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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Elizabeth Longford's 1969 biography "Wellington: The Years of the Sword" may still be the most balanced portrait of the First Duke of Wellington in his years on active service as an officer in the British Army. Longford is blessed with a highly accessible prose style and an intimate understanding of the class system and social mores of the world in which Wellington lived. Her extensive access to Wellington's personal correspondence permits remarkable insight into his personality, revealing a more complex human being than the stiff, stoic leader of other biographies.

What emerges is a portrait of Wellington as, first, a dreamy and shallow young man, then a young and ambitious military officer, and finally as the mature and highly professional general who defeated Napoleon's Marshals in Portugal and Spain, and Napoleon himself at Waterloo.

Longford's coverage of Wellington's battlefield exploits is episodic and in no more detail than that required to advance the narrative and to provide examples of Wellington's leadership style. Where Longford excells is in her insights into the development of Wellington's character. She captures the challenge of Wellington's youth as the middle and seemingly least-talented of several children. She provides a balanced description of Wellington's ambition for opportunities to shine in the British Army in India. She is properly skeptical of some of the accounts of Wellington's alleged womanizing, while her discussion of the Duke's unhappy marriage to Kitty Pakenham is marked by emotional depth and nuance. Longford notes throughout the book the continuing influence of Wellington's family on his development as a person and and on his military career.

This book and a second volume, "Pillar of the State", on Wellington's career in government and politics post-Waterloo are both unfortunately long out of print but continue to influence more recent biographers.

This book is very highly recommended as an excellent and still relevant biography of the First Duke of Wellington's youth and career on active service in the British Army.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 1999
Elizabeth Longford's "Wellington: The Years of the Sword" is one of the best biographies I have ever read. Ms. Longford covers her topic in exquisite detail. From Arthur Wellesley's early life in Ireland to his service in India to the Duke of Wellington's defeat of Napolean at Waterloo, this book provides excellent details and is thoroughly referenced. I consider this to be the definitive biography of the Duke of Wellington.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2002
This is generally a fine biography of one of Britain's greatest generals. The bulk of the book is spent, appropriately, on the Peninsula campaign, although there is adequate discussion of Wellington's experiences in India and a fairly lengthy description of Waterloo. The book is well written and the author goes to some lengths to dispel her subject's reputation for coldness. However, although the author does not claim that Wellington is perfect, it appears that he never made a mistake if Ms. Longford is to be believed. Notwithstanding this minor reservation, this book is well worth reading.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
I do not think there could be a better biography of Wellington as to this first portion of his life. This volume covers his life to the victory at Waterloo. The description of the battle is very well done and brings this book to a triumphant conclusion.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2011
Sadly no longer in print, this is arguably the best biography of the militay career of Wellington ever written. It folows the development of Arthur Wellesley from an awkward and uncomfortable, untrained young officer through his growth and development in India and the Peninsula War, to his final conquest of Napoleon at Waterloo. The battles are well researched and well presented, providing a fascinating review of warfare of that era.
The book however, is not merely an account of Wellington's military success, but examines the personal life as well and with a far greater insight into his personality than most other biographies, often contradicting the usual portrayal of the man as a cold and unemotional leader.
If you can get hold of a copy ot this book, read it. You will not be disappointed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2014
Again, the Duke of Wellington was a Hero to the British, but also to the Spanish and Portuguese people, and many Frenchmen who hated Napoleon. The writer of this book comes from Countess Pakenham, and related to Wellington by marriage. Her brother was in the same battles in Spain, Portugal and France. The family is also 'Noble' and have other writers in the family. Thomas Pakenham, who wrote 'The Scramble for Africa' and another brother who is also a writer and best selling author, and wrote The Mountains of Rasselas' of Africa, in Ethiopia. and his sister Valerie Pakenham. The Wellesly and the Pakenham families were closely connected. One can read about Wellington's start as a Member of Parliament, then as a young officer sent to the famous Riding Academy in France, and them a young officer sent to India at the head of a regiment. and see him grow into an excelent field officer.and thenthe wars in India, which really brought him to the fore,as onen of the youngest generals in the Army. Read it yourself, you will not be able to put it down for a nights sleep.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2013
It brings him to life as a living , breathing man.How different Europe would have been without him and his small Redcoat Army.I loved the man's humility which ,to me ,made him truly great.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2012
First read in 1982, This is the book that launched my interest in Wellington I found it fascinating both times
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