Spanish town to claim for Duke of Wellington estate: report

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A town in Spain is planning a legal claim for an estate run by the descendents of Britain's Duke of Wellington which a historian believes was obtained illegally, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Spain gave the Duke of Wellington, considered to be one of Britain's greatest military commanders, a farm near the southwestern city of Granada in recognition of his aid during the 1808-1814 Peninsular War against France.

But his first agent, Josef O'Lawlor, added other land to the estate without any royal decree to authorise the move, local historian Miguel Angel Espejo told daily newspaper El Pais.

"Many noblemen took advantage of the slovenliness of the administration of royal land and arbitrarily expanded their boundaries," he added.

Now the socialist mayor of the town of Illora which has jurisdiction over the estate is considering legal action to expropriate the land, which Espejo believes was illegally claimed in Wellington's name, to allow locals to farm it, El Pais said.

"This is something which could change our history," mayor Francisco Domene told the newspaper.

The estate contains hundreds of olive trees as well as an aqueduct and a mill spread over 850 hectares. It is located in a fertile area that has one of Spain's highest unemployment rates.

The owners of the estate have used it mostly as a hunting lodge. Britain's Prince Charles hunted at the estate in the 1970s and 80s, the paper said.

The adminsitrator of the estate declined to comment on the report.

Born in Ireland, the Duke of Wellington served as commander-in-chief of the British army between 1827 and 1828 and from 1842 until his death in 1852. He served as British prime minister twice.

© 2010 AFP

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