Marshal William Carr Beresford: ‘The ablest man I have yet seen with the army’


Marcus de la Poer Beresford

October 2018

This is the remarkable story of one of the most celebrated and decorated Irish soldiers ever to fight in overseas service, and who was considered in all opinion as the Duke of Wellington’s ‘strong right arm’.


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Despite a propensity toward fierce criticism of his generals, with great regard the Duke of Wellington referred to William Carr Beresford as ‘the ablest man I have yet seen in the army’.

Marshal William Carr Beresford is the story of a celebrated and distinguished Irishman, honoured and decorated by the governments of Great Britain, Portugal and Spain, who served as Commander in Chief of the Portuguese army for eleven years. The book follows the trajectory of Beresford’s extensive military career. Born the illegitimate son of the 1st Marquis of Waterford, Beresford joined the British army in 1785, serving in the Mediterranean, Egypt, South Africa and South America, before further distinguishing himself – and meeting Wellington’s redoubtable esteem – as Marshal of the Portuguese forces during the Peninsular War. Sent to Portugal to rebuild its army in the fight against Napoleon, Beresford was so successful that Wellington integrated the Portuguese and British armed forces in that struggle.

Beresford is revealed as a trusted friend and confidant of Wellington, a relationship that was to endure for the rest of their lives. Their ability to work together led to Beresford’s appointment as Master General of Ordinance in Wellington’s government of 1828.

Table of Contents

  1. Early Life
  2. Cape of Good Hope and the Rio de la Plata, 1806–1807
  3. Madeira, 1807–1808
  4. The Defeat of the First French Invasion of Portugal and the Convention of Cintra, 1808
  5. With Sir John Moore into Spain,1808–1809
  6. Marshal of Portugal: The Spring Campaign 1809
  7. Reform of the Portuguese Army, the Summer Campaign of 1809 and Preparations for the Defence of Portugal
  8. The Portuguese Army, 1809–1810
  9. Busaco, The Lines of Torres Vedras and the Left Bank of the Tagus
  10. The French Retreat from Portugal
  11. The Battle of Albuera and its Aftermath, 1811
  12. The Portuguese Army Goes from Strength to Strength, 1811–1812
  13. Vitoria, a Return to Portugal and the Crossing into France, 1813
  14. Winter in the Pyrenees, the Battles of Orthez and Toulouse, 1814
  15. Family, Friends, Finance and Politics
  16. A triumphant return home
  17. Portugal and Brazil 1814-1820


About the Author

Marcus de la Poer Beresford read history at Trinity College Dublin, before qualifying as a lawyer.  Marcus retired from legal practice in 2010 after three decades as a partner in the Dublin firm of A & L Goodbody in order to return to his first love, history.  His earlier research and post graduate thesis focused on Ireland in the eighteenth century and the Irish diaspora following the Treaty of Limerick in 1691. He is a distant relative of William Carr Beresford.

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