Discover the Duke of Wellington's little known formative years in India before his famous 1815 victory over Napoleon Bonaparte.
Arthur Wellesley was 27 years old and already a colonel in the British army when in June 1796 he received orders to sail to India. The exhibition explores these eight overlooked years of his life, telling the story through paintings, sketches, books and objects – the majority of which have never been publicly displayed before
He resolved to educate himself about India by purchasing a travelling library of 200 volumes. The original handwritten list of the books he bought in London survives and we can see the interesting choices he made. The works varied from Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and A View of the English Interests in India by William Fullarton, to C-F Volney’s Travels in Egypt and Syria. Other volumes included works on Indian history, politics and economics.
A portrait of Wellesley by John Hoppner painted in 1795 shows him just before he left for India. This is contrasted with a print of a painting by the same artist made after Wellesley’s return from India almost 10 years later, visually demonstrating the effect this period had on the young Wellington.