Jane Austen and the Brothers Wellesley

My guest today is Stephanie Barron. Stephanie was born in Binghamton, New York, the last of six girls (opposite of me as I’m the oldest of six girls). She attended Princeton and Stanford Universities, where she studied history, before going on to work as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. She wrote her first book in 1992 and left the Agency a year later. Since then, she has written fifteen books, including her latest Austen mystery, Jane and the Waterloo Map. Without further delay here is her post on her whirlwind blog tour.

Stephanie Barron.

Those of us who shamelessly read other people’s letters know from invading a few of Jane Austen’s that she visited the Prince Regent’s London home, Carlton House, in November 1815. I walk right into this royal residence at Jane’s side in my latest Austen mystery, JANE AND THE WATERLOO MAP. When Miss Austen stumbles over a dying soldier in the Regent’s library, she is off and running on her latest detective adventure.

I presumed to pay a call with Jane in this book, however, at another London home that she probably never entered: Apsley House, known in her day as No. 1 London. This was the London residence of Richard, Marquess of Wellesley, which sat (and still does) at 149 Piccadilly, Hyde Park Corner. Jane would have passed it every time she walked into Town that autumn from her brother Henry’s home in Hans Place. Number One London was at right angles to the park and the toll turnstile at Hyde Park Gate, the western entrance to what is now Mayfair. Jane describes walking into Town to visit shops and bookstores, one of which, Hatchards, is just beyond the Wellesley residence at No. 187 Piccadilly. This was the great Main Street of London’s West End, and an area Jane thoroughly enjoyed exploring on foot or by hansom cab.


Apsley House. Courtesy of the English Heritage.

In WATERLOO MAP, Jane and Henry enter Apsley House because Richard Wellesley’s brother, Arthur, is staying with him while briefly on leave in London from his current job: Governor-General of Occupied Paris. Arthur Wellesley was, of course, better known as the Duke of Wellington, and had beaten Napoleon at Waterloo only six months before. His brother Richard was leasing Apsley House. Richard—who was rumored to be a member of the Hellfire Club–was perennially in debt and brazening out his rakish lifestyle at the expense of his creditors. A year later, when the Occupation was done, Arthur returned to London and took over his elder brother’s contract on Apsley House. Arthur had been awarded a great deal of prize money by a grateful Parliament in the aftermath of Waterloo, and he spent some of his earnings on renovating and expanding Apsley House—which has been the London home of the Dukes of Wellington, and a National Trust property that may be toured by the public, ever since.


Duke of Wellington. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Did Jane Austen ever meet the Iron Duke? Not that she mentions. But one of the delights of writing about such iconic figures is to make fictional connections among them that might possibly, however improbably, have existed. The fact that Jane’s sister Cassandra destroyed some of their correspondence after Jane’s death has provided me with gaps in the official record I’ve chosen to fill with these stories. Although we know, for example, that Jane visited Carlton House on Monday, 13 November, because a note survives in which she thanks her host, James Stanier Clarke, no letter exists that describes her impressions of the royal residence—which she would undoubtedly have set down for her family and sent home to Chawton. The lack of evidence is, for me, an open invitation to invent it. In the case of a meeting with the Duke of Wellington, it seems heartbreaking to miss the opportunity.

Who were the Wellesleys, and how did they come to command the heights of No. 1 London?

Arthur began life as a relative nobody, the fourth of six children of an impoverished Anglo-Irish earl who taught music at Trinity College, Dublin. His mother, Lady Mornington, famously said that Arthur was “food for powder and nothing more,” an apparently callous judgment that disguised the brutal truth of primogeniture: as eldest son, Richard Wesley (the spelling of the family name was later changed) would inherit everything, and his four younger brothers must have professions to survive. One would be a clergyman, one a diplomat, and one must certainly be a soldier. It might as well be dreamy, impractical Arthur, who seemed to prefer playing the violin to everything else in life. He was sent to Eton at the age of twelve, the same year his father died in near bankruptcy. Both Arthur and Richard, who was then at Oxford, were withdrawn from school immediately.

Richard took his seat in the House of Lords. Lady Mornington moved to Brussels, life being cheaper on the Continent, and after a few years Arthur joined her there. It is his teenaged life in Belgium that historians often credit for his intimate knowledge of the Waterloo battlefield—he had been riding horses through the farmland outside Brussels for years.

