If you follow the timeline of the Wesley name, we find his ancestors to be English not Irish, as we were led to believe. Early spellings of the family name started out as “Welles-Lieghs” and through time changed to Wesley.
His ancestors are believed to have been granted lands, to the south of Wells in Somerset, for acceptance to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.
Then in 1171 a family member in the employ of King Henry II as a Standard Bearer, moved to Ireland.
Arthur Wellesley – Ist Duke of Wellington’s family formerly from Rutland in England, moved to Ireland in 1500. Robert Cowley became master of the Rolls in Ireland and died in 1546, leaving one son; Walter Cowley, who became Principal Solicitor to Ireland.
Henry Colley son of Walter Cowley married Catherine Cusack, daughter of Sir Thomas Cusack, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and son of Alison de Wellesley = Colley-Wellesley connection.
In 1728 Wellington’s grandfather Richard Colley (Colley is a surname of English origin) changed his name to Wesley.
Arthur Wesley was born on the 1st May 1769 in Dublin. His father Garret Wesley 1st Earl of Mornington, and his mother Anne, Countess of Mornington.
In 1781, aged twelve his father died, and his eldest brother Richard inherited his father’s Earldom.
He attended Eton from 1781-1784 and his lack of success and limited funds following his father’s death, the young Arthur moved to Brussels with his mother in 1785. Then in 1786 enrolled in the French Royal Academy of Equitation in Angers, becoming an experienced horseman, with a good command of the French language.
1787 was the beginning of his military life, and his name would go down in history and be remembered for his prowess on the battle field. It is said, he became one of Britain’s greatest military commanders. When we needed victories, he was there to do his part for his country, for he never lost a battle.
In 1789 he dabbled a bit into politics, speaking out against the proposal of granting the title of “Freeman of Dublin” to Henry Grattan, Parliamentary leader of the Irish Patriot Party, and he was rewarded for his success, being nominated as a Member of Parliament for Trim.
In 1793 he asked for the hand of Kitty Pakenham daughter of Edward Pakenham, 2nd Baron of Longford. His offer was rejected by Kitty’s brother, Thomas earl of Longford, saying he had poor prospects.
A devastated Arthur Wellesley and an aspiring musician burnt his violins, to concentrate all his efforts on his military career. For the next time he asks, he expects the answer to be yes!
Arthur Wellesley started his military career at Dublin Castle as aide-de-camp to Lord Lieutenant’s of Ireland. In March 1787, he joined the 73rd Regiment of foot and over the next few years, rose through the ranks to Lieutenant-Colonel in the 33rd Regiment aged 26.
In 1794 Arthur Wellesley was to experience his first taste of battle, east of Breda, and at the Battle of Boxtel, in the Flanders Campaign, with the Duke of York.
Arthur Wellesley was promoted to a full Colonel and in 1796 set sail for Calcutta, India with his regiment.
In 1798 the Fourth Anglo-Mysore war broke out against the Sultan of Mysore, Tipu, Sultan. Then he was victorious in the 1799 Battle of Serpingapalam, these led to promotions in the field for his actions. In July 1801 was promoted to Brigadier-General, and September promoted to Major-General.
In 1802 was dispatched to command an army in the Second Anglo-Maratha war.
The Battle of the Assaye, was considered one of his finest victories. “The General was in the thick of the action the whole time… I never saw a man so cool and collected as he was,” according to an eyewitness report.
It is said, his experiences in India, taught him much about military tactics and matters for the future.
In June 1805, returned home to England having amassed a fortune of some £42,000 mainly in prize money, and was made a Knight of the Bath.
Arthur Wellesley and Kitty Pakenham were married in Dublin on 10th April 1806, and had two children Arthur and Charles. However, their marriage was doomed to disaster, for they spent many years apart.
In January 1806, was elected Tory Parliament member in Rye. In 1807 MP for Newport, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and made a Privy Counsellor.
He stood down from his political appointments as the lure of war beckoned him in the Second Battle of Copenhagen in August 1807, and took 1500 prisoners.
Now a Lieutenant General, participated in the Peninsular War against the French forces; defeating them at the battle of Rolica and Vimeiro.
Arthur Wellesley arrived in Lisbon in April 1809 onboard the HMS Surveillanto and took up an offensive stance in the Second Battle of Porto, crossing the Duoro River. Once Portugal was secured, he led his army into Spain with General Cuesta’s forces.
By 1810, the French had invaded Portugal, but Wellesley outwitted them on one or more occasion during the numerous battles that took place.
On 31st July 1811, Wellesley was promoted to a full General for his services, and the Portuguese conferred on him the title of; “Count of Vimeiro.”
By 1812, Wellesley’s army was now a veteran British force, with Portuguese army units, all under his command.
At the Battle of Salamanca he liberated Madrid the Spanish capital from the French, and was rewarded for his services. Firstly becoming an “Earl” and then a “Marquess.”
He was rewarded time and time again, for in 1812 was granted the titles of “Marquis of Torres Vedras” and “Duke of Vitoria,” both in Portuguese nobility. These were conferred on him by Queen Maria I of Portugal, and for his continuing actions in the name of Portugal.
In 1813, Wellesley led a new offensive, against the French lines of communications, continuing to outflank then wherever they went. Eventually catching up and destroying King Joseph Bonaparte’s army in the Battle of Vitoria, which saw him promoted to Field Marshal on 21st June.
Wesley was hailed as the conquering hero by the British, and so “Duke of Wellington,” was his new title. He spent six years driving the French out of Spain, and removed Joseph Bonaparte from the Spanish throne.
The Duke of Wellington, was appointed Ambassador to France, then plenipotentiary to the Congress of Vienna. On the 2nd January 1815 his Knighthood of Bath was converted to Knight Grand Cross.
Napoleon escaped Elba on 26th February 1815, and returned to France, and regained control by May of that year. Wellington, upon hearing the news left Vienna, to what would be known as the battle of Waterloo, where both men would meet on the battlefield.
On the 18th June the Battle of Waterloo was fought; Wellington and Napoleon had never met each other in battle. Wellington will always go down as he who conquered Napoleon.
The Treaty of Paris was signed on 20th November 1815.
The Duke of Wellington was now covered in honours by Britain and European powers for his actions on the battlefields.
He chose to enter politics, instead of retiring, by entering the British cabinet in 1818, and retaining his position; Master – General of Ordinance until 1827.
In 1829 he became Prime Minister, and assisted in passing the “Catholic Relief Act,” then in 1830 resigned his post, when it came clear to him, he could do nothing to block the Parliamentary Reform Act.
When the Tory party returned to power in 1834, he declined the post of Prime Minister and Robert Peel stood in his place.
Wellington remained in politics until 1846, fighting for his beliefs from within the Tory party, which evolved into the Conservative Party as we now know it.
On the 14th September 1852, aged 83 Wellington died of a stroke, following a series of epileptic seizures.
The Duke of Wellington’s body was given a state funeral on the 18th November 1852 at St.Paul’s Cathedral. He was buried in a sarcophagus made of luxulyanite, and placed next to Lord Nelson.
Tennyson’s “Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington,” was read in finale tribute to such a man.