Jane Percy, Duchess of Northumberland

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The Duchess of Northumberland
Duchess of Northumberland, Jane Percy.jpg
The Duchess officiating at a Battle of Britain parade in Alnwick, September 2018
Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland
Assumed office
MonarchsElizabeth II
Charles III
Preceded bySir John Riddell
Personal details
Isobel Jane Miller Richard

(1958-05-11) 11 May 1958 (age 64)
Edinburgh, Scotland
ChildrenLady Katie Percy
George Percy, Earl Percy
Lady Melissa Percy
Lord Max Percy
Parent(s)John Richard
Angela, Lady Buchan-Hepburn
Net worthIncrease£315 million[1][2]

Isobel Jane Miller Percy, Duchess of Northumberland (née Richard; born 11 May 1958), is a British aristocrat and businesswoman. She has served as Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland since 2009, and is best known for redeveloping The Alnwick Garden at Alnwick Castle. She is the first woman to serve as Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland. Her husband, Ralph, is the 12th Duke of Northumberland.

Early life[edit]

Jane Richard was born in Edinburgh in 1958.[3] She is one of four children of the stockbroker John Richard (1933–2003), as well as sororal grandniece of Max Woosnam.[4] Her mother, Angela, Lady Buchan-Hepburn (née Scott),[5] is the owner of Kailzie Gardens, an income-generating family garden located in the Scottish Borders.[citation needed] Her parents divorced in the early 1970s and both remarried; her stepmother Christine was a Conservative group leader on the City of Edinburgh Council,[6][7] while her stepfather was Sir Ninian Buchan-Hepburn, 6th Baronet (1922–1992).

As a child, Jane Richard helped her mother maintain Kailzie Gardens[8] and aspired to become a champion figure-skater, practising for the Scottish Junior Championships at Murrayfield Ice Rink. She quit when she was 13 and was enrolled at Cobham Hall in Kent.[3][9]


At the age of 16, Jane Richard met the 17-year-old Lord Ralph Percy at his cousin's birthday party,[10] and later followed him to Oxford, where he attended the University of Oxford, and she took a secretarial course. They married on 21 July 1979 at Traquair Parish Church,[citation needed] despite being deemed too young by their parents.[8] The pair have four children:

  • Lady Catherine Sarah "Katie" Percy (b. 23 June 1982), a gun-maker, motorcycle mechanic and racing driver;[10][11] married Patrick Valentine on 26 February 2011. The couple had no children and separated in late 2013 before divorcing in 2014.[12]

The couple lived in a farmhouse in Northumberland until 1995, when Lady Ralph Percy's brother-in-law Henry, 11th Duke of Northumberland, died from heart failure after an overdose of amphetamines. Her husband succeeded to the dukedom; she is the first Duchess of Northumberland not to come from the titled aristocracy.[3][8] As old family friends, the Duke and Duchess attended the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.[1]


The cascade fountain in The Alnwick Garden

The Duchess was unhappy in her ducal role until her husband suggested that she should renovate The Alnwick Garden, a large ornamental garden at the family seat, Alnwick Castle.[10] She started the work on the garden in 2000,[23] and turned it into one of North East England's biggest visitor attractions,[10] as well as one of the country's most controversial ones.[24] In 2003, the garden became a charitable trust separate from her husband's estate, with the Duchess as a fundraiser and one of six trustees.[8][23]

A practising martial arts enthusiast, she introduced cage boxing to The Alnwick Gardens and a range of cocktails named after her.[2][25] The Duchess, who claims to defy tradition,[2][8][10] has received praise and scorn for The Alnwick Gardens, but has dismissed criticism as "the snobbery element of gardening".[8] The locals welcomed the restoration and the influx of tourists,[26] while English Heritage accused the Duchess of destroying one of the greatest gardens in England.[9] In 2004, she was hospitalised after collapsing under pressure, and the criticism made her consider resigning the trusteeship and giving up on the project.[3]

In 2012, the Duchess announced her plan to finish reconstruction of The Alnwick Garden by May 2015. She has made arrangements enabling her then to step down from managing it and for the visitor attraction to be franchised out to an external management company.[24] She has also arranged for a series of books and titles to be brought out based on the Alnwick Castle archive covering aspects of the life and history of the Percy family estate.[27]


