Percy to Seymour. Smithson to Percy

Elizabeth, Baroness Percy, Duchess of Somerset (1670 – 1722)

Elizabeth Percy was only four when her father Josceline died. She was married as a child, first to Lord Ogle, who died shortly afterwards, and then to Thomas Thynne of Longleat, a man of the worst character, from whom she fled shortly after the marriage to Holland. He was murdered by a Swedish adventurer, Count Konigsmark, in 1681, and his widow thereupon married, in 1682, Charles Seymour 6th Duke of Somerset, popularly known as ‘The Proud Duke’. She was Mistress of the Robes to Queen Anne. The Duke played a considerable part in public affairs, and was one of those largely responsible for the Revolution of 1688 and for the accession of the Hanoverian dynasty in 1714. The Duchess died in 1722 and the Duke in 1748.

Their son Algernon 7th Duke of Somerset succeeded him.

Alnwick Castle had at this period fallen into considerable decay. In 1677 it is described as having “some part of it in repair”, and it continued to be the residence and hub of the Percy Baronial officials. In 1691 part of it was a school.

Algernon, 7th Duke of Somerset (1722 – 1750) who as Lord Hertford had had a distinguished career in the Army under Marlborough, but only lived two years after he succeeded to the Dukedom of Somerset in 1748.

He had, however, on his mother’s death in 1722, succeeded to the Barony of Percy, and was afterwards made Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland. His father repaired and fitted up a portion of the Castle for his residence, and he frequently stayed at Alnwick during the reign of George II. He was the first of his family to live there after an absence of over one hundred years. He had an only daughter, Elizabeth, who was heir to the Barony and the Northumbrian estates. She had married Sir Hugh Smithson, a Yorkshire baronet. The title of Earl of Northumberland had been conferred upon the 7th Duke of Somerset, with remainder to his son-in-law, Sir Hugh Smithson and his heirs, and accordingly on the death of the Duke, Sir Hugh became Earl of Northumberland, and through his wife owner of the Northumbrian estates. He took the surname of Percy.

Hugh 1st Duke of Northumberland (1750-1786).

Sir Hugh Smithson on succeeding to the Earldom in 1750 reorganised the whole administration of his estates introducing up-to-date methods of farming, equipment and management. He planted large areas with trees, and in a few years, by his business capacity, energy and enterprise, effected a vast transformation in the appearance of the country round Alnwick.

In 1763 he was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He enjoyed at this period the favour of George III, who entrusted him with certain delicate political negotiations. For these and other services, and on account of his great territorial influence, he was created Duke of Northumberland in 1766.

Prior to this he had carried out a long-cherished scheme of restoring Alnwick Castle and fitting it up as a residence for his family. The precise date when this was commenced is uncertain, probably 1755, but the work was finished in 1766. The architect employed was the celebrated Robert Adam, who adopted the style generally known as ‘Gingerbread’ or ‘Strawberry Hill’ Gothic

The decoration of the interior of the Castle consisted of elaborate and very ornate stucco work of a pseudo-Gothic character covering the walls and ceilings. In general the effect must have been far from pleasing, but it was to some extent redeemed by the lightness, sense of proportion and harmony of colouring which characterised all Adam’s work. Some of the ceilings and chimney-pieces were attractive, and much of the furniture, which still exists, was beautiful; but the finest feature of this restoration was undoubtedly the splendid fan-shaped staircase, which was greatly ad- mired by contemporaries. The windows, though they had the advantage of admitting a large amount of light, were totally out of keeping with a medieval Castle. Some were very large with pointed Gothic arches, and others quatrefoil in shape. To add to the bizarre effect of the whole, some of the towers along the curtain walls were ornamented with little turrets fondly thought to be picturesque. A perfect army of stone figures was crowded onto all the roofs and battlements, in imitation of the old Edwardian figures on the great octagonal towers. The style in which the Castle was fitted up is said to have been the choice, not of the Duke, who was noted for his good taste, but of the Duchess. Many of the plans for the decoration of the interior are preserved at the Sloane Museum in London, and are of great interest as showing Adam’s attempts at the late Gothic style. The Duchess died in 1776 and the Duke in 1786.

His son Hugh succeeded him.

Hugh, 2nd Duke of Northumberland (1786 – 1817)

Was a General in the Army who had served with distinction in the Seven Years’ War in Germany, and also in the American War of Independence. During the great French war, when Napoleon threatened invasion, he raised a regiment of 1500 men from his tenantry, formed into three corps of riflemen, cavalry and artillery. The Constable’s Tower was used as an armoury and forge for this force, whose arms were afterwards stored there. The 7th Duke removed the greater part of these to the entrance hall of the Castle, but some of their implements still remain in the Tower.

The 2nd Duke died in 1817, and was succeeded by his son Hugh.

Hugh, 3rd Duke of Northumberland (1817 1847)

Was raised to the peerage in 1812. He represented King George IV as Special Ambassador at the Coronation of Charles X of France in 1825, and was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1829 and 1830. He died in 1847 without issue, and was succeeded by his brother, Algernon, Lord Prudhoe.

Algernon, 4th Duke of Northumberland (1847 1865)

Served in the Navy during the great French war from 1804 to 1815, rose to the rank of Commander, and retired with the rank of Admiral. He was raised to the peerage as Baron Prudhoe in 1816. He travelled extensively in Africa and the Near East, and was a liberal patron of the arts and sciences, especially that of archaeology. He was First Lord of the Admiralty in Lord Derby’s ministry in 1852. His public benefactions, especially in Northumberland, were very numerous, and included among others the provision of up-to-date lifeboats on the coast, and endowment of charitable institutions for sailors and seamen, in whom he took great interest, and the building of schools and churches. He rebuilt most of the farmhouses and cottages on his estates, which he brought to a high condition of efficiency in regard to equipment and management. When this work had been accomplished he set about the restoration of Alnwick Castle. He considered that the Castle would be rendered much more imposing by the addition to the Keep of a central feature in the shape of a high tower dominating the others, the want of which had been noted by Sir Walter Scott when he had visited Alnwick Castle.

