Duke of Wellington dies before battle anniversary
The eighth Duke of Wellington died on Wednesday aged 99, a family spokesman said, six months before the 200th anniversary of his ancestor's famous victory in the Battle of Waterloo.
Arthur Valerian Wellesley died peacefully at his home surrounded by his family.
Foremost among his many other hereditary titles were the Prince of Waterloo (Netherlands and Belgium) and Duke of Victoria (Portugal).
A private funeral will be held on January 8, while a date for a memorial service to be held in London will be announced in due course.
The Battle of Waterloo, in present-day Belgium, saw the British and allied forces under the command of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, finally defeat French emperor Napoleon, bringing to an end the 12 years of the Napoleonic Wars.
Commemorations of the battle are being overseen by the Waterloo 200 organisation.
Its chairman Evelyn Webb-Carter said: "We are very sad that he (the eighth duke) will not make the 200th anniversary, particularly the service of remembrance on June 18," at London's Saint Paul's Cathedral.
"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 victory.
"I am often asked whether we should not now, in these days of European unity, forget Waterloo and the battles of the past," he said on the Waterloo 200 website.
"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."
His 69-year-old eldest son Charles, the Marquess of Douro, becomes the 9th Duke of Wellington and inherits the other titles.
In an interview about the Battle of Waterloo broadcast on Monday, he said his ancestor "had a much greater respect for Napoleon than Napoleon had for him".
He told BBC radio: "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."
© 2014 AFP