Category Archives: Hero/Heroines

Duke of Wellington

Arthur Wellesley 1st Duke of Wellington
Duke of Wellington

If you follow the timeline of the Wesley name, we find his ancestors to be English not Irish, as we were led to believe.  Early spellings of the family name started out as “Welles-Lieghs” and through time changed to Wesley.

His ancestors are believed to have been granted lands, to the south of Wells in Somerset, for acceptance to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.

Then in 1171 a family member in the employ of King Henry II as a Standard Bearer, moved to Ireland.

Arthur Wellesley – Ist Duke of Wellington’s family formerly from Rutland in England, moved to Ireland in 1500.  Robert Cowley became master of the Rolls in Ireland and died in 1546, leaving one son; Walter Cowley, who became Principal Solicitor to Ireland.

Henry Colley son of Walter Cowley married Catherine Cusack, daughter of Sir Thomas Cusack, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and son of Alison de Wellesley = Colley-Wellesley connection.

In 1728 Wellington’s grandfather Richard Colley (Colley is a surname of English origin) changed his name to Wesley.

Arthur Wesley was born on the 1st May 1769 in Dublin.  His father Garret Wesley 1st Earl of Mornington, and his mother Anne, Countess of Mornington.

In 1781, aged twelve his father died, and his eldest brother Richard inherited his father’s Earldom.

He attended Eton from 1781-1784 and his lack of success and limited funds following his father’s death, the young Arthur moved to Brussels with his mother in 1785.  Then in 1786 enrolled in the French Royal Academy of Equitation in Angers, becoming an experienced horseman, with a good command of the French language.

1787 was the beginning of his military life, and his name would go down in history and be remembered for his prowess on the battle field.  It is said, he became one of Britain’s greatest military commanders.  When we needed victories, he was there to do his part for his country, for he never lost a battle.

In 1789 he dabbled a bit into politics, speaking out against the proposal of granting the title of “Freeman of Dublin” to Henry Grattan, Parliamentary leader of the Irish Patriot Party, and he was rewarded for his success, being nominated as a Member of Parliament for Trim.

In 1793 he asked for the hand of Kitty Pakenham daughter of Edward Pakenham, 2nd Baron of Longford.  His offer was rejected by Kitty’s brother, Thomas earl of Longford, saying he had poor prospects.

A devastated Arthur Wellesley and an aspiring musician burnt his violins, to concentrate all his efforts on his military career.  For the next time he asks, he expects the answer to be yes!

Arthur Wellesley started his military career at Dublin Castle as aide-de-camp to Lord Lieutenant’s of Ireland.  In March 1787, he joined the 73rd Regiment of foot and over the next few years, rose through the ranks to Lieutenant-Colonel in the 33rd Regiment aged 26.

In 1794 Arthur Wellesley was to experience his first taste of battle, east of Breda, and at the Battle of Boxtel, in the Flanders Campaign, with the Duke of York.

Arthur Wellesley was promoted to a full Colonel and in 1796 set sail for Calcutta, India with his regiment.

In  1798 the Fourth Anglo-Mysore war broke out against the Sultan of Mysore, Tipu, Sultan.  Then he was victorious in the 1799 Battle of Serpingapalam, these led to promotions in the field for his actions.  In July 1801 was promoted to Brigadier-General, and September promoted to Major-General.

In 1802 was dispatched to command an army in the Second Anglo-Maratha war.

The Battle of the Assaye, was considered one of his finest victories.  “The General was in the thick of the action the whole time… I never saw a man so cool and collected as he was,” according to an eyewitness report.

It is said, his experiences in India, taught him much about military tactics and matters for the future.

In June 1805, returned home to England having amassed a fortune of some £42,000 mainly in prize money, and was made a Knight of the Bath.

Arthur Wellesley and Kitty Pakenham were married in Dublin on 10th April 1806, and had two children Arthur and Charles.  However, their marriage was doomed to disaster, for they spent many years apart.

In January 1806, was elected Tory Parliament member in Rye.  In 1807 MP for Newport, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and made a Privy Counsellor.

