DURING the violent excitement which attended the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832, the popular indignation at the smcompromisin,g declaration of hostility to the measure' on the part of the Duke of Wellington found vent, among other things, and most characteristically, in a widely credited report that the Welleeleys, of whom one member was the leading opponent of the popular wishes, were really not aristocrats by blood, but only removed by one or two generations from the lowest grade of the plebeian ranks. Whatever may have been the prima facie plan- .sibility of the story then told, it seems to be the fact that the Wellesleys had a perfect right, so far as descent was concerned, to maintain the exclusive title of the higher orders to a share in the government of the country. They have in fact a double ground on which to rest their pretensions to "gentility." They are on the male side CowLEys or COLLEYS ; on the female, WELLESLEYS or WESLEYS, and on both.sides they CAR make out .a fair pedigree, as pedigrees go. We will start with the male pedigree.
According to some authorities, the Cowleys are a Rutland =family. According to Playfair, they are descended from a iamily of that name settled at Cowley, in the county of Staf- ford, one of whom, "Robert de Conley," as he is styled, is mentioned in a "Perambulation" of that county in the reign of Edward I., and one of whom, a Robert, Lord of Cowleye (pro- bably the same), was Seneschal in the reign of Edward H. Here, however, the genealogy fails us, and our attention is next arrested by two brothers, Robert and Walter Cowley, who are said to have settled in Ireland in the reign of Henry VIII. In the twenty-second year of that reign a patent passed the Great Seal granting to them jointly (described as "of Kilkenny, gentlemen"), during their respective lives, the office of Clerk of the Crown in Chancery. "Robert, after having filled various offices, became Master of the Rolls in Ireland. He was appointed in 1540 a Commissioner for letting the lands of the dissolved abbeys, and one of the keepers of the peace within the county of Meath, with power to enforce the statutes of Dublin and Kilkenny. He is mentioned by Hooker as one of the four principal enemies of the House of Kildare, and he adds that this gentleman, for his wisdom and policy, was well esteemed of the Lady Margaret, Countess of -Ossory, as one by whose advice she was in all her affairs directed. His brother, WALTER, was appointed Solicitor-General of Ireland, September 7, 1537, with a fee of 10/. a year, and was afterwards Surveyor-General of the Kingdom." We find a Sir Henry Cowley or Colley, of Castle Carbery, said to have been a son of this Walter Cowley, a captain in the service of Queen Elizabeth, who had a commission from her to execute martial law in certain districts of Ireland in 1559. He was a Privy Councillor, and repre- sented Thomastown, in Kilkenny, in the Parliament of January, 1560. On the 25th of June in the following year he was appointed to the head of the commissariat department for the army in that country ("Providore," as the office was then styled). He was knighted in 1560 by the Lord Deputy Sidney, and was
recommended by him to his successor, Lord Grey, in the following terms :—" My good Lord, I had almost forgotten, by reason of the diversity of other matter, to recommend unto you, amongst other of my friends, Sir Henry Cowley, knight of my own making, who, whilst he was young and the vigour and strength of his body survived, was valiant, fortunate, and a good servant; and having by my appointment the charge of the King's County, kept the country well ordered and in good obedience. Ho is as good a borderer as ever I found any there. I left him at my coming thence a counsellor, and find him or his experience and judgment very sufficient for the room he was called unto. He was a sound and fast friend to me, and so I doubt not but your Lordship shall find when you have occasion to try him." An account presented to Queen Elizabeth in 1579 bears honourable testimony to Sir Henry, as "an English gentleman, Seneschal of King's County, who governed very honestly, but is now sore oppressed by the rebels, the Connors." He died in 1584. His wife was Catherine, daughter of Sir Thomas Cusacke, of the county of Meath, Lord Chancellor of Ireland. The Cusackes brought a pedigree to the Cowleys, derived by the female line through the De Lacys, Genvilles, Idarshalls, and