Lady Barbara Wellesley was Horatio Hornblower's second wife.
She first encountered Hornblower in Central America, where she requested passage aboard the HMS Lydia to England. Her own vessel had been taken by privateers and she was stranded in Panama. As the sister of Arthur Wellesley, Hornblower reluctantly obliged her with passage, along with her maid servant, Hebe.
On the long voyage, he and Lady Barbara developed an attraction for each other. Nearing the end of their trip, she made an overt advance; Hornblower demurred, however. As was usual, he overthought his situation and decided that as a man of humble social standing, he could not afford to risk offending the influential Wellesley clan by dallying with her. After the rejection, the embarrassed Lady Barbara avoided him. At St Helena they hove to and she transferred to a more spacious ship which was part of an English convoy under the command of the East India Company. They made stilted, formal good-byes.
After Hornblower's escape from French captivity in Flying Colours, he learned that his wife, Maria, had died in childbirth, and that his infant son was being fostered by Lady Barbara whose brothers were the child's godfathers. She had been widowed by the death of her husband, Admiral Percy Leighton, in the same action that saw Hornblower a prisoner. They were suddenly free (after a decent interval) to marry. Unlike Maria, Hornblower actually loved and admired Barbara. She was far more his intellectual equal than his 'common' first wife, who although he had cared for her, and done his duty by, had never truly loved. After Hornblower and Lady Barbara were married, he lived as a country squire in Smallbridge, Kent when ashore.
During Hornblower's posting Commander in Chief of the West Indies Station, Lady Barbara traveled to Jamaica for Hornblower's final days on post, and to accompany him home. On the voyage back, they endured a hurricane and shipwreck. Barbara dropped her wall of reserve as she assured him she had never loved another man.
Lady Barbara makes a final appearance in C.S. Forester's short story "The Last Encounter". Set in 1848 she and her husband enjoy a comfortable retirement on their country estate.
- The Happy Return
- A Ship of the Line
- Flying Colours
- The Commodore
- Lord Hornblower
- Hornblower in the West Indies
- Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N.
- The Last Encounter
While the Wellesley family was real, there was never any such person as Barbara Wellesley in reality. Of the six actual Wellesley siblings, including William, Gerald, Henry, Arthur and Richard Wellesley, there was only one sister, Lady Anne who died on 16 December 1844 at the age of 69.