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Duke of Wellington dies aged 99

The 8th Duke of Wellington, whose ancestor won the Battle of Waterloo, has died at the age of 99.

Arthur Valerian Wellesley, who was also known as the Prince of Waterloo, died peacefully today at his home on the Stratfield Saye Estate in Hampshire, surrounded by his family.

His death comes just six months before the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo in which the British army, under the command of the 1st Duke of Wellington, defeated Napoleon in what was then the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and is now Belgium.

A spokesman for the duke said a private funeral for family and the estate will be held at Stratfield Saye Church on Thursday January 8.

The date of a memorial service to be held in London will be announced shortly, he said.

Commemorations of the battle are being overseen by Waterloo 200.

The organisation's chairman Sir Evelyn Webb-Carter said : "We are very sad that he will not make the 200th anniversary, particularly the service of remembrance (at St Paul's Cathedral) on June 18.

"He was kept abreast of matters right up to about a month ago and he was certainly wanting to be present at the service."

Before his death, the duke spoke of the importance of marking the landmark.

In a message posted on the Waterloo 200 website, he said: "I am often asked whether we should not now, in these days of European unity, forget Waterloo and the battles of the past.

"My reply is, history cannot be forgotten and we need to be reminded of the bravery of the thousands of men from many nations who fought and died in a few hours on June 18 1815 and why their gallantry and sacrifice ensured peace in Europe for 50 years."

Sir Anthony Seldon, headmaster of Wellington College, set up in honour of the 1st Duke of Wellington, paid tribute to the 8th duke and said he was "one of the finest people I have known in my life".

He said: "He personified service, hard work, dignity and enthusiasm.

"Right until his final month, when I saw him with his daughter Lady Jane Wellesley at Stratfield Saye, he was full of zest and curiosity about everything that the young people were achieving at Wellington College, the school created in 1859 by Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the Prime Minister Lord Derby, as the memorial to the first Duke, who had died in 1852.

"The whole Wellington College community is greatly saddened by this news.

"The Duke of Wellington, until the very end, was a regular visitor to the school.

"He was greatly looking forward to our celebrations in May and June of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.

"It has been the greatest privilege to have known him over the last 10 years since becoming Master of Wellington College."

In an interview about the Battle of Waterloo broadcast just two days ago, the Marquess of Douro, the 8th duke's son and heir, told BBC's Today programme his ancestor had "had a much greater respect for Napoleon than Napoleon had for him".

He said: "He certainly felt that the presence of Napoleon in the head of an Army added enormous strength to that Army and he had a great admiration for Napoleon as a general."

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