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Commentary for Volume 1, Chapter 3 : Love and War (1792–96)

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Kitty Pakenham:

Unfortunately we do not have a contemporary description of Kitty or her side of the affair; but Joan Wilson, has added a good deal of fresh material.

Wilson A Soldier’s Wife p 1 describes Kitty’s father as ‘a bluff, good-tempered, enlightened landowner, and Post-Captain in the Royal Navy’ and her mother as ‘a woman of deep religious belief … strong-willed, intolerant, with a quick temper’, but popular and loved by her family.

Buckingham’s praise of Lord Longford came when asking Grenville to show him every attention when Longford visited London:

 I must particularly request you to make a point with Lord Chatham and with Pitt to shew every attention to Lord Longford … He has been indefatigable, and with his brother T. Pakenham, has helped us more than any family in Ireland.  They are most warmly my friends; they think most highly of Pitt; they are very high in public opinion; and he will have five members in the next Parliament.  (Buckingham to Grenville, 6 May 1789, HMC Dropmore vol 1 p 466 quoted in Complete Peerage entry on Longford)

Wilson is the source for AW’s initial proposal being rejected by her father (not brother), and she also states that Kitty’s grandmother favoured the match (p 10).   All this comes from what Kitty told her niece, Catherine Hamilton, many years later; but where Hamilton’s account appears is not clear – the implication is unpublished mss preserved at Stratfield Saye, but this is not spelt out.

The date of Lord Longford’s death comes from The Complete Peerage, and this confirms that AW’s first proposal must have been dealt with by him, if it was made in the spring of 1792.

Lady Longford and Wellington in later life:

Years later, ‘when the news of one of his victories was brought to her … she vehemently ejaculated this prayer, “God keep him humble!”’  (Maria Edgeworth to Lady Romilly, 9 Feb 1816, quoted in Longford vol 2 p 33).

AW’s final letter to Kitty:

This is undated and headed simply ‘Barracks, Tuesday’.  The 33rd embarked at Cork at the end of May, and sailed in early June, so May 1794 seems the probable date.  It refers to his impending departure, and can hardly have been written after the campaign (apart from anything else, with the 33rd in England, he would not have been writing from ‘Barracks’); besides, the letter was clearly written soon after his rejection and the ban on further correspondence.

The editor of Wellington’s Private Correspondence  (the seventh Duke) claims that the final line of the letter was a commitment which no man of honour could ignore; and both Wilson (A Soldier’s Wife p 14) and Longford (p 36) accept this reasoning,   (‘The phrase “my mind will still remain the same” would be binding on an honourable man.’  Wellington Private Correspondence p 2).  However this seems a more exalted notion of honour than is really appropriate for a very young officer in late eighteenth century Ireland.  AW had twice proposed, and twice been rejected; he said farewell in a gracious and kind manner which, and by refusing to give up hope completely, salvaged a sliver of pride.   Of course if he had suddenly come into money in the immediate aftermath there would have been an expectation that he would renew his suit; but not ten years later.   The stress on the words is part of the attempt by the seventh Duke to make the correspondence accord to the version of events which Wellington later told Mrs Arbuthnot (the seventh Duke edited her Journal).   This convinced Longford; but the documents published by Wilson show beyond any real doubt that Wellington was not trapped or forced into the marriage, by Olivia Sparrow, or by the argument that he had already committed himself (see Ch 11 below and its commentary on this).   And without this, there is no need to place such a strained interpretation on an innocuous phrase.

There is a fair parallel with Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth in Persuasion, and no one there felt that Captain Wentworth was obliged to renew his suit – on the contrary.   And the later correspondence (in Wellington Private Correspondence and in Wilson), shows fairly clearly that neither believed that there was a tie or a commitment.  Kitty, indeed, is painfully anxious to avoid any circumstance in which AW should feel that he ought to renew his proposal – though such reluctance was, of course, double-edged.  Nor were notions of ‘honour’ were as strained or precious in c 1800 as they were in 1900; while AW was a man to be pushed into such a thing against his wishes.

