King's College London
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The Duke of Wellington

Background

WellingtonWellingtonWinchelseaWinchelseaWellington was under enormous political pressure as Prime Minister throughout 1828 and 1829.

This centred on the proposal to grant emancipation to Irish Catholics when faced with the threat of civil war in Ireland, and which provoked fierce political controversy across the nation and among Wellington's Tory colleagues.

Daniel O'Connell's Catholic Association led the popular movement for reform in Ireland and the crisis came to a head with the County Clare by-election of July 1828 when O'Connell was elected but debarred from sitting as an MP on account of his religion.

The Duke, hitherto a critic of emancipation and generally suspicious of popular reform, eventually recognised the urgent need for change, concurring with his more progressive Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel, who wrote that 'partial concessions would be of no use: they would give power to the Roman Catholics without giving satisfaction'.

One of Wellington's chief political opponents was George Finch-Hatton, the 10th Earl of Winchilsea (1791-1858). A political firebrand and a staunch defender of the protestant party, Winchilsea was also a vocal critic of O'Connell and was especially hostile to Catholic emancipation.

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