Wellington: A Personal History

By Christopher Hibbert | Go to book overview

13 Board of Enquiry 1808

'This is Sir Arthur (whose valour and skill, began so well but ended so ill).'

TO ADD TO Sir Arthur's other worries, there was talk of an enquiry into the Convention of Cintra being set up by a Board of General Officers who were to examine General Wellesley's part in formulating it. So long as the verdict of the Board was unknown, Lord Castlereagh doubted the wisdom of Sir Arthur's attending the levee at St James's Palace; and when the General asked the Secretary for War if he would drive him there, Castlereagh 'hemmed & hawed, and said that there was so much ill-humour in the public mind that it might produce inconvenience, and, in short, he advised me not to go.' 1

But Sir Arthur was determined to go. He had intended to do so as 'a matter of respect and duty to the King' and he was not the kind of man to shrink from showing his face on account of 'ill-humour in the public mind'. He now looked upon his attendance as a 'matter of self-respect and duty' to his own character. 'I therefore insist on knowing whether this advice proceeds in any degree from His Majesty,' he replied to Castlereagh's letter, 'and I wish you distinctly to understand that I will go to the levee tomorrow, or I never will go to [another] levee in my life.'2

He did go and the King was perfectly amicable. His Majesty was not in favour of a public enquiry into the Convention of Cintra and when such a tribunal was first suggested he rejected the proposal out of hand. He was eventually obliged to tolerate one, however; and in November a Board of General Officers was convened in the Great Hall of Chelsea Hospital under the presidency of an intimate friend of the Duke of York, the tall, austere, Scottish General Sir David Dundas, Governor of the Hospital, who had been a captain in the Dragoons long before Sir Arthur Wellesley was born. Sir Hew Dalrymple was recalled from the Peninsula to answer the Board's questions; Sir Arthur Wellesley returned from Ireland where he had briefly gone to see his

-77-

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