National Records of Scotland

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Elizabeth Sutherland (1765-1839)

Elizabeth Sutherland (1765-1839)


Elizabeth, countess, later duchess, of Sutherland was born in Edinburgh and succeeded to the title and lands of her father, the 18th earl of Sutherland, when she was just one. Despite attempts by male claimants the House of Lords judged that she was next in line, even though a female. She was brought up by her grandmother, Lady Alva, in Edinburgh then, from 1779, in London. In 1785 she married George Leveson-Gower, viscount Trentham, who was created duke of Sutherland shortly before his death in 1833. According to the Scots Peerage she met 'Bonny Prince Charlie' in Rome whom she described as 'an old infirm and broken down man'. During her husband's ambassadorship in Paris she did 'all in her power' to help Marie Antoinette and her son to escape. This led to the couple's arrest, and and they were only allowed to leave France 'after some trouble'. (Balfour Paul, Sir J, The Scots Peerage, pp 360-1). She died in her London residence and was interred with her husband in Dornoch Cathedral.

Testament of Elizabeth, duchess and countess of Sutherland

National Records of Scotland, SC70/1/59 pp 23-37

Elizabeth Sutherland's will lists some of the pieces of art collected during her lifetime. It also contains a detailed account of the rents of her Sutherland estates. It was due to these rents becoming irrecoverable that 'improvement' of the estates was implemented with sheep replacing arable farming. The manner in which tenants were removed from the land has been the subject of heated debate.

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