Wellington: A Personal History

By Christopher Hibbert | Go to book overview

5 The Tiger of Mysore 1799

'Had Colonel Wellesley been an obscure officer of fortune he would have been brought to a court-martial.'

SHORE'S DAYS as Governor-General were now coming to an end. As the recently created Baron Teignmouth, he sailed home in March 1798, leaving the Government in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Alured Clarke, until his successor arrived in India.

This successor, whose ship, carrying a huge quantity of his baggage, docked at Calcutta on 17 May 1798, was the thirty-seven-year-old Richard Wesley, Earl of Mornington, soon to be created Marquess Wellesley of Norragh in the peerage of Ireland. The Marquess insisted upon that spelling of the family name which his brother Arthur now adopted, as did Henry whom the new Governor-General had brought out as his Private Secretary.*

The Marquess, stately and patrician, long desirous of a marquessate, did not consider an Irish title at all adequate; nor did he hesitate to inform Mr Pitt, the Prime Minister, of his feelings in the matter. But he was well satisfied with his appointment which was, indeed, in his estimation, 'the most distinguished situation in the British Empire after that of Prime Minister of England'. 1 He was also satisfied that he had 'firmness enough to govern the British empire in India without favour or affection to any human being either in Europe or Asia'. 2

As though prompted by this assertion, his brother Arthur hastened to assure him that even he would not expect to derive any more advantage from his close relationship to the Governor-General than he would had any other person been appointed. 3 All the same, he offered his services to Richard who, anxious though he was to avoid all imputations

____________________
*
The name was originally spelled Wellesley. A man of that name obtained a grant of land near Wells in Somerset from Henry I in 1104. A descendant of his was Justice Itinerant in Ireland in 1261. The family began to spell the name Wesley in the seventeenth century ( Iris Butler, The Eldest Brother, 25).

-23-

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