George Leveson-Gower, 1st Duke of Sutherland

English politician, diplomat and landowner

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The Duke of Sutherland
Ambassador to France
In office
Monarch George III
Preceded by The Duke of Dorset
Succeeded by Vacant
Personal details
Born (1758-01-09)9 January 1758
London, England
Died 19 July 1833(1833-07-19) (aged 75)
Dunrobin Castle, Sutherland
Spouse Elizabeth Sutherland, 19th Countess of Sutherland
Children .mw-parser-output .plainlist ol,.mw-parser-output .plainlist ul{line-height:inherit;list-style:none;margin:0;padding:0}.mw-parser-output .plainlist ol li,.mw-parser-output .plainlist ul li{margin-bottom:0}

Alma mater Christ Church, Oxford
Quartered arms of George Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Duke of Sutherland, KG, PC

George Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Duke of Sutherland KG, PC (9 January 1758 – 19 July 1833), known as Viscount Trentham from 1758 to 1786, as Earl Gower from 1786 to 1803 and as the Marquess of Stafford from 1803 to 1833, was an English politician, diplomat, landowner and patron of the arts from the Leveson-Gower family. He was the wealthiest man in Britain during the latter part of his life.[1]: 39  He remains a controversial figure for his role in the Highland Clearances.[2]


Sutherland was the eldest son of Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Marquess of Stafford, by his second wife, Lady Louisa, daughter of Scroop Egerton, 1st Duke of Bridgwater. Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Earl Granville, was his half-brother. He was educated at Westminster and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated MA in 1777.[3]

Earlier political career[edit]

Sutherland sat as Member of Parliament for Newcastle-under-Lyme from 1779 to 1784 and for Staffordshire from 1787 to 1799. The latter year he was summoned to the House of Lords through a writ of acceleration in his father’s junior title of Baron Gower.

Ambassador during French Revolution[edit]

Between 1790 and 1792 he was Ambassador to France. Gower was appointed ambassador in Paris in June 1790 at the age of 32. Due to Louis XVI being under house arrest in the Tuileries Palace, Gower was unable to become ‘an ornament at Versailles’, i.e. was unable to work closely with the royal family. Gower was scarcely better equipped to handle the complexity of the French Revolution than his predecessor, the Duke of Dorset. He had no previous experience of diplomacy. Gower’s main priority in Paris was to provide news from the French court back to Britain, however trivial. Though Gower also reported some popular ‘disturbances’, he had little comprehension of the broader political climate. On 10 August 1792 an insurrection by the newly established Paris Revolutionary Commune drove the royal family from the Tuileries and three days later Louis was arrested and imprisoned in the Temple fortress. Britain broke off diplomatic relations in protest. The closure of the British embassy meant that the intelligence operations could no longer be run from it, resulting in Britain replacing the ambassador with Captain George Monro, removing Gower from diplomacy in France.[4][3]

Later political career[edit]

George Leveson-Gower by Thomas Lawrence, 1800.

After his return to Britain he declined the posts of Lord Steward of the Household and Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. However, in 1799 he accepted the office of joint Postmaster General, which he retained until 1801. Sutherland played an important part in the downfall of Henry Addington’s administration in 1804, after which he changed political allegiance from the Tory to the Whig party.[3] After 1807 he played little part in politics, although late in life he supported Catholic Emancipation and the 1832 Reform Act.

On 20 September 1794 Gower was appointed Colonel of the new Staffordshire Regiment of Gentlemen and Yeomanry, personally commanding the Newcastle-under-Lyme Troop. He retired from the command in January 1800.[3][5] Sutherland also held the honorary posts of Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire from 1799 to 1801 and Lord Lieutenant of Sutherland from 1794 to 1830. He was invested as a Privy Counsellor in 1790, a Knight of the Garter in 1806 and was created Duke of Sutherland on 28 January 1833.

In 1831, the then Marquess of Stafford served the annual post of treasurer of the Salop Infirmary in Shrewsbury.[6]


Lancaster House (previously called Stafford House).

The Leveson-Gower family owned extensive lands in Staffordshire, Shropshire and Yorkshire. In 1803 Sutherland also succeeded to the vast estates of his maternal uncle Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, which included the Bridgewater Canal and a major art collection including much of the Orleans Collection; both Gower and his uncle had been members of the consortium which brought it to London for dispersal. According to the will of the Duke of Bridgewater, these passed on the death of the first Duke of Sutherland to his third son Lord Francis Leveson-Gower (see below). This inheritance brought him great wealth. Sutherland is estimated to have been the wealthiest man of the 19th-century, surpassing even Nathan Rothschild. The precise value of his estate at death is unknown, as it was simply classed as ‘upper value’. He was described by Charles Greville as a “leviathan of wealth” and “…the richest individual who ever died”. Following the death of the Duke of York in 1827 he purchased the leasehold of Stafford House (now Lancaster House), which became the London residence of the dukes of Sutherland until 1912.

