Henry Richard Charles Wellesley, 1st Earl Cowley KG GCB PC (17 June 1804 – 15 July 1884), known as Lord Cowley between 1847 and 1857, was a British diplomat. He served as British Ambassador to France between 1852 and 1867.
Wellesley was born in 1804 in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, the eldest son of Henry Wellesley, 1st Baron Cowley, and Lady Charlotte, daughter of Charles Cadogan, 1st Earl Cadogan. He was a nephew of the 1st Duke of Wellington and the 1st Marquess Wellesley. He was educated at Eton and Brasenose College, Oxford.
Wellesley entered the foreign service in 1824, receiving his first important appointment in 1845 when he became Minister Plenipotentiary to the Ottoman Empire. This was followed in June 1851 by his appointment as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the reinstated diet of the German Confederation, a position which he only held for a short time, as he was chosen in 1852 to succeed Lord Normanby as the British Ambassador in Paris. Lord Cowley, as Wellesley had become on his father’s death in 1847, held this important post for fifteen years, and the story of his diplomatic life in Paris cannot be separated from the general history of England and France. As Minister during the greater part of the reign of Napoleon III, he conducted the delicate negotiations between the two countries during the time of those eastern complications which preceded and followed the Crimean War, and also during the excitement and unrest produced by the attempt made in 1858 by Felice Orsini to assassinate the Emperor of the French; while his diplomatic skill was no less in evidence during the war between France and Austria and the subsequent course of events in Italy.
In 1857 he was created Viscount Dangan, in the County of Meath, and Earl Cowley. He was further honored in 1866 when he was made a Knight of the Garter. Having assisted Richard Cobden to conclude the commercial treaty between Great Britain and France in 1860, he retired as ambassador in 1867.
1845-1851 Minister Plenipotentiary to the Ottoman Empire
1848–1851 Minister Plenipotentiary to the Confederate States of the Swiss Cantons
1848–1852 Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the German Confederation
(Special Ambassador 1848–1851)
1852 – 1867 British Ambassador to France
His private papers are in the National Archives. There are two books about Wellesley.
- The Paris Embassy: During the Second Empire 1928
- Secrets of the Second Empire: Private Letters from the Paris Embassy 1929
Both books are based on the letters of the Ambassador.
We Henry Richard Charles Earl Cowley, Viscount Dangan, Baron Cowley, a Peer of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, a Member of Her Britannic Majesty’s Most Honorable Privy Council, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honorable Order of the Bath, Her Majesty’s Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary to the Emperor of the French etc. etc. etc.
Request and require…
…Miss Mary Mitchell, to pass freely without hindrance and to afford her every assistance and protection of which she may stand in need. Paris, 1858. Signed Cowley and a second signature which I can’t read. About 13 visas are stamped.
This is a pretty good piece of passport history, issued by one of the most excellent British Ambassadors, who was at an important diplomatic post in Paris for 15 years…and it comes with an also pretty special passport cover.