The 1916 Easter Rising generated a generation of Irish leaders and statesmen but as a small island we have punched well above our weight providing statesmen for nations across the world. This series published everyday over the next two weeks looks at their stories.
Wellesley was born on May 1st
1769. After a schooling that included a stint at Eton for three years from
1781, Wellesley returned to Dublin
having joined the army in 1787 working as an aide de camp in .
He was a socialite and lost a lot of money gambling. In 1790 he was
elected as an MP to the Irish House of
Commons for Trim in County Meath close to the family home of Dangan Castle. Dublin Castle
Episode One - Great Britain
Two Irish born men have served as Prime Minister of Great Britain since the role was created in 1721. At the time when they were in office their title included
Born William Fitzmaurice in the Fingal area of North County Dublin, on the death of his maternal uncle Sir William Petty, the family inherited the title of The Earl of Shelbourne and later William took the Petty family surname replacing Fitzmaurice. He spent many of his early years living near Ardfert in
He joined the army and served with distinction in County Kerry Germany during the Seven Years War.
When his military career ended he assumed the family’s seat in the House of
Commons for the constituency of Chipping Wycombe. Following the death of his
father he entered the House of Lords.
Westminster although seen as a shrewd
politician with lofty ambitions, he found himself on the opposition benches and
at the time advocated the controversial policies religious tolerance and free
trade. He led the opposite for over a decade and was an outspoken opponent of
the war with the future United
States of America.
In March 1782, Shelbourne was appointed Home Secretary in the administration of Prime Minister Charles Watson Wentworth, The 2nd Marques of Rockingham but following the sudden death in July of the same year, he was appointed as a Prime Minister. During his tenure in the office he secured peace with the
France and Spain. As part of the peace
agreement with the U.S.,
the Treaty of Paris was rejected by Parliament and in April 1783, he resigned
Shelbourne married twice, first in 1765 to Lady Sophia Carteret who died in 1771 and then to Lady Louisa Fitzpatrick in 1779. He was created a marquis in 1784, assuming the title of 1st Marquis of Lansdowne. He died in 1805 and was succeeded by his son John, 2nd Marquis of Lansdowne. The Dublin Four roads of
Shelbourne Road and the adjacent Lansdowne Road home
of the Aviva Stadium are named as the first Irish born Prime Minister of Great
Arthur Wellesley was born at
24 Merrion Square
part of the Merrion Hotel today and opposite Government Buildings. The second
tallest obelisk in the world after the Washington Memorial in DC located in Dublin’s commemorates his
death after a stellar military and political career better known as the Duke of
His contributions in Parliament were few and far between, making him the perfect candidate for today’s Dail Eireann. In 1796 just before revolution engulfed
Wellesley departed to fight in India. Throughout his military
career he fought in over sixty battles across various continents. In 1806 after
returning from India he was
elected to Westminster as MP for Rye. In 1807 he was back
in Ireland having been
appointed Chief Secretary, the British political leader in Ireland under the Viceroy of the
day the Duke of Richmond and he also had married Catherine Pakenham with whom
he had two sons but the marriage regarded as loveless and the couple spent most
of the lives living separately.
His global fame would arrive in 1815 when he led the British army to success over Emperor Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.
Wellesley commanded a multi
national force as they took on Napoleon who had regained power after escaping
from Elba. The British/Dutch/Belgian/Germany/Prussian
force numbered 110,000, 26,000 of whom were British, one third of them were
Irish born soldiers. The cost in lives on both sides was sixty five thousand
A year later the newest pedestrian bridge over the River Liffey was named the
Bridge in his honour, the once tolled
bridge it is now colloquilly known as the .
And of course the wellington boot which were specially made for him was named
after him now a stable part of the fashion of rural Halfpenny Bridge Ireland, the ‘wellie’.
He first assumed the mantle of Prime Minister as a member of the Tory Party from January 22nd 1828 to November 16th 1830. He oversaw the introduction of Catholic Emancipation in
Ireland dismantling the hated Penal
Laws. His second tenure began on November 14th 1834 only holding
office on a temporary basis as a replacement for Robert Peel for a month. He
also served as Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary, Minister for War and Leader
of the House of Lords.
He died on September 14th 1852 and given a state funeral inacres of land.