Netherlands (Flanders Campaign)–#AtoZChallenge “N”

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

After Kitty Pakenham’s family, namely her brother Thomas, Earl of Longford, first nixed his proposal to Kitty, Arthur Wellesley decided to focus on his military career wholeheartedly. He was commissioned into the military by purchase, meaning payment to the military bought him an officer position. Commission by purchase was the common practice at the time and young Wellesley got a second commission back into the army with the help of his older brother, Richard. His first assignment was in the 33rd Regiment in the Netherlands.

Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Wellesley, aged 26, in the 33rd Regiment, John Hoppner, c. 1795, oil on canvas, Stratfield Saye Preservation Trust, Stratfield Saye House

The British army was in Flanders and they and their allies hoped to invade France. The French had a better army and soldiers at this time and the British were retreating into the Netherlands when Wellesley arrived. The 33rd helped the retreating regiments stay safe by fending off the French. Winter came and everyone suffered. The army was forced to retreat into Germany and give up any invasion plans. The French eventually took part of the Netherlands.

From this experience, the future Duke learned valuable strategy against French columns. He also realized that a strong navy was needed to aid the infantry. Lastly, he realized that the army was only as effective as the leaders were at headquarters. He was not a critical player in this arena, but was a commissioned officer and lieutenant-colonel, and he experienced his first battle during this campaign, the Battle of Boxtel (1794). A number of later prominent French marshals also saw their first battle experience in the Netherlands, including Marshal Ney.

Wellesley bought his first four commissions in the army with the help of friends and family. After this campaign, he needed no further help to rise in the ranks and did so due to his own merit and increasing military skills.

A short novella by historical fiction author David Cook was published in 2014:

Of further interest about the Battle of Boxtel:

–Plaque related to the Battle of Boxtel (click to enlarge)

Previous A to Z Challenge 2017 posts:

Apsley House



Douro, Marquess of

Eton College

Fraser, Hugh

Guedalla, Philip

Harriet Arbuthnot


Joseph Bonaparte

Kitty Pakenham

Lawrence, Sir Thomas

Maréchal Michel Ney

  6 comments for “Netherlands (Flanders Campaign)–#AtoZChallenge “N”

  1. April 17, 2017 at 6:15 AM

    So impressed with the work you’ve done on these posts, Denise. 👏👏👏👏

  2. April 17, 2017 at 7:55 AM

    Thanks, Martha. This has been a time-consuming A to Z for me. Ready to be done–and the last week I will be traveling. I hope I finish in a timely manner!

  3. hilarymb
    April 18, 2017 at 2:02 AM

    Hi Denise – fascinating history … the Pakenhams have a long history in England (still do!) … Boxtel is another ‘name’ I now know of … so can add knowledge to that as I come across it.

    I was interested to find out that the Duke had visited Eastbourne, we have a historical Redoubt here, in 1846 – he wasn’t much impressed with it as a defence against the French!! … I need to visit again as I was with friends and couldn’t easily stop and make notes … but thought you’d be interested in the connection …

    Cheers Hilary

    • April 18, 2017 at 5:06 AM

      Thank you, Hilary! I guess it took a lot to impress the Duke! So interesting about the redoubt where you live. I decided to devote “P” to Ned, so look for his post tomorrow! Cheers, D

  4. May 15, 2017 at 11:36 AM

    Bought his way into the military huh? I was not familiar with this concept before today…..Thanks D!

    • May 15, 2017 at 1:20 PM

      Yes, that’s how it was, back in the Duke’s day. He paid for a few commissions and then didn’t need to any more. In the Sharpe series, Sharpe is poor and the Duke raises him in rank. The ones who paid hate him and are out to get Sharpe after that. Such a terrible system then.

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