Elizabeth Percy, Duchess of Northumberland

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Elizabeth Percy, Duchess of Northumberland, portrait by Joshua Reynolds. Elizabeth Percy Reynolds.jpg
Elizabeth Percy, Duchess of Northumberland, portrait by Joshua Reynolds.

Elizabeth Percy, Duchess of Northumberland (née Seymour; 26 November 1716 5 December 1776), also suo jure 2nd Baroness Percy, was a British peer.

Suo jure is a Latin phrase, used in English to mean "in his own right". In the context, it means “in her own right”, as the phrase is only used of women; a man never derives any style or title from his wife.

Kingdom of Great Britain Constitutional monarchy in Western Europe between 1707 and 1801

The Kingdom of Great Britain, officially called Great Britain, was a sovereign state in western Europe from 1 May 1707 to 1 January 1801. The state came into being following the Treaty of Union in 1706, ratified by the Acts of Union 1707, which united the kingdoms of England and Scotland to form a single kingdom encompassing the whole island of Great Britain and its outlying islands, with the exception of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The unitary state was governed by a single parliament and government that was based in Westminster. The former kingdoms had been in personal union since James VI of Scotland became King of England and King of Ireland in 1603 following the death of Elizabeth I, bringing about the "Union of the Crowns". Since its inception the kingdom was in legislative and personal union with Ireland and after the accession of George I to the throne of Great Britain in 1714, the kingdom was in a personal union with the Electorate of Hanover.

A peerage is a legal system historically comprising various hereditary titles in a number of countries, and composed of assorted noble ranks.



Percy was the only daughter of Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset and his wife, Frances, daughter of Henry Thynne.

Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset British soldier, politician and landowner

General Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset, styled Earl of Hertford until 1748, of Petworth House in Sussex, was a British Army officer and Whig politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1708 until 1722 when he was raised to the House of Lords as Baron Percy.

Henry Thynne (1675–1708) British politician

Henry Thynne was an English Tory politician who sat in the English and British House of Commons from 1701 to 1708.

On 16 July 1740, she married Sir Hugh Smithson, Bt and they had two sons, Hugh (1742–1817) and Algernon (1750–1830). On her father's death in 1750, she inherited his barony of Percy and her husband acquired from her father his earldom of Northumberland by special remainder and changed his family name from Smithson to Percy that year. Sir Hugh's illegitimate son James Smithson, otherwise Jacques Louis Macie, born in about 1764 to one of Elizabeth's cousins, bequeathed the fortune which established the Smithsonian Institution. [1]

Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland English peer, landowner, and art patron

Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland,, was an English peer, landowner, and art patron.

Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland British Army general

Lieutenant General Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland was an officer in the British army and later a British peer. He participated in the Battles of Lexington and Concord and the Battle of Long Island during the American War of Independence, but resigned his command in 1777 due to disagreements with his superior, General William Howe.

Algernon Percy, 1st Earl of Beverley FSA, styled Lord Algernon Percy between 1766 and 1786 and known as The Lord Lovaine between 1786 and 1790, was a British politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1774 to 1786 when he succeeded to the Peerage.

In 1761, Percy became a Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Charlotte, a post she held until 1770. She became a duchess in 1766 when her husband was created Duke of Northumberland, and on her death in 1776, aged sixty, her barony and the earldom of Northumberland passed to her eldest son, Hugh, who inherited his father's dukedom ten years later. He built Brizlee Tower as one of a number of monuments to commemorate her.

Lady of the Bedchamber personal attendant on a British queen or princess

The Lady of the Bedchamber is the title of a lady-in-waiting holding the official position of personal attendant on a British queen or princess. The position is traditionally held by a female member of a noble family. They are ranked between the First Lady of the Bedchamber and the Women of the Bedchamber. They are also styled Gentlewoman of Her Majesty's Bedchamber.

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz Queen consort of Great Britain and Ireland as the wife of King George III

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was the wife of King George III. She served as Queen consort of Great Britain and Ireland from her wedding in 1761 until the union of the two kingdoms in 1801, after which she was queen consort of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until her death in 1818. She was also the Electress consort of Hanover in the Holy Roman Empire until the promotion of her husband to King of Hanover on 12 October 1814, after which she was also queen consort of Hanover.

Duke of Northumberland Noble title in the Peerage of England and in the Peerage of Great Britain

Duke of Northumberland is a noble title that has been created three times in English and British history, twice in the Peerage of England and once in the Peerage of Great Britain. The current holder of this title is Ralph Percy, 12th Duke of Northumberland.