Pakenham family objections to AW

There is a hint, in Kitty’s letter of 7 May 1802 (Wellington Private Correspondence p 5-6), that money was not the only grounds on which her family, then at least, objected.   She says ‘to renew a pursuit, which perhaps he might not then wish or my family (or at least some of them) take kindly’.   Given that AW as now at least reasonably wealthy and that Kitty, at 30, was not the match she had been at 21, this suggests something more than prudential motives.  Possibly just pride: the desire not to have to admit to having been wrong; but possibly something else – one can speculate, but there is no real evidence to prefer one theory to another.

AW’s letter of August 1804 from India to Olivia Sparrow also points in this direction:

                I certainly think that I did not deserve such a woman and that I was treated exactly as I ought to have been when I proposed myself to her.  The question is whether in the opinion of those who, if I should be bold enough to bring this subject forward again will decide, the same reasons against me do not still exist?  Will public [service] be allowed as a set-off against the faults imputed to a man’s private life by scandal and calumny?  Will she, whose penetration nothing can escape, believe in the affection of one against whom the scandalous world has said so much?  (Quoted in Wilson A Soldier’s Wife   p 59-60)

This was written soon after he had been lectured by Lady William Bentinck (Olivia Sparrow’s sister) about his private life, and it may refer to reports about his affair with Mrs Freese; but it is at least equally likely that Pakenhams in 1793 thought that AW, as well as being poor and having few prospects, belonged to a raffish set even if he wasn’t actually disreputable, and that this made him not well suited to marry Kitty.  And this would not be ridiculous prudery, but a fair an understanding of Kitty’s nature.   However this is stretching the evidence to breaking point; and the most that we can safely say is that there are some hints that their objections were not entirely based on his lack of money.

Did AW purchase all his promotions?

The primary sources on this are surprisingly fragmentary, and the official records which presumably would have clarified it, do not appear to have survived; while AW’s personal finances in these years are largely obscure.

According to Ron McGuigan the cost of each step of promotion, if purchased, was:

  initial commission as ensign…………..…  £ 400

            promotion to lieutenant……………..……. £ 150

promoted lieutenant in cavalry regiment….. £ 447

promotion to captain in infantry  …………. £ 503  (£950 minus cavalry credit)

exchange to captain in cavalry regiment….. £1,282

to major in an infantry regiment………….. £     0  (the cavalry credit covering whole cost)

to lieutenant colonel………………………. £  900  (or £718 if £182 balance of cavalry credit)

£ 3,500

(e-mail from Ron McGuigan of 15 September 2011; see also The British Army Against Napoleon. Facts, Lists and Trivia, 1805-1815 by Robert Burnham and Ron McGuigan p 151-2). There would, in addition, be £67 10s 4d in fees on commissions.

The total of AW’s debt to Mornington (Statement of 8 July 1799 WP 1/7) was £3,200 (made up of £2,100 plus ‘Bond due by him and me to Capt Stapleton £1,100’: there is an explanatory note about this bond ‘This sum was borrowed from Mr Page, & it is included in a mortgage for £10,000 give to him.  Lord M. has my note for it.’   It is not certain that all these sums relate to the purchase of commissions, rather than other debts acquired in Dublin.

When AW wrote to Mornington offering to repay the loan in 1799 he explicitly said that his prize money ‘will enable me to pay the money which you advanced to purchase my lieutenant-colonelcy, and that which was borrowed from Captain Stapleton on our joint bond.’  (AW to Mornington, Seringapatam, 14 June 1799, WSD vol 1 p 242-7 (quote on p 245).)  This does not mean that Mornington had not paid for the previous steps (they would count towards the total) but it does help to support the traditional story that AW purchased many of his promotions.

We know that AW was promoted from Ensign to Lieutenant by providing twenty recruits to the army, rather than outright purchase (see Ch 1 above), but this would still have come at a cost.   And there was the cost of his horses and outfit, together with fees payable to the government on each promotion (separate from the actual cost of the rank).