Richard Wellesley was another case entirely. Witty, charming, and hellbent on pleasure, he used his seat in Lords and another that he controlled in the House to enter politics. He acceded to the earldom at the age of twenty-one, but was elevated to Marquis eighteen years later, having served as Governor-General of India (not unlike Austen friend and patron Warren Hastings.) Interestingly, brother Arthur began his military career in India while Richard was Governor-General. Usually viewed as a miserable military outpost far from positions of influence, India served to elevate both brothers through a concerted effort at fighting the French and expanding British control over the subcontinent. Richard brought nepotism to a high art: he appointed Arthur his military advisor and youngest brother Henry his personal secretary—keeping all three salaries in the family coffers.

By 1811 Richard was back in London and involved enough with Whig politics that he was named Foreign Secretary when Castlereagh fought his duel with George Canning, causing both men to resign from Spencer Perceval’s cabinet. When Perceval was assassinated later that year, however, the Whigs were thrown out and Wellesley was in want of a job. His brother Arthur, on the other hand, had moved from his command in India to years of warfare against Napoleon’s generals in the Iberian Peninsula—and had been elevated through the peerage to Marquess of Douro, a title taken from one of his victories in Portugal.

The two Wellesley marquesses lived very different personal lives. Installed in Apsley House was the Marchioness of Wellesley, whom no one in polite London Society would receive. Hyacinthe, as she was called, was a former dancer with the Paris Opera who had borne Richard Wellesley five illegitimate children before he married her. Arthur had committed a folly of another kind—returning triumphant from his posts in India as a Major-General, being given a regiment in 1806 that he declared made him rich, and offering immediately for Kitty Pakenham: a wellborn Dublin girl he’d met in a ballroom and had not seen in ten years. The two did not meet again until Kitty walked down the aisle at their wedding, and was so altered in her looks—apparently her “bloom had gone off”—that Arthur was appalled as he spoke his vows. At thirty-seven, he had nothing in common with Kitty and no attraction to her. The marriage would prove an unhappy mistake. Although he would have two sons, Arthur Wellesley was generally abroad and at war; when he was in London, Kitty remained in the country and Arthur lived life as a member of the ton. He famously appears in courtesan Harriet Wilson’s MEMOIRS as one of her patrons. When blackmailed by Wilson’s publishers in order to be deleted from the manuscript, Wellington allegedly scoffed: “Publish and be damned.”

By 1815 he had far out sped his elder brother in popularity and influence, not to mention wealth. In addition to No. 1 London, in 1817 Wellington would purchase the Hampshire estate of Stratfield-Saye, roughly in the neighborhood of Jane’s old home at Steventon. Indeed, he hunted with Jane’s clergyman brother James Austen as a member of the Vyne Hunt, and was intimate with the Austens’ friends, the Chute family. (Those who like to draw connections between Austens and Wellingtons will be tickled that the current heir to the dukedom, Arthur, Marquess of Douro, and his wife, the former model Jemma Kidd, named their second son Darcy.)

Photo credit © Stratfield Saye Preservation Trust.

Statfield Saye House. Photo credit © Stratfield Saye Preservation Trust.

The powerful Wellesley brothers had a falling-out in 1825 when Richard, by then a widower, remarried—and chose as his second marchioness Marianne Patterson, née Caton, who the Iron Duke loved. Arthur had met the cultivated Marianne years before and valued her intelligence and beauty. He kept her portrait in every house he inhabited. A wealthy American widow, she was a granddaughter of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a member of Baltimore’s elite; her sister-in-law, Betsy Patterson, had met and married Jerome Bonaparte while he visited Baltimore and was later forbidden to enter France by Napoleon, who had not approved his youngest brother’s marriage. Wellington thought that Marianne, once the toast of London, had thrown herself away on his brother Richard. The two appear to have been happy, however—and Arthur, after all, was still married to Duchess Kitty.

Here is an image of the Duke’s pocket watch, commissioned by Joseph Bonaparte from Breguet of Switzerland, with an exquisite portrait of Marianne Caton Patterson. The Duke is said to have bought it when the Allied Army marched into Paris after the decisive victory at Waterloo. Among the watch’s multiple interior faces is an engraved map of Spain, to honor Joseph, who was King of that country under Napoleon; but having abdicated his crown by 1813, Joseph refused to buy the watch. Given how completely Wellington dominated the Peninsular wars, he must have relished snapping up the King’s watch as a trophy of victory. It was the Duke who added the miniature, copied from a portrait of Marianne he commissioned from Sir Thomas Lawrence in 1817. How Joseph came to sell the watch is a story I cannot yet relate. But I am sure that it would have interested Jane.


Wellington’s Breguet watch with Marianne’s picture. Courtesy of Relic imaging.

