Introducing Flat Arthur, aka His Grace the Duke of Wellington

Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington

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.


  1. Gina Conkle on March 13, 2014 at 1:55 am


    Thanks for sharing the Iron Duke today. Am I the only female reader who finds him swoonworthy? 😀 Serious history aside, he’s great fodder for romance. I look forward to your Iron Duke tidbits.

    • pamela on March 13, 2014 at 2:27 am

      The contemporary descriptions always talk about his big nose: his soldiers called him “Old Hooky.” I was surprised to find he was so dashing.

    • Veronica G on June 24, 2016 at 5:19 pm

      I also find him swoon worthy. I have an immense collection of books on him

  2. Robert S. Rhine on March 13, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    If your Flat Duke wanders past Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe’s series of historical fiction, he will see himself in many of those books directing war efforts accurately portrayed, I believe. Richard Sharpe, a very plain-born commoner rises in the ranks of the British army in the early 1800’s and is one of the few from the ranks to become an officer, and a very successful one even, in the battles against the Indians, Spanish, and the French.

    Spoiler Alert: At one point Sharpe single-handedly saves Wellington’s life and he becomes one of Wellington’s go-to men in his efforts to defeat the French. Wellington appreciates and well-uses Sharpe’s fighting and up-from-the-bottom survival and tactical skills.

    I am on book #18 (Sharpe’s Revenge) of the series and am sad I will run out of them much too soon.

    Like reading your History in the Margins a lot.
    Bob Rhine

    • pamela on March 15, 2014 at 10:59 am

      Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series has been tracking me down for a while now. I guess it’s time to surrender and give it a try.

      Glad you enjoy History in the Margins. That makes my nerdy little heart sing.

  3. Jane on April 2, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    I so loved this idea that I am incorporating it in my research trip to England this month. “Flat Frances” will accompany me and will have her photo taken every place we stop. She may meet some of her flat friends from the past, such as Sir Anthony Carlisle, William Wilberforce, Sir Humphrey Davy, and William Hone.

    Frances never had a photo or portrait made, but friends said that Gainsborough’s painting of Mrs. Sarah Siddons, the famous actress, was very like her. I copied Gainsborough’s painting and recolored the eyes blue and the hair brown like Frances’.

    In our first photo she is standing in front of the 1830’s map of London in my dining room. London will be our first stop.

    After my trip I plan a short photo story of My Trip with Flat Frances and will be glad to share it with anyone interested.

    • pamela on April 4, 2014 at 12:14 pm

      Jane: I love the fact that you’ve picked up the idea. Send me the link when you’re done and I share it hither and yon.

  4. Kristine Hughes on April 14, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    Wellington is definitely swoon worthy. We’ve based an entire blog on him – Number One London at He must be popular, as we’ve just passed a million page views. I took our own version of “Flat Artie” with us when we went to the re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo in 2010!

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