Henry Wellesley, 1st Earl Cowley

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The Earl Cowley
British Ambassador to France
In office
MonarchQueen Victoria
Preceded byThe Marquess of Normanby
Succeeded byThe Lord Lyons
Personal details
Born17 June 1804
Hertford Street, Mayfair, London
Died15 July 1884
Albemarle Street, London
SpouseOlivia Cecilia FitzGerald (d. 1885)
Alma materBrasenose College, Oxford
Quartered arms of Henry Wellesley, 1st Earl Cowley, KG, GCB, PC

Henry Richard Charles Wellesley, 1st Earl Cowley, KG, GCB, PC (17 June 1804 – 15 July 1884), known as The Lord Cowley between 1847 and 1857, was a British diplomat. He served as British Ambassador to France between 1852 and 1867.

Background and education[edit]

Wellesley was born in 1804 in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, the eldest son of Henry Wellesley, 1st Baron Cowley, and Lady Charlotte, daughter of Charles Cadogan, 1st Earl Cadogan. He was a nephew of the 1st Duke of Wellington and the 1st Marquess Wellesley. He was educated at Eton and Brasenose College, Oxford.[citation needed]

Diplomatic career[edit]

Wellesley entered the diplomatic service in 1824, receiving his first important appointment in 1845, when he became Minister Plenipotentiary to the Ottoman Empire.[1] This was followed in June 1851 by his appointment as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the reinstated diet of the German Confederation, a position which he only held for a short time, as he was chosen in 1852 to succeed Lord Normanby as the British Ambassador in Paris. Lord Cowley, as Wellesley had become on his father's death in 1847, held this important post for fifteen years, and the story of his diplomatic life in Paris cannot be separated from the general history of England and France. As Minister during the greater part of the reign of Napoleon III, he conducted the delicate negotiations between the two countries during the time of those eastern complications which preceded and followed the Crimean War, and also during the excitement and unrest produced by the attempt made in 1858 by Felice Orsini to assassinate the Emperor of the French; while his diplomatic skill was no less in evidence during the war between France and Austria and the subsequent course of events in Italy.

In 1857 he was created Viscount Dangan, in the County of Meath, and Earl Cowley. He was further honoured in 1866 when he was made a Knight of the Garter. Having assisted Richard Cobden to conclude the commercial treaty between Great Britain and France in 1860, he retired as ambassador in 1867.

Personal life[edit]

On 22 October 1833 Lord Cowley married the Hon. Olivia Cecilia (d. 1885) at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, daughter of the 20th Baroness de Ros and Lord Henry FitzGerald (fourth son of the 1st Duke of Leinster). Together, they were the parents of three sons and two daughters:

Lord Cowley died on 15 July 1884 at Albemarle Street, London. He succeeded in his titles by his eldest son, William. In 1863 Cowley inherited the former Long family estate of Draycot Cerne in Wiltshire from his kinsman the 5th Earl of Mornington, and he retired four years later. Through his youngest son, he was a grandfather of Sir Victor Wellesley.

He owned almost 6,000 acres.[2]

Further reading[edit]

  • Hand of Fate: The History of the Longs, Wellesleys and the Draycot Estate in Wiltshire. Tim Couzens 2001 ISBN 1-903341-72-6


  1. ^ Haydn, Joseph. The Book of Dignities: Containing Lists of the Official Personages of the British Empire. London: Longman Brown Green, 1851 pp.83-4.
  2. ^ The great landowners of Great Britain and Ireland

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by Minister Plenipotentiary to the Confederated States of the Swiss Cantons
Succeeded by
Preceded by Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the German Confederation
(Special Ambassador 1848–1851)

Succeeded by
Preceded by British Ambassador to France
1852 – 1867
Succeeded by
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Earl Cowley
Succeeded by
Preceded by Baron Cowley