The most detailed secondary account is given by Richard Holmes Soldiers (London, Harper Press, 2011) p 146 which says: ‘Arthur was commissioned to the 73rd Foot in March 1787, into a vacancy by the death of an officer in India, where the regiment was then stationed.  That December he was promoted lieutenant, another free vacancy, in the new-raised 76th Foot, then slipped sideways into the more senior 41st a month later, and hopped to a lieutenancy in the 12th Light Dragoons just six months after that.  He was bought a captaincy in the 58th Foot in June 1791, moved on to a free death-vacancy in the 18th Light Dragoons in October 1793, became a major in the 33rd Foot in the summer of 1793, before being advanced enough money by his elder brother Richard to purchase the 33rd’s lieutenant colonelcy in September that year.’   However Holmes gives no sources for these statements, and they do not appear in his biography of Wellington.

Most other writers either pass over the question lightly or concentrate on the last two steps: the majority and lieutenant-colonelcy in the 33rd.   Brereton and Savory’s history of the regiment says that he purchased both steps (History of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment p 90), although this is probably just based on statements in biographies of Wellington, not regimental or army records.  And the earliest substantial biography of Wellington, published in 1814, explicitly says that he purchased the succession from Lieutenant Colonel Yorke, but does not refer to purchase in mentioning his previous steps.  (Francis L. Clarke and William Dunlap The Life of the most Noble Arthur, Marquis and Earl of Wellington New York, Van Winkle and Wiley, 1814 p 28).

Sir John Fortescue states that in March 1793 AW ‘begged his elder brother, Mornington, to advance him the money for purchase of a majority in the Thirty-third.  Mornington did so, afterwards refusing to accept repayment; and Arthur, having become major on the 30th of April, was further promoted lieutenant-colonel, with command of the regiment, on the 30th of September.’  (Fortescue Wellington p 12).   This certainly sounds as if it is based on a letter, but there is no citation.   Longford (p 33) explicitly says that he purchased both the majority and the lieutenant-colonelcy ‘thanks to loans from Richard’, again without citing a source.   However the correspondence with Stapleton and Page at Stratfield Saye (cited in the notes to the main text) makes it clear that the purchase of the majority in the 33rd was made with money borrowed from Captain Stapleton, with Mornington acting as guarantor, rather than actually advancing the money.

Lawrence James (The Iron Duke p 31) says that AW ‘paid the regulation price of £2,600 for a majority in the 33rd and, in September 1791, purchased a lieutenant-colonelcy in the same regiment for £3,500’.  This is misleading as these are gross figures, taking no account of the sale of the existing commission (hence the difference with the figures given by Ron McGuigan quoted above).

S. G. P. Ward (Wellington  p 19) says:  ‘On 25th April 1793 the commanding officer of the 33rd, then on Dublin duty, memorialled for the vacant majority in the regiment to go to the Hon. Captain Arthur Wesley, 18th Dragoons, “the captains of the regiment having declined to purchase”; six months later the commanding officer himself sold out; and Major the Hon. Arthur Wesley, who was recommended to succeed him, took command from 30th September 1793 at the age of twenty-four.   The influence of the Lord Lieutenant in the transactions (which were paid for by Mornington) is fairly plain, and that it was exerted to enable his A.D.C. to see service is even plainer.’  There are two problems with this: we have no evidence that Westmorland did use any influence, or that he was well-disposed towards AW; while AW’s letter to Mornington saying that he wanted to go with the flank companies to the West Indies says that at that time the 33rd were at the bottom of the list of regiments to serve overseas.

The violin story:

This story has been over-played in previous biographies, especially as the sources for it are all late and second and third hand.

Ellesmere Personal Reminiscences (p 79-80) says that Croker told him AW gave up the violin ‘on becoming a field officer’, in 1793.   Ellesmere also quotes a letter from Mrs Stuart Mackenzie who says that it was when AW was courting Kitty that he laid it aside  (not burnt it) fearing that it would get too great a grip on him, and that Kitty took pride in his strength of will.

