Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Wellington: The Iron Duke” as Want to Read:
Wellington: The Iron Duke
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Wellington: The Iron Duke

3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  232 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
Richard Holmes, highly acclaimed military historian and broadcaster, tells the exhilarating story of Britain’s greatest-ever soldier, the man who posed the most serious threat to Napoleon. The Duke of Wellington’s remarkable life and extraordinary campaigns are recreated with Holmes’ superb skill in this compelling book.

Richard Holmes charts Wellington’s stellar military c
Paperback, 416 pages
Published February 3rd 2003 by HarperCollins (first published 2002)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Wellington, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Wellington

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 576)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Dec 11, 2012 Andrew rated it liked it
Finally got around to finishing this last night. A well researched, well written biography of Wellington, someone I knew of only through Joyce studies and the eponymous Beef, as well as a window into the political/military complex of the British Empire at its height. Wellington participated in establishing suzerainty over India, ejected the French from Spain, defeated Napolean at Waterloo, and later, as Prime Minister, brokered Irish voting rights into law. The little details are what make the b ...more
Robert French
Wellington, The Iron Duke provides a brief summation of the life of Wellington. I was probably expecting a lot more, particularly after recently reading John Sugden's two volume biography of Nelson. Although, the book covers all the major periods of Wellington's life, i.e. his early years, time in India, the Peninsular Wars, Waterloo and his later political life, I definitely came away wishing for much more and for a more comprehensive treatment. I also found the structure of the book a bit disc ...more
This is a serviceable biography of Wellington and accomplishes what it sets out to do—be an accessible introduction to Wellington’s life and times. Holmes is certainly an able scholar and researcher, and his prose is very readable. I was occasionally disappointed that he was not more opinionated than he was. He is at his best and most entertaining when he interjects his own voice and delivers some penetrating analysis, often with a clever turn of phrase. This style was of course his trademark in ...more
Oct 15, 2008 Oliver rated it liked it
A brief-ish account of Wellington's career. Holmes in a military historian so he tends to be rather more concerned with battle plans than Wellington's political or private life. Nonetheless he writes with a good balance of detail, summary and anecdote, often deferring to more detailed accounts. Occasionally I got a little lost in Holmes terminology (what is the difference between say Light Dragoons and Riflemen) but overall it's an enjoyable read. However Holmes fails to get inside the mind of t ...more
Dale Pearl

3.5 star review

Richard Holmes goes to many efforts to defend criticism of Arthur Wellesley. Not to take anything away from the man but he appears to be more ambitious than to be any sort of military genius. He was indeed more fortunate in war than he was in achieving victory through skill. Arthur Wellesley was not one to give out praise after the facts suggested that they were deserved, in all appearances, it would appear that the "Iron Duke" was a man who would seduce with kindness to your fa
R.M.F Brown
Feb 21, 2015 R.M.F Brown rated it it was amazing
They came at us the same old way, and we beat them back the same old way...

When reviewing any biography, I'm reminded of this Wellington quote, as it equally applies to the art of biography writing. There is a well established template that was laid down in classical times, and very rarely, do authors deviate from this.

That being said, the Iron Duke is a first rate autobiography about Britain's greatest soldier (Marlborough is a very close second) Insightful, anecdotal, and written with Holmes'
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769 – 1852) was a colossus of warfare in the early 19th century. Volumes have been written on his life and exploits, beginning in his time and continuing today. As Holmes notes, the amount of analysis that the Duke's career has been subjected to is probably only rivalled by that of his greatest foe, Napoleon Bonaparte.

Holmes's Wellington - The Iron Duke is a brief and plain-language examination of the Duke's career and life. Richard Holmes, a military
Dec 22, 2012 Richard rated it really liked it
A seriously good biography of this British colossus of the 19th century. Dogged campaigner in India and Spain, the General that defeated Napoleon, and controversial statesman - Wellington was a man at the crossroads of history.

"He was born when the country-side dominated the town, industry bowed to agriculture and Britain ruled North America. He was buried amidst the smoke of busy railways and an accomplished industrial revolution, in a nation which ruled the centre of the greatest empire the wo
Robert Hepple
Dec 09, 2015 Robert Hepple rated it really liked it
Wellington – The Iron Duke is a 2003 biography written by Richard Holmes in parallel with a television documentary on the same subject. I must have missed the documentary, but I tackled the book with some enthusiasm. The book was excellent – immensely readable and informative and added a great deal to what I had previously learnt about The Iron Duke. Towards the end there was, perhaps, a tendency to include a lot of apocryphal stories about the Duke, but most of the book relied on the known fact ...more
May 23, 2014 Jessica rated it liked it
This book is very efficient read. I had a mild curiosity in the Duke of Wellington and this was the perfect find. Quick biography highlighting the most important events and facts. I discovered why people say this was a "Waterloo moment" (I had a vague understanding) and why British cops are called bobbies. A win win all around.
Mar 26, 2014 David rated it it was amazing
A riveting read, well researched and fantastically written, Holmes' passion on his subject really comes across in this short account of Wellington's life. despite this a fair picture of Wellington is presented. both the good and the bad, adding a very human aspect to his character.

