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Wellington: The Iron Duke [Hardcover]

Richard Holmes
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Jun 2002

Richard Holmes, highly acclaimed military historian and broadcaster, tells the exhilarating story of Britain’s greatest-ever soldier, the man who posed the most serious threat to Napoleon. The Duke of Wellington’s remarkable life and extraordinary campaigns are recreated with Holmes’ superb skill in this compelling book.

Richard Holmes charts Wellington’s stellar military career from India to Europe, and in the process, rediscovers the reasons Queen Victoria called him the greatest man the nineteenth century had produced. Combining his astute historical analysis with a semi-biographical examination of Wellington, Holmes artfully illustrates the rapid evolution in military and political thinking of the time.

Wellington is a brilliant figure, idealistic in politics, cynical in love, a wit, a beau, a man of enormous courage often sickened by war. As Richard Holmes charts his progress from a shy, indolent boy to commander-in-chief of the allied forces, he also exposes the Iron Duke as a philanderer, and a man who sometimes despised the men that he led, and was not always in control of his soldiers. Particularly infamous is the bestial rampage of his men after the capture of Cuidad Rodgrigo and Badajoz.

THE IRON DUKE is a beautifully produced book, complete with stunning illustrations and colour plates. Richard Holmes’ TV series to accompany THE IRON DUKE will be lavishly constructed in four parts, and filmed on location in Britain, India, Spain, Portugal, France and Belgium.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition By Number String edition (5 Jun 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007669763
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007137480
  • ASIN: 0007137486
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 16 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 378,824 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Holmes was one of Britain's most successful historians and television presenters. Author of the best-selling Tommy, Redcoat and Wellington: The Iron Duke, he has also written and presented television series for the BBC. As well as serving in the TA, he taught military history at Sandhurst and, latterly, as Professor of Military and Security Studies at Cranfield University and the Royal Military College of Science. Richard Holmes died suddenly on 30 April 2011 from pneumonia, aged 65.

Product Description

Amazon Review

We associate Wellington so much with the battle of Waterloo that it's easy to forget that, before the battle, he had had a long military career already and that, after it, he had an even longer career as politician, prime minister and pillar of the establishment. Richard Holmes's admirably clear and succinct biography of the Duke has a chapter on his youth as a slightly awkward loner from the Anglo-Irish nobility and a concluding chapter which races swiftly through the 37 years of his post-Waterloo life. However the bulk of the book, unsurprisingly, is given over to a description and analysis of his military exploits.

As viewers of his TV series and readers of his previous books will know, Holmes is a brilliant interpreter of battlefields and what took place on them. He has visited most of the sites of Wellington's battles, not only those in Europe but those in India where the young Arthur Wellesley, as he then was, gained his first experiences as a general. (Wellington himself, in later life, claimed that his finest military achievement was not Waterloo but the winning of the Battle of Assaye during the Maratha Wars in 1803.) He uses his knowledge of the battle sites and his familiarity with all the extensive literature on the Peninsular War and Waterloo to produce a vivid account of Wellington's string of successes as a general. As the quotes in this book from his writings and despatches show, Wellington had a gift for the striking phrase and for concise description of complicated events. It's a gift his biographer shares and Holmes has produced a very readable and enjoyable book. --Nick Rennison


' Richard Holmes has returned from his long quest with an historical holy grail: the true character of Britain's grittiest soldier ' -- Sunday Telegraph

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wellington made easy 12 Jan 2006
By A Customer
This book definately deserves 5 stars in my opinion, but only if we take it for what it is; a good general history of the man and his life.
A comparison in thickness with Elizabeth Longford's two volume classic clearly indicates that Holmes' book can't be exhaustive, but this is in no way a criticism in itself. In fact I would say that it is one of the book's strongest points. Wellington, the Iron Duke is extremely readable, almost addictive in the way only a great novel can be, but without recourse to dumbing down. Holmes manages to recount the Duke's life and deeds both on and off the battle field with enough detail to inform, yet without becoming boring or pedantic. Here we see not only the Iron willed disciplinarian but also the man who cried when he saw the slaughter of Badajoz. He also endevors to give a more balanced assessment of the context in which Wellington lived and fought in battle and in parliament than has often been done (particulary with reference to the peninsula) and allows us to see how Wellington's experiences and background helped to shape his world view.
In short Richard Holmes seems to be that rare animal: an academic who can really write and communicate with readers. Wellington, The Iron Duke may not be adequate for hisorical researchers, but it's certainly an excellent and informative read for the rest of us with an interest in the man and his world.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great book about a Great Man 16 Mar 2003
By A Customer
Richard Holmes should be applauded for this fantastic biography of Wellington.
He manages to expertly combine Wellington's military and personal history, with a pace that never slackens and holds the reader's attention throughout. With so many battles to describe Holmes could easily have bored or confused me, but he did not, and actually gave me a new interest in them. Holmes provides a balanced portrait of Wellington, describing both his talents and his faults. Holmes also provides beautifully written portraits of Wellington's peers, such as Richard Wellesley (Wellington's brother),and his wife, Kitty.
Wellington: The Iron Duke is an excellent companion to the television series of the same name, as it can go deeper into the events of Wellington's life than the three hour series.
Unfortunately, like Wellington himself, this book has some faults. With so much to describe, it cannot go into as much detail as I would have hoped for. But as a book to gain the reader's interest in a subject, and as a precursor to wider reading around it, I don't think that I shall ever see its equal.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but could have been better 30 Aug 2007
Although I finished this book with more knowledge on Wellington than I had at the start, I felt the book dwelt too much on detailed descriptions of military encounters, rather than giving me an insight into the man himself. Whilst I accept that his battle field encounters did much to shape his character, there is just too little about his domestic life, the relationship he had with wife and children, the reasoning behind his marriage and its failure, and his subsequent life in retirement.

