Elizabeth Seymour, Duchess of Somerset

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Elizabeth Seymour
Duchess of Somerset
Elizabeth, Lady Ogle.jpg
Lady Elizabeth Percy, Lady Ogle
by George Perfect Harding
Born (1667-01-26)26 January 1667
Petworth House, Sussex
Died 24 November 1722(1722-11-24) (aged 55)
Northumberland House, London
Nationality Flag of England.svg English
Occupation Courtier and politician
Spouse(s) (1) Henry Cavendish, Earl of Ogle (c.1659–1680)
(2) Thomas Thynne(1648–1682)
(3) Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset (1662–1748)
Children Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset (1684–1750)
Lady Elizabeth Seymour (1685–1734)
Lady Catherine Seymour (d. 1731)
Lady Anne Seymour (d. 1722)
Parent(s) Joceline Percy, 11th Earl of Northumberland (1644–1670) and Elizabeth Wriothesley (d. 1690)

Elizabeth Percy, Duchess of Somerset (26 January 1667 – 24 November 1722), major heiress, was born Lady Elizabeth Percy, the only surviving child of the 11th Earl of Northumberland and deemed Baroness Percy in her own right. She carried the earldom of Northumberland to her son Algernon. 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."


Henry Cavendish, Earl of Ogle[edit]

She married firstly, Henry Cavendish, Earl of Ogle, the heir of the 2nd Duke of Newcastle on 27 March 1679, but he died the following year.

Thomas Thynne[edit]

She married secondly, Thomas Thynne, known as "Tom of Ten Thousand" due to his great wealth, a relative of the 1st Viscount Weymouth, on 15 November 1681. He was murdered the following February by Swedish Count Karl Johann von Königsmark, using a gang, after gossip said her marriage was unhappy and Königsmark began to pursue her. For the rest of her life her enemies spread the story that she had incited the murder. The actual murderers were hanged, but Königsmark was acquitted of being an accessory to the crime, despite widespread public feeling against him.

Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset[edit]

Five months after the death of Thomas Thynne she married on 30 May 1682 Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset, and so became Duchess of Somerset. She was Mistress of the Robes to Queen Anne from 1710 to 1714. The marriage is said to have been unhappy: while she brought the Duke great wealth, it was said that she received neither affection nor gratitude in return.

Political influence[edit]

Elizabeth Seymour circa 1710

The Duke and Duchess were among the Queen's oldest friends, with whom she had taken refuge in 1692 after a violent quarrel with William III and Mary.[1] LIke Marlborough before him, Somerset used his wife's position as confidante to advance his career. Both of them became the target of violent verbal attacks, especially from Swift who hoped to influence the Queen through Abigail Masham, the obvious rival for the position of confidante. Apparently against Mrs. Masham's wishes he published a violent diatribe, The Windsor Prophecy, against the Duchess, referred to as "Carrots" (a common nickname derived from the Duchess' red hair). Swift explicitly accused the Duchess of having conspired to murder her second husband, and wildly suggested that she might poison the Queen "I have been told, they assassin when young and poison when old".[2] The Queen was outraged; always a bad enemy to make, from then on she refused to consider Swift for preferment to a bishopric: even his appointment as Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, was made against her strongly expressed wishes (she did not have power to veto it). Ignoring the gossip, she insisted on retaining the Duchess in her household.

The Duke's pride and arrogance eventually wore out the Queen's patience and he was dismissed from his court offices early in 1712. The Queen's doctor, Sir David Hamilton, advised her to keep the Duchess in her service "for her own quiet", and the Queen agreed. The Duchess remained with the Queen to the end of Anne's life, by which time Lord Dartmouth described her as "much the greatest favourite". During the Queen's painful last days, Elizabeth's calm and soothing manner is said to have brought some comfort, whereas Mrs. Masham was in a state of hysterics.


A painting of Elizabeth Seymour by Peter Lely

Elizabeth's influence on the Queen, together with her colourful past, made her many enemies. Like her husband she seems to have been proud, although Lord Dartmouth called her "the best bred as well as the best born person in England".[3] She showed great skill in dealing with the Queen, her secret, it was said, being never to press the Queen to do anything, in contrast to Abigail Masham who constantly asked for favours. She was known as a shrewd observer of Court life and a notorious gossip; even the Queen, who was fond of her, called her "one of the most observing, prying ladies in England".

Estates and residences[edit]

Lady Elizabeth Percy brought immense estates to her husbands and in addition her residences: Alnwick Castle, Petworth House, Syon House and Northumberland House in London.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17]


Lady Elizabeth had five children:

  • Charles, Earl of Hereford (baptized 22 March 1683-died before 26 Aug 1683)
  • Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset (11 November 1684 – 7 February 1749)
  • Lady Elizabeth Seymour (1685 – 2 April 1734)
  • Lady Catherine Seymour (1693 – 9 April 1731)
  • Lady Anne Seymour (1709 – 27 November 1722)


References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ Gregg, E.G. ( 1980 ) Queen Anne
  2. ^ Gregg: Queen Anne
  3. ^ Gregg
  4. ^ Cokayne et al., The Complete Peerage, volume I, p.212
  5. ^ Cokayne et al., The Complete Peerage, volume I, p.90
  6. ^ Cokayne et al., The Complete Peerage, volume XII, p.488
  7. ^ The Diary of John Evelyn
  8. ^ The Letters of Horace Walpole
  9. ^ Calendar of state papers, domestic series, 1682, 49
  10. ^ Cokayne et al., The Complete Peerage, volume XII, p.586
  11. ^ See
  12. ^ Burke, John – "Somerset, Duke of" and "Northumberland, Earl of":Burke's Peerage
  13. ^ de Fonblanque, E. B.,Annals of the house of Percy, from the conquest to the opening of the nineteenth century, p.507
  14. ^ The diary of Sir David Hamilton, 1709–1714, p.49, edited by Roberts, P. (1975)
  15. ^ A Journal to Stella, Swift, Jonathan, edited by Williams, H. (1948)
  16. ^ Holmes, G. S., British politics in the age of Anne (1967)
  17. ^ Life and Letters of Sir George Savile, p.244


Court offices
Preceded by
The Duchess of Marlborough
Mistress of the Robes to
Queen Anne

Succeeded by
Preceded by
The Duchess of Marlborough
Mistress of the Robes
Succeeded by
Elizabeth Sackville, Duchess of Dorset