Several weeks ago, fellow Historical Novel Society member Cora Lee shared an idea that she’d been having fun with for a few months and asked if any of us would like to play along. She took the idea of “Flat Stanley” and gave it a historical twist, creating “Flat Arthur”– a two dimensional version of the multi-dimensional Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington (1769-1842).*
Would I like to play along? Oh yeah! Over the next few months, Flat Arthur will travel with me hither and you. (Mostly to one library or another. Sorry, your Grace.) You can follow his travels and travails on my Tumblr site.
You doubtless know Wellesley as the general who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, the feat for which he was created the 1st Duke of Wellington. Here are a few bits about Wellington that you may not know:
- He gave his name to knee-high rubber boots.** He probably did not inspire Beef Wellington
- He earned the nickname the “Iron Duke” during his first term as Prime Minister (1828-1830), thanks to his opposition to parliamentary reform. His position was so unpopular that he installed iron shutters on the windows of his home in London to keep angry crowds from smashing them.***
- Wellesley enjoyed his first military successes in India through a combination of talent and nepotism. He fought at the Battle of Seringapatam against Tipu Sultan in the Fourth Mysore War. His older brother, Richard Wellesley, who was Governor-General of India, promoted him from colonel to major-general and named him Governor of Seringapatam and Mysore, honors that caused friction with senior officers who were by-passed in his favor. Major-General Wellesley retroactively earned his promotion with a stunning victory at Assaye in the Second Maratha War.
Stay tuned for more Wellington tidbits and Flat Arthur sightings.
* Here’s the blog post in which she introduced the idea for those of you who aren’t familiar with the original “Flat Stanley”.
**He could have given his name to something much less dignified than boots. The emperor Vespasian introduced public lavatories to Rome, where they are still known as vespasianos.
***The comparison with Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, is irresistible. She embraced the nickname after it appeared in the headline of a piece in the Soviet newspaper Red Star, three years before she became Prime Minister. You can’t blame her: her previous political nickname was “Thatcher the Milk Snatcher,” earned when she cut free milk for schoolchildren from the budget during her tenure as Minister of Education. But I digress.