Grand Giveaway Contest

Win One of Three Fabulous Prizes

JANE AND WATERLOO - Blog Tour HorizontalIn celebration of the release of Jane and the Waterloo Map, Stephanie is offering a chance to win one of three prize packages filled with an amazing selection of Jane Austen-inspired gifts and books! To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on Jane and the Waterloo Map Blog Tour starting February 02, 2016 through 11:59 pm PT, February 29, 2016. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Stephanie’s website on March 3, 2016. Winners have until March 10, 2016 to claim their prize. Shipment is to US addresses. Good luck to all!


February 02 My Jane Austen Book Club (Guest Blog)
February 03 Laura’s Reviews (Excerpt)
February 04 A Bookish Way of Life (Review)
February 05 The Calico Critic (Review)
February 06 So Little Time…So Much to Read (Excerpt)
February 07 Reflections of a Book Addict (Spotlight)
February 08 Mimi Matthews Blog (Guest Blog)
February 09 Jane Austen’s World (Interview)
February 10 Just Jane 1813 (Review)
February 11 Confessions of a Book Addict (Excerpt)
February 12 History of the 18th and 19th Centuries (Guest Blog)
February 13 My Jane Austen Book Club (Interview)
February 14 Living Read Girl (Review)
February 14 Austenprose (Review)
February 15 Mystery Fanfare (Guest Blog)
February 16 Laura’s Reviews (Review)
February 17 Jane Austen in Vermont (Excerpt)
February 18 From Pemberley to Milton (Interview)
February 19 More Agreeably Engaged (Review)
February 20 Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)
February 21 A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life (Guest Blog)
February 22 Diary of an Eccentric (Review)

If you would like to learn more about Stephanie, you can visit her at:

  • Her website
  • Facebook
  • Goodreads
  • Blog Tour Page
  • Twitter handles: @SBarronAuthor; @Soho_Press
  • Twitter hashtags: #WaterlooBlogTour, #JaneAusten, #HistoricalMystery, #RegencyMystery, #Reading, #AustenesqueMystery #Austenesque #Giveaway

indexTo learn more about Stephanie’s book, here is a brief synopsis:

Jane Austen turns sleuth in this delightful Regency-era mystery November, 1815. The Battle of Waterloo has come and gone, leaving the British economy in shreds; Henry Austen, high-flying banker, is about to declare bankruptcy—dragging several of his brothers down with him. The crisis destroys Henry’s health, and Jane flies to his London bedside, believing him to be dying. While she’s there, the chaplain to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent invites Jane to tour Carlton House, the Prince’s fabulous London home. The chaplain is a fan of Jane’s books, and during the tour he suggests she dedicate her next>novel—Emma—to HRH, whom she despises.

However, before she can speak to HRH, Jane stumbles upon a body—sprawled on the carpet in the Regent’s library. The dying man, Colonel MacFarland, was a cavalry hero and a friend of Wellington’s. He utters a single failing phrase: “Waterloo map” . . . and Jane is on the hunt for a treasure of incalculable value and a killer of considerable cunning.

If you are interested in purchasing her book or learning more here are the links:

Jane and the Waterloo Map (Being a Jane Austen Mystery #13), by Stephanie Barron is available in hardcover and eBook format from Soho Press © 2016

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  1. Joanna Wood on February 12, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    Thanks for the background information! I’m really excited to read the book.

  2. Stephanie Carrico on February 12, 2016 at 4:04 pm

    Love the historical bits woven into these stories, a perfect blend of fact and fiction. Love this series.

  3. Alisha on February 12, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    I love a series that does a good job of combining history and imagination! This is a good one!

    • Geri Walton on February 20, 2016 at 10:29 am

      Yes, I think her book is going to be great.

  4. Laura Lloyd on February 12, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    Thank you for a fascinating post.

  5. Lynn M on February 15, 2016 at 10:01 am

    Thank you for the background information. It’s fascinating.

  6. Angela Holland on February 17, 2016 at 5:22 am

    Thank you for such a nice post. You gave us a lot of information that was very interesting.

    • Geri Walton on February 20, 2016 at 10:28 am

      Thanks for your comments Angela.

  7. Charlene on April 24, 2020 at 2:53 pm

    I’m confused by this. Spencer Perceval and the Wellesleys were Tories, not Whigs, although Perceval generally classified himself as a Pittite.

    Also, the Tory ministry didn’t ‘fall’ after Perceval’s assassination. As was his duty, the Prince Regent appointed a replacement, Lord Liverpool, who was also a Pittite Tory. (It took a few tries to find someone who felt he could form a ministry, but that was unremarkable given the circumstances.)

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