Elizabeth Percy, Duchess of Northumberland

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Elizabeth Percy, Duchess of Northumberland, portrait by Joshua Reynolds.

Elizabeth Percy, Duchess of Northumberland (née Seymour; 26 November 1716 – 5 December 1776), also suo jure 2nd Baroness Percy, was a British peer.


Percy was the only daughter of Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset and his wife, Frances Seymour, Duchess of Somerset (1699-1754), daughter of Henry Thynne.

On 16 July 1740, she married Sir Hugh Smithson, Bt and they had two sons, Hugh (1742–1817) and Algernon (1750–1830). On her father's death in 1750, she inherited his barony of Percy and her husband acquired from her father his earldom of Northumberland by special remainder and changed his family name from Smithson to Percy that year. Sir Hugh's illegitimate son James Smithson, otherwise Jacques Louis Macie, born in about 1764 to one of Elizabeth's cousins, bequeathed the fortune which established the Smithsonian Institution.[1]

In 1761, Percy became a Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Charlotte, a post she held until 1770. She became a duchess in 1766 when her husband was created Duke of Northumberland, and on her death in 1776 her barony and the earldom of Northumberland passed to her eldest son, Hugh, who inherited his father's dukedom ten years later. He built Brizlee Tower as one of a number of monuments to commemorate her.

Elizabeth Percy is buried in the Northumberland Vault, within Westminster Abbey.[2]

Extracts from her lively, entertaining and historically informative diary were published in 1936.[3]



  1. ^ "James Smithson". Smithsonian History. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 6 May 2012. 
  2. ^ Elizabeth, Duchess of Northumberland buried at Westminster Abbey, westminster-abbey.org; accessed 24 March 2014.
  3. ^ The Diaries of a Duchess, ed. James Greig, London 1936
  4. ^ Sir George Strode
  5. ^ Sir John Strode
  6. ^ Anne Wyndham
  7. ^ Sir John Wyndham
Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by
Algernon Seymour
Baroness Percy
Succeeded by
Hugh Percy