Hyacinthe-Gabrielle Roland

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The Countess of Mornington
Portrait by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun
Hyacinthe-Gabrielle Roland

c. 1766
Paris, France
Died5 November 1816(1816-11-05) (aged 55–56)
Resting placeSt. Michael's Church, Penkridge, Staffordshire, U.K.
Other namesHyacinthe-Gabrielle Fagan
(m. 1794)

Hyacinthe-Gabrielle Wellesley, Countess of Mornington (née Roland, or Rolland; c. 1766 – 5 November 1816),[1] was a French actress who became the mistress, and later the wife, of Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley. As an actress, she was known as Gabrielle Fagan.

Through her daughter Anne, Roland is the great-great-great grandmother to Queen Elizabeth II.

Birth and paternity[edit]

Roland was the legal daughter of Pierre Roland (or Rolland), a Paris-based merchant or banker, and Hyacinthe-Gabrielle Varis, an actress or milliner.[2] The University of Southampton, which houses the Wellesley family papers, estimates Roland's birth year to be 1760.[3] Cockayne's The Complete Peerage and Burke's Peerage estimate her birth year to be between 1766 and 1771 in editions published after her death.[4][5]

There were rumours Roland's biological father was Christopher Alexander Fagan, and she was later adopted by Pierre Roland.[6][7] The 1976 edition of Burke's Irish Family Records listed Roland as a natural born daughter of Varis and Fagan.[8] Fagan family biographers have speculated Roland either lived in Ireland for several years prior to returning to France, or she was raised in Ireland by the Fagan family before joining her mother in France.[where?] Both claims are unproven.[according to whom?]


Richard Wellesley, the son of Garret Wesley, 1st Earl of Mornington, met Roland at the Palais-Royal where she was an actress known as Gabrielle Fagan. She spoke no English at the time; however, she and Wellesley lived together for eight years without marrying. In 1781, Richard Wellesley succeeded as 2nd Earl of Mornington.

Roland and Wellesley married on 29 November 1794 at St George's, Hanover Square, London.[4] Prior to their marriage, they had three sons and two daughters:

Roland became the Countess of Mornington upon marriage, but she was a social outcast. Though Wellesley's mother, Anne, was eventually persuaded to receive her. In 1799, Wellesley was created the 1st Marquess Wellesley, making Roland a courtesy marchioness. However, this elevation did not change her social standing. Even the famously casual Viscountess Melbourne refused to call on Roland. The Viscountess Melbourne scolded her daughter-in-law, Lady Caroline Lamb, severely for doing so, writing of Caroline's friendship with Roland: "you are the only woman with any pretensions to character who ever courted Lady Wellesley's acquaintance."[11]

Separation and death[edit]

Memorial at St. Michael's Church, Penkridge.

After their marriage, the Marquess Wellesley had two illegitimate children by another mistress, Elizabeth Johnston. In 1797, the Marquess Wellesley was obliged to travel to India in his capacity as Governor-General, Roland did not accompany him although he attempted to persuade her on many occasions.[12] Roland was seeking evidence for a divorce as early as 1795.[13]

In 1801, Roland's letters detailed accusations of her husband's infidelity with another woman, known only as Madame de Cocrement, and of severe neglect of his family.[14] Upon the Marquess Wellesley's return to Britain in 1805, he purchased Apsley House as a family home. However, he took another mistress, and he and Roland were again estranged. The Wellesley's formally separated in 1810, and Roland moved from Apsley House. She lived in Grosvenor Square for some time, and then at Great Cumberland Place.[14]

Roland died on 5 November 1816 at Teddesley Hall, Staffordshire, a house belonging to Edward Littleton, the husband to her daughter Hyacinthe-Marie.[1][15] She was laid to rest at St. Michael's Church in Penkridge where her family posted a memorial.


  1. ^ a b "Hyacinth Gabrielle Roland Wellesley (1766-1816)". Find a Grave. 26 December 2020. Retrieved 22 May 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ Beaucarnot, Jean-Louis (4 August 2010). "Sur la piste des ancêtres français de la famille royale d'Angleterre". La Revue française de Généalogie (in French). Retrieved 17 February 2022.
  3. ^ "MS 63 Carver manuscripts | Special Collections | University of Southampton". www.southampton.ac.uk. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  4. ^ a b G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume IX, page 236.
  5. ^ Montgomery-Massingberd, Hugh. Burke's Irish Family Records. London, U.K.: Burkes Peerage Ltd, 1976. Page 400
  6. ^ Marshall, P. J. (1 July 1975). "The Eldest Brother: the Marquess Wellesley 1760-1842". The English Historical Review. XC (CCCLVI): 657. doi:10.1093/ehr/xc.ccclvi.657. ISSN 0013-8266.
  7. ^ Burke's Landed Gentry of Ireland. London. 1958. p. 262.
  8. ^ Burke's Irish Family Records. London. 1976. p. 400.
  9. ^ Margaret Makepeace. "British Library Untold Lives blog - Gerald Wellesley's secret family". Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  10. ^ Bayly, C. A. "Wellesley [formerly Wesley], Richard". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/29008. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  11. ^ Lord David Cecil "Lord Melbourne" Pan Books Edition 1965 p.91
  12. ^ Butler, Iris (1973). The Eldest Brother - the Marquess Wellesley 1760-1842. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
  13. ^ Joanne Major, Sarah Murden (30 November 2016). A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History. ISBN 9781473863422. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  14. ^ a b Joanne Major; Sarah Murden (30 November 2016). A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History. Pen and Sword. pp. 17–. ISBN 978-1-4738-6342-2.
  15. ^ "WALHOUSE (afterwards LITTLETON), Edward John (1791-1863), of Teddesley Park, Staffs". History of Parliament. Retrieved 21 March 2018.