Thomas Coutts

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Thomas Coutts
Portrait, Thomas Coutts, banker Wellcome L0038428.jpg
Portrait of Thomas Coutts by William Beechey
Born(1735-09-07)7 September 1735 [1] :20
Died24 February 1822(1822-02-24) (aged 86)
Education Royal High School
Known forFounder of Coutts & Co
Susannah Starkey
(m. 1763;died 1815)

(m. 1815)
Parent(s) John Coutts
Jean Steuart Coutts
Relatives James Coutts (brother)
Angela Burdett-Coutts (granddaughter)

Thomas Coutts (7 September 1735 – 24 February 1822) was a British banker. He was the founder of the banking house Coutts & Co. [2]


Early life

Coutts was the fourth son of Jean (née Steuart) Coutts and John Coutts (1699–1751), whose business in Edinburgh was as a corn factor and negotiator of bills of exchange, and in 1742 was elected lord provost of the city. [2] The family was originally of Montrose, but in about 1696 one of its members settled in Edinburgh, where in due course Thomas was educated at the Royal High School. [3]


Soon after the death of John Coutts the business was divided into two branches, with one continuing in Edinburgh, the other in London. The London banking business was in the hands of Thomas and his brother James, an MP. Following the death of his brother in 1778, as surviving partner Thomas became sole head of the firm, and it was under his direction the banking house rose to the highest distinction. His ambition was to establish his character as a man of business and make a fortune, and he lived to succeed and enjoy his reputation and wealth. A gentleman in manners, hospitable and benevolent, he counted amongst his friends some of the literary men and the actors of his day. Of the enormous wealth which came into his hands he made munificent use. [2]

Personal life

In May 1763 [1] :25 he married Susannah Starkey (variously reported as Elizabeth, [2] Betty, or Susan), [1] :25 a young woman whose origins were humble. She was in attendance on the daughter of his brother James. They appear to have had a happy marriage, and had three daughters: [2]

Coutts's first wife died on 4 January 1815. [8] :311 On 18 January, Coutts married Harriet Mellon, a popular actress. [9] She was 37 years old; he was 79.

He died in London on 24 February 1822, leaving his entire fortune to his widow. [9] In 1827, she remarried William Beauclerk, 9th Duke of St Albans, who was 23 years her junior. [10] She died ten years later, bequeathing her property to Thomas's granddaughter, her step-granddaughter Angela, the youngest daughter of Sir Francis Burdett. Angela then assumed the additional name and arms of Coutts. In 1871, Angela was created Baroness Burdett-Coutts. [2]


The HCS Thomas Coutts, a merchant ship of the British East India Company active from at least 1826 [11] to 1839, [12] was named for Coutts.

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  1. 1 2 3 Ernest Hartley Coleridge (1920). The Life of Thomas Coutts, Banker. 1. London: John Lane.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Coutts, Thomas". Encyclopædia Britannica . 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 337.
  3. C. Rogers, Genealogical Memoirs of the Families of Colt and Coutts (1879); and R. Richardson, Coutts & Co. (1900).
  4. "Guilford, Earl of (GB, 1752)". Heraldic Media Limited. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  5. Lodge, Edmund (1833). The Peerage of the British Empire as at Present Existing: Arranged and Printed from the Personal Communications of the Nobility. Saunders and Otley. p. 75. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  6. "Bute, Marquess of (GB, 1796)". Heraldic Media Limited. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  7. "Sir Francis Burdett, 5th Baronet". Encyclopedia Britannica . Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  8. Ernest Hartley Coleridge (1920). The Life of Thomas Coutts, Banker. 2. London: John Lane.
  9. 1 2 Joan Perkin (October 2000). "From Strolling Player to Banker-Duchess". History Today . 50 (10).
  10. "St Albans, Duke of (E, 1683/4)". Heraldic Media Limited. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  11. c:Category:Thomas Coutts (ship, 1817)
  12. W. Travis Hanes III; Frank Sanello (2002). The Opium Wars . Naperville, Illinois: Sourcebooks Inc. ISBN   978-1402201493. OCLC   77257394.