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Henry Wellesley, 1st Baron Cowley

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Henry Wellesley

1st Baron Cowley
Born20 January 1773
Died27 April 1847
Spouse(s)Lady Charlotte Cadogan
Lady Georgiana Cecil
IssueHenry Wellesley, 1st Earl Cowley
Captain Hon. William Henry George Wellesley
Gerald Wellesley
FatherGarret Wesley, 1st Earl of Mornington
MotherAnne Hill-Trevor

Henry Wellesley, 1st Baron Cowley GCB (20 January 1773 – 27 April 1847) was an Anglo-Irish diplomat and politician. He was the younger brother of the soldier and politician the first Duke of Wellington. He is known particularly for his service as British Ambassador to Spain during the Peninsular War where he acted in cooperation with his brother to gain the support of Cortes of Cádiz. His later postings included being Ambassador in Vienna where he dealt with Metternich and British Ambassador to France during the reign of Louis Philippe I.

His career was closely connected with that of his elder brothers Arthur and Richard Wellesley, who served as Foreign Secretary between 1809 and 1812. He became embroiled in a public scandal in 1809 when his wife Charlotte eloped with Henry Paget who as Lord Uxbridge was later to serve as cavalry commander under his brother at the Battle of Waterloo.

Background and education[edit]

Henry's elder brother Richard Wellesley promoted his diplomatic career in both India and Europe.

Wellesley was the fifth and youngest son of Garret Wellesley, 1st Earl of Mornington, by Anne Hill-Trevor, eldest daughter of Arthur Hill-Trevor, 1st Viscount Dungannon, both families of Anglo-Irish descent. He was the younger brother of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, and William Wellesley-Pole, 3rd Earl of Mornington. He was educated at Eton and at the court of the Duke of Brunswick. He purchased an ensigncy in the 40th Foot in 1790.

Diplomatic career[edit]

Wellesley's diplomatic career began in 1791 when he was appointed attaché to the British embassy at The Hague. The next year, he became Secretary of Legation in Stockholm. In 1791, he exchanged into the 1st Foot Guards and in 1793, he purchased a Lieutenancy. In 1794, while on a trip home from Lisbon with his sister Anne, he was captured by the French, and remained in prison during the height of the terror, escaping only in 1795. Later that year, he sat for the Trim constituency in the Irish House of Commons.

At the 1807 general election he was elected to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom as a Member of Parliament both for the Athlone constituency[1] in Ireland, and for Eye constituency in England.[2] He chose to sit for Eye, and held the seat until his resignation in 1809[2] by taking the Chiltern Hundreds.

In 1797, Wellesley accompanied Lord Malmesbury as secretary on his unsuccessful mission to negotiate peace with the French at Lille. Later that year, he travelled to India, where he became private secretary to his oldest brother, Lord Mornington, the new governor-general. He was in India between 1797 and 1799, and again from 1801 to 1802, and was a useful assistant to his brother in a variety of diplomatic capacities, negotiating treaties with Mysore and Oudh.[citation needed]

In 1802 he returned to Europe, and the next year married Lady Charlotte Cadogan, by whom he had three sons and a daughter before she abandoned him in 1809, running off with Lord Paget, a talented cavalry officer. They divorced in 1810. Although, at first, Paget's career was badly affected by the affair, as he was later unable to serve under Wellesley's brother Wellington in the Peninsular Campaign due to the bad blood, Paget later distinguished himself under Wellington at Waterloo.[citation needed]

In 1809, Wellesley became the British envoy to Spain – his eldest brother, by now Marquess Wellesley, was now Foreign Secretary, while his brother Arthur (now Viscount Wellington) was the commander of the Anglo-Portuguese forces in the Iberian Peninsula. Together, the three brothers helped to make the Peninsular campaign a success, and in 1812 Wellesley was knighted. He remained Ambassador to Spain until 1821, but found time to marry again, this time to Lady Georgiana Cecil, daughter of the Marquess of Salisbury. [citation needed]

In 1823, Wellesley became Ambassador to Austria, where he remained until 1831. Although he was close acquaintances with Foreign Secretary George Canning, who had asked Wellesley to serve as his second in his duel with Lord Castlereagh, Wellesley felt that Canning did not appreciate his services, feeling him to be too conciliatory.[citation needed]

In January 1828, Wellesley was created Baron Cowley, of Wellesley in the County of Somerset, due to his brother Wellington's influence with the prime minister, Lord Goderich. His final diplomatic service was in Paris, where he served as British ambassador to France during Robert Peel's administrations in 1835 and 1841–46. In 1846, Cowley retired, but remained in Paris, where he died the next year.[citation needed]


In 1809 Wellesley's first wife, Charlotte, ran away with Lord Paget leading to public scandal and a divorce.

Cowley married Lady Charlotte, daughter of Charles Cadogan, 1st Earl Cadogan in 1803, but they divorced in 1810 after she ran away with Henry Paget, later 1st Marquess of Anglesey. He later remarried, to Lady Georgiana Cecil, daughter of the Marquess of Salisbury.

His eldest son, Henry Richard Charles Wellesley, followed in his father's footsteps as a diplomatist, holding the Paris embassy for fifteen years, and was eventually created Earl Cowley. Another son, Gerald Valerian Wellesley, became Dean of Windsor. His second son William became a captain in the Royal Navy.


  1. ^ Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "A" (part 3)
  2. ^ a b Stooks Smith, Henry. (1973) [1844–1850]. Craig, F. W. S. (ed.). The Parliaments of England (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 313. ISBN 0-900178-13-2.

External links[edit]

Media related to Henry Wellesley, 1st Baron Cowley at Wikimedia Commons

Parliament of Ireland
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Trim
With: Arthur Wesley
Succeeded by
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Athlone
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Eye
With: James Cornwallis
Mark Singleton
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by British Ambassador to Spain
Succeeded by
Preceded by British Ambassador to Austria
Succeeded by
Preceded by British Ambassador to France
Succeeded by
Preceded by British Ambassador to France
Succeeded by
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Cowley
Succeeded by