Stroug,bow, from Dermot Macmurragh, King of Leinater, with which was blended the blood of O'Connor, King of Connaught. Curiously enough the mother of Sir Thomas Cusacke was a Wellesley, one of the family which was destined to be subsequently merged in that of Cowley. Of Sir Henry Cowley's sous, the elder, Sir George, of Edenderry, founded a line which ended in 1690 with an heiress, Catherine, married to RobertEdgworth, Esq., of Longwood, in Meath (a name well known in modern literature). The second son of Sir Henry Cowley, bearing the same name, succeeded him at Castle Carbery. He was Constable of the fort of Philipstown in Queen Elizabeth's reign, and Seneschal of King's County. He was knighted in 1576, in 1593 furnished three archers on horseback, the largest number furnished for his barony, commanded 20 foot in 1599, and in the Parliament of 1613 served for the borough of Monaghan. He was succeeded at Castle Carbery by his son, Sir Henry, who died in 1637, and was succeeded by his son, Dudley Cowley, or Colley, as he called himself, who was M.P. for Philipstown in the firet Parliament after the Restoration, and on August 6, 1660, had a release and confirmation of the towns and lauds of Ardkill and Collinstown, in Kildare, of which the inheritance was in him ; and he had a grant of the same in the January following. He was also appointed one of the Commissioners for executing the Acts of Settlement. His daughter, Elizabeth, married Garret Wesley, Esq., of Dangan; in the county of Meath. He was suc- ceeded by his son, Henry Colley, who died in 1700, leaving two surviving sons, Henry and Richard. Henry Colley was M.P. for Strabane, and in January, 1719, married Lady Mary Hamilton, daughter of the Earl of Abereorn, and died February 10, 1124, his only son dying in the March following. His brother Richard was for some time Auditor and Registrar of the Royal Hospital, near Dublin, and in August, 1713, was appointed Second Cham- berlain to the Court of Exchequer. In 1728 he succeeded, under the will of his cousin, Garret Wesley, to the estates of that family, whose name he assumed. We therefore turn now to the family of Wesley, or, as they were originally and are now again written, "Wellesley."
In Somersetshire there is a hamlet bearing the name of Wells-Leigh, and from this place a family took their name who are identified by the pedigree-makers with the ances- tors of the Irish Wellesleys. According to one account the family were of Saxon origin, and removed to Somerset- shire from Sussex soon after the Norman Conquest. In the reign of Henry I. a grant is said to have been made of the grand serjeantry of all the country east of the river Ferret,
as far as Bristol Bridge, including the manor of Wellesleigh in the hundred of Wells, to one AVENANT DE WELLESLEIGH. Accord- ing to some authorities, a descendant of this Avenant accompanied Henry H. in his expedition to Ireland. The family, however, continued in one branch for some generations longer in England.
In the 37th of Henry III. William de Wellesleigh held three parts of a hide of land in Wellesleigh by service of the serjeantry of the hundred of Wells, and lands in Littleton of William de Button.
In the same year this William de Wellesleigh or Welleseye died, leaving a son Thomas, aged twenty years and a half, and in the 38th of Henry III. the King, having the marriage and wardship of this Thomas, sold it to Agnes de Wellesley, the mother of the said Thomas, who had attained the age of twenty-one years on the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Mary then last past.
This Thomas seems to have died in the 17th of Edward I., in which year we find that his son Thomas, then twenty-eight years of age,
was declared his next heir. In the sixth year of Edward ILI. Philip de Wellesleigh conteste 1 with the powerful Abbot of Glastonbury the claim which that Churchman had set up of exemption from the jurisdiction of the grand serjeantry, pro- duced the original grant of Henry I. and the confirmations of his privileges by succeeding kings, and proved his descent from Avenant. The same Philip is also mentioned in the 22nd of Edward III. as holding lands in Wellesleigh and in Dalcot, as also the serjeantry of the bailiwick of East Parret. Philip had no male issue, and his estates passed by his daughter Elizabeth into the family of Banastre, and from thence into other families, the English line of Wellesleigh becoming extinct.
