This summer’s spat between Britain’s top soldiers and the government was a useful reminder of how civil–military relations in this country are regulated. The British army is pervaded by a non-political ethos and its officers only enter the political arena in extremis. While military figures have often been drafted into frontline politics in other countries over the last two hundred years, in England you have to go back to the Iron Duke to find a warrior who also wielded governmental power at home.
Wellington is the only British figure comparable to Bismarck, Pétain or Eisenhower. His military success laid the foundations for a benign image and a wide, cross-class appeal that made him ideal to head the government of a troubled country in search of strong leadership. But the time span