The Duke of Wellington and the army of occupation in France, 1815-1818

Thomas Dwight Veve, Marquette University


Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), first Duke of Wellington, had a superb military career, culminating at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815, where he defeated Napoleon I and brought an end to the emperor's short return to power. Wellington spent his final active military posting as commander of the allied army which occupied France from 1815 to 1818. After this last command, the duke returned to Great Britain to undertake an active political career as a cabinet official. Eventually, in 1828, he was named prime minister. Bis role as commander-in-chief of the allied army of occupation has never been fully examined. This study focuses on that command. The victorious allied powers created the occupation army as part of the conditions imposed upon France by the Treaty of Paris of November 20, 1815. The army was a multinational peacekeeping force, consisting of troops from the four major powers, Austria, Great Britain, Prussia, and Russia, along with contingents from five smaller European nations. The mission of the army was to prevent further French aggression and aid in the establishment and preservation of European security. As a secondary role, the army was created to allow Louis XVIII the time he needed to establish himself in political control of France. The Duke of Wellington was the obvious choice as commander-in-chief of the allied army. He had a successful military record; he had defeated Napoleon at Waterloo; and, he enjoyed the support of the allied sovereigns. Though each participating nation retained administrative control of its troops, the sovereigns placed their contingent commanders under the overall command of Wellington. The duke also served as the contact between the allied army and the French government. Under the guiding hand of the Duke of Wellington, the allied army fulfilled all its assigned tasks. Though the allies enjoyed overwhelming military advantage, the army was never used as an instrument of a conqueror against a vanquished foe. During its three-year presence, French military expansionism disappeared; the Bourbons solidified their position on the French throne; thus, the threat of French domination of the European continent evaporated. The army's role accomplished, it retired in 1818, and Wellington returned home to initiate his political career.

Recommended Citation

Veve, Thomas Dwight, "The Duke of Wellington and the army of occupation in France, 1815-1818" (1990). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9117364.