Joan Wilson (Soldier’s Wife ) p 14 summarizes Catherine Hamilton’s account of what Kitty told her, which states that AW gave the violin to a friend and never touched it again.  She stresses that he did not burn or smash it, and gives us the quote that it had proved his bane.  That phrase, and the story of Lord Longford’s lecture, are the foundation for the implied link.

Croker (Croker Papers vol 1 p 337n) is much less plausible, attributing the story to ‘Col Shawe’ (presumably Meyrick Shawe) who says that AW gave it and card playing up in India as distractions and because ‘Some circumstances occurred which made him reflect that this was not a soldierly accomplishment.’   This is a strange idea – Gouvion St Cyr was a musician as was Frederick the Great; Castlereagh may not have been a soldier but he was every inch a gentleman, as of course was AW’s own father.

Cradock accompanies Brunswick’s army as an observer:

In the summer of 1792 Colonel Cradock travelled from Dublin to the Continent where, with a few other British officers, he went to view the Prussian army with which the Duke of Brunswick was preparing to invade France.  Cradock and his companions were warmly received and allowed to move freely about the army, although not to accompany it across the French frontier.   He was much impressed by the ‘infinite regularity and expedition’ of the Prussian troops, but was shocked to see them openly collect corn, potatoes and other food from the fields without any interference from their officers. (Cradock to Mrs St George, Luxembourg, 19 August 1792, Remains of Mrs Trench  p 21-24.)

AW’s attempt to accompany the Flank Companies to the West Indies:

AW begged Mornington to:

 to ask Mr Pitt to desire Lord Westmorland to send me as major to one of the flank corps.  If they are to go abroad, they will be obliged to take officers from the line, and they may as well take me as anybody else; but if you think it improper to apply to Mr Pitt upon the occasion, I will refer it to Lord Westmorland himself.  I think it both dangerous and improper to remove any part of the army from this part of the country at present, but if any part of it is to be moved, I should like to go with it, and have no chance of seeing service except with the flank corps, as the regiment I have got into as major is the last for service.  (Arthur Wesley to Mornington, quoted in Herbert Maxwell The Life of Wellington.  The Restoration of the Martial Power of Great Britain  vol 1  p 8).

 The command of the battalions of combined flank companies was given to lieutenant-colonels, at least in the first instance, but AW may have hoped to distinguish himself on active service and perhaps succeed to the command of one, and even to have gained greater glory and possibly large sums in prize money, provided he survived.

Wellington’s dislike of detaching flank companies:

The experience of commanding a regiment which had just been stripped of its two elite companies may have led Wesley to disapprove of the practise.  On 27 March 1810 Wellington wrote to Major-General William Stewart, commanding the British forces garrisoning Cadiz:

 When an officer is detached from the army in command of a body of troops on a particular service, he must be the best judge of the organization which will suit his purpose.  I do not object, therefore, to the organization which you have detailed in your letter of the 11th; although, in general, I disapprove of detaching flank companies from the battalion to which they belong, and I have not allowed of such detachments in this army.  (WD III p 798-99).

AW and Harry Ross-Lewin:

It must have been at this time that a trivial incident occurred that has been recorded by Harry Ross-Lewin.   His regiment of the militia was entering Clogheen over a bridge, and Lt-Col Arthur Wesley watched them march in over the bridge, when Ross-Lewin, wishing to make a good impression, unfurled his colours.  ‘unluckily, the wind was very high, [and] I was blown out of the ranks toward the future Duke of Wellington, and, before I could stop myself, my sacred charge was wrapped round him, and his hat knocked off.  How little idea had I then that I should yet be under his command in many a well-contested field!’  (Ross-Lewin With the “Thirty-Second” in the Peninsula p 6-7).

