Richard Colley Wellesley, First Marquess Wellesley

Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1821-28, 1833-34

June 20, 1760 - September 26, 1842

Richard Colley Wellesley (1760-1842) Second Earl of Mornington (Ireland) from 1781. First Earl of Mornington (GB), 1797. First Marquess Wellesley (Ireland) from 1799. Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1821-28, 1833-34. Educated at Eton and Christ Church, he was a Pittite MP from 1784, then Governor General of India, 1798-1805, after which he was Foreign Secretary, 1809-12, before resigning and then attempting to form a government after Perceval’s death. He opposed the Congress of Vienna in 1814-15 and the Corn Laws in 1815, but accepted office as Lord Lieutenant in 1822 as a supporter of Catholic Emancipation. He stayed in office through the Canning and Goderich administrations but resigned when his brother took office because he was not brought into the Cabinet. He was sufficiently crossbench by then that he returned to office as Lord Lieutenant briefly under Grey.

In India he had a good record as an administrator but, by the time he was Foreign Secretary, he had become idle, missing many Cabinet meetings and neglecting diplomatic correspondence. As Lord Lieutenant, he was even more idle but stayed in office because he needed the money, leaving the diligent Goulburn to do the work. His first wife was a French actress; his second wife was a rich (but not rich enough) American. Mrs Arbuthnot summed him up well as ‘a strange compound of brilliant talents and an unconquerable laziness that renders all his great qualities completely worthless’1. Writing to Arbuthnot, Liverpool had used the same description and added: ‘We have known him for thirty years. The acquaintance of Peel and Goulburn has been but recent and they cannot therefore see as well as us, that a man may be wise in some things and most foolish in others.’2

[1] Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 158.

[2] Quoted in Gash, Lord Liverpool p. 204.

© 2020 Martin Hutchinson