WELLESLEY AND ITALY. Two letterbooks kept for the Marquess of Wellesley as Foreign Secretary during the Napoleonic War, treating of Sicilian and Sardinian affairs, 1811
Lot 78
WELLESLEY AND ITALY. Two letterbooks kept for the Marquess of Wellesley as Foreign Secretary during the Napoleonic War, treating of Sicilian and Sardinian affairs, 1811
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WELLESLEY AND ITALY
Two letterbooks kept for the Marquess of Wellesley as Foreign Secretary during the Napoleonic War, treating of Sicilian and Sardinian affairs, the first containing digests of incoming letters predominantly by Lord Amherst, Ambassador at the Court of the Two Sicilies, and his successor Lord William Bentinck, many of the despatches marked as "Secret" or "Most Secret", topics covered including a reported treaty between France and Sicily ("...Lord A notifies a Report current at Palermo (and which has gained Strength by some unguarded expressions of the Queen) of an arrangement being to be made between the Court of Sicily and the French Government, through the Intervention of Austria. The Idea is that, through the Intervention of that power, Naples is to be restored to Ferdinand 4th, and that a Prince of the House of Austria is to be placed on the throne of Sicily, which Project is to be put in execution by Means of German Troops: a Preliminary Measure is to be the obtaining from the Inhabitants of Sicily all the Arms in their possession..."), the disarming of Sicilian peasants, subsidies, tax protests, the Queen's determination to reign unchecked, the activity of Sicilian privateers and popular feelings ("...The Disgust of the Sicilians every day increases in consequence of the oppression and Tyranny exercised by their Govt – Their Hatred towards it, is so deep rooted, that nothing but a radical change will at all satisfy them. – Their universal cry is if the British will not take Sicily, the French must. They would prefer French Protection to the actual state of Things..."), 7 February to 31 December 1811; the second containing transcripts of four outgoing letters by Wellesley, on Sardinian business, 20 February to 27 December 1811; the blank pages of both volumes later used by a Victorian tradesman as a ledger and extensively written-over in thick pencil; together with an unrelated indenture, upward of 70 pages in two volumes, soiling and dust-staining from later use and some wear, original calf boards, worn, 4to, Foreign Office, 1811

Footnotes

  • The covers of both volumes bear red morocco labels stamped in gold: 'The Most Noble/ The Marquess Wellesley/ &c &c &c/ Precis'. Lord Wellesley, having returned from India, joined Spencer Perceval's administration as Foreign Secretary in 1810: 'The moment was not propitious: the Peninsular campaign was bogged down, Napoleon pushed victorious into Poland and Russia, and war loomed with the United States over the operation of the British embargo on European trade... While the outlines of Wellesley's policies were clear enough, his execution of them left something to be desired. Perceval, the prime minister, was regarded as a weak leader attempting to hold together a fractious administration. In this he was not helped by Wellesley, who ran foreign policy without reference to his colleagues, rarely attended cabinet meetings, and also failed to support his friends vigorously in the Lords on the grounds of his "nervousness". Despite the pleas of the prince regent and the offer of the lord lieutenancy of Ireland, Wellesley finally broke with Perceval and resigned from the ministry in January 1812' (C. A. Bayly, ODNB).
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