I'd highly recommend this to anyone with a basic knowledge of the period looking to learn more about one of its leading men
Sep 26, 2015 Katharine rated it liked it
Shelves: history, biography
A good overview of the Duke of Wellington's life with the emphasis mostly on his military career. Gives a flavour of his personality but doesn't go into any great detail.
John Mccormick
Jun 07, 2015 John Mccormick rated it it was amazing
A quality "potted" version of a great mans life.
Sometimes so exciting and gripping that you almost forget its not fiction.
Jan 05, 2012 G.P. rated it really liked it
An excellent short sketch of the life and accomplishment of Wellington, a giant in war and politics. A fascinating story, covering the period from the Duke's youth in rural Ireland to his political ascendancy in the industrializing Great Britain of Queen Victoria. In contrast to his contemporary English naval hero, Nelson, as Holmes reflects in his book, Wellington is a man easy to admire, perhaps harder to like.

The book offers excellent descriptions of his major battles, but does not have good
Feb 04, 2016 Nooilforpacifists rated it liked it
Shelves: napoleonic-other
Review to come
Richard Thomas
Nov 24, 2014 Richard Thomas rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
A good clear account of Wellington's life from a military perspective and well worth it for that. Holmes writes authoritively on military matters and perhaps it bears reading with Elizabeth Longford's wider biography.
Dec 28, 2011 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
interesting biography of the iron duke by the late richard holmes which looks at wellington as the man but more importantly wellington as the miltary general through the campaigns in India, portugal, spain and his major battle of waterloo in 1815
Oct 31, 2012 Russeltarr rated it really liked it
Excellent so far as it goes. Predictably heavy on the military career (and very well done) but I would have liked a little more emphasis on the man behind the legend. The late Richard Holmes was a great writer though and a fantastic historian.
Katharine Harding
Jul 28, 2015 Katharine Harding rated it liked it
What a man! The Duke of Wellington has been a hero of mine for a while, and this book has reinforced that.

An engaging and interesting biography.

I read it in two separate goes - it didn't take six months of slogging away to finish it.
Jeffrey D.
An excellent primer on the Iron Duke. The author resisted the temptation to create a doorstop and gave the reader a solid introductory reader on the military and political aspects of Wellington's life.
russell barnes
May 12, 2007 russell barnes rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, biog
Background Sharpe/Hornblower/Bolithio reading - bloody bastards!
Apr 18, 2007 raymond rated it liked it
To be born in a stable does not make one a horse. Tut tut.
Morina Lanser
Morina Lanser is currently reading it
Feb 04, 2016
Frank Spain
Frank Spain marked it as to-read
Feb 03, 2016
John Peters
John Peters rated it really liked it
Feb 03, 2016
Ian Donnelly
Ian Donnelly marked it as to-read
Feb 01, 2016
Ashlee marked it as to-read
Jan 30, 2016
mark burrows
mark burrows rated it really liked it
Jan 27, 2016
Julian is currently reading it
Jan 25, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 19 20 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Wellington: A Personal History
  • Rifles: Six Years with Wellington's Legendary Sharpshooters
  • Wellington, Volume I: The Years of the Sword
  • Moscow 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March
  • Billy Ruffian
  • Waterloo: A Near Run Thing
  • Seize the Fire: Heroism, Duty, and Nelson's Battle of Trafalgar
  • The Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain, 1649­-1815
  • Marlborough: His Life and Times, Book One
  • Russia Against Napoleon: The Battle for Europe, 1807 to 1814
  • The Pursuit of Victory: The Life and Achievement of Horatio Nelson
  • Nelson: A Dream of Glory, 1758-1797
  • Waterloo: The True Story of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles
  • The War of Wars: The Great European Conflict 1793 - 1815
  • Napoleon and Wellington: The Long Duel
  • Swords around a Throne: Napoleon's Grande Armee
  • Blenheim
  • The Longest Afternoon: The 400 Men Who Decided the Battle of Waterloo
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.
See this thread for more information.

Richard Holmes was Professor of Military and Security Studies at Cranfield University and the Royal Military College of Science. He was educated at Cambridge, Northern Illinois, and Reading Universities, and carried out his doctoral research on the French army of the Second
More about Richard Holmes...

Share This Book