Their children were:

Elizabeth Percy is buried in the Northumberland Vault, within Westminster Abbey. Her epitaph describes her as having "every amiable & benevolent virtue", and as "an ornament of courts, an honour to her country, & patern to the great, a protectress of the poor, ever distinguished for the most tender affection for her family & friends". The monument was erected by her husband, who is described as "inconsolable". [3]

Westminster Abbey Church in London

Westminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster, is a large, mainly Gothic abbey church in the City of Westminster, London, England, just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is one of the United Kingdom's most notable religious buildings and the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English and, later, British monarchs. The building itself was a Benedictine monastic church until the monastery was dissolved in 1539. Between 1540 and 1556, the abbey had the status of a cathedral. Since 1560, the building is no longer an abbey or a cathedral, having instead the status of a Church of England "Royal Peculiar"—a church responsible directly to the sovereign.

In 1775, her diary of her travels in the Dutch Republic, called "A Short Tour made in the Year One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy One" was published, although anonymously [4] . Extracts from her lively, entertaining and historically informative diary were published in 1936. [5]

The National Portrait Gallery holds several mezzotints based on portraits of the duchess by Sir Joshua Reynolds. [6] A watercolour portrait by Richard Gibson is held by the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. [7]


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Earl of Northumberland Noble title in the Peerage of England and of Great Britain

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Petworth House historic estate museum in UK

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George Percy, 5th Duke of Northumberland British politician

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Earl of Egremont

Earl of Egremont was a title in the Peerage of Great Britain. It was created in 1749, along with the subsidiary title Baron of Cockermouth, in the County of Cumberland, for Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset, with remainder to his nephews Sir Charles Wyndham, 4th Baronet, of Orchard Wyndham, and Percy Wyndham-O'Brien. The Duke had previously inherited the Percy estates, including the lands of Egremont in Cumberland, from his mother Lady Elizabeth Percy, daughter and heiress of Joceline Percy, 11th Earl of Northumberland. In 1750 Sir Charles Wyndham succeeded according to the special remainder as second Earl of Egremont on the death of his uncle. His younger brother Percy Wyndham-O'Brien was created Earl of Thomond in 1756.

Smithson baronets

The Smithson Baronetcy, of Stanwick in the County of York, is a title in the Baronetage of England. It was created on 2 August 1660 for Hugh Smithson (1598-1670) of Stanwick St John, Yorkshire. Sir Hugh Smithson, the fourth Baronet, married Lady Elizabeth Seymour, daughter of Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset and heiress of the Percy family headed by the Earl of Northumberland. In 1749 the Duke was created Earl of Northumberland, with remainder to his son-in-law Sir Hugh Smithson, who succeeded as second Earl on his father-in-law's death in 1750. He assumed the surname of Percy and was created Duke of Northumberland in 1766. The baronetcy remains merged with the dukedom.

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JoscelinePercy, 11th Earl of Northumberland, 5th Baron Percy, of Alnwick Castle, Northumberland and Petworth House, Sussex, was an English peer.

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Elizabeth Seymour, Duchess of Somerset and suo jureBaroness Percy was a great heiress. She was styled Lady Elizabeth Percy between 1667 and 1679, Countess of Ogle between 1679 and 1681, Lady Elizabeth Thynne between 1681 and 1682 and Duchess of Somerset between 1682 and 1722. Elizabeth was the only surviving child and sole heiress of Joceline Percy, 11th Earl of Northumberland (1644–1670). Lady Elizabeth was one of the closest personal friends of Queen Anne, which led Jonathan Swift to direct at her one of his sharpest satires, The Windsor Prophecy, in which she was named "Carrots."

Frances Seymour, Countess of Hertford, later the Duchess of Somerset, was a British courtier and the wife of Algernon Seymour, Earl of Hertford, who became the 7th Duke of Somerset in 1748. She was also known as a poet, literary patron and woman of letters. Her great-aunt by marriage, Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, influenced her literary development. She was also influenced by the poet Elizabeth Singer, with whom she became acquainted in her youth at Longleat, where she grew up.

Mary Seymour, Duchess of Somerset, formerly Mary Webb, was the wife of Edward Seymour, 8th Duke of Somerset, and the mother of both the 9th and 10th dukes.

Isabella Susan Percy, Countess of Beverley, formerly Isabella Susan Burrell, was the wife of Algernon Percy, 1st Earl of Beverley, and the mother of the 5th Duke of Northumberland.


  1. "James Smithson". Smithsonian History. Smithsonian Institution Archives . Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  2. Mosley, Charles, editor. Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes. Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003. Page 2943
  3. "Elizabeth, Duchess of Northumberland buried at Westminster Abbey". Westminster Abbey. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
  4. "A Short Tour Made in the Year One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy One". 1775.
  5. The Diaries of a Duchess, ed. James Greig, London 1936
  6. "Elizabeth Percy (née Seymour), Duchess of Northumberland (1716-1776), Courtier and diarist". National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  7. "Elizabeth Percy, Duchess of Northumberland by Richard Gibson". Fitzwilliam Museum. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  8. Sir John Strode
  9. Sir George Strode
  10. Anne Wyndham
  11. Sir John Wyndham
Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by
Algernon Seymour
Baroness Percy
Succeeded by
Hugh Percy