The Daily Telegraph and The Times are carrying the obituaries concerning the recent death of a member of the Ascendancy by marriage, Her Grace The Duchess of Wellington, who passed away at the family home on November 1st, at the age of eighty-nine. The Duke, now a widower at the age of ninety-five, has expressed his grief at his wife's death only a few months before their sixty-seventh wedding anniversary, but a friend has remarked to The Times that "He is grateful that they had so many happy years together."
Born Diana Ruth McConnel in 1921, the late Duchess was the daughter of the Scottish Major-General Douglas Fitzgerald McConnel and his wife, Ruth (née Garnett-Botfield.) She was married to Arthur Wellesley, the heir to the duchy of Wellington, in 1944, when the future Duke (then Marquess Douro) was on active service for the British war effort. In 1972, following the death of his father, Gerald, Arthur inherited the family's main titles, becoming the eighth member of the Wellesley family to hold the title of Duke of Wellington, Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo, Duke of The Victory, Prince of Waterloo, Marquis of Torres Vedras and Earl of Morington.
The main title of Duke of Wellington had first been awarded to the duke's ancestor, also called Arthur, a member of the Irish Protestant Ascendancy. It was given to him by King George III, in recognition for his military services to Britain during the Napoleonic Wars, in which Arthur was instrumental in securing Britain's eventual triumph and the liberation of the kingdoms of Portugal and Spain from Bonapartist occupation. He later served as British Prime Minister from 1828 to 1830 and again from 1834.
As a result of the duke's heroism on the battlefield which led to the destruction of the Bonaparte regime and the restoration of the French monarchy, the Wellesley family today are amongst a very rare group of aristocrats who hold titles in more than one kingdom - William I, the first King of the Netherlands, gave the family the hereditary title of "Prince of Waterloo," in honour of the great battle of 1815, against Napoleon. Ferdinand VII, King of Spain, gave him the title of "Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo" and Maria I, Queen of Portugal, awarded the family the rather magnificent title of "Duke of the Victory" and "Marquis of Torres Vedras." In addition to this, the dukes of Wellington also remain true to their Ascendancy heritage by holding a title in the Irish nobility - they are the hereditary earls of Morington, a title now usually used by the second in line to inherit the Wellington duchy. So, as well as holding titles in both strands of the British peerage (Great Britain and Ireland's), the dukes of Wellingtons are also Grandees of Spain, nobles of Portugal and jonkheers of the Netherlands. The family's subsidiary title, reserved for the heir-apparent, is Marquess Douro. Thus, the late Diana was the Marchioness of Douro between 1944 and 1972. The family's Spanish title - the duchy of Ciudad Rodrigo was abdicated by the current Duke of Wellington in March of this year and given to his eldest son, Lord Douro. The appointment of Lord Douro to the duchy was confirmed by the Spanish Royal Household and King Juan Carlos in the spring.
Lady Diana is survived by her husband, Arthur, Duke of Wellington and by their five children - Arthur, Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo and Marquess Douro (65) and his wife, Her Royal Highness Princess Antonia of Prussia (great-granddaughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II); Lord Richard Wellesley (61); film producer and author, Lady Jane Wellesley (59); Lord John Henry Wellesley (56) and his wife, Corinne (née Vaes); and Lord James Wellesley (46) and his wife, Emma. Duchess Diana is also survived by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The Daily Telegraph, which still carries aristocratic obituaries as a matter of course, reported that announcements concerning Lady Diana's funeral will be made shortly.
Diana Wellesley, The Most Noble Duchess of Wellington, Member of the British Empire for services to the Community of Hampshire, Princess van Waterloo and Duchess of The Victory, who passed away at the family home on 1st November, 2010.