Perched atop the Blackdown Hills, 3km south of Wellington in the English county of Somerset, the 175ft high Wellington Monument is the tallest three-sided obelisk in the world.
Construction began on the Grade II* listed monument in 1817, though the design was revised to be cheaper and the project ran into a number of construction difficulties. It was eventually opened in 1854. Today, the monument is a popular visitor attraction and is owned by the National Trust.
5. The Wellington Monument, Trim, Ireland
The 75ft high Wellington Monument at the edge of Fair Green in Trim, County Meath, Ireland, was erected in honour of the 1st Duke of Wellington in 1817. The inscription upon the Corinthian column reads, “this column was erected in the year 1817 in honour of the illustrious Duke of Wellington by the grateful contributions of the people of Meath.”
Wellington was himself an aristocrat from Ireland. Born in Dublin and educated in Trim, he twice served as MP for Trim and lived nearby. The column proves controversial amongst locals: Wellington didn’t necessarily see himself as Irish, once remarking when asked if he was really Irish that being born in a stable didn’t make one a horse.
6. The Duke of Wellington Statue, Edinburgh, Scotland
Located outside Register House at the east end of Princes Street, Edinburgh, the Duke of Wellington equestrian statue was unveiled in 1852 on the 37th anniversary of the victory at Waterloo. It was made by Edinburgh sculptor Sir John Steel, and so pleased the Duke that he commissioned two further versions of the sculpture, including one for his home, Apsley House.
The magnificent bronze monument is regarded as one of the best depictions of the Duke of Wellington, and still stands where it was originally positioned in the mid-19th century.
7. Duke of Wellington Statue, Brecon, Wales
Located in the Bulwark, the town centre of Powys, mid-Wales, this Duke of Wellington Statue was a gift to the town of his birth from the monument’s sculptor, John Evans Thomas, Deputy Lieutenant and High Sheriff of the County of Brecknock.
Dated to 1852, the 2.5m high bronze statue stands high on a pedestal of stone. It is regarded as a sophisticated depiction: sculptor Thomas was a pupil of Sir Francis Chantrey, a famed sculptor of portraits and busts.
8. The Wellington Monument, Dublin, Ireland
Located in Phoenix Park, Dublin, the epic 62-metre tall Wellington Monument looks over Kilmainham and the River Liffey, and is the largest obelisk in Europe. Originally planned to be located in Merrion Square, it was relocated after the square’s residents complained.
The obelisk was designed by the architect Sir Robert Smirke. Construction started in 1817. However, construction funds ran out, meaning it was only finally opened in 1861.