The 33rd and Sherbrooke:

John Yorke was lieutenant-colonel of the 33rd from 1781, having joined the regiment as a junior officer in 1762 (although he served in the 22nd from 1778 to 1781).  He was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of the Tower in 1793, and was still there in 1821.  (Thanks to Ron McGuigan for this information).   In 1784 Cornwallis told Lt-Col Ross, ‘I had a letter from Yorke today in good spirits, and giving an excellent account of the appearance and discipline of the 33rd.’  (Cornwallis to Ross, 9 April 1784, Cornwallis Correspondence vol 1 p 167),   There is a brief summary of Yorke’s career in ibid p 167n.   This states that he was an MP for Reading, but no John Yorke appears in the History of Parliament 1760-90  or 1790-1820  and none of the Reading MPs have even vaguely similar names.

Sherbrooke was born in 1764, and so was five years older than AW; he joined the army on 7 Dec 1780, and had been a captain in the 33rd since 1784.  He was promoted major (probably by purchase) on the same day that AW became Lieutenant-Colonel, 30 September 1793, so while he may have felt that AW was an outsider to the regiment, he would not have felt passed over by him.   There is a biographical memoir of Sherbrooke in A. W. Patchett-Martin’s Life of Lord Sherbrooke but this says very little about his early life.   There is also an excellent entry on him in the Canadian Dictionary of Biography.    Most references to Sherbrooke in accounts of the Peninsular War stress his hot temper and leave it at that, or quote AW’s disparaging comment to Bathurst (30 Oct 1814 HMC Bathurst p 303) that he is surprised Sherbrooke has always given satisfaction to government.   The balance should be redressed a little, for within limits Sherbrooke was a capable officer who he impressed both Bunbury and Rovera.

The Low Countries:

The account in the text relies heavily on Robin Thomas’s excellent article, which combines thorough research with sensible judgement; there is also some good material in Correspondence of George, Prince of Wales, and Cantlie History of the Army Medical Department. A small group of General Vyse’s letters about the operations around Ostend are in the Buckingham Record Office (D/HV/B/14/5, 8, 12, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22), but they do not add anything of real interest about AW’s role in these events.


A.H. Burne The Duke of York p 176-82 gives a quite different account of the affair at Boxtel, in which Abercromby did not attack at all, and fell back intimidated by the French.  He goes on to deny that the French were doing anything more than consolidating their position, but that the British mistake led them to abandon a strong natural position.

Brereton & Savory follow the memoir of Sherbrooke by Patchett Martin and state that Sherbrooke, not AW, was in command of the 33rd at Boxtel (History of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment p 93).  But this is a late, unreliable, source, and while Sherbrooke was no doubt present, there is no other reason to believe that he was in command, and it seems inherently unlikely.   See also the discussion of what happened at Boxtel between Byng (then Lord Strafford) and George Murray in 1850 recorded in The Journals and Correspondence of General Sir Harry Calvert  ed. by his son Sir Harry Verney  p 326-8.

AW’s later criticism of the Duke of York and other senior officers:

As well as Stanhope and Gleig quoted in the text see Ellesmere Personal Reminiscences of the Duke of Wellington  p 161:

 The Duke, when asked how he learned his profession, replied, “I learnt more by seeing our own faults, and the defects of our system in the campaign of Holland, than anywhere else.  I was left there to myself with my regiment, the 33rd, on the Waal, thirty miles from headquarters, which latter were a scene of jollification, and I do not think that I was once visited by the Commander-in-Chief.  The infantry regiments, taken individually, were as good in proper hands as they are now, but the system was wretched.

And the comments in the De Ros Manuscript, quoted in Herbert Maxwell’s Wellington and the Restoration of the Martial Power of Great Britain  vol 1  p 13:

         There was a fellow called Hammerstein, who was considered the chief authority in the army for tactics, but was quite an impostor; in fact, no one knew anything of the management of an army, though many of the regiments were excellent: the 33rd was in as good order as possible. . . .  The system of the Austrians was all the fashion . . . that was, to post themselves with an advanced guard some ten miles in front, and extend their smaller posts much too wide, under the notion that this was a security from surprise.  What usually happened was that the distant post was attacked and driven in, the small ones fell back in confusion, and the enemy arrived at their heels and attacked the main army with every advantage.

