Colley (No. 1.) family genealogy

Earls of Mornington

Arms: Or, a lion ramp. gu. gorged with a ducal coronet ppr.: A dexter arm couped and erected vested az. cuffed ar. encircled with a ducal coronet or, the hand ppr. holding a sword also ppr. pomel and hilt gold. Motto: Virtutis fortuna comes.

The Irish family of O’Cowley or Cowley, which has been modernized Colley, is descended from Cu-Uladh [cu-ula] an t-Sioda (meaning “The Ulster Silken Warrior”), who (see p. 452, Vol. I. of this Edition) is No. 108 on the “Flinn” (Lords of Tuirtre or Northern Clanaboy) pedigree; and who lived about the period of the English Invasion of Ireland.

The late Duke of Wellington having requested us to assist him in elucidating the origin of his family, and ascertaining the birth-place and date of birth[1]} of his father, the Great Iron Duke, we consulted every available source of information on the subject; including Irish State Papers, Holingshead, Ware, Notes and Queries, Baptismal Registers, etc.

In Gloucestershire, England, there was a family of “Cowley” or “Colley,” who took their name from Cowley, a manor place in that shire. Those Cowleys were descended from Harding, the Dane, who was also ancestor of the Berkeley (or Berkly) family.

In English Wills the name has been variously written “Cowley,” “Colley” and “Coll.”

According to a London Visitation, there were Cowleys in London, who claimed descent from a Staffordshire family of that name, but of whom we can learn nothing. Neither can we learn anything of the Cowleys of Rutlandshire, from whom some members of the Mornington family would claim descent. But we venture to say that it is mere conjecture to claim for the “Cowley” of Mornington family, either an English or an ancient Irish origin.

In the past history of Ireland, since its connexion with England, it was unhappily not fashionable, nor was it a sure road to promotion in the British Service, to be an Irishman, or to bear an Irish sirname.[2]

Several persons of the name of “Cowley” were merchants in Bristol, in the 14th and 15th centuries; and, as proved by old Bristol Wills, Bristol at that period carried on a brisk trade with Drogheda and Limerick. It is therefore thought by some of the family that it was from Gloucestershire the Mornington branch of the “Cowley” family came to Ireland; because Walter Cowley or Colley, who was an ancestor of the Mornington family, lived in Drogheda, A.D. 1537.

Commencing with said Walter’s father, the following is, according to our research, the pedigree of the Mornington “Cowley”[3] or “Colley” family, down to the great Duke of Wellington,[4] who d. in 1852.

1. Robert Cowley[5] or Colley who was Bailiff of Dublin in 1515, and who must have been a very old man when he died in or before 1547 (for, in 1537 he was called “Old Colley,”) married and had two sons:

  1. Walter, of Drogheda, who was in 1537 “Principal Solicitor” (or what we would now call Solicitor-General); “deprived” in 1546. He married and had:
    1. Henry Colley, who was Collector of Drogheda in 1571; and who is said to have been an officer in Capt. Brooke’s Troop in 1562.
  2. Robert Colley, of whom presently.

2. Robert Colley: son of Robert; was Clerk of the Crown in 1530, and Master of the Rolls in 1538. He married and had:

3. Sir Henry Colley, who was appointed to Dangan in 1586; and had grant of the estate of Castlecarbery in 1563. He was twice mar.: by his first wife he had—Sir George Colley, who m. a dau. of Adam Loftus, Archbishop of Dublin, and was alive between 1567 and 1605. Sir Henry married, as his second wife, Catherine, dau. of Sir Thomas Cusack (who was son of Sir John Cusack by Aleson his wife, dau. of Sir W. Wellesley, A.D. 1500), and had four sons and three daughters:

  1. Sir Henry, of whom presently.
  2. Dudley of Raksenny, who m. and had: 1. Thomas; 2. Arthur; 3. Hannah, who m. — Edwards.
  3. Walter, Seneschal of Wexford, who m. and had: 1. John, whose descent is given in “Colley” (No. 2) pedigree, next, infra; and 2. William.
  4. Christopher.

One of the three daughters of Sir Henry, by his second wife, m. first, Adam Loftus; 2ndly, G. Blunt; and thirdly, Sir Edward Blayney.

The second dau. m. Talbot of Meere. And the third daughter m. Sir George Moore.

4. Sir Henry Colley: son of Sir Henry; mar. Ann, dau. of Adam Loftus, Archbishop of Dublin, and had:

5. Sir Henry Colley (died 1637), who mar. Ann, dau. of Christopher Peyton, and had Dudley. After Sir Henry Colley’s death, his widow m. Sir Richard Cooke.

6. Dudley Colley (d. 1674): son of Sir Henry; m. Ann Warren, and had:

7. Henry Colley, who m. Mary, daughter of Archbishop Usher, and had:

  1. Henry, who m. and had Mary, who m. A. Pomeroy, and had Pomeroy, Lord Harberton, who had issue.
  2. Richard, created “Baron Mornington,” in 1746; of whom presently.