Development of Sutherland and Highland clearances[edit]

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Sutherland and his wife remain controversial figures for their role in carrying out the Highland Clearances, where thousands of tenants were evicted and rehoused in coastal crofts as part of a program of improvement.[7] The larger clearances in Sutherland were undertaken between 1811 and 1820. In 1811 Parliament passed an Act granting half the expenses of building roads in northern Scotland, on the provision that landowners paid for the other half. The following year Sutherland commenced building roads and bridges in the county, which up to that point had been virtually non-existent. Appalled by the poor living conditions of his tenants and influenced by social and economic theories of the day as well as consulting widely on the subject, he and his wife (to whom much of the proprietorial oversight of the estate had been delegated) became convinced that subsistence farming in the interior of Sutherland could not be sustained in the long-term. Much higher rents could be obtained from letting land for extensive sheep farms – so providing a much better income from the estate.[8]

The Sutherland estate management had had plans for clearance for some years, with some clearance activity in 1772 when Lady Sutherland was still a child. However, a shortage of money stopped these plans from progressing to any greater degree – a situation that continued after her marriage to Leveson-Gower. However, when he inherited the vast wealth of the Duke of Bridgewater, plans could proceed – and Leveson-Gower was happy for large amounts of his wealth to be spent on the changes to the Sutherland estate.[1]: 38–39  Though unusual for the time, much of the oversight of the estate management was delegated to Lady Sutherland, who took a keen interest in the estate, travelling to Dunrobin Castle most summers and engaging in a continuous exchange of correspondence with the factor and James Loch, the Stafford estate commissioner.

The first of the new wave of clearances involved relocations from Assynt to coastal villages with the plan that farmers could take up fishing. The next eviction, in the Strath of Kildonan in 1813, was met with opposition and a six week long confrontation that was resolved by calling out the army and the estate making some concessions to those who were evicted.[9]: 168–172  In 1814, one of the estate’s factors, Patrick Sellar, was supervising clearances in Strathnaver when the roof timbers of a house were set on fire (to prevent the house being reoccupied after the eviction) with, allegedly, an elderly and bedridden woman still inside. The woman was rescued, but died six days later.[10]: 197 [9]: 183  The local law officer, Robert Mackid, was an enemy of Sellar and started taking witness statements so that Sellar could be prosecuted. The case went to trial in 1816 and Sellar was acquitted.[10]: 181-182 [1]: 195  The publicity arising from the trial was not welcome to the Sutherlands.[10]: 183-187,203  Sellar was replaced as factor and further, larger clearances continued in 1818 to 1820. Despite efforts to avoid press comment, in 1819 The Observer newspaper ran the headline: “the Devastation of Sutherland”, reporting the burning of roof timbers of large numbers of houses cleared at the same time.[10]: 200–280 


Monument to First Duke of Sutherland on Ben Bhraggie near Golspie

There is a monument to Leveson-Gower in Shropshire. The Lilleshall Monument, built in 1833, is a 70-foot (21 m) high obelisk, a local landmark visible for some distance around which stands on top of Lilleshall Hill,[11] within the original estates of the Leveson family acquired on the dissolution of Lilleshall Abbey. The tablet on the north face of the monument reads “To the memory of George Granville Leveson Gower, K.G. 1st Duke of Sutherland. The most just and generous of landlords. This monument is erected by the occupiers of his Grace’s Shropshire farms as a public testimony that he went down to his grave with the blessings of his tenants on his head and left behind him upon his estates the best inheritance which a gentleman of England can bequeath to his son; men ready to stand by his house, heart and hand.”[12]

There is also a monument erected in the Trentham Gardens Estate, Trentham, Staffordshire.[13] This colossal statue, designed by Winks and sculptured by Sir Francis Leggatt Chantrey, surmounts a plain column of stone on a tiered pedestal. The monument was raised in 1834 at the instigation of the second Duke, a year after the first Duke’s death.

In 1837 a large monument, known locally as the Mannie, was erected on Ben Bhraggie near Golspie to commemorate the Duke’s life.[14] The existence of this statue has been the subject of some controversy—in 1994, Sandy Lindsay, a former Scottish National Party councillor from Inverness proposed its demolition. He later altered his plan, asking permission from the local council to relocate the statue and replace it with plaques telling the story of the Clearances. Lindsay proposed moving the statue to the grounds of Dunrobin Castle, after the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles declined his offer to take it.[15] There was a failed attempt by vandals to topple the statue in November 2011. A BBC news report of this incident quoted a local person saying that few people wished the statue removed; instead they saw it as an important reminder of history.[16] As of January 2017[update], however, the statue still stands.


Sutherland married Elizabeth Sutherland, 19th Countess of Sutherland, daughter of William Sutherland, 18th Earl of Sutherland and the former Mary Maxwell, on 4 September 1785. They had four surviving children:

Eleven years after becoming enfeebled by a paralytic stroke,[3] Sutherland died at Dunrobin Castle in July 1833, aged 75, and was buried at Dornoch Cathedral.[3] He was succeeded by his eldest son, George. The Duchess of Sutherland died in January 1839, aged 73, and was also succeeded by her eldest son, George.

