Arthur Wellesly (1769-1852) was the first Duke of Wellington and one of Britain’s most renowned generals. The duke’s military experience is a tale of a successful strategist, from India to Waterloo, culminating in the crushing of Napoleon in 1815. After his military conquests, the duke became prime minister and was given the honorarium of commander- in-chief of the British forces for life.
Wellington, known as the Iron Duke, was honored in many ways. His name was given to a tree of the Sequoia family (the Wellingtonia), to the capital of New Zealand, and to a term in the card game NAP (a game devised in honor of Napoleon, in which a call of Wellington so that the caller is obliged to take all five tricks and wins or loses double).
His name was bestowed even on articles of clothing, such as the high boots worn by men of fashion, boots that had been required wear in the army. Although the boots came up above the knee, they were held down by a strap under the instep and were covered by the trousers. The boot was an elegant version of the military boot, with the top cut out at the back of the knee to allow freedom of action. «No gentleman», it was commonly said, «could wear anything but Wellington boots in the daytime». And then there were half-Wellingtons, which look somewhat like a pair of galoshes, also worn under the trousers. These boots, which came halfway up the calf of the leg, were made of patent leather and had a top of softer material.
A well-known story during that time was that Queen Victoria asked the duke for the name of the boots he was wearing. «The people call them Wellingtons», he replied, to which she remarked, «Impossible. I should like to know where you could find two Wellingtons».