George Leveson-Gower, 1st Duke of Sutherland
The Duke of Sutherland
|Ambassador to France|
|Preceded by||The Duke of Dorset|
|Born||9 January 1758|
|Died||19 July 1833 (aged 75)|
Dunrobin Castle, Sutherland
|Spouse(s)||Elizabeth Sutherland, 19th Countess of Sutherland|
|Alma mater||Christ Church, Oxford|
George Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Duke of Sutherland KG, PC (9 January 1758 – 19 July 1833), known as Viscount Trentham from 1758 to 1786, as Earl Gower from 1786 to 1803 and as The Marquess of Stafford from 1803 to 1833, was an English politician, diplomat, landowner and patron of the arts from the Leveson-Gower family. He was the wealthiest man in Britain during the latter part of his life.(p39) He remains a controversial figure for his role in the Highland Clearances.
Sutherland was the eldest son of the Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Marquess of Stafford, by his second wife, Lady Louisa, daughter of Scroop Egerton, 1st Duke of Bridgwater. Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Earl Granville, was his half-brother. He was educated at Westminster and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated MA in 1777.
Political and diplomatic career
Sutherland sat as Member of Parliament for Newcastle-under-Lyme from 1779 to 1784 and for Staffordshire from 1787 to 1799. The latter year he was summoned to the House of Lords through a writ of acceleration in his father's junior title of Baron Gower. Between 1790 and 1792 he was Ambassador to France, despite not having any previous diplomatic experience. The embassy was withdrawn in August 1792 after the imprisonment of the royal family during the French Revolution. After his return to Britain he declined the posts of Lord Steward of the Household and Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. However, in 1799 he accepted the office of joint Postmaster General, which he retained until 1801. Sutherland played an important part in the downfall of Henry Addington's administration in 1804, after which he changed political allegiance from the Tory to the Whig party. After 1807 he played little part in politics, although late in life he supported Catholic Emancipation and the 1832 Reform Act.
From 1794 to 1801, Sutherland was Colonel of the Staffordshire Volunteer Cavalry, an early form of yeomanry regiment. Sutherland also held the honorary posts of Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire from 1799 to 1801 and Lord Lieutenant of Sutherland from 1794 to 1830. He was invested as a Privy Counsellor in 1790, a Knight of the Garter in 1806 and was created Duke of Sutherland on 28 January 1833.
The Leveson-Gower family owned extensive lands in Staffordshire, Shropshire and Yorkshire. In 1803 Sutherland also succeeded to the vast estates of his maternal uncle Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, which included the Bridgewater Canal and a major art collection including much of the Orleans Collection; both Gower and his uncle had been members of the consortium which brought it to London for dispersal. According to the will of the Duke of Bridgewater, these passed on the death of the first Duke of Sutherland to his third son Lord Francis Leveson-Gower (see below). This inheritance brought him great wealth. Sutherland is estimated to have been the wealthiest man of the 19th-century, surpassing even Nathan Rothschild. The precise value of his estate at death is unknown, as it was simply classed as 'upper value'. He was described by Charles Greville as a "leviathan of wealth" and "...the richest individual who ever died". In 1837 he purchased Stafford House (now Lancaster House, which was the London residence of the dukes of Sutherland until 1912.
Development of Sutherland and Highland clearances
Sutherland and his wife remain controversial figures for their role in carrying out the Highland Clearances, where thousands of tenants were evicted and rehoused in coastal crofts as part of a program of improvement. The larger clearances in Sutherland were undertaken between 1811 and 1820. In 1811 parliament passed a bill granting half the expenses of building roads in northern Scotland, on the provision that landowners paid for the other half. The following year Sutherland commenced building roads and bridges in the county, which up to that point had been virtually non-existent. Appalled by the poor living conditions of his tenants and influenced by social and economic theories of the day as well as consulting widely on the subject, he and his wife (to whom much of the proprietorial oversight of the estate had been delegated) became convinced that subsistence farming in the interior of Sutherland could not be sustained in the long-term. Much higher rents could be obtained from letting land for extensive sheep farms - so providing a much better income from the estate.
The Sutherland Estate management had had plans for clearance for some years, with some clearance activity in 1772 when Lady Sutherland was still a child. However, a shortage of money stopped these plans from progressing to any greater degree - a situation that continued after her marriage to Leveson-Gower. However, when he inherited the vast wealth of the Duke of Bridgewater, plans could proceed - and Leveson-Gower was happy for large amounts of his wealth to be spent on the changes to the Sutherland Estate.(p38-39) Though unusual for the time, much of the oversight of the estate management was delegated to Lady Sutherland, who took a keen interest in the estate, travelling to Dunrobin Castle most summers and engaging in a continuous exchange of correspondence with the factor and James Loch, the Stafford estate commissioner.
