Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland
He was born Hugh Smithson, the son of Langdale Smithson and grandson of Sir Hugh Smithson, 3rd Baronet from whom he inherited the baronetcy in 1733. He changed his surname to Percy when he married Elizabeth Seymour, daughter of Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset, on 16 July 1740. She was Baroness Percy in her own right, and indirect heiress of the Percy family, which was one of the leading landowning families of England, and had previously held the Earldom of Northumberland for several centuries. The title, Earl of Northumberland passed to Hugh Percy, as Elizabeth's husband, when her father died. In 1766, the earl was created 1st Duke of Northumberland and was created Baron Lovaine on 28 June 1784, with a special remainder in favour of his younger son, Algernon. He was created a Knight of the Order of the Garter (K.G.) in 1756 and a Privy Counsellor in 1762.
Sir Hugh was one of the most important patrons of Canaletto in England. The other great patron Lord Brooke (Earl of Warwick, fourth creation), of Warwick Castle was a quasi-brother-in-law. Smithson made a Grand Tour and was in Venice in 1733, where he acquired two large Canalettos for his seat at Stanwick. In 1736 he became one of the two vice presidents of the Society for the Encouragement of Learning. He re-built Stanwick Park c. 1739–1740, mostly to his own designs. He was one of the 175 commissioners for the building of Westminster Bridge, a structure he had Canaletto paint two more large canvases, c. 1747. He built an observatory, designed by Robert Adam, on Ratcheugh Crag, at Longhoughton. Thomas Chippendale dedicated his Gentleman & Cabinet maker's director (1754) to him. He became 2nd Earl of Northumberland (fifth creation) on the death of his father-in-law, Duke Algernon, on 7 February 1750.
The duke and duchess were prominent patrons of Robert Adam for neoclassical interiors in the Jacobean mansion Northumberland House, the London seat of the Earls of Northumberland; it was demolished ca. 1870–1871, in connection with the creation of Trafalgar Square. Remnants of the Northumberland House Glass Drawing-Room are preserved at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The greater Adam interiors for the Duke are at Syon House, executed in the 1760s. At Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, the Duke employed James Wyatt, whose work has been effaced by later remodellings. One or other Adam designed Brizlee Tower for the duke.
The duke and duchess had three children:
- Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland (1742–1817)
- Algernon Percy, 1st Earl of Beverley (1750–1830)
- Elizabeth Anne Frances (d.1761; buried within the Northumberland Vault in Westminster Abbey).
The duke's illegitimate son (by Elizabeth Hungerford Keate), James Smithson (1765–1829), is famed for having made the founding bequest and provided the name for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C..
- The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
- The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Tottenham, Volume 2, William Robinson, 1840
- The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
- Goode, George Brown (1897). The Smithsonian Institution, 1846-1896, The History of Its First Half Century. Washington, D.C.: De Vinne Press. p. 7.
- Elizabeth, Duchess of Northumberland - Westminster Abbey
- "James Smithson". Smithsonian History. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 6 May 2012.