Gerald Wellesley, 7th Duke of Wellington

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The Duke of Wellington
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
16 September 1943 – 4 January 1972
Hereditary Peerage
Preceded byThe 6th Duke of Wellington
Succeeded byThe 8th Duke of Wellington
Personal details
Born(1885-08-21)21 August 1885
Died4 January 1972(1972-01-04) (aged 86)
SpouseDorothy Violet Ashton
ChildrenValerian Wellesley, 8th Duke of Wellington
Lady Elizabeth Clyde
Parent(s)Arthur Wellesley, 4th Duke of Wellington
Kathleen Bulkeley Williams

Gerald Wellesley, 7th Duke of Wellington, KG, DL, FRIBA (21 August 1885 – 4 January 1972), styled Lord Gerald Wellesley between 1900 and 1943, was an Anglo-Irish diplomat, soldier, and architect.

Background and education[edit]

Wellesley was the third son of Lord Arthur Wellesley (later 4th Duke of Wellington) and Lady Arthur Wellesley (later Duchess of Wellington, née Kathleen Bulkeley Williams). He was baptised at St Jude's Church of Ireland parish church, Kilmainham, Dublin, on 27 September 1885.[1] He was educated at Eton.


Wellesley served as a diplomat in the Diplomatic Corps in 1908. He held the office of Third Secretary of the Diplomatic Service between 1910 and 1917, and the office of Second Secretary of the Diplomatic Service between 1917 and 1919. He was invested as a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1921, and as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1935, and was Surveyor of the King's Works of Art, 1936–43. He gained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in 1939 in the service of the Grenadier Guards. He fought in the Second World War between 1939 and 1945. His diplomatic skills proved invaluable in dealing with the Allies.[2]

As a somewhat elderly officer with a spinsterish manner, he earned the nickname 'The Iron Duchess.'[citation needed] Simon Heffer, Editor of Chips Channon's diaries Volume 3 in 2022, records that the nickname was devised by Army colleagues as he was gay.

In 1943, he succeeded his nephew, Henry, as Duke of Wellington, Earl of Mornington, and Prince of Waterloo. His nephew's other title, Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo, passed to Henry's sister (his niece) Lady Anne Rhys, before she ceded it to him in 1949. He served as Lord Lieutenant of the County of London between 1944 and 1949 and as Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire between 1949 and 1960. In 1951, he was made a Knight Companion of the Garter.[citation needed]

Architecture projects[edit]

Among his architecture projects was the remodelling of 5 Belgrave Square,[3] the London home of Henry "Chips" Channon, an Anglo-American member of Parliament, and of Channon's country house, Kelvedon Hall in Essex.[4] Working with Trenwith Wills, Wellesley also remodeled Castle Hill, Filleigh, in Devon; Hinton Ampner in Hampshire; and Biddick Hall in County Durham[5] and St Mary and St George Church in High Wycombe.[6] Wellesley also designed the Faringdon Folly tower for Lord Berners[7] and built Portland House in Weymouth in 1935.[8]


He was the author of the following books :

  • The Iconography of the First Duke of Wellington (1935)
  • The Diary of a Desert Journey (1938)
  • The Journal of Mrs. Arbuthnot (1950)
  • A Selection from the Private Correspondence of the First Duke of Wellington (1952)

Wellington Museum[edit]

In 1947 the Duke gave Apsley House and its important contents (Wellington Collection) to the nation with Wellington Museum Act (but retained the right to occupy a large portion for him and his family)


On 30 April 1914, Wellesley married Dorothy Violet Ashton (30 July 1889 – 11 July 1956). The Ashtons were an affluent cotton mill owning family, and Dorothy's father, Robert Ashton of Croughton, Cheshire was a second cousin of the 1st Baron Ashton of Hyde). Dorothy's mother was (Lucy) Cecilia Dunn-Gardner, who later became Countess of Scarbrough after marrying Aldred Lumley, 10th Earl of Scarbrough in 1899. Wellesley and Dorothy had two children:

The marriage was unhappy and they separated in 1922,[9] but never divorced. Dorothy, a poet, was a lesbian. She became the lover of Vita Sackville-West,[10] (who wrote her entry for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography).[11] before becoming the lover and long-time companion of Hilda Matheson, a prominent BBC producer.[9] Interestingly, Wellesley had been engaged to Sackville-West's former lover Violet Trefusis before marrying Dorothy.[9] Wellesley himself was rumoured to be bisexual or homosexual, but this belief stems largely from certain effeminate mannerisms, and there is no record of any male lover.[12][13][14]

After his wife's death in 1956, Wellesley reportedly wished to marry his widowed sister-in-law, Lady Serena James, but she did not wish to leave her marital home.[15]

Wellesley died early in 1972. His probate was sworn in the year of his death at £529,260 (equivalent to about £8,800,000 in 2023).[16] He was succeeded in his titles and estates by his only son, Valerian.


  1. ^ "Irish Genealogy". Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  2. ^ Butler, Ewan. Amateur Agent. p. 16.
  3. ^ Owens, Mitchell (11 June 2016). "The Unbelievable Story Behind This Stunning Pair of Antique Chairs". Architectural Digest.
  4. ^ Historic England. "Kelvedon Hall (Grade I) (1279546)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
  5. ^ Cruickshank, Dan (Summer 2012). "Wills and Wellesley". National Trust Magazine. National Trust: 38.
  6. ^ Stuff, Good. "Church of St Mary and St George, Sands, Buckinghamshire". Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  7. ^ Miller, Norman (1 July 2016). "The surreal and colourful life of Baron Berners". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  8. ^ "National Trust renovates Portland House, Weymouth". BBC News. 12 September 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  9. ^ a b c R.F. Foster, "W.B. Yeats" (Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 528
  10. ^ Lady Jane Wellesley, "Wellington: A Journey Through My Family" (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2009)
  11. ^ "[minstrels] John Kinsella's Lament for MRS Mary Moore -- William Butler Yeats". Archived from the original on 15 October 2009. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
  12. ^ Aldritt, Keith (1997). WB Yeats: The Man and the Milieu. Clarkson Potter. p. 337.
  13. ^ Brittain-Catlin, Timothy. Bleak Houses: Disappointment and Failure in Architecture. p. 92.
  14. ^ Michael Bloch (28 May 2015). Closet Queens: Some 20th Century British Politicians. Little, Brown Book. ISBN 9781405517010. Retrieved 7 July 2016.
  15. ^ "Lady Serena James: Obituary". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  16. ^ Calendar of Probates and Administrations

External links[edit]

Honorary titles
Preceded by Lord Lieutenant of the County of London
Succeeded by
Preceded by Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire
Succeeded by
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Duke of Wellington
Succeeded by
Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by Earl of Mornington
Succeeded by
Dutch nobility
Preceded by Prince of Waterloo
Succeeded by
Spanish nobility
Preceded by Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo
Succeeded by
Portuguese nobility
Preceded by Duke of the Victory
Succeeded by