On 12 May 2009, having been recommended by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, she was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland by Queen Elizabeth II.[28] The post was once held by her father-in-law Hugh, 10th Duke, and eleven other members of the Percy family, but the Duchess is the first woman to receive this distinction.[29] She was, in 2011, patron of 160 charities.[2]


  • The Poison Diaries, ISBN 978-0-00-736285-1
  • Alnwick Castle, The Home of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland" (2012) by James McDonald, Foreword by The Duchess of Northumberland, ISBN 978-0-7112-3237-2


  1. ^ a b Nikkhah, Roya; Mendick, Robert (8 May 2011). "Royal wedding: William and Kate's inner circle". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d Hollingshead, Iain (6 October 2011). "Cage fighting? At Alnwick Castle?". Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d "Welcome to the garden". Scotsman. 8 April 2007. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
  4. ^ "Tennis, golf, cricket, snooker, football – is there anything this man couldn't do?". Northumberland Gazette. 3 December 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
  5. ^ Martine, Roddy (2 November 1995). "The Duke of Northumberland". The Herald. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  6. ^ "Tory leader made nuisance calls to husband's ex-wife". The Independent. 23 December 1992. Retrieved 8 November 2012.
  7. ^ "John Richard". The Independent. 11 September 2003. Retrieved 8 November 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Barber, Lynne (3 August 2003). "Gardener's question time". The Observer. Retrieved 4 October 2012.
  9. ^ a b Warren, Jane (26 September 2011). "A rather daring Duchess". Daily Express. Retrieved 23 September 2012.
  10. ^ a b c d e Dent, Karen (8 March 2010). "The Duchess of Northumberland". NE Business. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  11. ^ Eden, Richard (22 May 2010). "Hogwarts wedding for the Duke of Northumberland's daughter". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 8 November 2012.
  12. ^ Hornery, Andrew (13 August 2015). "PS: The new woman in Mark Carnegie's life". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  13. ^ "Cluff Geothermal: the team". Archived from the original on 16 November 2011.
  14. ^ "Mr T. van Straubenzee and Lady Melissa Percy". The Daily Telegraph. 7 November 2012. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  15. ^ Walker, Tim (7 November 2012). "Prince Harry's best friend to marry Harry Potter castle heiress". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
  16. ^ "Princess Charlotte to be christened at Sandringham". BBC News. 5 July 2015.
  17. ^ "Duke of Northumberland's daughter gets divorced". ITV News.
  18. ^ "Telegraph Marriage Announcements". Telegraph. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  19. ^ "Telegraph Birth Announcements". Telegraph. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  20. ^ Cope, Rebecca (25 February 2020). "The Duke of Northumberland's daughter, Lady Melissa Percy, has given birth to her first child". Tatler. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  21. ^ "Verliebt in Schottland, verheiratet in Dornstadt". Augsburger Allgemeine.
  22. ^ Gillan, Tony (7 August 2019). "Duke and Duchess of Northumberland celebrate birth of their first grandchild". www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  23. ^ a b Mason, Christopher (17 July 2008). "The Versailles of the North". Chronicle Live. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
  24. ^ a b Proctor, Kate (13 October 2012). "Up close and personal with Duchess of Northumberland". The Journal. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  25. ^ "Duchess in big drinks mix-up". Northumberland Gazette. 24 May 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
  26. ^ Kavanagh, Marianne (24 November 2007). "Women in business: where women rule, UK". NE Business. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
  27. ^ Black, David (25 October 2012). "Duchess of Northumberland agrees new clothing and book deals". The Journal. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  28. ^ "Lord-Lieutenant for Northumberland". 10 Downing Street website. 12 May 2009. Archived from the original on 6 July 2009. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  29. ^ Black, David (19 May 2009). "Duchess of Northumberland given a unique honour". The Journal. Retrieved 11 November 2012.

External links[edit]

Honorary titles
Preceded by Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland
2009– present
Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom
Preceded by Ladies Followed by
The Duchess of Leinster