He stood down from his political appointments as the lure of war beckoned him in the Second Battle of Copenhagen in August 1807, and took 1500 prisoners.

Now a Lieutenant General, participated in the Peninsular War against the French forces; defeating them at the battle of Rolica and Vimeiro.

Arthur Wellesley arrived in Lisbon in April 1809 onboard the HMS Surveillanto and took up an offensive stance in the Second Battle of Porto, crossing the Duoro River.  Once Portugal was secured, he led his army into Spain with General Cuesta’s forces.

By 1810, the French had invaded Portugal, but Wellesley outwitted them on one or more occasion during the numerous battles that took place.

On 31st July 1811, Wellesley was promoted to a full General for his services, and the Portuguese conferred on him the title of; “Count of Vimeiro.”

By 1812, Wellesley’s army was now a veteran British force, with Portuguese army units, all under his command.

At the Battle of Salamanca he liberated Madrid the Spanish capital from the French, and was rewarded for his services.  Firstly becoming an “Earl” and then a “Marquess.”

He was rewarded time and time again, for in 1812 was granted the titles of “Marquis of Torres Vedras” and “Duke of Vitoria,” both in Portuguese nobility.  These were conferred on him by Queen Maria I of Portugal, and for his continuing actions in the name of Portugal.

In 1813, Wellesley led a new offensive, against the French lines of communications, continuing to outflank then wherever they went.  Eventually catching up and destroying King Joseph Bonaparte’s army in the Battle of Vitoria, which saw him promoted to Field Marshal on 21st June.

Wesley was hailed as the conquering hero by the British, and so “Duke of Wellington,” was his new title.  He spent six years driving the French out of Spain, and removed Joseph Bonaparte from the Spanish throne.

The Duke of Wellington, was appointed Ambassador to France, then plenipotentiary to the Congress of Vienna.  On the 2nd January 1815 his Knighthood of Bath was converted to Knight Grand Cross.

Napoleon escaped Elba on 26th February 1815, and returned to France, and regained control by May of that year.  Wellington, upon hearing the news left Vienna, to what would be known as the battle of Waterloo, where both men would meet on the battlefield.

On the 18th June the Battle of Waterloo was fought; Wellington and Napoleon had never met each other in battle.  Wellington will always go down as he who conquered Napoleon.

The Treaty of Paris was signed on 20th November 1815.

The Duke of Wellington was now covered in honours by Britain and European powers for his actions on the battlefields.

He chose to enter politics, instead of retiring, by entering the British cabinet in 1818, and retaining his position; Master – General of Ordinance until 1827.

In 1829 he became Prime Minister, and assisted in passing the “Catholic Relief Act,” then in 1830 resigned his post, when it came clear to him, he could do nothing to block the Parliamentary Reform Act.

When the Tory party returned to power in 1834, he declined the post of Prime Minister and Robert Peel stood in his place.

Wellington remained in politics until 1846, fighting for his beliefs from within the Tory party, which evolved into the Conservative Party as we now know it.

On the 14th September 1852, aged 83 Wellington died of a stroke, following a series of epileptic seizures.

The Duke of Wellington’s body was given a state funeral on the 18th November 1852 at St.Paul’s Cathedral.  He was buried in a sarcophagus made of luxulyanite, and placed next to Lord Nelson.

Tennyson’s “Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington,” was read in finale tribute to such a man.


Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale was born on 12th May 1820 in Florence, Italy.  Her parents William Edward Nightingale born William Edward Shore, and Mother Frances Nightingale.

William’s mother was the niece of Peter Nightingale, and upon his death, he left his entire estate at Lea Hurst in Derbyshire to William Shore as it was then.  Under the terms of the will he assumed the name and arms of Nightingale.

In February 1837 while staying at Embley Park, one of the family homes, Florence believed she had received a calling from God, to devote her life to the service of others.  This was to cause much distress for her mother and Francis her sister.  For it was expected of her to become a wife and mother … not a servant.  For it was not the expected thing at that time for affluent English women to do.

