Wellington: A Personal History

By Christopher Hibbert | Go to book overview

10 Kitty Pakenham 1790-1806

'She has grown ugly by Jove!'

HE HAD first set eyes on the Hon. Catherine Dorothea Sarah Pakenham, daughter of the second Baron Longford, years before in Ireland where her father, a post-captain in the Royal Navy, had, for a few months before he had come into the family title, been Member for County Longford. Arthur Wesley had often called at the Longfords' house in Rutland Square in Dublin and had made his feelings for Kitty known. She was a small, slim, vivacious and generous girl, indiscreet in her gossipy talk, much given to condemning the failings of others and to making dogmatic statements on matters which her knowledge of them did not justify. She read a great deal, sermons and books on religious matters as well as popular novels. An occasionally haughty manner concealed an inner uncertainty; but she was a well-liked young figure in Dublin society. 1

Her parents had not at that time taken kindly to Arthur Wesley's interest in their daughter. A younger son in a large family, his prospects had not then seemed bright and his reputation, like his eldest brother's, was far from unblemished. This was the attitude also of Kitty's brother, Thomas, who became the third Baron Longford upon their father's death at the age of forty-nine in 1792.

So all thoughts of marriage had to be abandoned; but Arthur Wesley assured Kitty that, should those prospects become more certain, and her brother become more kindly disposed towards him, his own mind would 'remain the same', a promise that he afterwards felt to be binding upon an honourable man. The years passed. He seemed almost to have forgotten her; certainly he never once wrote to her from India; none of the shoes he bought were destined for her feet, nor jewels for her throat, nor shawls for her shoulders. But she evidently had been thinking of him as she later admitted one day to Queen Charlotte at court. 'I am happy to see you at my court, so bright an example of constancy,' the Queen said to her, according to Kitty's own account given to her

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