Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions

Past exhibition archive
12 March - 7 June 2015


Marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815) this exhibition illustrated the Duke of Wellington’s extraordinary life as a soldier and statesman. Most famous for his military career which culminated with victory over Napoleon, Wellington also served twice as Prime Minister and his political career was regularly caricatured by printmakers.

Highlights of the exhibition included a youthful portrait by John Hoppner, Goya’s revealing portrait, started in 1812 after his entry into Madrid and later modified twice to recognise further battle honours and awards. The exhibition also displayed a daguerreotype by Antoine Claudet, in the new medium of photography, taken on Wellington’s 75th birthday in 1844.

The exhibition explored the role of visual culture in creating the hero, and concluded with an examination of the reappraisal of Wellington’s life that took place at his death.

Supported by the Wellington Exhibition Supporters Group

Spring Season 2015 sponsored by

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington by Francisco de Goya
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington by Francisco de Goya, 181214. The National Gallery, London. Bought with aid from the Wolfson Foundation and a special Exchequer grant, 1961

Audio Tour

Join Curator Paul Cox for a room-by-room walkthrough of the exhibition, revealing Wellington’s extraordinary life and highlighting key portraits.


Wellington funeral panorama viewing

To commemorate the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 2015, the Gallery held a viewing of The Funeral Procession of Arthur, Duke of Wellington, by Henry Alken and George Augustus Sala, 1853. This magnificent panorama, measuring 20.6 meters (67 feet), was displayed in its entirety for the first time in the Gallery. This hand-coloured print was one of many souvenirs produced to commemorate Wellington’s state funeral.


Pinterest map

The Gallery map the Duke of Wellington's legacy, across Britain and beyond, encouraging visitors to share Wellington monuments, memorials, streets and pubs from their local area using the hashtag #DukeOfWellington. 

View the map on Pinterest

Did you know?

Here are seven things you might not have known about Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1829 © Timothy Clode Collection
  1. He was such a poor scholar that his mother took him out of school so she could afford to send his gifted younger brothers instead.
    His mother believed that he was only fit for a military career. She referred to him as her ‘awkward son Arthur ... food for powder and nothing more’.

  2. He went to a military academy in France.
    The Royal Academy of Equitation at Angers instructed Wellington in French grammar, mathematics and military fortification, all of which would be of future use.

  3. He was rumoured to have had affairs with two former mistresses of Napoleon.
    While serving as British ambassador in Paris, Wellington was linked to singer Giuseppina Grassini and actress Marguerite Weimer. The latter let it be known that, compared to Napoleon, the Duke was by far the more impressive lover.

  4. He fought a duel while Prime Minister.
    Following a provocative letter published by the Earl of Winchilsea, Wellington challenged the man to a duel, which the two fought at Battersea in 1829.

  5. He married his wife thirteen years after he first proposed.
    Wellington was disappointed to find that Catherine ‘Kitty’ Pakenham had changed in this time; he is said to have remarked ungallantly to his brother that ‘she has grown ugly, by Jove!’

  6. An attempt was made on his life in Paris in 1818.
    Three years later, Napoleon left the would-be assassin a legacy in his will.

  7. More than sixty streets in Greater London are named after him.
    You can see some of these, and add your own, on our Pinterest map.