qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

The Dukes of Wellington

Book Review: Wellington - A Journey Through My Family, by Jane Wellesley
This was the last book I acquired in the first work book sale; it looked interesting but possibly a bit heavy, and it got put to one side until the time was right. Although it is weightier than some of the books I've read recently, it was nonetheless very readable and often entertaining. I will say that it didn't quite fit my expectations - I had anticipated a more-or-less chronological run from the first Duke to the present day. In fact, the book focuses mainly on the first and eighth (the author's father, who died in 2014), with lesser excursions into the lives of the other Dukes. There is quite a lot of common ground to draw between these two main characters - the eighth Duke spent World War II in the army, seeing service firstly in the Middle East and later in Italy, and his story is in itself interesting. The fifth Duke was perhaps somewhat less reputable, being a member of the Nazi-sympathising "Right Club" in the 1930s and the early period of the war, though his son the sixth Duke died on military operations in Italy, and his brother the seventh Duke probably served in military intelligence.

Another family parallel drawn in the book is the awkward marriage of the first Duke, and the broken marriage of the seventh. The first Duke went through bouts of popularity and dislike; I hadn't realised the "Iron Duke" nickname came from the shutters erected against the London mob from the time of his premiership. The second Duke had the problem of following in the first's footsteps; the fortunes of the family have been up and down a bit (though, it seems, never all that far down, with not just Stratfield Saye in Hampshire and Apsley House (now given to the nation and run by English Heritage, apart from a private apartment) in London to maintain, but other properties from time to time as well).
Tags: books, europe, history, london
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