Regency Villians: Lady Sutherland

Portrait of Elizabeth, Lady Sutherland

Elizabeth Sutherland Leveson-Gower, Duchess of Sutherland (née Gordon, 24 May 1765 – 29 January 1839)was married to George Granville Leveson-Gower, Viscount Trentham who succeeded to his father’s title of Marquess of Stafford in 1803.

Alternatively known as “overbearing” or the “Evil Countess” for her role in the Highland Clearances (http://ahistoryblog.com/2013/04/30/elizabeth-sutherland-leveson-gower-19th-duchess-of-sutherland-1765-1839-scotch-people-are-of-happier-constitution/), Lady Sutherland was also a leader in the Ton and an accomplished painter.  In 1833, George was made the first Duke of Sutherland and Elizabeth became the Duchess.  Despised by most in Scotland (Who Made the Scottish Enlightenment, 2014), she corresponded with Sir Walter Scott, was active in the rearing of her four children, and was known to entertain nobility, royalty and politicians.

Elizabeth had been orphaned at the age of one and raised by her grandmother, Lady Alva, in Edinburgh.  Married by special license in 1795, her husband was heavily involved in politics.  Early in her marriage, George was British Ambassador to France (1790) and they were able to witness the French Revolution first hand.

By 1800, the Sutherland and Stafford estates totaled 1.5 million acres, and were one of the largest estates in Europe.  The main family home was at Dunrobin Castle in Scotland, a French chateau style castle on the northeastern Scottish coast.

Dunrobin Castle, Golspie

(https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/usbiography/s/elizabethsutherland.html),

It was between 1811 and 1821 when more than 15,000 people were cleared from the Sutherland estates, achieved by means of croft fires and other violence (https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/usbiography/s/elizabethsutherland.html).  The grand scale of tragedy, pushing out families who had existed on the lands for centuries, cannot be understated.

For more on the Duchess’ wicked character, including her cruelty to staff: http://www.heraldscotland.com/opinion/13162094.The_Duchess__the_Highland_Clearances__the_housekeeper_____and_a_story_to_make_you_weep/

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