The swearing-in of a new peer by descent seems to have been a low-key affair. On 11 March 1791, according to the Journal of the House of Lords, This Day John Earl Talbot, and George Brydges Lord Rodney took the Oaths, and made and subscribed the Declaration, and also took and subscribed the Oath of Abjuration, pursuant to the Statutes. The ceremony for the introduction of a newly created peer was more elaborate and on 28 June 1814 the House witnessed an unprecedented spectacle when, as the Annual Register tells us, the Duke of Wellington appeared for the first time in the House of Lords since his well-merited elevation to the peerage of Great Britain.
On 16 April 1809 the then Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Wellesley, newly appointed head of the British forces in Portugal, embarked for what became known simply as The Peninsula. As he chased the occupying French army out of Portugal, and pursued it through Spain and into France, his successes were marked by a series of honours. Following victory at Talavera in July 1809, he was elevated to the peerage as Viscount Wellington of Talavera and of Wellington with the subsidiary title of Baron Douro of Wellesley. He was created Earl of Wellington after Ciudad Rodrigo in January 1812, Marquess of Wellington after the liberation of Madrid the same year and Marquess of Douro and Duke of Wellington following the battle of Toulouse and Napoleon’s abdication in 1814.
The Annual Register continues: Shortly after three o'clock, the Lord Chancellor having taken his seat, and a numerous assemblage of Peers being present, the illustrious Wellington was introduced with every possible formality which the occasion admitted and which he so justly merited. The Duke of Wellington entered, supported by the Dukes of Richmond and Beaufort, in military uniform, and in their ducal robes. Being arrived in the body of the house, the Duke made the usual obeisance to the lord chancellor, and showed his patent and right of summons: the illustrious personage then approached the table, where his grace's various patents, as baron and viscount, earl, marquis, and lastly as duke, were each read by the clerks. The oaths were then administered, and the Test Rolls were signed by him. He then, accompanied by his noble supporters, took his seat on the dukes' bench, and saluted the house in the usual manner, by rising, taking off his hat, and bowing respectfully.
The report adds that On this interesting occasion the Duchess of Wellington and Countess of Mornington were present and the honours conferred upon a conqueror were witnessed by those to whom he was most endeared a mother and a wife.
After an address by the Lord Chancellor, ‘pursuant to their lordships’ order’, to which the Duke replied, evidently under strong and laudable feelings of embarrassment…. His Grace then retired to unrobe. He wore a field marshal's uniform, with his insignia of the Garter. On his return into the house, he sat for a few minutes on the extremity of one of the benches, and then retired for the evening.
Above: Lord Arturo Marchese Douro e Duca di Wellington at the height of his fame, portrayed by the Italian artist G B Bosio.