8. Richard Colley, Lord Mornington (died 1758): son of Henry; assumed the name Wesley or Wellesley; m. and had, with other children:

9. Garrett (died 1784) [1781], Earl of Mornington, who m. Ann[e] Hill, and had:

10. Arthur Colley or Arthur Wellesley, the Great Duke of Wellington (b. 1769; d. 1852).

In Burke’s Peerage we read that the family name of the Duke of Wellington was originally Cowley or Colley; and that Richard Colley, first Lord Mornington (No. 8 on this pedigree), assumed the sirname and arms of Wesley or Wellesley;

That Garrett, his son, the second Baron, and first Viscount Wellesley, of Dangan Castle, county Meath, was created Earl of Mornington;

That Richard, the eldest son of Garrett, became, in 1799, Marquis Wellesley, in the Peerage of Ireland; that said Richard was succeeded in the Earldom of Mornington, by his younger brother William, Lord Maryborough (d. 1845), who was the third Earl of Mornington;

That William Pole-Tylney-Long Wellesley, son of William, the third Earl, was the fourth Earl of Mornington;

That William Pole-Tylney-Long Wellesley was succeeded by his eldest son, William-Richard-Arthur, the fifth Earl, who was born 1813, and died unm. at Paris in July, 1863, when he was succeeded in the Earldom and Barony of Mornington and Viscountcy of Wellesley by his cousin Arthur-Richard, the second and late Duke, son of Arthur Colley or Arthur Wellesley, the great Duke of Wellington, above mentioned, who was the third son of Garrett, No. 9 on this pedigree. According to Burke, Arthur, the first Duke of Wellington, was born[6] at Mornington House, 24 Upper Merrion-street, Dublin, 24th April, 1769; died at Walmer Castle, 14th September, 1852; and was buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London.


[1] Birth: Having, in December, 1885, been referred to on this subject by a friend in Montreal, we wrote as follows:

The “Iron Duke.”

To the Editor of Notes and Queries.

Sir,—Having seen under the heading Notes and Queries in The Montreal Daily Star of the 5th instant a correspondence respecting “the birthplace and the birthday of the great Duke of Wellington, I beg to say that as the author of “Irish Pedigrees,” I had the privilege of the friendship of, and a correspondence with, the late Duke of Wellington, who was the son of the “Iron Duke.” Respecting the petition against his father’s return as member of Parliament for the borough of Trim, on the ground of his having been (as indeed he was at the time) a minor; and the evidence of the old nurse who attended Lady Mornington on her confinement, the late Duke mentioned to me that, notwithstanding the nurse’s evidence to the contrary, the “Iron Duke” was a minor at the time of his election for Trim; and he therefore requested me to find out, if possible, in my researches, the birthplace and birthday of his illustrious father. In looking up several registers of births, marriages and deaths bearing on my subject, I met in the Baptismal Register of St. Peter’s Protestant Episcopal Church in Dublin, the date of the great Duke of Wellington’s baptism; but the birthplace and birthday are not mentioned. On that Baptismal Register is a brass clasp on which is engraved the fact that in said register the baptism of Field Marshal, the Duke of Wellington, is recorded. Merrion Square is in St. Peter’s parish; it is therefore believed that, as the “Iron Duke’s” baptism is recorded in St. Peter’s parish register, Lady Mornington came from Dangan Castle, in the county Meath, to Mornington House, in Merrion Square, preparatory to her Ladyship’s confinement. It was a strange coincidence that the two great opponents at the battle of Waterloo, namely, Napoleon the First, and Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington, were both minors when each of them first entered on his public career; and it is worthy of remark that each of those personages, in order to gain his point, had his majority established for him by false evidence! Without such evidence, however, at the time, the great Duke would probably never have become the hero of Waterloo; nor would the great Napoleon perhaps ever have become the Emperor of the French.

I am, dear, Sir,

Very truly yours,

John O’Hart.

Ringsend, Dublin, 21st December, 1885.

Commenting on the foregoing letter, the Editor of Notes and Queries wrote:

“The following extract from the speech of the Earl Beaconsfield, on moving the House of Commons to grant the necessary funds for the expense of the Public Funeral of the Duke of Wellington, points out other interesting coincidences in the lives of the two great warriors: ‘The providential superintendence of this world seems seldom more manifest than in the dispensation which ordained that the French Emperor and Wellesley should be born in the same year; that in the same year they should have embraced the same profession; and that, natives of distant islands, they should both have sought their military education in that illustrious land, which each in his turn was destined to subjugate.’ The reader may be reminded that Arthur Wellesley was sent to the College of Angers, then directed by Pignard, a celebrated French engineer; as England, at that time, did not possess any institutions devoted solely to military education.”

