'Those who think lightly of that lad are unwise in their generation.'
'HE IS HERE at this moment, and perfectly idle,' Lord Mornington wrote on his brother's behalf. It was, he added, a 'matter of indifference' to him what commission his brother got, provided he got it soon and it was not in the artillery which would not suit his rank or intellect. 1 Early in March 1787, a few weeks before his eighteenth birthday, the reply came: Arthur Wesley could be offered a commission as ensign in the 73rd (Highland) Regiment of Foot.
His mother was delighted. She thought him much improved upon his return from Angers, she told two friends of hers, Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Sarah Ponsonby, who were living together on terms of romantic friendship, totally isolated from society in a cottage at Llangollen in North Wales. These ladies, described by Prince Pückler- Muskau as 'certainly the most celebrated virgins in Europe', had already met Arthur Wesley. He had been taken to see them by his grandmother, Lady Dungannon, who lived nearby, while still an Eton schoolboy, and he had been awkward in their company, disturbed by their semi-masculine attire and Lady Eleanor's top hat. But he was not awkward now, his mother assured them. 'He really is a charming young man', she said. 'Never did I see such a change for the better in any body.'2
She used her influence with the Marquess of Buckingham, the Duke of Portland's successor as Lord-Lieutenant in Dublin, to have him appointed to his lordship's staff as aide-de-camp; and she recorded with satisfaction his promotion to Lieutenant in the 76th (Hindoostan) Regiment of Foot, and then, since this regiment was returning to India, his transfer to the 41st.
He called upon the 'Ladies of Llangollen' on his way to take up his duties in Ireland; and they agreed with his mother that the eighteen- year-old boy was now greatly improved and had much to recommend