New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, was named after Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington. He was twice Prime Minister of England but is better known as the brilliant officer and tactician who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. The Duke’s title comes from the town of Wellington in the country of Somerset.
In Maori, Wellington has three names – Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara referring to the harbour, Pōneke, which is a transliteration of ‘Port Nick’ (short for Port Nicholson) and Te Upoko-o-te-Ika-a-Māui, a traditional name for the southernmost part of the North Island.
Back to the Duke – who was also known by nicknames The Iron Duke, The Eagle and The Beau (his officers gave him this one because he was quite handsome and a snappy dresser) - there is a Wellesley Street in Auckland bearing his real name and ‘Wellington’ was used to name many places and things – there are towns, villages, counties, mountains, lakes, streets and colleges in New Zealand, Australia, India, Canada, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The trusty old Wellington boot also took his name because he had them designed to replace traditional boots made from hessian. The dish Beef Wellington is attributed to him, possibly because he liked a good slab of meat with a fine bottle of red but there is no evidence that it was a dish he actually ate. In fact, it first appeared in a cookbook in 1966 and may well have been invented in New Zealand to be served at a civic reception in the nation’s capital.
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