[2] Sirname: On this subject the late Duke of Wellington in one of his letters to us says that if his father had called himself by his ancient Irish proper name “Arthur Cowley,” instead of Arthur Wellesley, he would, in all probability, never have become Duke of Wellington! The anti-Irish feeling which then prevailed in England, and which, unhappily, still obtains in some of the Government Departments in Ireland, may have suggested the Iron Duke’s saying that—“to be born in a stable does not constitute a horse meaning thereby that although he was born in Ireland he was not an Irishman.

See the “Wellesley” pedigree, infra, for the assumption of that family name by the Mornington “Cowley” family.

[3] Cowley: Silvester Cowley was a Pensioner in 1586—Irish State Papers.

[4] Wellington: In the song—“While History’s Muse,” in his Irish Melodies, the immortal Moore refers to the “Iron Duke,” as an Irishman:

While History’s Muse the memorial was keeping

Of all that the dark hand of Destiny weaves,

Beside her the Genius of Erin stood weeping,

For hers was the story that blotted the leaves.

But oh! how the tear in her eyelids grew bright,

When, after whole pages of sorrow and shame,

She saw History write with a pencil of light,

That illumin’d the whole volume, her Wellington’s name.

[5] Robert Cowley: From our friend, the Rev. A. W. Cornelius Hallen, M.A., the worthy Editor of Northern Notes and Queries (Edinburgh: David Douglas), we have received the following interesting paper:

Was Robert Cowley of Irish or of English Blood?

1. Nothing is at present known of the parentage or nationality of Robert Cowley, who was in 1515 Bailiff of Dublin. The fact that he held this office and afterwards a Crown appointment, renders it improbable that he was of pure Irish descent. The list of Mayors and Bailiffs of Dublin given by Ware contains few if any purely Irish names and Crown offices at that period were, as a rule, given to men of English descent to the exclusion of the Irish.

2. Nothing is at present known of the wife of Robert Cowley, but an Anthony Cowley about the same time married a daughter of Sir William Skeffington; and, before the close of the 16th century, Robert’s descendants had in several cases married into “English” families.

N.B.—It may be well to note here that by the marriage of Sir Henry Cowley, grandson of Robert, with Catherine Cusack, dau. of Sir Thomas Cusack, the present House of “Cowley” can trace a descent from the Wellesleys. It is well known that the first Lord Mornington took the name on succeeding to the estates of Garrett Wellesley, the son of his father’s sister; and derived no Wellesley blood.

3. It seems almost impossible to maintain the pure Irish origin of Robert Cowley, in the face of the statement made by Archbishop Loftus in 1587: that Sir Henry Cowley (father of his son-in-law George Cowley, and grandson of Robert) was of “English Parents” (State Papers). The expression used here must, as elsewhere in the same volume, signify “of English descent,” as distinguished from Irish descent. The Archbishop knew that the documents in which the statement occurs would be laid before the Council; he would not therefore have dared, had he been so disposed, to have made such a statement, if untrue, concerning a family then so well known.

4. An English origin for this family offers itself in a very marked way: Amongst the volumes of State Papers published by the Government is a valuable account of the charter of foundation of Dublin, styled Nova Bristowa, and its colonization by citizens of Bristol; lists of early freemen are given, and these are full of well known Gloucestershire and Somersetshire names, also, of course, met with in ancient Bristol documents. Bristol was the mercantile metropolis of the west of England, and scions of Gloucestershire knightly families settled there as merchants. John Smith, who was Steward of the Hundred and Liberty of Berkeley from 1596-1640, left valuable MS. notes which have lately been privately printed. In his “Hundred of Berkeley,” p. 153, he gives a pedigree of eleven generations of the knightly family of Cowley, de Cowley, co. Gloucester, from Harding (ancestor also of the Baronial house of Berkeley) to Elizabeth de Cowley, who became sole heiress in the 16th century. The Bristol and Dublin Cowleys were clearly of this family.

When the Municipal Records of Dublin for the period between 1300 and 1500 are printed, it will be seen if the old Dublin Cowleys still continued to rank as citizens: if so, it will probably be possible to prove that Robert Cowley was of this stock, and therefore rightly described by Archbishop Loftus as “English.”

A. W. Cornelius Hallen, M.A., F.S.A. (Scot).”

December 16th, 1887.

[6] Born: According to Maxwell’s Life of the Duke of Wellington, “Arthur Wellesley, etc., was born at Dangan Castle, in the county of Meath, on the 1st of May, 1769.” To this passage Maxwell appends the following footnote: “Some controversy has arisen as to the precise time and place of the Duke’s birth; but we have his own authority for the facts, as we have recorded them, conveyed in a reply to some inquiries on the subject, addressed to him only a few weeks before his death. A letter also from his mother, in answer to the inquiry of a friend, which has lately been published in the daily prints, can have left no room for doubt on the subject.” “I remember well,” says the Editor of Notes and Queries, in the “Montreal Daily Star” (Dec., 1885), “that when the Crystal Palace was opened in London, on May 1st, 1851, it was distinctly understood that the day was the birthday of the Duke of Wellington, and the first anniversary of the birth of Prince Arthur (son of Queen Victoria), to whom the Duke had stood sponsor.”