An excellent second volume of Rory Muirs biography of Wellington. It starts well covering with the short peace of 1814 and then capturing the drama of the Waterloo campaign brilliantly. I found the section on early stages of Wellingtons political career slightly heavy going, with a seeming emphasis on long quotes and extracts. That said, the book quickly recovers its earlier focus and ease of reading and the last 300 pages, covering some of the most dramatic moments of early-mid Nineteenth Century fly by and are, in truth, hard to put down.
In this and the earlier volume, Rory Muir has succeeded in creating a detailed, yet balanced, portrait of one of the miss important people in British history. Both books are highly recommended.
Wellington: The Path to Victory by Rory Muir is a fascinating and in depth book looking at the first part of Arthur Wellesley's, the Duke of Wellington, life. This book, unlike many other's that have been written over the years does not split his life between his career in the military and his political life, but looks at his life in whole and how both sides interacted with each other.
We get the full story of his life from his youth (which there is not much known about) to being sent into the army (as an officer) by his mother as he did not show much aptitude for anything, His early years in the army were served as one of the aide de camp for the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, where the future Iron Duke, spent a lot of time drinking and having various liaisons with women, which may have resulted in the birth of an illegitimate child. During this time he also served as a member of the Irish Parliament where he served as a quiet supported of the government Wellesley first saw action in the 1794 expedition against the French in the Netherlands, which ended in disaster for the British. Wellesely next ended up in India, having a need to leave Britain to try and improve his fortune, having been unable to secure any lucrative posts in the Irish government (Wellesely was getting deeper in debt, living a lifestyle beyond his means) and having been rejected by the Family of Kitty Pakenham, for lacking good future prospects.
In India, Wellesley managed to achieve a degree of success and fame, helped partial by the fact that his eldest brother was soon to become the Lord Governor of India. Wellesley took part in several successful campaigns and served as governor of the newly conquered province of Mysore. Having had his fill of India and seeing his career stalling, Wellesley returned to England where he made friends with influential members of the government, and ended up serving as a member of the British Parliament and as Chief Secretary of Ireland. Back in England, Wellesley continued to rise through the ranks and served in the Danish campaign where he performed admirable, until he ended up in the Pennisula war where he would become the chief commander of forces there, which threw the French out of Portugal and Spain.
This is a very interesting and well written book about the first (and more famous) part of Wellesley/Wellington’s life. It was insightful, as I had no idea just how closely tied the Political and Military aspects of his career were. It also showed me another point, that Wellington had a habit of playing on his connections (by no means something unique to him, most officers of the British army played upon any connection they might have to those in a position of power), if he did not like where he was, or how his commanders were performing, he would complain and where possible, leave, something which I had no idea about before reading this. Rory Muir did an excellent job of trying to remain unbiased towards the man to give a warts and all picture of Wellington, which on the whole he mostly succeeded at. This book is readable for both the general reader and also those with a greater passion for the subject. Definitely worth a read
This is detailed and substantial biography which paints a vivid picture of its subject. The chapters on the Peninsular War do not break much new ground, but the account of Wellington's earlier years does. I look forward to the second volume.
This excellent book by Rory Muir is well researched and insightful.
Positioned as the first of two volumes on the life of Wellington this biography will be hard to better in the inevitable rush to publish books in the lead up to the 200th anniversary of his victory at Waterloo.
This is the second and final part of Muir's excellent biography of Wellington. It covers the period 1814 to 1852. The first part dealt with the Duke's time as a general, this book examines his time as a politician. Muir's account is balanced, informative and written with flair. After reading this book you know a great deal more about Wellington than hitherto.
Of the 30 chapters only the first four deal with the period 1814 to 1815. The topics thereafter covered include: peacemaking; the radical challenge; the Queen's Affair; Verona and Spain; his time as MGO; P M in 1828-30; Catholic Emancipation; out of office from 1830 to 1841; the 1832 Reform Bill; leading the Lords; back in government 1841-52; and C-in-C 1842-52.
Wellington was a pragmatist . His pragmatism was however tempered by flexibility. The Duke had no time for ideology. When formulating policy he asked two key questions: was it necessary, and would it work. He hated the raucous hurly -burly of party politics because he believed it hampered efficient government. He also disliked the press saying it was only tolerable as it was necessary for liberty.
Wellington was in politics during a very turbulent time . He had to deal, for example, with an attempt to murder him and the cabinet, the 1832 Reform Act, violent protests over the demand for more electoral reform, Queen Caroline's divorce, the question of reparations after 1815-which he handled with compassion and generosity, Catholc Emancipation, and the repeal of the Corn Laws. In almost all cases the ex general handled them with dispassionate judgement. In brief, he acted as a true statesman, something that is rare in politics.
Strangely, Wellington has never been fashionable. There has been much debunking starting after his funeral in 1852. This was lamented by Tennyson. Peterloo, unfortunately, has long overshadowed the success of Waterloo. He was also a notorious philanderer. The attraction of Muir's book is that it redresses the balance. Since Longford's great biography some 40 years ago new evidence has been discovered about Wellington's life and times. Muir makes good use of this. He shows how the harsh image of the 'Iron Duke' has been greatly exaggerated. It is true that his political record is marred by errors but he governed with integrity. He never tried to rule like Cromwell or Napoleon. Wellington demonstrated that in Britain the military are subordinate to civilian authority. Only a Wellington could have obtained Catholic Emancipation against stiff opposition in the Lords and in Buckingham Palace. He even fought a duel over it.
Muir's superb biography demonstrates that the Duke was the right man in the right place at the right time.
The bibliography and notes are sound. The maps and illustrations are excellent.
This is a very good book, gives a good grounding to the Peninsula Campaign. A good description of Wellington himself. Also gives an overview of the political decisions. The book took ten years to write. Given the detail, the very good narrative. It is well worth buying.
Well written and provides interesting corrections to previous biographies. I am enjoying it, though regret not having bought it in hardback, There are sometimes disadvantages to heavyweight paperbacks!
I originally bought the hardback version which I began to read. However after a few days, because of the size and weight, I developed a strained wrist and, also, as my sight isn't as good as it used to be, I had difficulty in seeing the small print. I therefore splashed out and bought the kindle version which made things more comfortable. I would certainly recommend this solution to anyone with weak wrists or reading difficulties. The book itself is excellent if you are interested in following Wellington's progress in India and the Peninsular Wars. The latter involved almost 5 years continuous campaigning and each battle and siege is dealt with in great detail, even if one gets lost in the lists of regiments etc involved in each event. Nevertheless it gives a detailed description of his military leadership and at the end I felt that I had personally experienced and helped to clear Spain of Napoleon's huge armies and finished the book with a sense of relief and jubilation.