The Retreat to the Ems:

Robin Thomas assures me that this was indeed as bad as it is described in the text.  Paget’s letters in One Leg p 50-1 flatly deny any deprivation, but the evidence in Cantlie History of the Army Medical Department contradicts this and it seems likely that Paget painted a favourable picture in order to reassure his parents).   C. T. Atkinson in ‘Gleanings from the Cathcart Mss  Part IV – The Netherlands, 1794-5’ J.S.A.H.R.  vol 29 no 120  winter 1951 p 151 describes the retreat as ‘among the worst tragedies in the history of the army’ – and he is a knowledgeable judge, not inclined to exaggerate misfortune.  And Anglesey (the editor of One Leg) agrees:  ‘There now began one of the worst retreats known to history.  The extreme cold, coupled with a lack of the most elementary supplies of food and clothing, combined to destroy the last vestiges of discipline.  In a period of four days, more than six thousand men were frozen to death.’  (p 49)  That may even veer in the other direction, for it is not clear if there is good evidence for the figure of 6,000 deaths.  It is unfortunate and remarkable that there is no good modern account of this campaign.

Gurwood, in his introduction to Wellington’s Dispatches vol 1 p 1  states that AW ‘as senior officer, commanded a brigade, consisting of 3 battalions, in the rear guard’; but the letters from AW to Mackenzie cited by Thomas show that this was not true.    Gurwood goes on that AW evinced ‘that zeal and intelligence which, in the opinion of Sir James Craig and several other officers of mentioned reputation, gave promise of future distinction.’   But he gives no evidence to support the statement.

There is no detailed information about AW’s role in the retreat.

Thomas’s article is excellent, but he make a slip over the identity of the officer commanding AW’s brigade: this was not Lt Col F. H. Mackenzie, but Lt Col A Mackenzie, the future Mackenzie Fraser. (Thanks to Ron McGuigan for pointing this out).

Additional references to the 33rd in the Campaign:

Lord Cathcart writing in late November or December describes the 33rd as in good condition, ‘much improved since I last saw them’, and a regiment he would have gladly had in his brigade (Atkinson ‘Gleanings from the Cathcart Mss’ p 147).

Cathcart praised the 33rd’s performance at Meteren on 5 January and generally thought highly of the regiment (ibid  p 154).

The 33rd withdrawn behind the Ems and takes up quarters:

The 33rd, 42nd and two battalions of émigré troops were left as a garrison at Coevorden, twenty miles west of the Ems for a few days before it was realized that the defences of the town were untenable.   They were at risk of being cut off, but succeeded in making their escape and were safely across the Ems by 11 February.  On the 17th Wesley wrote to Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Mackenzie, who commanded the brigade, ‘The village in which the 42d is quartered is very small & very bad, the men & officers are very much scattered, that in which the 33rd is in is much better, altho’ from the overflowing of the river, the men in some cases cannot come out of their houses.  With the assistance of Davis the Jew, we have been able in both places to get bread & forage.’ (AW to Mackenzie, 17 Feb 1795 quoted in Thomas ‘Wellington in the Low Counties’  p 23-24).

AW’s decision to go home:

This is a little surprising given Wellington’s later austerity and his attitude to British officers going home from the Peninsula, but he was in good company.  Lord Paget only reached the Low Countries about the beginning of October (three months later than AW).  In mid December he thought longingly of applying for leave, but decided that the armies were still too unsettled (One Leg p 48) – this was 17 December, just three days after AW’s letter to Chichester Fortescue in which he hopes to return to England if the French remain quiet and the 33rd are withdrawn from their advanced posts.  In the middle of January Paget again thought of returning to England ‘for a few weeks’ (One Leg  p 50), while AW made his application in February.  Yet Paget was much more enthusiastic about soldiering than AW.

