Napoleon ‘seriously underestimated’ my ancestor, says Duke of Wellington

Napoleon 'misjudged the abilities of the Duke of Wellington', who secured an historic victory against his rival at Waterloo
Napoleon 'misjudged the abilities of the Duke of Wellington', who secured an historic victory against his rival at Waterloo

The current Duke of Wellington has said Napoleon seriously underestimated his ancestor.

Charles Wellesley, 9th Duke of Wellington, was commenting on the new blockbuster biopic by Sir Ridley Scott, which charts the life of the French general and emperor.

The Duke of Wellington has claimed that Napoleon misjudged the abilities of his ancestor, who secured a victory against his rival at Waterloo.

Reviewing the Hollywood film in The House, the weekly magazine for Parliament, the Duke said: “Although Wellington had a high regard and respect for Napoleon, this was not reciprocated.

“Napoleon seriously underestimated his opposing general and the allied army, only 36 per cent of whom were British and half of whom were German-speaking.”

The crossbench peer added: “Few battles in history have had such profound consequences.

“There was total regime change in France, and ever since Britain and France have normally been on the same side.

“Indeed, I often think that 1815 was the start of a long and enduring period of Anglo-French cooperation and friendship.”

Scott’s film depicts the downfall of Napoleon at the hands of Wellington and the allied army in that year.

The movie has been criticised for multiple historical inaccuracies, which include Napoleon, played by Joaquin Phoenix, firing on the Pyramids of Giza, joining a cavalry charge during his final battle, and meeting his nemesis, the Duke of Wellington.

‘Not that stiff or pompous’

The current Duke of Wellington has forgiven these inaccuracies in his review, but believes the depiction of his ancestor by British star Rupert Everett could have been more flattering.

He wrote: “I don’t believe that Wellington was quite as stiff or pompous as that.”

While the Duke has welcomed the depiction of Britain’s Waterloo hero, the portrayal of Napoleon as an insecure dictator has caused controversy in France.

Director Scott said that the emperor was akin to “Alexander the Great, Adolf Hitler, Stalin” and had “a lot of bad s--- under his belt”.

This characterisation was challenged by Pierre Branda, academic director of the Fondation Napoléon, who said that portraying Napoleon as a murderous weakling did not account for his achievements.

He said: “It jars quite a lot. While Hitler and Stalin built nothing and only wrought destruction, Napoleon built things that are still in place today.”

Scott has defended his latest release against accusations of inaccuracies, including depicting the pivotal 1805 battle of Austerlitz as a small-scale ambush on a frozen lake, telling historians to “get a life”.

Responding to reports that the film had received a cold reception in France, he said the “French don’t even like themselves”.