Ralph Percy, 12th Duke of Northumberland

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The Duke of Northumberland
Portrait by Allan Warren in 1997
Tenure31 October 1995 (1995-10-31)
PredecessorHenry Percy
Other titlesLord Ralph Percy
BornRalph George Algernon Percy
(1956-11-16) 16 November 1956 (age 67)
(m. 1979)
IssueLady Catherine Percy
George Percy, Earl Percy
Lady Melissa Trafelet
Lord Max Percy
HeirGeorge Percy, Earl Percy
ParentsHugh Percy, 10th Duke of Northumberland
Lady Elizabeth Montagu Douglas Scott

Ralph George Algernon Percy, 12th Duke of Northumberland, DL (born 16 November 1956), styled Lord Ralph Percy until 1995, is a British hereditary peer and rural landowner and current head of the House of Percy.

Early life[edit]

Ralph Percy was born the second son (and one of seven children) of Hugh Percy, 10th Duke of Northumberland, and the former Lady Elizabeth Diana Montagu Douglas Scott, daughter of the 8th Duke of Buccleuch. His maternal first cousin is Richard Scott, 10th Duke of Buccleuch, one of the largest private landowners in Scotland, while his paternal first cousin was Angus Douglas-Hamilton, 15th Duke of Hamilton, who was the premier peer of Scotland. His first cousins once removed are Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester and Prince William of Gloucester, members of the British royal family.

Percy was educated at Eton College, Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated in modern history, and Reading University, where he studied land management.[1] He worked in the Arundel Castle estate office for seven years, before moving back to Northumberland to manage the Alnwick estate for his elder brother Henry, the 11th Duke.[2]


Ralph Percy succeeded in the dukedom in 1995 on the death of the 11th duke, who had no children.[1] As such, he was a member of the House of Lords until the passing of the House of Lords Act 1999 ended the right of hereditary peers to sit in the House. Hansard records no contributions to House of Lords work by Northumberland.[3]

The Duke assists in managing Northumberland Estates (the corporation holding the ducal assets) which has many venture subsidiaries and associated trusts, which altogether own land and property in Northumberland, Scotland and to a lesser extent London, Surrey and Tyneside.[4] Ralph Percy was ranked at number 248 in the Sunday Times Rich List 2011, with an estimated wealth of £315 million. He or the corporation is the owner of Alnwick Castle, an ancestral ducal seat, as well as Warkworth Castle and Prudhoe Castle in Northumberland; Syon House and Syon Park in London; Hulne Park and Hulne Priory at Alnwick; Albury Park in Surrey, and other listed buildings such as Brizlee Tower.[5] Northumberland Estates manages 100,000 acres (400 km2): directly managing 4,000 acres (16 km2) of forestry and 20,000 acres (81 km2) of farmland, with approximately 100 tenant farmers managing the remaining bulk of the land.[6][7][8]

The 12th Duke's sale on the open market, rather than at a lower price to The National Gallery, of Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks in 2003 was subject to some criticism.[9] At much the same time, in response to a foot-and-mouth disease crisis, the Duke cut the rents of tenant farmers by 10 percent.[10] The Duke has shown opposition to certain wind farms.[11][12] However, he adopted renewable energy in the restoration of a hydroelectric power generator.[13] The Duke is a sponsor of the NCEA Duke's Secondary School.

On 8 April 2014, despite the vast wealth of the estate, the estate's management announced the date of a new art sale to raise £15 million to cover the costs of the Newburn flood caused by the failure of a culvert for which it was responsible on 25 September 2012.[14] The sales were completed by Sotheby's in July 2014.

In 2015 the Percy family outraged users of allotments in Hounslow, West London, when they revoked a lease which had existed since the First World War, with the intent of developing the land for profit.[15] The development plans were rejected by the planning Inspectorate in 2023 on grounds it would harm heritage assets.[16]

Marriage and children[edit]

Northumberland married Jane Richard on 21 July 1979 at Traquair Parish Church. They have four children:[1]


Coat of arms of Ralph Percy, 12th Duke of Northumberland
A Coronet of a Duke
On a Chapeau Gules turned up Ermine a Lion statant with tail extended Azure
Quarterly: 1st and 4th grandquarters: 1st and 4th counterquartered: 1st and 4th, Or a Lion rampant Azure (Brabant and Lovaine); 2nd and 3rd, Gules three Lucies hauriant Argent (Lucy); 2nd and 3rd, Azure five Fusils conjoined in fess Or (Percy); 2nd and 3rd grandquarters: quarterly: 1st and 4th, Or three Bars wavy Gules (Drummond); 2nd and 3rd, Or a Lion's Head erased within a Double Tressure flory counterflory Gules (Drummond, coat of augmentation)[1]
Dexter: a Lion rampant Azure; Sinister: a Lion rampant guardant Or ducally crowned of the last gorged with a Collar company Argent and Azure[1]
Esperance en Dieu (Hope in God)[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Burke's Peerage]], volume 2, 2003, page 2937
  2. ^ Barber, Lynne (3 August 2003). "Gardener's question time". The Observer. Retrieved 4 October 2012.
  3. ^ "Mr Ralph Percy". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Retrieved 4 October 2012.
  4. ^ "The Northumberland Estates". Alnwick Castle website. The Northumberland Estates. Retrieved 4 October 2012.
  5. ^ "History and Heritage". The Northumberland Estates. Archived from the original on 21 April 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  6. ^ "Farming". The Northumberland Estates. Archived from the original on 21 April 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  7. ^ "Sawmill and Forestry". The Northumberland Estates. Archived from the original on 21 April 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  8. ^ "Duke's Plans Spark Suspicion". Northumberland Gazette. 7 February 2001. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  9. ^ "Duke hits back at £35m art sale critics". Northumberland Gazette. 16 January 2003. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  10. ^ "Duke slashes farm rents to ease rural crisis". Northumberland Gazette. 6 November 2002. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  11. ^ "Duke joins fight against windfarm". Northumberland Gazette. 11 November 2011. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  12. ^ "... while Duke lashes turbines as "ugly and noisy"". Northumberland Gazette. 2 December 2009. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  13. ^ "Duke's hydro system taps into the past". Northumberland Estates. 29 October 2009. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  14. ^ "Duke of Northumberland plans £15m art sale to cover flood bill". The Journal. 8 April 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2015.
  15. ^ Abdul, Geneva (6 August 2023). "'He should be a custodian': London allotment holders lament duke's bid to build flats". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  16. ^ Abdul, Geneva (12 December 2023). "Duke of Northumberland loses fight to build on green space in west London". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 24 December 2023.

External links[edit]

Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by Duke of Northumberland
Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom
Preceded by Gentlemen
The Duke of Northumberland
Succeeded by