Jane Percy, Duchess of Northumberland
The Duchess of Northumberland
|Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland|
2009 – present
|Preceded by||Sir John Riddell|
|Born||Isobel Jane Miller Richard
11 May 1958
|Spouse(s)||Ralph Percy, 12th Duke of Northumberland|
|Children||Lady Catherine Valentine
George Percy, Earl Percy
Lady Melissa Percy
Lord Max Percy
Angela, Lady Buchan-Hepburn
Isobel Jane Miller Percy, Duchess of Northumberland (née Richard; born 11 May 1958), is a British businesswoman. She has served as Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland since 2009, and is best known for redeveloping The Alnwick Garden at Alnwick Castle. Her husband Ralph is the 12th Duke of Northumberland.
The Duchess was born in Edinburgh in 1958. She is one of four children of the stockbroker John Richard (1933–2003), as well as sororal grandniece of Max Woosnam. Her mother, Angela, Lady Buchan-Hepburn (née Scott), is the owner of Kailzie Gardens, an income-generating family garden located in the Scottish Borders. Her parents got divorced in the early 1970s and both remarried; her stepmother Christine was a Conservative group leader on the City of Edinburgh Council, while her stepfather was Sir Ninian Buchan-Hepburn, 6th Baronet (1922–1992). As a child, she helped her mother maintain Kailzie Gardens 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.
At the age of 16, she met the 17-year-old Lord Ralph Percy at his cousin's birthday party, and later followed him to the University of Oxford, where she took a secretarial course. They married on 21 July 1979 at Traquair Parish Church, despite being deemed too young by their parents. The pair have four children:
- Lady Catherine Sarah Valentine (b. 23 June 1982), a gun-maker, motorcycle mechanic and racing driver; married to Patrick Valentine since 26 February 2011
- George Dominic Percy, Earl Percy (b. 4 May 1984), heir apparent to the dukedom and managing director of energy company Cluff Geothermal with Paul Younger
- Lady Melissa Jane Percy (b. 20 May 1987), a tennis coach; married Thomas van Straubenzee The couple were divorced in 2016.
- Lord Max Ralph Percy (b. 26 May 1990), married to Princess Nora Oettingen-Spielberg on 15 July 2017. 
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. As old family friends, the Duke and Duchess attended the wedding of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine Middleton.
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. She started the work on the garden in 2000, and turned it into one of North East England's biggest visitor attractions, as well as one of the country's most controversial ones. 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.
A practising martial arts enthusiast, she introduced cage boxing to The Alnwick Gardens and a range of cocktails named after her. The Duchess, who claims to defy tradition, has received praise and scorn for The Alnwick Gardens, but has dismissed criticism as "the snobbery element of gardening". The locals welcomed the restoration and the influx of tourists, while English Heritage accused the Duchess of destroying one of the greatest gardens in England. In 2004, she was hospitalised after collapsing under pressure, and the criticism made her consider resigning the trusteeship and giving up on the project.
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. 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.
On 12 May 2009, having been recommended by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, she was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland by Queen Elizabeth II. 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. She was, in 2011, patron of 160 charities.
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Sir John Riddell
|Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland
|Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom|
The Duchess of Newcastle
Duchess of Leinster