Wellesley, Richard Colley (1690?-1758) (DNB00)

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WELLESLEY or WESLEY, RICHARD COLLEY, first Baron Mornington in the peerage of Ireland (1690?–1758), born about 1690, was the youngest son, but eventually the heir, of Henry Colley of Castle Carbury, Kildare, by his first wife, Mary, daughter of Sir William Usher of Dublin. The family of Cowley, Colley, or Cooley, was probably of English origin, and has been variously stated to have come from Rutland, Staffordshire, and Gloucestershire. The last appears the most probable; but there is substantially no evidence. They were settled in Ireland early in the sixteenth century. Robert Cowley or Colley (d. 1543) was the first of the family who is recorded to have settled in Ireland; he was bailiff of Dublin in 1515. His grandson, Sir Henry Colley (d. 1584), was knighted by Sir Henry Sidney, lord deputy of Ireland, in 1560, was called to the privy council, and received the grant of Castle Carbury, Kildare, in 1563. This Sir Henry's son, also Sir Henry Colley (d. 1637), received large grants of land in Wexford in 1617. His son and successor, Dudley Colley (d. 1674), a commissioner under the Irish act of settlement, was the first Lord Mornington's grandfather.

Richard Colley graduated at Trinity College, B.A. in 1711 and M.A. in 1714. In 1713 he was appointed second chamberlain of the Irish court of exchequer. Subsequently he became auditor and registrar of the royal hospital near Dublin, of which in 1725 he published an account (‘Account of the Foundation of the Royal Hospital of King Charles II, near Dublin, for Relief and Maintenance of Antient and Maimed Officers and Soldiers of the Army of Ireland,’ 1725, 12mo). Meanwhile, in 1723, Colley succeeded to the Kildare estates on the death of his elder brother Henry. On 23 Sept. 1728 he succeeded to the estates of his cousin Garrett Wesley or Wellesley of Dangan and Mornington, co. Meath, M.P. for co. Meath, who died without issue. Thereupon Colley assumed the additional surname of Wesley, which is ordinarily spelt Wellesley. (This Garrett Wesley was son of Garrett Wesley of Dangan and Mornington, by his wife, Elizabeth Colley, eldest daughter of Dudley Colley, the first Lord Mornington's grandfather.)

From 1729 to 1746 Wesley represented Trim, and in 1734 was high sheriff of Meath. On 9 July 1746 he was created a peer of Ireland by the title of Baron Mornington of Meath, and took his seat on 6 Oct. 1747. He built and endowed near Trim a charter working school for fifty children, which was opened on 5 Nov. 1748. He died at his house, on the north-west side of Grafton Street, Dublin, on 31 Jan. 1758.

Mary Delany [q. v.] was an intimate friend of the Wesley family, and often stayed at Dangan, the family seat near Trim. Of the owner she wrote: ‘He has certainly more virtues and fewer faults than any man I know. He valued his riches only as a means for making those about him happy.’ In 1731 she records that the Wesley family was drawn by Hogarth.

Wesley married, on 23 Dec. 1719, Elizabeth, eldest daughter of John Sale, registrar of the diocese of Dublin. She died on 17 June 1738. The only son, Garrett Wellesley, earl of Mornington [q. v.], is separately noticed. Of the daughters, Elizabeth married Chichester Fortescue, of Dromsken, co. Louth; and Frances married William Francis Crosbie.

[O'Hart's Irish Pedigrees, 4th edit. ii. 123–7 (for Colley pedigree). With the Wellesley pedigree (ii. 443) in Burke's Peerage compare Lodge's Peerage of Ireland, ed. Archdall, iii. 59–72, and Pearce's Memoirs of Marquis Wellesley, chap. i. See also Gent. Mag. 1758, p. 94; Gilbert's Hist. of Dublin, iii. 198; Cat. of Dublin Grad.; G. E. C[okayne]'s Peerage; Mrs. Delany's Autobiogr. and Corresp. i. 283–4, 312, 348–9, 406–8 sq.]

G. Le G. N.