Eton College–#AtoZChallenge “E”

Welcome to “E” in the A to Z Challenge 2017. The 1st Duke of Wellington is my theme for this year’s Challenge.

In 2015, I went to London for the third time, this time with a tour group focused on the Duke of Wellington. As part of the tour, we spent a few days in Windsor, a place where the Duke called on Queen Victoria many times. (By the way, the depiction of the Duke in Victoria on Masterpiece was terrible. They made him a bloated, crotchety complainer.) We spent a day at Windsor Castle and one of my memories of the castle was of ambling up a walkway on one side of the castle and seeing and hearing the boys over at Eton playing football (soccer). I have this memory, but that does not mean I was hearing the boys at Eton—the school could have been a Windsor elementary school for all I really know. The town of Eton is just next to Windsor in easy walking distance. I remembered reading that Arthur Wellesley had attended Eton as a boy.

The Duke of Wellington is purported to have said at one time:

“The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.”

–photo of Eton College from

After searching around for and about this quote, I believe that the Duke did not actually say this. The Duke did attend Eton, but he did not particularly like school and was not a standout student. I don’t believe he looked back fondly on his time at the school.

I found the following tidbits from the Oxford University Press’s Tumblr post dated 8 August 2013:

“In his book The Lion and the Unicorn (1941), the novelist George Orwell wrote: ‘Probably the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton, but the opening battles of all subsequent wars have been lost there.’ The original statement (in the form “The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton’) is attributed by oral tradition to the Duke of Wellington, but is probably apocryphal. The earliest version of it (recorded in 1856), said to have been uttered by the Duke when revisiting Eton, is ‘It is here that the battle of Waterloo was won!’

By 1881, it was evidently familiar enough to be used allusively, without direct references to Wellington. Matthew Arnold, in an essay ‘An Eton Boy’, published in the Fortnightly Review of June of that year, wrote:

The aged Barbarian [ie: a member of the English upper classes] will, upon this, mumble to us his story how the battle of Waterloo was won in the playing-fields of Eton. Alas! disasters have been prepared in those playing-fields as well as victories; disasters due to inadequate mental training – to want of application, knowledge, intelligence, lucidity.

It is interesting to note the degree to which his further comment foreshadowed Orwell.”

–Eton High Street is full of shops and specialty boutiques and is a wonderful street to amble down if you are in Windsor/Eton

Previous A to Z Challenge 2017 posts:
Apsley House
Douro, Marquess of

–Eton schoolboys in traditional tails at Eton College, England, UK (stock photo from 

  8 comments for “Eton College–#AtoZChallenge “E”

  1. April 6, 2017 at 7:14 AM

    Eton! I do hope you won’t be sick of the Duke by the time “Z” rolls around on April 30th, since you’ll be gathering even more photos and Wellington memories just a month later!

    • April 6, 2017 at 7:41 AM

      No, I don’t think I can get sick of Arthur. I know so little about him, really, compared to you. I am ready to learn more!

  2. April 6, 2017 at 9:38 AM

    Such a smart theme, Denise! I’m really enjoying your posts 😘

    • April 6, 2017 at 9:41 AM

      Thanks so much, Martha. I appreciate it very much and am glad to have found you and your writing through this challenge.

  3. hilarymb
    April 7, 2017 at 4:54 AM

    Hi Denise – I don’t know that much about the Duke’s life – enough to give a gentle waffle about him! Eton was THE school … so not surprising that he went there. But so many stories are apocryphal aren’t they – but I’m enjoying the series and learning some history … cheers Hilary

    • April 7, 2017 at 5:24 AM

      Yes, Hilary, you are correct. Eton was THE place to be. Wellington was not a standout at Eton and was not looked upon favorably as a standout even in his own family until he became a soldier and gained some battlefield experience. Only then did he notice how terrible the strategy was and decided he could do better–and did.

  4. April 12, 2017 at 11:40 AM

    Hello Denise, I’m just catching up, and continuing to learn about the Duke. To be honest, as much as I enjoy you writing about the Duke, I am now more intrigued by your own interest in the Duke. I think it’s so interesting that there is a travel tour dedicated to him. What’s that like? What are the people on the tour like? What interest you more about the Duke than others in History. Is it a history thing, or a war thing, or a geography thing? I will leave out the other 20 million questions I have, so I can get to the rest of your letters, but please treat us with your thoughts. Zulu Delta

    • April 12, 2017 at 12:40 PM

      Wow. I might have to make this answer a post, Zulu. I am lacking anything right now for R. Reasons I Study the Duke of Wellington. Yes, I think I shall. Thanks, Denise

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