The Duke of Wellington, Soldier, Statesman and Snob


The Oxford Experience is a residential summer programme providing one-week courses in a variety of subjects aimed at non-specialists. It offers a choice of seminars each week over a period of six weeks.

In 1784 Wellington’s Mother despaired of her “ugly boy”, withdrew him from Eton and suggested he was “only fit for the army”. He went on to become the greatest general Britain has ever produced, eventually defeating Napoleon at the decisive Battle of Waterloo. Feted and loaded with material honours, he then chose to become a “Westminster Warrior”. During violent and difficult times, he held a number of public offices before becoming Prime Minister at the head of a nation demanding every variety of reform. On his death in 1852 Queen Victoria praised Wellington as “the greatest man this country has ever produced”. But was he really?

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, 09.15-10.45 and 11.15-12.45, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study or exploring the many beautiful places in and around the city.

Wellington’s early life was far from straightforward. As the middle son of an Irish peer he was not deprived but neither was he the embodiment of aristocratic privilege. He made an unpromising start and was considered only suitable for the army. His early service took him to India, where patronage helped him recover from initial disappointment. He was to grasp the second opportunity with all the strength he could muster.

Returning from India as a “Sepoy General” he was keen to prove his worth on the European stage. Patronage enabled him to lead an army to Portugal to fight against Napoleon’s troops. After seven long years he defeated the French; his reputation was sealed. In early 1815, when Napoleon escaped from Elba, Europe turned to Wellington and he repaid their confidence by defeating him at the decisive Battle of Waterloo.  

Returning home in 1818 he took up a political appointment. It was one of many he was to fulfil in a political career lasting nearly 30 years. But these were turbulent and difficult times. Parliamentary Reform proved too much and brought his premiership and ministry to an end. He remained in the public eye, but was increasingly viewed as a “stiff-necked conqueror who trailed an unwelcome scabbard into civilian assemblies”.

Field trip to Stratfield Saye House.

Wellington undoubtedly enjoyed the company of women – yet he found himself locked into the most unfortunate of marriages. In Paris in 1814-15 female adoration of Wellington became known as la nouvelle religion. His reputation as a ladies’ man became increasingly difficult to dispel. As a father he was also found wanting. His two sons, Arthur and Charles grew up without him and when he returned they found their father distant.


Field Trip

Destination:   Stratfield Saye House; Hampshire

Excursion Rating: Moderate
Up to two hours' walk on even ground or up to an hour's walk on rough and/or steep ground or up lots of stairs and steps.


Description Costs
Programme fee (no accom–incl. field trip, lunch and dinner) £1145.00
Programme fee (with single en-suite accom, field trip and meals) £1640.00
Programme fee (with single standard accom, field trip and meals) £1455.00


Mr Nick Lipscombe


CColonel Nick Lipscombe MSc, FRHistS is a historian and author specialising in the Napoleonic Wars. He has written several books including the award winning Peninsular War Atlas, Waterloo a Decisive Victory, Wellington’s Guns & Wellington’s Eastern Front.

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Online registration closes on Friday, 1 May 2020 but please note that this course may be fully booked very quickly so early registration is recommended.


During your course, you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century.

The fee stated includes a bedroom with private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Most are single but a few twins are available*.

There is also a limited number of standard rooms available, which all have their own washbasin and shaver point but shared bath and toilet facilities. Most standard rooms are single but there are a few ‘twin sets’ (two single rooms opening off a sitting room)*.

*If you wish to book a twin en-suite room or a standard twin set room each person should complete an application form and email it to us at as these rooms cannot be booked online. (Forms may also be posted to us at: The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA, UK)

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form) together with a note of any mobility problems. Students should note that bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

We regret that we are unable to offer you accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.


If accommodation is unavailable in a particular week, we also offer places on a non-residential basis whereby participants can take classes and have meals at the college, having arranged their own accommodation elsewhere.

If you wish to enrol on a non-residential basis please complete an application form and email it to us at as this option cannot be booked online. (Forms may also be posted to us at: The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA, UK)