Catherine Sarah Dorothea Wellesley, Duchess of Wellington
(née Pakenham; 14 January 1773 – 24 April 1831) was the wife of the 1st Duke of Wellington
Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS , was an Irish-born British soldier and statesman, and one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century...
. She is commonly known as Kitty Pakenham
The daughter of Edward Pakenham, 2nd Baron Longford
Edward Michael Pakenham, 2nd Baron Longford was an Irish sailor and landowner. He held the seat of Longford County in the Irish House of Commons....
and the former Catherine Rowley, she was born Catherine Pakenham on 14 January 1773 in Dublin
, Ireland. She became "The Honourable Catherine Pakenham" when her father succeeded as the 2nd Baron Longford
Earl of Longford is a title that has been created twice in the Peerage of Ireland. It was first bestowed upon Francis Aungier, 3rd Baron Aungier of Longford, in 1677, with remainder to his younger brother Ambrose. He had previously represented Surrey in the House of Commons and had already been...
in 1776. She had met Wellesley in Ireland when they were both young, and Wellesley, after numerous visits to the Longford's Dublin home, made his feelings towards her clear. At the time her family disapproved of the match: Wellesley was the third son of a large family and looked to have little in the way of prospects. After the rejection by the Pakenhams, Wellesley became serious about his military career, was posted to the Netherlands and India, enjoyed a spectacular rise, and seemingly forgot Kitty. Although she remained hopeful that they would be reunited, she admitted to a friend, Olivia Sparrow, after many years that she thought the "business over". She became engaged to Galbraith Lowry Cole, the second son of the Earl of Enniskillen
Earl of Enniskillen is a title in the Peerage of Ireland. It was created in 1789 for William Cole, 1st Viscount Enniskillen. He had already been created Viscount Enniskillen in the Peerage of Ireland in 1776 and had inherited the title Baron Mount Florence, of Florence Court in the County of...
, but Sparrow, who was in contact with him, revealed that Wellesley still considered himself attached to her. After much soul-searching, Pakenham broke off the engagement to Cole, although she believed the stress of the affair damaged her health.
Marriage to Arthur Wellesley
Pakenham had been a pretty, vivacious girl when Wellesley had met her ten years before, but she was thin, pale and in poor health by the time he informed Sparrow that he was returning to England and that she should "renew the proposition he had made some years ago" on his behalf. Pakenham feared that Wellesley felt bound by promises he had made ten years earlier and was in two minds as to whether to accept the proposal. Despite his more formal proposal after he had obtained her brother's permission, she insisted that he should see her in person before committing himself. Wellesley travelled to Ireland to meet her, and although he was obviously disappointed in the change in her (he said to his brother "She has grown ugly, by Jove!
"), went ahead with the marriage. The couple were married on 10 April 1806, by Wellesley's clergyman brother Gerald, and after a brief honeymoon, Wellesley returned to England. Kitty followed him and after a stay with his brother while Wellesley continued to inhabit his bachelor's lodging, they set up home together in Harley Street
Harley Street is a street in the City of Westminster in London, England which has been noted since the 19th century for its large number of private specialists in medicine and surgery.- Overview :...
Though she regained something of her former health, the two did not get on well together. Wellesley was a man of action as well as frugal and reserved with a sharp wit; Kitty lacked worldly experience was easily roused to jealousy and fussed around him. With little in common, Wellesley could not help but give the impression that he found her poor company and although she bore him two sons, Arthur
Lieutenant-General Arthur Richard Wellesley, 2nd Duke of Wellington KG, PC , styled Lord Douro between 1812 and 1814 and Marquess of Douro between 1814 and 1852, was a British soldier and politician...
, in 1807, and Charles
Major-General Lord Charles Wellesley was a British politician, soldier and courtier. He was the second son of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, and Catherine Pakenham. He married Augusta Pierrepont, daughter of Henry Pierrepont, on 9 July 1844...
, in 1808, they lived apart for most of the time and occupied separate rooms in the house when they were together. Her brother, Edward "Ned" Pakenham
Sir Edward Michael Pakenham GCB , styled The Honourable from his birth until 1813, was an Irish British Army Officer and Politician. He was the brother-in law of the Duke of Wellington, with whom he served in the Peninsular War...
, served under Wellesley throughout the Peninsular War
The Peninsular War was a war between France and the allied powers of Spain, the United Kingdom, and Portugal for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. The war began when French and Spanish armies crossed Spain and invaded Portugal in 1807. Then, in 1808, France turned on its...
and Wellesley's regard for him helped to smooth his relations with Kitty, until Ned Pakenham's death at the Battle of New Orleans
The Battle of New Orleans took place on January 8, 1815 and was the final major battle of the War of 1812. American forces, commanded by Major General Andrew Jackson, defeated an invading British Army intent on seizing New Orleans and the vast territory the United States had acquired with the...
Wellesley remained in Portugal and Spain during the entire Peninsular War, not returning to England until 1814. Kitty aged quickly, becoming dumpy and short-sighted, causing her to squint when talking. Wellesley found her vain and vacuous. It appears that she indeed loved him, but contented herself by doting on her sons and four adopted children. Wellesley confided to Harriet Arbuthnot
Harriet Arbuthnot was an early 19th century English diarist, social observer and political hostess on behalf of the Tory party. During the 1820s she was the "closest woman friend" of the hero of Waterloo and British Prime Minister, the 1st Duke of Wellington...
that he had "repeatedly tried to live in a friendly manner with her...but it was impossible...& it drove him to seek that comfort & happiness abroad that was denied him at home
Duchess of Wellington
She became the Duchess of Wellington on Wellesley's creation as the Duke of Wellington on 3 May 1814 and eventually joined him in France when he was appointed Ambassador
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...
's exile to Elba
Elba is a Mediterranean island in Tuscany, Italy, from the coastal town of Piombino. The largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago, Elba is also part of the National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago and the third largest island in Italy after Sicily and Sardinia...
. Lady Elizabeth Yorke commented that "her appearance, unfortunately, does not correspond with one's notion of an ambassadress or the wife of a hero, but she succeeds uncommonly well in her part.
Maria Edgeworth was a prolific Anglo-Irish writer of adults' and children's literature. She was one of the first realist writers in children's literature and was a significant figure in the evolution of the novel in Europe...
, however, found her "delightful
" and "amiable
" and commented that "After comparison with crowds of other beaux spirits, fine ladies and fashionable scramblers for notoriety, her graceful simplicity rises in our opinion, and we feel it with more conviction of its superiority
She became seriously ill in 1831, which brought Wellington to her bedside. She ran a finger up his sleeve to find if he was still wearing an amulet she had once given him, "She found it, as she would have at any time these past twenty years, had she cared to look for it" remarked Wellington. "How strange it was", he went on to say, "that people could live together for half a lifetime and only understand each other at the end" She died on the 24th April.