Passing to the Irish branch, there is a family pedigree which com- mences with Michael de Wellesleigh in the year 1239. This is partly conflrmed by one of two documents attached by thin parch- ment thongs to one of the fly leaves of Domesday Book. "It is a valuation, taken on the Monday next before the feast of St. Peter ad Vincula, in the forty-eighth year of Henry III., 1264, of the lands which WILLIAM DE WELLESLEIGII held at his death of the Bishop of Bath and Wells, in the county of Somerset, and after describing the property, it is stated that Michael de Welles- leigh is the son and next heir, and nineteen years of age, and that he is dwelling in Ireland, where his father died, as it is reported" to the jury. We see by this that the pedi- gree date 1239 is too early for Michael de Wellesleigh, who was born in 1245. We may therefore head the Irish family with this William de Wellesleigh, who thus is satisfactorily connected with the Somersetshire family, and must have been a cousin of the William and Thomas de Wellesleigh already mentioned, and a son or grandson of the original Irish adventurer. The son and suc- cessor of Michael de Wellesleigh is said to have been Wallerand de Wellesleigh, who was killed, together with Sir Robert de Percival (of the Egmont family), on the 22nd of October, 1303. Wallerand was succeeded (according to the pedigree) by his son, William de Wellesley, who was knighted, and in the year 1339 was summoned to Parliament as a baron of the realm. He had had a grant by patent from Edward IL of the custody of the castle of Kildare, to bold the same for his life, with a fee of 20/. a year, but was afterwards obliged to yield it up to the Earl of Kildare, receiving instead from Edward lU., in 1342, a grant of the custody of the manor of Demor. By his wife Elizabeth he had a son, Sir John de Wellesley, who was also summoned to Parliament. Cox, in his Hibernia Anglicana, mentions that in the year 1327 David O'Toole, "a strong thief," who had been taken prisoner the Lent before by Lord John Wellesley, was executed at Dublin. In 1334 Sir John de Welles- ley was appointed a Commissioner with extensive powers to pre- serve the peace in Ireland, and a grant and free gift passed to him that year for services done by him against the O'Tooles or O'Tottells. A grant was also made on December 2nd to his father, Sir William, for services rendered by him in Munster, and as com- pensation for damages sustained by him in that province. He became in 1343 one of the sureties for Thomas Fitzmaurice, Earl of Desmond, and on the Earl's flight the bond was sued out against the sureties. By his first marriage Sir John obtained considerable estates in the county of Kildare, and is said to have had one son, William. He also acquired a large landed property by a second marriage. His son, described in the pedigree as Sir William de Wellesley, of Paynestown, county of Meath, was under age at the date of his father's death. From the year 1363 down- wards the family have been settled in the county of Meath. Sir William was summoned to Parliament as a baron in 1374. In 1378 he was Sheriff of Kildare, and in 1381 Richard II. appointed him Keeper and Governor of the castle, lands, and lordship of Carbery, and the lands and lordships of 'Totemoy and Kernegedagh for one year. In 1393 a writ was issued for rewarding him for services against the O'Briens. Sir Richard de Wellesley, said to be his son, was Sheriff of Kildare in 1418. They had considerable property in the town and barony of Nerragh, in Kildare, and according to Playfair bore the title at this time of Baron of Nerragh. One of the family sat in Richard IL's Irish Parlia- ment of 1399, but for some reason the right of sitting in Parlia- ment does not seem to have continued in the succeeding heads of the family, though they have borne the honorary title of Baron, Baronet, or Banneret of Nerragh. DENGAN or DANGAN Castle came into the possession of the family in 1411, with the lordships of Dan- gan, MORNINGTON, Croskyle,Clonbreny, Kilmessan, Belver, &c., by the marriage of Sir Richard de Wellesley with Joan, eldest daughter and heiress of Sir Nicholas de Castlemarten. Their son, Christo- pher, was succeeded by his son, Sir William, who married Ismay, daughter of Sir Thomas Plunket, Lord of Rathmore, and grand- daughter of Sir Lucas Cusacke. The prefix de seems to have been dispensed with about the beginning of the Tudor period. Sir William was succeeded by his son, Gerald or Garret, who had a special livery of his estate in 1539. Sir William's second son, Walter Wellesley, was Prior of the Abbey of Kildare, and is mentioned by Ilollinshed among the learned men of his day. He was also Master of the Rolls, and in 1531 was appointed by the Pope, on the King's nomination, Bishop of Kildare. He retained his priory by dispensation during his life, and died in 1539. Sir William Wellesley's daughter, Aleson (sister of the Prior and Bishop), married John Cusacke, of Cushing- ton, county Meath, and was mother of Sir Thomas Cusacke, the Irish Chancellor, whose daughter, Catherine, as we have seen, married Sir Henry Cowley. Garret Wellesley was suc- ceeded by his son, William, and he by a son, Garret, who died May 15, 1603. He was succeeded by a son, William, who married into the Cusacke family, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Valerian, who also married into the Cusacke family, and was succeeded by his son Garret, who married Elizabeth Cowley, and died June 15, 1683. He and his descendants now began to use alone the spelling Wesley, which had been often previously used interchangeably with Wellesley. Garret Wesley was succeeded by his eldest son William, who died without issue, and was succeeded by his brother Garret, who sat in Parliament for the county of Meath and borough of Trim, and dying also, without issue, devised his estates to his cousin, Richard Colley, as already mentioned.
