Lot 5
  • 5

Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, Duke of

20,000 - 30,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, Duke of
  • Series of 98 letters, mostly autograph, to Charles Stuart, British Minister in Portugal
  • ink on paper
a lengthy and important correspondence to a close ally revealing Wellington's deep involvement with Portuguese administration when commanding the Allied troops during the Peninsular War, eight of the letters incomplete, together with other letters to Stuart comprising five letters by Henry Wellesley, Wellington's brother and ambassador to Spain, three letters by Lord Fitzroy Somerset, Wellington's military secretary, and one letter by General William Beresford, also with eight later letters by Wellington to other correspondents including two personalised facsimile letters of introduction to Apsley House, altogether about 250 pages, various locations (mostly in the Iberian Peninsula), 1807-1851 but the vast majority between March 1810 and March 1814, some browning and spotting


The Dispatches of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington, ed. Gurwood, expanded edition, 8 vols, (London, 1852).

Catalogue Note

“...I don’t know what I make of the French Army. They had yesterday some say the whole force, but certainly not less than two Corps upon Guarda under Massena himself; which is certainly the strongest position in the Country. We manoevred them out of it in five Columns, without firing a shot; & they went off ... in considerable confusion ... They were certainly much stronger than us. I had only three Divisions on the Hill. You see that Beresford has retaken Campo Mayor; & he would have cut off the troops there & their Artillery, if it had not been for our Vagabond dragoons; who invariably get out of Order, & pursue any little advantage they acquire too far. I think there is chance of getting the French out of Almeida.”

Charles Stuart, 1779-1845 (created Baron Stuart de Rothesay in 1828) was an invaluable ally of Wellington when he was the commander of the Allied forces during the Peninsular War; as British minister at Lisbon and a member of the Portuguese Regency Council Stuart was one of the few British civilians able to navigate the complicated currents of Portuguese politics. These letters show Wellington using Stuart as a conduit between the military high command and the Portuguese civilian authorities during years of gruelling campaigns against the French forces occupying Spain and threatening Portugal. At the beginning of the period Wellington was on the defensive, behind the Torres Vedras chain of fortifications within the borders of Portugal. He spent two years successfully defending Portugal for two years repeated incursions by Marshal Massena. There are few letters in the collection from 1812, when Wellington took the offensive and invaded Spain before over-reaching himself and being temporarily pushed back into Portugal, but there are a flurry of letters from the early months of 1813 as Wellington prepared for the campaign that would lead to his crucial victory at Vittoria in June.

Many of the letters are concerned with matters of obvious military significance, such as the availability of provisions (“...I had never heard of the Board stationed at Lisbon to settle the Price of Provisions throughout Portugal; If there is such a Board, its duty is performed but little to the Advantage of the Publick, and the general high Price of Provisions is a strong practical confirmation of the ... uselessness of such an Establishment...”), disease, lines of communication, and discipline. There are also recurring concerns of a broader political nature in these forthright letters: the British subsidy of the Portuguese, endemic corruption, and the difficulty of co-ordinating affairs with the royal family in Brazil (“...it is desirable to Portugal that the Prince Regent should return to his European dominions...”), whilst individual letters include detailed discussion of, for example, the need for a postal service and problems surrounding the introduction of paper money.  Wellington is frequently terse, sardonic, and irascible (“...Bathurst’s conduct is certainly very extraordinary & he is quite insane...”), sometimes descending to contempt for his hosts ("...a miserable race..."), but he is unfailingly polite and understanding towards Stuart himself.