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Wellington: The Years of the Sword by…

Wellington: The Years of the Sword (1969)

by Elizabeth Longford

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I didn't realize that this is volume one of two when I started reading it. A thorough biography of Wellington's military years. It ends with the battle of Waterloo and immediate aftermath. While there are interesting stories in his history up to Waterloo, the battle itself and it's telling was (for me) the pinnacle of the book.

On the personal front, one of the interesting things about Wellington's life was his marriage. He loved a girl and proposed marriage. She, thru her family, turned him down because he was to poor despite his advancement to Colonel in the British military. Not long later he moved to India to make his fortune as an officer. It took him nine years but he eventually returned to England with a decent amount of wealth. He didn't keep in touch with the woman he loved during that nine years. But he kept in touch with a mutual friend. Thru her messaging back and forth he verified that she might still be interested in him. However, in the nine years she had fallen in love but then been rejected. The outgoing vivacious girl Wellington had fallen in love with had much changed. Without renewing their relationship so that they could see how nine years of absence had changed them Wellington proposed and she accepted. They were together for a few years. Did not meld really well and then Wellington was called to the campaign against France in Spain and Portugal. He was away from her for five years while she raised their two young sons alone in England. Not really a happily ever after story. There were tales of Wellington's unfaithfulness to her but it's difficult to know if they went beyond play and flirtation and into any physical relations.

Wellington was a singular man of strategic skill. Few other generals in his time were near his equal in strategy on the battlefield. He went from a minor aristocrat from a poorish family to a wealthy Duke because of his victories for Britain and her allies.

The battle of Waterloo is dealt with over the course of about 50 pages. Wellington rode thru bullets and cannon shot to make sure his troops got the guidance he felt they needed as well as the steadying effect of his presence. Most of his many aides and friends around him were shot and many of them died on the day of the battle.

The author tells the story of the battle with clear facts but spirited details. There were some tremendous feats of arms done at the battle. One of the more moving passages came towards the end of the battle as the British army and allies moved into a final charge to drive the French from the field: "One British regiment did not join in the advance but remained quietly on the ridge. This was the 27th Foot. They lay dead to a man in their square." ( )
  Chris_El | Mar 19, 2015 |
I would consider this to be a "scholarly" work, quite a lot of detail. Not good for a discussion group - especially when the others in the group didn't finish it and several couldn't find it. This would be good for someone doing research. ( )
  alyceliber | Nov 8, 2011 |
1062 Wellington: The Years of the Sword, by Elizabeth Longford (read 22 Jul 1970) This volume of Longford's masterful biography takes the Duke up through Waterloo. Volume II has not been published in the U.S.--whether it has been written I do not know. [I read it when it was published.] This volume of course ends in a flourish; the tremendous and awe-inspiring sweep of Waterloo. I think Longford is great. Wellington was born May 1, 1764--three and a half months before Napoleon. He was a withdrawn boy at Eton, participated little in playing there, and never said the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton! He became an ensign in the British Army on Mar 7, 1787, spent time in Ireland, was in Flanders in 1794-5, and sailed for India (as a Colonel) in June 1796. He did not return to England till Sept 10, 1805. He served in parliament in 1806 and 1807, married Apr 10, 1806, went to Portugal in 1808, and was there and in Spain and France till 1814. The biography is very favorable to him and I am very impressed by him and it. The description of Waterloo is a masterpiece. ( )
1 vote Schmerguls | Jun 10, 2009 |
Gift from childhood, first U.S. edition, no cover. ( )
  wfzimmerman | May 22, 2007 |
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Wellington is a national hero.
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