It has been conjectured that the celebrated founders of the Methodists, John and Charles Wesley, were members of the family which spelt their name variously Wesley and Wellesley and Southey tells an anecdote, according to which Charles Wesley, while at school at Westminster, had the offer of adop- tion by Garret Wesley, on condition of coming over with him*. to Ireland. He, however, preferred to stay in England, and so. (if there is any truth in the story) secured to the Cowleys the inheritance of the Irish Wesley or Wellesley estates, and to England afterwards the services of two of her greatest men— Wellesley and Wellington.
Richard Colley, after taking the name of Wesley, was Sheriff of Meath in 1734, and M.P. for Trim until on July 9, 1746, he was raised to the Irish Peerage as Baron Mornington. He died January 31, 1758, and was succeeded by his son Garret, who on October 2, 1760, was advanced to the dignities of Viscount Wellesley of Dangan Castle and Earl of Mornington. He was a- Privy C ouncillor in Ireland and Custos Rotulorum of Meath, but was chiefly distinguished for his musical compositions, being one of our principal glee-writers. He married Anne, eldest daughter of Arthur Hill Trevor, first Viscount Dungannon, and had by her five sons who grew up and two daughters. He died on the 22nct of May, 1781. He eldest son and successor in the earldom of Mornington, Richard, was the celebrated Governor-General of India, appointed in 1797, who, on the 20th of October, 1797, was. created a British peer as Lord Wellesley, of Wellesley, county Somerset, and on the 2nd of December, 1799, raised in the Irish Peerage as Marquis Wellesley of Nerragh. He was also Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and twice Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. We cannot pretend within these narrow limits to give any detailed sketch of his career, any more than of his distinguished brother, Arthur, third son of the first Earl of Mornington, and so well known as the Duke of Wellington, but their careers alone will always suffice to cast distinction on the name of Wellesley.
They were widely different men, the Marquis being essentially a Sultan, and the Duke at heart a European General. The took up the reins in India at a period of great disorgani-
zation, and till he laid them down he never but once met im his own dominions with serious opposition. The services appre- ciated him at once, and his employers, who at one time hated him. with a malignant hatred, at last acknowledged publicly their gratitude to the man who saved Madras from becoming a great Mussulman State. His defect was absolutism. So long as he could walk up and down his room, with his light figure quivering with excitement, and his strangely menacing eyes flashing as if there was insanity lurking somewhere, dictating to secretaries despatches which involved kingdoms, all went well, for his volition was worth the mature counsel of other men ; but he could brook neither orders nor opposition, and if strongly moved could be occasionally unjust, as in the determined way in which he pro- moted his brother. That brother had perhaps the same defects, but compressed by European training, and greater, though narrower, powers. The Duke could not have reorganized the Indian States as the Marquis did, but the Marquis could not
have fought through the Peninsular campaign, would have dashed one day straight on a superior Freuch army, and died fighting there. It was due perhaps to this difference of character that the Duke never aroused the passionate personal affection which followed the Marquis in every step of his career.
The Marquis of Wellesley died without issue on the 26th of September, 1842, and was succeeded as third Earl of Mornington by his next brother, William, who had been created Baron of Maryborough on the 17th of July, 1821. The fourth brother, Gerald Valerian, was a Prebendary in the Church, and died on the 20th of October, 1848. The fifth brother, Henry, distinguished himself as a diplomatist, on June 21, 1828, was created Baron Cowley, and died April 27, 1847. His son and successor, Henry Richard Charles, is also a diplomatist, and on the 4th of April, 1857, was raised in the Peerage as Viscount Dangan and Earl Cowley. The third Earl of Mornington, on succeeding to the estates of William Pole, Esq., of &Lilian, assumed the name and arms of Pole. He died in 1845, and was succeeded as fourth Earl of Mornington by his son, William-Pole-Tylney-Long, who had assumed the two latter names on his marriage with the daughter and heiress of Sir James Tylney-Long. We need not do more than refer in a general way to the career of this eccentric spendthrift, as clever and plausible as he was worthless. He died a dependent on his cousin, the present Duke of Wel- lington, July 1, 1857, and was succeeded as fifth Earl of Morn- ington by his only surviving son, William Richard Arthur, who died unmarried on the 25th of July, 1863, when the earldom of Mornington devolved on his cousin, Arthur Richard, second and present Duke of Wellington. The family now spell their name uniformly Wellesley, but the spelling Wesley seems to have continued down to the Indian administration of the Marquis of Wellesley, who would seem then to have restored the old spelling in his official despatches.