Napoleon put his brother Joseph on the throne of Spain in 1808. Joseph was well-intentioned but hated by the Spaniards. The Duke of Wellington fought Napoleon's troops in Spain, entered Madrid in August 1812 and finally defeated the French forces in 1814.
Goya's admiration for Wellington is apparent from the liveliness and sympathy of his three portraits of the Duke. This portrait was first painted after Wellington's entry into Madrid, and modified two years later after he received further honours.
Originally the portrait showed Wellington (then an Earl) in red uniform with the Peninsular Medal. While in Madrid he was awarded Spain's highest honour, the Order of the Golden Fleece, and Goya changed the picture to show him wearing full dress uniform (black with gold braid) and the rosette and gold badge of the Fleece hanging over his shirt.
In 1814 the Duke returned to Madrid with the Military Gold Cross. Each arm of the cross records a battle and extra battles are named above. Goya added the Cross and three name clasps.