The first of the new wave of clearances involved relocations from Assynt to coastal villages with the plan that farmers could take up fishing. The next eviction, in the Strath of Kildonan in 1813, was met with opposition and a 6 week long confrontation that was resolved by calling out the army and the estate making some concessions to those who were evicted.:168-172 In 1814, one of the estate's factors, Patrick Sellar, was supervising clearances in Strathnaver when the roof timbers of a house were set on fire (to prevent the house being reoccupied after the eviction) with, allegedly, an elderly and bedridden woman still inside. The woman was rescued, but died 6 days later.:197:183 The local law officer, Robert Mackid, was an enemy of Sellar and started taking witness statements so that Sellar could be prosecuted. The case went to trial in 1816 and Sellar was acquitted.:181-182:195 The publicity arising from the trial was not welcome to the Sutherlands.:183-187,203 Sellar was replaced as factor and further, larger clearances continued in 1818 to 1820. Despite efforts to avoid press comment, in 1819 the Observer newspaper ran the headline: "the Devastation of Sutherland", reporting the burning of roof timbers of large numbers of houses cleared at the same time.:200-280
In 1837 a large monument, known locally as the Mannie, was erected on Ben Bhraggie near Golspie to commemorate the Duke's life. The existence of this statue has been the subject of some controversy—in 1994, Sandy Lindsay, a former Scottish National Party councillor from Inverness proposed its demolition. He later altered his plan, asking permission from the local council to relocate the statue and replace it with plaques telling the story of the Clearances. Lindsay proposed moving the statue to the grounds of Dunrobin Castle, after the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles declined his offer to take it. There was a failed attempt by vandals to topple the statue in November 2011. A BBC news report of this incident quoted a local person saying that few people wished the statue removed; instead they saw it as an important reminder of history. As of January 2017, however, the statue still stands.
Sutherland married Elizabeth Sutherland, 19th Countess of Sutherland, daughter of William Sutherland, 18th Earl of Sutherland and the former Mary Maxwell, on 4 September 1785. They had four surviving children:
- George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 2nd Duke of Sutherland,(11 Aug 1786–1861)
- Lady Charlotte Sophia Leveson-Gower (c. 1788–1870), married Henry Fitzalan-Howard, 13th Duke of Norfolk and had issue.
- Lady Elizabeth Mary Leveson-Gower (1797–1891), married Richard Grosvenor, 2nd Marquess of Westminster and had issue.
- Francis Leveson-Gower (later Egerton) 1st Earl of Ellesmere, (1800–1857)
Eleven years after becoming enfeebled by a paralytic stroke, Sutherland died at Dunrobin Castle in July 1833, aged 75, and was buried at Dornoch Cathedral. He was succeeded by his eldest son, George. The Duchess of Sutherland died in January 1839, aged 73, and was also succeeded by her eldest son, George.
|Ancestors of George Leveson-Gower, 1st Duke of Sutherland|
There are several well-known Gaelic songs mocking the duke personally. Perhaps the most famous of these is Dùthaich Mhic Aoidh (Mackay Country or Northern Sutherland, a region hit hard by the Clearances), written by Ewen Robertson, who became known as the "Bard of the Clearances."
Ciad Diùc Cataibh, le chuid foill,
First Duke of Sutherland, with your deceit,
- Richards, Eric (1999). Patrick Sellar and the Highland Clearances: Homicide, Eviction and the Price of Progress. Edinburgh: Polygon. ISBN 1 902930 13 4.
- Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. .
- The Complete Peerage, Volume XII. St Catherine's Press. 1953. p. 564.
- "George Granville Leveson-Gower (1st Duke of Sutherland)". Gazetteer for Scotland. Retrieved 1 February 2008.
- "George Granville Leveson-Gower (1st Duke of Sutherland)". Gazetteer for Scotland. Retrieved 30 March 2009.
- Richards, Eric (2000). The Highland Clearances People, Landlords and Rural Turmoil (2013 ed.). Edinburgh: Birlinn Limited. ISBN 978-1-78027-165-1.
- Hunter, James (2015). Set Adrift Upon the World: the Sutherland Clearances. Edinburgh: Birlinn Limited. ISBN 978-1-78027-268-9.
- " The First Duke of Sutherland" Archived 14 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine golspie.org.uk Retrieved 1 February 2008.
- Ross, David (15 December 1995). "New Plan to Remove, Not Demolish, Duke Statue". The Herald. Retrieved 2 February 2008.
- "Attempts to topple Duke of Sutherland statue". BBC News. Highlands and Islands. 29 Nov 2011. BBC. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
- "Attempts to topple Duke of Sutherland statue". BBC News Online. 29 November 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
- "Ewen Robertson Memorial, Sutherland". Scran. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
- "Bliadhna nan Òran – Òrain : Mo Mhallachd aig na Caoraich Mhòr". BBC Alba. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by the Duke of Sutherland