Losses of the 33rd in the Campaign:

By way of comparison with the losses of the 33rd, the 80th is said to have lost 228 men dead from disease, fatigue or in action with a further 210 discharged as unfit for further service.  The 80th was a young regiment, but it only arrived in the Low Counties in October so it avoided the summer fevers and was on campaign for three months less than the 33rd.  Lt-Col H. C. B. Cook ‘The St George Diary.  A Junior Regimental Officer in the Low Countries, 1794-1795’ J.S.A.H.R.  vol 47  no 192  winter 1969  p 242n.

AW’s lack of military patrons:

When AW was an ADC at Dublin Castle, David Dundas was a senior figure on the Irish staff, and clearly a rising man.  Wesley probably knew him and may have taken part in the experiments to test his new drill regulations (see above ch 2), but there is no evidence to suggest that there was ever a strong link between them.  (None of the other figures on the Irish military establishment at the time were to be important later: the CinC was Lt-Gen William Augustus Pitt – a distant cousin of the PM.  He died on 29 Dec 1809.   His successor as CinC was Lt-Gen George Warde).

Similarly, AW’s position as lieutenant-colonel of the 33rd brought him into contact with Lord Cornwallis, but their relations seems to have been civil and nothing more – the letter of introduction which Cornwallis gave AW to Sir John Shore, when AW went to India, was hardly effusive.

I was first alerted to the whole issue of patronage networks in the army in a conversation with John Cookson in Dublin in 1990; and once it is pointed out, the connections become obvious.  S. G. P. Ward added a great deal on this, and Mark Urban has also contributed some useful comments.   But the whole issue deserves to be explored in depth.

AW’s letter to Camden:

This makes uncomfortable reading, and it is easy to imagine just how uncomfortable it must have been to write:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Trim,   June 25 1795

My Lord,

                    I have frequently intended to speak to your Excellency upon the subject with which I am now going to trouble you, and I have always been prevented by the fear that you should imagine that I was pressing myself upon you in an indecent manner; but as I told you in London that I should take some opportunity of stating the claims which I thought I had upon the Government of Ireland, I hope you will not conceive that I presume upon your kindness and partiality in so doing at present, as I assure you nothing but the circumstances under which I labour would induce me to trouble your Excellency’s government at any time.

               The offices to which Lord Mornington has desired me to look are those of the Revenue and Treasury Boards; and considering the persons who are at present at those Boards, and those who, it is said, are forthwith to be appointed to vacancies likely to be made at them, I hope that I shall not be supposed to place myself too high in desiring to be taken into consideration upon the first vacancy at either of them.   If your Excellency and Mr Pelham [the Chief Secretary] are of opinion that the offices at those boards are too high for me, of course you will say so; and as I am convinced that no man is so bad a judge of the justice of a claim as he who makes it, I trust you will not believe that I shall feel otherwise towards you that as I have always felt, with sentiments of the greatest regard, and with an anxious wish to render you and your government every service in my power, in whatever situation I may be placed.  With those sentiments I accompanied you to Ireland, and whatever may be your decision on the subject, I shall retain them.  You will probably be surprised at my desiring a civil instead of a military office.  It is certainly a departure from the line which I prefer; but I see the manner in which the military offices are filled, and I don’t wish to ask you for that which I know you cannot give me.

               I have now delivered my mind from a considerable burthen; and although the necessities under which I labour from different circumstances have nothing to do with the question whether I have a claim to the offices I have mentioned, I again repeat, that nothing but them should induce me to trouble your Excellency’s government at any time.

               I have the honour to be, my Lord,

               Your Excellency’s most faithful and obedient servant,

                           A. Wesley   (Brialmont & Gleig Life of Wellington vol 1 p 22-23)

AW’s desire to leave the army and application for a civilian post:

The evidence is fragmentary.  Philip Guedalla points out the significance of AW’s statement (in his letter to Camden of 25 June, quoted in full above), that he had mentioned his wishes to Camden in London.   As Camden arrived in Dublin on 31 March (Lecky History of Ireland vol 3  p 325) and AW only reached England early in March, it seems reasonable to say that AW must have approached Camden almost  immediately.

