William Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley, 4th Earl of Mornington

William Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley, 4th Earl of Mornington

William Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley, 4th Earl of Mornington (22 June 17881 July 1857) was an Irish nobleman notorious for his dissipated lifestyle.

Ancestry and first marriage

He was born William Wellesley on 22 June 1788, probably at Ballyfin, Queen's County, Ireland, the son of Hon. William Wellesley and his wife Mary Forbes. The family adopted the additional surname of Pole in 1789 after inheriting estates from a cousin.

William assumed the additional surnames of Tylney-Long on 14 March 1812, upon his marriage with Catherine, daughter and coheir of Sir James Tylney-Long, 7th Baronet, of Draycot, Wiltshire. Known in fashionable London society as "The Wiltshire heiress" [A History, Military and Municipal, of the Town (otherwise Called the City) of Marlborough, James Waylen - 1854] , Catherine was believed to be the richest commoner in England. Her estates in Essex, Hampshire and Wiltshire were said to be worth £40,000 per year rental income - more than a million pounds per year at current values - also she had savings of £300,000, and she had been sought in marriage by the duke of Clarence (later King William IV).

During this period, William enjoyed a political career, first as a Tory Member of Parliament for the rotten borough of St Ives from 1812 until 1818, and then for Wiltshire, where his wife's family were influential. However, he was principally known for his dissipation and extravagance. On one occasion in 1814, Long-Wellesley held a grand fete in Wanstead House and its gardens to celebrate his uncle the Duke of Wellington's victory over Napoleon, attended by the Prince Regent along with a number of other royals and over a thousand leading dignitaries. [George the Fourth, Roger Fulford - 1949] He was also known to be a friend of Thomas Moore and Lord Byron. As his debts began to mount, he was appointed a Gentleman Usher Daily Waiter to King George IV on 8 August 1822. This appointment rendered him immune to arrest for debt, but he was soon to leave England entirely.

econd marriage and custody battle

While in Europe avoiding his creditors, Long-Wellesley began a relationship with Helena Paterson Bligh (d. 7 April 1869), the wife of Captain Thomas Bligh of the Coldstream Guards, eventually abandoning Catherine, who died two years later on 12 September 1825. Catherine had implied in a letter to her sisters that her husband had given her venereal disease. Long-Wellesley subsequently married Helena in 1828, but this marriage also proved disastrous. Long-Wellesley, a notorious rake, was generally charged with having dissipated his first wife's property, but this he was unable to do, having only a life interest, although he was responsible for the demolition of Wanstead House, the proceeds of which covered only some of his enormous debts.

He returned to Parliament in 1830, again as MP for St Ives, and as MP for Essex from 1831 to 1832. He was one of the Tories who broke with the first Wellington Ministry and brought about its fall on 15 November 1830.

In the years following Catherine's death, Long-Wellesley sought control over his children who were in the care of Catherine's two unmarried sisters, Dorothy and Emma. He was especially interested in William, the eldest, on whom Catherine's fortune had devolved. His uncle the duke of Wellington, fighting one of his furious defensive actions, intervened on behalf of the children to keep the hapless William from his father's clutches. Deprived of the custody of his children by the Court of Chancery, Long-Wellesley was committed to the Fleet prison by Lord Brougham in July 1831 for contempt of court; Long-Wellesley invoked parliamentary privilege but his plea was rejected by the committee of privileges of the House of Commons. For some time he was in and out of court on charges of libel, and various other matters relating to his quest for custody of his children.

Decline and death

He led a very dissipated life and lived for a time in Brussels to avoid his creditors. In his last years he lived on a small pension of ₤10 a week allowed by his cousin Arthur Wellesley, 2nd Duke of Wellington. From 1842 he was styled Viscount Wellesley, and succeeded his father as Earl of Mornington in 1845.

He died in lodgings in Thayer Street, Manchester Square, London, on 1 July 1857, from heart disease. The obituary notice three days later in the Morning Chronicle claimed that he was "redeemed by no single virtue, adorned by no single grace". His tomb is in the Catacombs, Kensal Green Cemetery, London.


*Dictionary of National Biography

Further reading

*Hand of Fate. The History of the Longs, Wellesleys and the Draycot Estate in Wiltshire. Tim Couzens 2001 ISBN 1 903341 72 6

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