Diana Wellesley, Duchess of Wellington
14 January 1922|
Woolwich, London, England
|Died||1 November 2010
Apsley House, London, England
|Title||Princess of Waterloo, Duchess of Wellington, Duchess of Ciudad Rodrigo, Marchioness of Douro, Marchioness of Wellington, Countess of Mornington, Countess of Wellington, Viscountess Wellesley, Viscountess Wellington, and Baroness Douro|
|Spouse(s)||Arthur Valerian Wellesley, 8th Duke of Wellington (m.1944–2010)|
Diana Wellesley, Duchess of Wellington MBE (14 January 1922 – 1 November 2010) was the wife of Arthur Valerian Wellesley, 8th Duke of Wellington, and a British intelligence officer during World War II.
Family and early life
Born Diana Ruth McConnel in Woolwich, she was the only daughter of Major-General Douglas McConnel CB CBE DSO, an instructor at the Royal Military Academy, and his wife Ruth Mary (née Garnett-Botfield). Her only brother died soon after birth, and she had no other siblings.
She resolved not to marry a military man after living apart from her father, though she did live happily with her parents in India for two years. She was only seventeen, not yet finished school, when the Second World War broke out. She lived in Jerusalem when her father was stationed there. She worked as a secretary for the military in the King David Hotel and served often as her father's Aide-de-camp.
Marriage and family
It was there that she met Valerian Wellesley, who in 1943 became Marquess of Douro when his father Lord Gerald Wellesley inherited the Dukedom of Wellington from his nephew. They were married on 28 January 1944. The Marquess and Marchioness of Douro would have five children:
- Arthur Charles Valerian Wellesley, 9th Duke of Wellington, 10th Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo (b. 19 August 1945), married HRH Princess Antonia of Prussia, a great-granddaughter of Wilhelm II, German Emperor, with five children;
- Lord Richard Wellesley, (b. 20 June 1949), married Joanna Sumner, with two daughters;
- Lady (Caroline) Jane Wellesley (b. 6 July 1951), unmarried; she was courted at one time by Charles, Prince of Wales
- Lord John Wellesley (b. 20 April 1954), married Corinne Vaes, with two children;
- Lord James Wellesley (b. 16 December 1956), married Laura Wedge, with one daughter, divorced; married Emma Nethercott.
During the course of her regular work Diana discovered a plot by the Stern Gang to bomb St George's Cathedral on her wedding day. The bomb was retrieved but the couple still received a police escort, which Lord Douro believed to be the standard procedure at the wedding of a general's daughter, his bride not having revealed the plot to him at the time.
After the War
Lord Douro continued his military service, attaining the rank of Brigadier, and Lady Douro lived with him in Cyprus in the 1950s and Madrid from 1964 to 1967. He retired from the army in 1967 and they moved to Stratfield Saye. In 1972 Lord Douro's father died and he and his wife became Duke and Duchess of Wellington. At home the Duchess tended personally to the gardens and was amused to be mistaken frequently for a gardener when their home was open to the public.
The Duchess died at the family home, Apsley House, in London on 1 November 2010, aged 88. She lived to see the births of several of her great-grandchildren, including twins Lady Mae and Arthur, Viscount Wellesley, third in the direct line of succession to the dukedom.
Titles and honours
Diana McConnel became Marchioness of Douro upon marriage and took the female equivalents of all her husband's inherited titles after his father's death. In Britain she was Duchess of Wellington, Marchioness of Douro, Marchioness of Wellington, Countess of Mornington, Countess of Wellesley, Viscountess Wellesley, and Baroness Douro, variously in the Peerages of the United Kingdom and Ireland. Because her husband's ancestor the first Duke of Wellington was such a celebrated general rewarded by many of Europe's crowned heads, the Duchess of Wellington was also Princess of Waterloo in the Netherlands and Duchess of Vitória in Portugal. She was Duchess of Ciudad Rodrigo in Spain from 1968 when her father-in-law ceded the title to his son (something common enough with Spanish titles, though unheard of in Britain). Her husband in turn ceded the dukedom to their son Charles Wellesley, Marquess of Douro in 2010.