Whilst accepting and understanding that Richard Holmes is a brilliant military historian, and this is his sphere of knowledge, a bit more was needed on non military matters.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wellington 17 July 2002
By A Customer
First and foremost, i think this is a really good book. It ties in with the material covered in the three television programs and expands on the details which have been presented on the small screen. It reminds me of Simon Schama's books of his series "A History of Britain" and, as reading this for my own interest not for research purposes, i think it has been worth my while. In my opinion, it gives just about the right amount of coverage to each stage in Wellington's career thereby avoiding making him seem like a "one hit wonder" in the Battle of Waterloo.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Non qualified historian 7 Aug 2004
A brilliant book. Made me look forward to getting on the commuter trains from London Bridge and Paddington so I could read the next few chapters. if that comes out has been a popularist then good because i didn't see any of the TV programmes but enjoyed the book!
One really minor criticism, which is probably very pedantic, is that many dates are quoted as day and month without the year. So I had to refer back to know which year we were talking about.
Other than that the simply conclusion is buy and read it if you have any interest in Wellington and his period.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wellington: with brief battles. 25 Sep 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
A good Biography but abbreviated in strange places for Richard Holmes.
The details of Wellington's personal, political and army life as well as the campaigns are well covered, but I found the writing tone a little pompous (perhaps allowable for the Duke?). His Stoic character combined with his reluctance to accept advice and on occasions even to listen to evidence was well brought out. Unfortunately apart from the battle of Waterloo which was reasonably dealt with, the coverage of his battles, in India and the Iberian penninsula, were far too brief. This was not helped by the maps (paperback UK version) being very small and situated quite a way from the text. Also many of the battle descriptions were 'enhanced' by odd exhortations (may be real or legendary)of leaders or troops. For example: in the battle of Vitoria, only about 650 words for the battle and its effect,one of his commanders Picton is quoted 'Come on ye rascals! Come on ye fighting villains!' for no apparent reason. Perhaps it is supposed to generate atmosphere but no attempt is made to link it to the troops behaviour.

I enjoyed the book but felt it should have been 50-100 pages longer to better cover the battles .
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read
Has Richard Holmes written a bad book, I doubt it. This is very interesting account of the man and the times.
Published 3 months ago by M. Stokes
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Read
If you think you know Wellington you don't, unless you read this masterpiece by Richard Holmes. With his eye for ground, understanding of the importance of logistics, ability to... Read more
Published 3 months ago by MCC
5.0 out of 5 stars Wellington: The iron Duke.
Richard Holmes has always been one of my favourite historians. His research has always been meticulous, and it is a great pity that he has died as his books should be required... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Savill Young
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful biography
Really gets under the skin of Wellington and his officers.

The battlefield descriptions are extremely interesting and the book as a whole very well written
Published 8 months ago by D. Macgregor
5.0 out of 5 stars Gift
I bought this book for my son as he is studying History. The book is very informative and makes for good reading.
Published 15 months ago by KarCup
5.0 out of 5 stars A real jewel among biographies
There is no doubt about it, Richard Holmes was a splendid writer and has written a splendid book.

Having read some works on the Napoleonic Wars I was unprepared to have... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Nelson
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent look at a legendary figure
I am a fan of Richard Holmes' books in general, but he surpassed himself with this one. This book gives an excellent overview of Wellington's life, covering all the main points... Read more
Published 16 months ago by JRF
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant History
Richard Holmes is one of my favourite historians and his recent death is a great loss. The book itself is a first class story of one of our finest soldiers and gives a good clear... Read more
Published on 1 Jun 2012 by Mr. W. R. Clare
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable.
Another excellent book from Richard Holmes. I found it entertaining and educational. Written in an easy style, it doesn't get bogged down in too much detail.Instead it romps along. Read more
Published on 24 Sep 2011 by frankie5angels
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
I found it a very interesting book to read .Very informative about the man and his career,i would recommend it for anyone
Published on 29 April 2010 by windy carl
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