The Bridgewater Estate was passed in trust in accordance with the Duke of Bridgewater’s will, to the Duke’s third son Francis.


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Due to his controversial role in the Sutherland Clearances, the “Mannie” statue to the Duke in Golspie, Sutherland has been subject to repeated vandalism.[17]

There are several well-known Gaelic songs mocking the duke personally. Perhaps the most famous of these is Dùthaich Mhic Aoidh (Mackay Country or Northern Sutherland, a region hit hard by the Clearances), written by Ewen Robertson, who became known as the “Bard of the Clearances.”[18]
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  1. ^ a b c .mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit;word-wrap:break-word}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:”””””””‘””‘”}.mw-parser-output .citation:target{background-color:rgba(0,127,255,0.133)}.mw-parser-output a{background:url(“//”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-free a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output a,.mw-parser-output a{background:url(“//”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited a,body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output a{background:url(“//”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url(“//”)right 0.1em center/12px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:none;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;color:#d33}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{color:#d33}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#2C882D;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right{padding-right:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .citation .mw-selflink{font-weight:inherit} .mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{color:#18911F} .mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error, .mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{color:#f8a397}@media(prefers-color-scheme:dark){ .mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error, .mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{color:#f8a397} .mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{color:#18911F}}Richards, Eric (1999). Patrick Sellar and the Highland Clearances: Homicide, Eviction and the Price of Progress. Edinburgh: Polygon. ISBN 1-902930-13-4.
  2. ^ “Leveson-Gower, George Granville (1758-1833)” . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  3. ^ a b c d e f The Complete Peerage, Volume XII. St Catherine’s Press. 1953. p. 564.
  4. ^ Andrew, Christopher. Secret World: A History of Intelligence. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2018.
  5. ^ Capt P.C.G. Webster, The Records of the Queen’s Own Royal Regiment of Staffordshire Yeomanry, Lichfield: Lomax, 1870, pp. 2–15; Appendix.
  6. ^ Keeling-Roberts, Margaret (1981). In Retrospect, A Short History of the Royal Salop Infirmary. North Shropshire Printing Company. p. xi. ISBN 0-9507849-0-7.
  7. ^ “George Granville Leveson-Gower (1st Duke of Sutherland)”. Gazetteer for Scotland. Retrieved 1 February 2008.
  8. ^ “George Granville Leveson-Gower (1st Duke of Sutherland)”. Gazetteer for Scotland. Retrieved 30 March 2009.
  9. ^ a b Richards, Eric (2000). The Highland Clearances People, Landlords and Rural Turmoil (2013 ed.). Edinburgh: Birlinn Limited. ISBN 978-1-78027-165-1.
  10. ^ a b c d Hunter, James (2015). Set Adrift Upon the World: the Sutherland Clearances. Edinburgh: Birlinn Limited. ISBN 978-1-78027-268-9.
  11. ^ Historic England, “Sutherland Monument, Lilleshall and Donnington (1208285)”, National Heritage List for England, retrieved 10 July 2018
  12. ^ “Lilleshall Monument”.
  13. ^ Malkin, Neville. Birks, Steven (ed.). “Buildings South of the Potteries: No 10 – Sutherland Monument”. Neville Malkin’s “Grand Tour” of the Potteries. Potteries Heritage Society. In the southern extremity of Trentham Estate, and, in sharp contrast to its natural surroundings, stands the monument to the 1st Duke of Sutherland.
  14. ^ ” The First Duke of Sutherland” Archived 14 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 1 February 2008.
  15. ^ Ross, David (15 December 1995). “New Plan to Remove, Not Demolish, Duke Statue”. The Herald. Retrieved 2 February 2008.
  16. ^ “Attempts to topple Duke of Sutherland statue”. BBC News. 29 November 2011. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  17. ^ “Attempts to topple Duke of Sutherland statue”. BBC News Online. 29 November 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  18. ^ “Ewen Robertson Memorial, Sutherland”. Scran. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  19. ^ “Bliadhna nan Òran – Òrain : Mo Mhallachd aig na Caoraich Mhòr”. BBC Alba. Retrieved 28 April 2017.

External links[edit]

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by

Member of Parliament for Newcastle-under-Lyme
With: Viscount Chewton 1779
Archibald Macdonald 1780–1784
Succeeded by

Preceded by

Member of Parliament for Staffordshire
With: Sir Edward Littleton, Bt
Succeeded by

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by

British Ambassador to France

Title next held by

The Marquess Cornwallis

Military offices
New unit Colonel, Staffordshire Yeomanry
Succeeded by

Honorary titles
Preceded by

Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire
Succeeded by

Custos Rotulorum of Staffordshire
Succeeded by

New office Lord Lieutenant of Sutherland
Succeeded by

Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Duke of Sutherland
Succeeded by

Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by

Marquess of Stafford
Succeeded by

Peerage of England
Preceded by

Baron Gower
(descended by acceleration)

Succeeded by