Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

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Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington : biography

1 May 1769 – 14 September 1852

Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, , , , , (1 May 1769Wellesley (2008). p. 16. – 14 September 1852), was a British soldier and statesman, a native of Ireland from the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy,Severn (2007). p. 13. and one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century. He is often referred to as the "Duke of Wellington", even after his death, even though there have been subsequent Dukes of Wellington.

Wellesley was commissioned as an ensign in the British Army in 1787. Serving in Ireland as aide-de-camp to two successive Lords Lieutenant of Ireland he was also elected as a Member of Parliament in the Irish House of Commons. A colonel by 1796, Wellesley saw action in the Netherlands and later in India, where he fought in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War at the Battle of Seringapatam. He was appointed governor of Seringapatam and Mysore in 1799, and as a newly appointed major-general won a decisive victory over the Maratha Confederacy at the Battle of Assaye in 1803.

Wellesley rose to prominence as a general during the Peninsular campaign of the Napoleonic Wars, and was promoted to the rank of field marshal after leading the allied forces to victory against the French at the Battle of Vitoria in 1813. Following Napoleon’s exile in 1814, he served as the ambassador to France and was granted a dukedom. During the Hundred Days in 1815, he commanded the allied army which, together with a Prussian army under Blücher, defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. Wellesley’s battle record is exemplary, ultimately participating in some 60 battles throughout his military career.

He was twice prime minister under the Tory party and oversaw the passage of the Catholic Relief Act 1829. He was prime minister from 1828–30 and served briefly in 1834. He was unable to prevent the passage of the Reform Act 1832 and continued as one of the leading figures in the House of Lords until his retirement. He remained Commander-in-Chief of the British Army until his death.

Wellesley and Colley heritage

The earliest mention of the "Welles-lieghs" dates from 1180, around a settlement still known as Wellesley Farm. The family had been granted lands to the south of Wells, Somerset for their ‘Passive acceptance of the Norman conquest of England of 1066.Wellesley (2008). p. 14. An early member of the family relocated to Ireland during 1171, in the role of a Standard Bearer to King Henry II.Wellesley (2008). pp. 14–15. The surname "Wesley" was adopted from a childless wealthy cousin, Garret Wesley. In 1728, Wellington’s paternal grandfather Richard Colley, a landlord who lived at Rahin near Carbury, County Kildare, changed his surname to Wesley.Longford (1971). p. 7. The Colley or Cowley family had lived in that part of Kildare since the time of Wellington’s ancestor, Sir Henry Colley or Cowley, who died before 2 October 1584. Sir Henry in his lifetime possessed Carbury Castle, in north-west Kildare, starting with a 21-year lease in 1554.Lease dated 23 October 1554; Fiant no.53, Philip & Mary, cited in Appendix IV, 9th Report of the Deputy Keeper of Public Records in Ireland.Journal of the Kildare Archaeological Society, Vol. X, No. 1, pp. 90–94.

Colley is a surname of English origin. However, Colley or Cowley is also an Anglicised form of Mac Amhalghaidh, a family who were lords of Cálraighe in Chalaid in what is now County Westmeath. This family were claimed descent from the 5th-century Irish king, Niall of the Nine Hostages, and had the following genealogy ("m" indicates "son of"):

The weight of evidence is that Wellington’s family originated in Rutland and came to Ireland about 1500.Ball. F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921 John Murray London 1926 Vol. 1 p.203 Robert Cowley who became Master of the Rolls in IrelandBall p.203 died in 1546 leaving a son, Walter Cowley, Principal Solicitor for Ireland, who appears to have been father to Sir Henry. Henry Colley married Catherine Cusack, daughter of Sir Thomas Cusack, Lord Chancellor of Ireland which began the Colley-Wellesley connection, since Sir Thomas was the son of Alison de Wellesley.Mosley, ed. Burke’s Peerage 107th Edition Delaware 2003 Vol.2 p.2971