Kitty Pakenham–#AtoZChallenge “K”

Welcome to “K” in the A to Z Challenge 2017. The 1st Duke of Wellington is my theme for this year’s Challenge.

Kitty Pakenham, née Catherine Sarah Dorothea Pakenham, was the 1st Duke of Wellington’s wife and the mother of his two sons. They met in Ireland and well before the future duke was established, he had asked for her hand in marriage. Even though they got along quite well at the time, her family deemed him unworthy of the 2nd Baron Longford’s daughter. Arthur Wellesley then left Ireland and began his military career.

Catherine (‘Kitty’) Pakenham, Duchess of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1814 © Stratfield Saye Preservation Trust

After Wellesley’s great success in India, the future duke returned to Ireland. Such a long time had passed and Kitty had some health issues in the intervening years. The two had not seen each other for almost 10 years. Wellesley was shocked at how much Kitty had aged and how little they now had in common. However, instead of finding some other marriage prospect, Wellesley was still willing to marry Kitty Pakenham.

The two were married in April 1806, and their marriage was not one to be deemed successful. Kitty was not as worldly as her husband and they really had little in common. She did have two sons early in their marriage and the duke was always away, so how could their marriage be successful? During the Peninsular War, Wellington remained in Spain and Portugal the entire time. When they did live together, the couple had separate rooms in separate parts of their houses so that little contact was made unless necessary.

Kitty died in 1831 from an illness and the duke never remarried. He did have many relationships during his marriage, but he was at Kitty’s bedside when she died. Kitty was always loyal to the Duke and she even fostered four other children through the years as well as taking care of her own two sons, the eldest of which became the 2nd Duke of Wellington.

Harriet Arbuthnot thought Kitty “a fool,” but she acknowledged that Kitty did love the Duke but had no clue about how to make the marriage work. Others in history thought Kitty was “charming” and “amiable.”

Why the Duke felt obligated to Kitty and why she broke off with another suitor when the Duke returned after so long and they did not feel the same way about each other will always be a great mystery to me.

Previous A to Z Challenge 2017 posts:

Apsley House



Douro, Marquess of

Eton College

Fraser, Hugh

Guedalla, Philip

Harriet Arbuthnot


Joseph Bonaparte

  7 comments for “Kitty Pakenham–#AtoZChallenge “K”

  1. hilarymb
    April 14, 2017 at 2:48 AM

    Hi Denise – it was an interesting relationship wasn’t it … but she did give him two sons … and she was certainly attractive before her illness … cheers Hilary

    • April 16, 2017 at 10:48 AM

      She had a suitor that she broke with when Wellesley returned. I think that might have been a mistake!

  2. April 16, 2017 at 10:19 AM

    To bad they both didn’t look for happiness with someone else. Well, he did…lol…but you know what I mean.

    Plucking Of My Heartstrings

    • April 16, 2017 at 10:49 AM

      Well, I guess she could have, too, but was more loyal (besides having the job of raising the children and the day-to-day of the household). Such a sad thing.

  3. May 9, 2017 at 11:36 AM

    Ah… Irish Divorce; Same wife……..different bedrooms.

    • May 9, 2017 at 3:01 PM

      Sad, but not all too uncommon, even today. I am the queen of Irish good-byes.

      • May 9, 2017 at 4:58 PM

        That’s when the good by last longer than the visit!

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