As some of us learned at school, the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815, so last month marked the bicentenary of that victory, officially observed on the 18th to 21st. On June 28th this year interested parties gathered at the Woodhall Spa Wellington Monument near Waterloo Wood (“…. raised from acorns sown immediately after the memorable battle of Waterloo…..”) to celebrate the event and learn more about it from members of the Heritage Committee of Woodhall Spa.
In time honoured fashion the event had been posted on the village community notice board, but I heard about it from Woodhall Spa resident Kay Hayden, who has an special interest in Wellington, due to a possible family connection. It seems that her husband Andy may be a descendent of the iron duke, via an alleged extra-marital liaison.
From 1790 to 1795, Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, was the member of Parliament for Trim, in County Meath, Ireland. According to an article in the Meath Chronicle (“Duke’s Offspring Discovered?” Volume 96, August 1992) “…the [illegitimate] child is believed to have been born to a local woman who was thought to have been one of the nobility at the time. The Duke was supposed to have paid for the child’s education. The Disclosure came to light after a portrait of a girl was located in Ireland. On the reverse was the inscription ‘She is the daughter of the Duke of Wellington’.”
Andy’s father Michael Hayden has been researching the possible family connection:
” Many of the facts fit the scenario that Jane Hanlon may have been a daughter of Arthur Wellesley & Alicia Eustace (born c. 1773), who subsequently married Nicholas Barnewall, 14th Lord Trimleston….. She was supposedly at school in Brussels in 1787, when Arthur Wellesley was also there.
Jane, the putative daughter of Wellesley & Alicia Eustace, was fostered with the Eustace family of Robertstown & Corbally, Co. Laois. Her mother was Charles Eustace’s daughter. He was of Robertstown. The foster parents were cousins of her mother’s family. One of the Castlemore (Tullow, Co. Carlow) Eustaces married Robert Hanlon. They reared Jane as Jane Hanlon. Her education was paid for by Wellesley. She was confirmed in Manchester in 1800, where she was being educated. …..a private education in an English boarding school. Not too unusual for well-off Irish parents.”
The research continues! Anyway, if it is true that Wellington had illegitimate children, perhaps we should not be too surprised. Regency novellist and historian Rachel Knowles notes that Arthur’s marriage was not a happy one, and she claims that he “…had relationships with numerous women including the famous courtesan Harriette Wilson.”
If you would like to visit the Woodhall Spa monument, it’s not far from the Petwood, on the road to Old Woodhall. Turn right out of the hotel, then right again at the next crossroads. The monument will then soon be on your left:
Thanks to Kay Hayden, the Heritage Committee of Woodhall Spa and Michael Czaijkowski. (Hover on the photos for picture credits.)