'They really forget everything when plunder or wine is within their reach.'
ALMOST a hundred thousand men of the Imperial army were marching through France for the Pyrenees. There were rumours that the Emperor himself, having finally overwhelmed the Austrians at Wagram at the beginning of July 1809, would come with them to direct personally the expulsion of his tiresomely persistent enemy from the western peninsula of the Continent which he had otherwise almost made his own.
Wellington was at least spared the personal attention of Napoleon. But there was still 'a whole host of Marshals' in Spain, among them Edouard Mortier and Michel Ney as well as Soult, Victor and Kellerman. 1
Threatened as he was by the immense power of France, Wellington felt his position also endangered by the reconstruction of the ministry in London and the departure from office of his friend Lord Castlereagh on whose support he had always been able to rely. The new Prime Minister was to be Spencer Perceval, a man of whom little was generally known and scarcely anything known at Wellington's headquarters in the Peninsula. Nor did Wellington know very much about the new Foreign Secretary, Lord Bathurst, nor the Secretary of War, the Earl of Liverpool. It was not long, however, before it was decided to recall Marquess Wellesley home from Seville to replace Lord Bathurst as Foreign Secretary and to send out his brother Henry as British Minister in Lisbon. So Wellington was able to comfort himself with the thought that by these changes he had at least two friends at court. 2
He would need all the support he could contrive to obtain in the months ahead, for his position in the Peninsula, as he well recognized, was an ever more precarious one, while praise in England for his victory at Talavera was being overcast by grumbles that it had merely been the prelude to a defeat. The utter failure of the attempt to seize Antwerp