Catherine Douglas, Duchess of Queensberry

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Catherine Hyde
Duchess of Queensbury
Spouse(s)Charles Douglas, 3rd Duke of Queensberry
FatherHenry Hyde, 4th Earl of Clarendon
MotherJane Leveson-Gower

Catherine Hyde, afterwards Duchess of Queensberry (1701 – 17 June 1777), was an English socialite in London and a patron of the dramatist John Gay.[1]


Catherine Hyde, often called "Kitty",[2] was the second daughter of Henry Hyde, 4th Earl of Clarendon, and his wife, the former Jane Leveson-Gower. Catherine married Charles Douglas, 3rd Duke of Queensberry, on 10 March 1720. The couple had two sons and lived much of the time at Douglas House, Petersham, now part of London.

The duchess was known for her physical beauty and fashion sense.[3] She was a central figure in London high society and was known for her balls and masquerades. According to the standards of her era, she was considered eccentric. She never served meat at any of her suppers. On at least one occasion, she ordered half of her guests to leave her party because she disliked their company.[4]

In 1728, she was banished from court by King George II for being too forward, after petitioning the king and queen on behalf of John Gay, whose satirical play Polly had been refused a licence.[5] In response, she wrote, "The Duchess of Queensberry is surprised and well pleased that the King hath given her so agreeable a command as to stay from Court."[6]

In her later years, she attracted attention for dressing in the same fashion as in her youth, which was considered eccentric, refusing 'to cut and curl my hair like a sheep's head, or wear one of their trolloping sacks'.[4] She was reportedly fond of wearing an apron, as shown in a portrait of her, painted by Charles Jervas in the 1720s. According to Oliver Goldsmith, Beau Nash, the master of ceremonies at Bath, once took the apron from her and threw it away, saying that only "Abigails" (maids) wore aprons. She was still reported to be wearing one when she met Horace Walpole in 1749.[5]

The duchess was a friend to many members of the English literary community, including Gay, William Congreve, James Thompson, Alexander Pope, Matthew Prior, and William Whitehead. Many of these literary friends placed references to her in their poems and other works.[4] Hyde was also said to have had influence over Prime Minister William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham.[4]


  1. ^ The Broadview Anthology of British Literature. Broadview. 2006. p. 483. ISBN 1-55111-611-1.
  2. ^ "Kitty Douglas, duchess of Queensberry and Dover". The Douglas Archive. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  3. ^ "Hyde, Catherine". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  4. ^ a b c d "Hyde, Catherine". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  5. ^ a b Elizabeth Spencer (1 May 2015). ""The Female Phaeton": Catherine Douglas, the Duchess who 'set the World on Fire'". Difficult Women Conference. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  6. ^ Tracy Borman (15 December 2010). King's Mistress, Queen's Servant: The Life and Times of Henrietta Howard. Random House. pp. 189–. ISBN 978-1-4464-2018-8.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Hyde, Catherine". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.