The 4th Duke died in 1865, before the restoration he had undertaken was fully completed.

He had no sons and was succeeded by his first cousin, George Percy the 2nd Earl of Beverley.

George, 5th Duke of Northumberland (1865 1867).

Was eighty-seven years of age when he succeeded. He was MP for Beeralston 1799-1830, and Lord of the Treasury 1804-06.

He was succeeded by his son.

Algernon, 6th Duke of Northumberland (1867 1899).

Had served in the Army and as an MP 1831-32 and 1852-65. He was Civil Lord of the Admiralty 1858, Vice-President of the Board of Trade 1859, and Lord Privy Seal 1878-80. He completed the restoration work, which still remained to be done notably the provision of the drawing rooms and library, much of which had not been ordered.

In about 1885, the Record Tower in the Inner Bailey, which had been restored in the eighteenth century, was found to be in danger of falling down. It was again restored in a manner far more consonant with the fourteenth century although it entailed the destruction of a fine Adain ceiling in the principal apartment of the tower. The base of this tower, which is of the fourteenth century, remains intact.

The 6th Duke was succeeded by his son.

Henry, 7th Duke of Northumberland (1899 1918)

Was Treasurer of the Household 1874-5, MP 1868-85, and raised to the peerage in 1887.

Early in the present century he excavated the moat under the Barbican and replaced the paved roadway by a wooden bridge more in keeping with the original character of the building, providing two openings covered with iron gratings at the sides, so as to show the moat. He also built a small tower in the Outer Bailey, between the Auditor’s Tower and the Clock Tower, as a Muniment Room, and added a single-storey building on the east side of the stable yards as an office for the Clerk of the Works. He also made certain additions to the north side of the stable yard, in order to provide two garages or coach-houses on either side of the archway.

Alan Ian, 8th Duke of Northumberland (1918 1930)

Succeeded his father in 1918. He served as a Captain in the Grenadier Guards during the South African war in 1901 and 1902, obtaining the Queen’s Medal and four clasps. In 1908 he was in the Sudan Campaign, taking part in the operations in Southern Kordofan and gaining the Egyptian medal with clasp. For a time he acted as aide-de-camp to Earl Grey, governor-general of Canada. During the Great War he served with the Grenadier Guards, and was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. He played a leading part in the political controversies of the 1920s, and was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland.

The 8th Duke was succeeded by his eldest son.

Henry George Alan, 9th Duke of Northumberland (1930 1940).

The 9th Duke, was killed at the age of 27 (SP) at Pecq in Flanders, serving with the 1st Bn. Grenadier Guards during the retreat to Dunkirk.

During the war the Newcastle Church High School for Girls occupied part of the castle, and in 1945 the first Emergency Training College for men teachers found its home in the castle. Since 1949, the castle has been occupied as a Training College for women teachers.

His younger brother Hugh succeeded him.

Hugh, 10th Duke of Northumberland, K.G., P.C., T.D., F.R.S..

Was Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland, Chancellor of the University of Newcastle and Chairman of the Medical Research Council. He served with the Northumberland Hussars during the Second World War. He was Chairman of the Court of Durham University from 1956 to 1964. He was twice President of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, and was chairman of the Agricultural Research Council from 1958-68 and in 1968-69 Chairman of the Committee of Enquiry on Foot and Mouth Disease. He was Chairman of the Agricultural E.D.C. and was appointed Lord Steward of H.M. Household and Master of the Percy Foxhounds. In 1946 the Duke married Lady Elizabeth Montagu Douglas Scott, elder daughter of the 8th Duke of Buccleuch, thus uniting the Percy’s and the Douglas’s who had, for so long, been hereditary enemies.

The Duke was succeeded by his eldest son Henry, Earl Percy who was born in 1953.


Henry, 11th Duke of Northumberland, (1988 – 1995).

Young Harry – styled Earl Percy until his father’s death in 1988 – was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. Among his many appointments were the presidencies of the Alnwick Working Men’s Club and Institute, the Natural History Society of Northumbria, the Northumberland Association of Boys’ Clubs, the Craster branch of the RNLI, the Surrey Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, and the Tyne Mariners’ Benevolent Institution. He was also vice-president of the Ancient Monuments Society and of the International Sheep Dog Society. His patronage’s included the Association of Northumberland Local History Societies, the International Centre for Child Studies, the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers Aid Society and Regimental Association, and the Tyneside Cinema.

He was a godson of the Queen and head of the illustrious House of Percy, who had a passion for what he described in his Who’s Who entry as “movies”. He had his own film company, Hotspur Productions, which produced an adventure film variously entitled Lost in Africa, The Wildlands and Tusk. He himself was proud to have had a small role as a kidnapped tourist, and claimed he never forgot his seven lines of dialogue. The film business, however, brought only slight relief to his melancholic tendencies, and Hotspur Productions progressed only slightly along the path to becoming the lucrative concern for which he had hoped.

With holdings of some 80,000 acres, he was the largest landowner in England and devoted much of his time to the administration of the Percy estates and the maintenance of the two principal family seats, Alnwick Castle in Northumberland and Syon House in Middlesex.

He never married and died in 1995 aged 42. Henry was succeeded to the Dukedom by his younger brother Lord Ralph.

Ralph, 12th Duke of Northumberland, (1995 – ).