Richard Culley Wellesley, marquis Wellesley, a British statesman, born in Dublin, June 20, 1760, died at Kingston house, Brompton, Sept. 26, 1842. He was the eldest son of Garret, first earl of Mornington (see Wellington, Arthur Wellesley), and was educated at Eton and Oxford. His father died in 1781, and the young earl entered political life, sitting in the Irish house of lords until the union, and being also elected a member of the British house of commons. In 1789, during the regency debate, he advocated in the Irish parliament the restriction of the prince's authority during what might be only a temporary malady of his father; and this coming to the notice of George III. upon his recovery, the earl was returned to the house of commons at the next election for Windsor, and was appointed a member of the Irish privy council. Subsequently he became one of the lords of the treasury, and in 1793 was sworn in as member of the British privy council. On Oct. 4, 1797, he was appointed governor general of India, and on the 20th was made Baron Wellesley in the British peerage.
In May, 1798, he reached India, and found the finances of the East India company exhausted, the army and fortresses in a destitute condition, and the safety of the British territory threatened by the alliance of Tippoo Sultan with the French. Having strengthened the army, he marched in October into the territory of the nizam, and forced him to disband his French subsidiary troops; and in February, 1799, he sent Gen. Harris into the territory of Mysore from Madras, with an army of 30,000 men, which defeated that of Tippoo at Malaveli, and stormed Seringapatam (May 4). Tippoo was killed in the assault, his territories were divided, and Lord Wellesley's brother, Col. Arthur Wellesley (afterward duke of Wellington), was made governor of Mysore. The governor general was made, on Dec. 2, 1799, Marquis Wellesley in the peerage of Ireland. He now directed his efforts to developing the commercial interests of India, and made advantageous treaties with the nizam, the rajah of Tanjore, the sultan of Muscat, and the shah of Persia. In 1801 he sent an expedition to take part in the attack upon the French in Egypt. He also negotiated treaties securing the British possession of the frontier provinces of Oude, and the sovereignty of the Oarnatic from the foot of the Mysore mountains to the coast of Coromandel. These new accessions brought Wellesley into contact with the powerful Mahratta chieftains, united by common danger, between whom and the English war soon broke out.
The British army was divided into two bodies. The principal one, under the command of Gen. Lake, defeated on Aug. 29, 1803, the native forces under command of the French general Perron, drawn up before Alighur, stormed that fort Sept. 4, and on Sept. 11 again vanquished the enemy at Delhi, which city was surrendered the following day. The second division of the English army, under Gen. Arthur Wellesley, marched into the Deccan, and by the brilliant victory of Assaye and capture of Gawilghur forced the rajah of Berar to submit to a peace. Much complaint was expressed in England, however, not only at the vast expense of these movements, but at alleged acts of oppression toward the native rulers; and Lord Wellesley tendered his resignation, which was not accepted. In the mean while new hostilities broke out early in 1804, with serious disasters. In August, 1805, Lord Wellesley set sail for England, having been superseded by Lord Cornwallis. In the house of commons articles of impeachment were fruitlessly presented against him by Mr. Paul. In 1808 he was sent to Spain as ambassador, but was recalled in 1809, and became secretary of state for foreign affairs, which office he resigned early in 1812. In 1821 he was made lord lieutenant of Ireland, and his decided opinions in favor of Catholic claims led to great disturbances.
In spite of much bitter opposition, especially from the Orangemen, Lord Wellesley greatly improved the internal condition of that country. On the accession of his brother, the duke of Wellington, to the head of the English ministry in 1828, he resigned on account of their disagreement on the Catholic question. He accepted office in the ministry of Earl Grey formed in 1830, in 1831 was made lord steward, and in 1833 was again appointed lord lieutenant of Ireland. This office he resigned when Sir Robert Peel became premier, and on the formation of the second Melbourne ministry in 1835 accepted the office of lord chamberlain, but in the course of the same year retired altogether from public life. The "Despatches, Minutes, and Correspondence of the Marquis Wellesley during his Administration in India " (5 vols. 8vo, 1837-'40) was published at the expense of the East India company; and in 1838 appeared his " Despatches and Correspondence during his Mission to Spain " (1 vol. 8vo).
R. R. Pearce edited his "Memoirs and Correspondence" (3 vols., London, 1846).