Against her family wishes she educated herself in the science of nursing, her family may not have approved, but nothing was going to stand in her way.  She believed it had been a calling from God who had set her on this path, and she was doing his will.  Nothing nor anybody was going to stand in her way.

In 1847 she contacted the former Secretary at War; Sidney Herbert and they were to become lifelong friends.  When he became the new Secretary at War at the time of the Crimean War, he and his wife assisted Florence in undertaking nursing in the Crimea.

Nightingale travelled to Greece and Egypt in 1850 and in her writings referred to the beauty of the Nile.  She was overcome by the sheer beauty, and what buildings and temples stood for, and how they related to the common man.

Upon her visit to Thebes, she wrote in her diary of being called to God, to undertake his work.  Later that year, she visited the Lutheran religious community at Kaiserswerth – am – Rhine in Germany.  Whilst there had the opportunity of seeing Pastor Theodor Fliedner, and his deaconesses tending the sick and deprived.

From that time forth her life changed dramatically.  She was to receive four months of medical training, whilst at the institute.  She also went on and published a work: The Institution of Kaiserswerth on the Rhine for the Practical Training of Deaconesses.

For it was Florence Nightingale took up the post of Superintendent at the Institute for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen in Upper Harley Street on 22nd August 1853.  A post which she would hold until October 1854, for it was no more than a stepping stone of grander things to come.

Florence Nightingale was destined to make a name for herself during the Crimean War; her name would go down in history.

When news reached Britain of the poor conditions, she knew her time had come, and stepped forward accordingly.  On 21st October 1854, she took 38 nurses, 15 Catholic Nuns to the Crimea.

Nightingale’s team of helpers, arrived at Selimiye Barracks in November 1854, and found soldiers suffering, limited medical supplies, hygiene if any.  Then coming face to face, with military officials, who saw her as nothing more than an interference.

Nightingale made a plea to The Times, asking the government to provide a solution to these poor conditions.  This led to the construction of pre-fabricated hospitals designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.  The final result was Renkioi Civilian Hospital, under Dr.Edmund Alexander Parkes.  Nightingale intervention saw the death rate drop from 42% to 2% by improving hygiene standards.

The Times nicknamed her; The Lady with the Lamp, and it stuck.  When the medical staff had retired for the night, and silence and darkness hovered across the wards.  Soldiers remembered Florence Nightingale offering comfort, by visiting each and every patient.

On the 29th November 1855, the Nightingale Fund was established, its aim to train nurses, for war work and beyond.  Thousands of pounds were donated to the fund.

On the 9th July, the Fund had set up the Nightingale Training School at St.Thomas Hospital, and the first batch of fully trained nurses, started work on 16th May 1865 at the Liverpool Workhouse infirmary.

One of Nightingale’s achievements had been the introduction of qualified nurses into England’s workhouses, thus the sick were treated by trained nurses.  Her work served as an inspiration for nurses, her name would never be forgotten.

During the American Civil War, the Union Army asked for her advice, nursing in the field.  They rebuked her suggestions, but a volunteer body; United States Sanitary Commission was formed.

In the 1870’s, Nightingale mentored Linda Richards; she became America’s first fully trained nurse, and went on to become a nursing pioneer in the USA.

In 1882 several Nightingale nurses had become matrons at St.Mary’s Hospital, Westminster Hospital, Royal Victoria Hospital, and it had become a growing trend across the country.

Florence Nightingale was to receive awards for her work at home and in the field:

1883 Royal Red Cross

1904 Lady of Grace of the Order of St.John

1907 Order of Merit

1908 Honary Freedom of the City of London

She did have several important friendships, which meant a lot to her.  An Irish Nun, Sister Mary Clare Moore, with whom she worked in the Crimea.  Mary Clarke an English woman she met in 1837.  In both cases it is said, she kept up a prolonged correspondence which lasted till her end.

On 13th August 1910, aged 90, Florence Nightingale died peacefully in her sleep.  Her grave can be found at St.Margaret’s Church, East Well, Hampshire.

She had never wanted popularity; she just fought for better medical standards.  She became a pioneer in the world of nursing, and offered better hygiene standards for all, in our hospitals.