My interpretation is that AW was eager to leave the army following his experiences in Holland, and this is supported by the speed with which he approached Camden, and his persistence in seeking civil posts despite the constant rebuffs he received.   Against this there is his remark, in the letter to Camden,

 You will probably be surprised at my desiring a civil instead of a military office.  It is certainly a departure from the line which I prefer; but I see the manner in which the military offices are filled, and I don’t wish to ask you for that which I know you cannot give me.

 This might be read as a preference to stay in the army, but the more natural interpretation is that it refers to AW’s previous application to be Secretary at War (or Under-Secretary of the Military Department – see below).   He would have preferred a post in the military administration – his qualifications pointed in that direction – and he may have thought (evidently wrongly) that the competition would be less intense.  But even if it is taken as expressing a preference to stay in the army, that does not mean that such a preference really existed: AW could simply have been saving face.

The 33rd’s recruiting:

Brereton & Savory (History of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment) p 95 mention the recruiting company at Halifax and the Havercake Lads).

Duffy Soldiers, Sugar and Seapower  p 170-4 is characteristically excellent on the wider context – poor harvest and some riots led to excellent recruiting.   Duffy also gives an excellent account of the genesis and planning of Abercromby’s expedition.

Christian’s Gales:

Brialmont & Gleig Life of Wellington vol 1  p 24 say that AW was on board Christian’s flagship but give no details, and the statement is not repeated in Gleig’s one vol life.

Fortescue Wellington p 20 says that when the expedition sailed for the second time, AW was with Christian and Abercromby on the Glory.   No source given.

Brereton & Savory History of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment p 96 confidently state that the 33rd did not participate in Christian’s second attempt to sail: the regiment (and presumably AW) landed and were sent to Lymington where they remained from late November or early December until the following February.  However they give no source.

Duffy Soldiers, Sugar and Seapower p 207 gives good details of the damage suffered by the Glory  in the storm; its imminent peril; and Abercromby’s coolness.

Anne Wesley:

She was evidently good looking.  Fanny Burney wrote in 1789 that she had seen at the theatre ‘Lady Mornington and her beautiful daughter Lady Ann [sic] Wellesley’; and a year earlier Mrs Cornwallis said that ‘She turns out a very fine girl, and has been much admired this winter…’  (Burney Diary and Letters vol 4 p 338; Mrs Cornwalis to Earl Cornwallis, 19 July 1788 Cornwallis Correspondence vol 1 p 391).

John Severn writes that ‘The Morningtons placed their daughter Anne in the hands of a governess for instruction in etiquette and French.  Her letters reveal her as intelligent and proud but resentful of her brothers’ successes.  She forever asked for money, pointing out that she never had their opportunities.  This probably grated on them, but they never rejected her.  She was one of them – she was a Wellesley.’ (Architects of Empire p 19).   They might not have rejected her, but it is clear that they frequently rejected her requests, e.g. AW as Chief Secretary for Ireland.

Charles Culling Smith:

According to Iris Butler’s The Eldest Brother p 254  ‘Mr Culling Charles Smith, [was] of nabob parentage, and very well off.  His mother, says Hyacinthe, ‘lived a long time in India …. Mrs Smith has just given a superb bandeau and ear-rings to your sister for her birthday.’  Anne Culling Smith’s mother-in-law was French, the granddaughter of a Governor of Pondicherry.’

William Wellesley-Pole and his marriage:

In 1800 Hyacinthe wrote to Lord Wellesley, a gossipy, malicious, unreliable letter, in which she says “As for M. Pole, I think he is even nearer ruin than usual.  He is neither beautiful nor young enough for Mdlle. Descamps to stick to him for his beaux yeux only.”   And she claims that the Prince of Wales said to her on a visit: ‘”I don’t like Pole, and I am very glad his wife cuckolds him so often and so publicly.”‘  (Butler Eldest Brother  p 254-55).  But it is hard to take this seriously, and what little other evidence we have points in the opposite direction: that William’s marriage was happy.



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© Rory Muir

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