Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland

"Hugh Smithson" redirects here. For other uses, see Hugh Smithson (disambiguation).
His Grace
The Duke of Northumberland
Personal details
Born c. 1714
Died 11 February 1786 (aged 7172)
Resting place Northumberland Vault, Westminster Abbey
Nationality British
Spouse(s) Lady Elizabeth Seymour

by Lady Elizabeth Seymour:
Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland
Algernon Percy, 1st Earl of Beverley
Lady Elizabeth Anne Frances Percy

by Elizabeth Hungerford Keate:
James Smithson
Parents Langdale Smithson

Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland KG, PC (c. 1714 – 6 June 1786) was an English peer, landowner, and art patron.


He was born Hugh Smithson, the son of Langdale Smithson of Langdale, Yorkshire, and grandson of Sir Hugh Smithson, 3rd Baronet from whom he inherited the Smithson Baronetcy in 1733.


He changed his surname to Percy when he married Lady Elizabeth Seymour (1716-1776), daughter of Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset, on 16 July 1740, through a private Act of Parliament.[1] She was Baroness Percy in her own right, and indirect heiress of the Percy family, which was one of the leading landowning families of England, and had previously held the Earldom of Northumberland for several centuries. The title Earl of Northumberland passed by special remainder to Hugh Percy, as Elizabeth's husband, when her father died, who had been created 1st Earl of Northumberland in 1749. In 1766, the earl was created 1st Duke of Northumberland and was created Baron Lovaine on 28 June 1784, with a special remainder in favour of his younger son, Algernon. The Louvain family of Brabant, which married the Percy heiress, was the origin of the Percy family of England. Richard de Percy, 5th Baron Percy (c. 1170-1244) (who adopted the surname Percy), was the son of Joscelin of Louvain (1121–1180), styled "brother of the queen" (referring to Adeliza of Louvain, second wife of King Henry I of England, by his wife Agnes de Perci, suo jure Baroness Percy, the heiress of the Percy estates in England. He was created a Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1756 and a Privy Counsellor in 1762.

Sir Hugh and Lord Brooke (later created Earl of Warwick) were the most important patrons of Canaletto in England. Smithson made a Grand Tour and was in Venice in 1733, where he acquired two large Canalettos for his seat at Stanwick. In 1736 he became one of the two vice presidents of the Society for the Encouragement of Learning. He re-built Stanwick Park c. 1739–1740, mostly to his own designs. He was one of the 175 commissioners for the building of Westminster Bridge, a structure he had Canaletto paint two more large canvases, c. 1747. He built an observatory, designed by Robert Adam, on Ratcheugh Crag, at Longhoughton.[2] Thomas Chippendale dedicated his Gentleman & Cabinet maker's director (1754) to him. He became 2nd Earl of Northumberland (fifth creation) on the death of his father-in-law, Duke Algernon, on 7 February 1750.

Northumberland Row, site of the ancient Smithson house in Tottenham High Cross. [3]

The duke and duchess were prominent patrons of Robert Adam for neoclassical interiors in the Jacobean mansion Northumberland House, the London seat of the Earls of Northumberland; it was demolished ca. 1870–1871, in connection with the creation of Trafalgar Square. Remnants of the Northumberland House Glass Drawing-Room are preserved at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The greater Adam interiors for the Duke are at Syon House, executed in the 1760s. At Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, the Duke employed James Wyatt, whose work has been effaced by later remodellings. One or other Adam designed Brizlee Tower for the duke.

Landholdings / seats

Death & burial

Hugh died in 1786 and was buried in the Northumberland Vault, within Westminster Abbey.[5] [6]


The duke and duchess had three children:

The duke's illegitimate son (by Elizabeth Hungerford Keate Macie), James Smithson (1765–1829), is famed for having made the founding bequest and provided the name for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C..[8]

Further reading


  1. Deed Poll Office: Private Act of Parliament 1749 (23 Geo. 2). c. 14
  3. Inherited, with an estate worth £3,000 per annum, in 1740 by Sir Hugh Smithson, 4th Bart., from his cousin and Middlesex MP, Hugh Smithson (c1661-1740). (The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690–1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002). The site previously belonged to the family of Hynningham. (The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Tottenham, Volume 2, William Robinson, 1840). Monumental gate piers possibly came from the nearby Bruce Castle. Note the monogramme HS in the wrought iron gate. Photographed in May 2013. (The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715–1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970)
  5. Goode, George Brown (1897). The Smithsonian Institution, 1846–1896, The History of Its First Half Century. Washington, D.C.: De Vinne Press. p. 7.
  6. Elizabeth, Duchess of Northumberland – Westminster Abbey
  8. "James Smithson". Smithsonian History. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Sir Francis Child
William Pulteney
Member of Parliament for Middlesex
With: William Pulteney 1740–1742
Sir Roger Newdigate, Bt 1742–1747
Sir William Beauchamp-Proctor, Bt 1747–1750
Succeeded by
Sir William Beauchamp-Proctor, Bt
George Cooke
Political offices
Preceded by
New government
Lord of the Bedchamber
Succeeded by
The Earl of Denbigh
Preceded by
The Duke of Manchester
Lord Chamberlain to Queen Charlotte
Succeeded by
The Earl Harcourt
Preceded by
The Earl of Halifax
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
Succeeded by
Viscount Weymouth
Preceded by
The Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven
Master of the Horse
Succeeded by
The Duke of Montagu
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Mark Kirby
High Sheriff of Yorkshire
Succeeded by
Sir George Cooke
Preceded by
The Earl of Tankerville
Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland
Succeeded by
The 2nd Duke of Northumberland
Custos Rotulorum of Northumberland
Title last held by
Sir John Delaval
Vice-Admiral of Northumberland
Preceded by
The Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Custos Rotulorum of Middlesex
Title next held by
Henry Dundas
Lord Lieutenant of Middlesex
In Commission
Peerage of Great Britain
New creation Duke of Northumberland
Succeeded by
Hugh Percy
Preceded by
Algernon Seymour
Earl of Northumberland
New creation Baron Lovaine
Succeeded by
Algernon Percy
Baronetage of England
Preceded by
Hugh Smithson
(of Stanwick)
Succeeded by
Hugh Percy
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