The Three Suo Jure Countesses of Sutherland

I know that one of the things we all love is peeresses in the their own right. I’ve been preparing for a workshop on the inheritance of titles in the UK, and I’ve come across a couple of cool and illustrative cases (this one is extra cool because it happens three times!). The Earl of Sutherland is a title in the Peerage of Scotland. It was created circa 1230 for William de Moravia.

The first Countess of Sutherland in her own right was Elizbeth de Moravia, the 10th Countess (younger sister of the 9th Earl). She held the title from 1470-1535. There doesn’t seem to have been any fuss about her inheriting. She married a younger son of the Earl of Huntley and their male descendants went on to hold the title until the 18th Earl died without a male heir.

Elizabeth, 19th Countess of Sutherland

You can read about the case for the 18th Earl’s daughter inheriting on Google Books in Proceedings Relating to the Peerage of Scotland, 1707-1788 (starts on p. 354). Lady Elizabeth was five when some douchebag tried to claim her title by making out that his bastard ancestor was in fact legitimate under Scottish law (he wasn’t). But her guardians were having none of it! There were also two other men who made claims but then threw their weight behind Sir Robert’s claim (anyone should have the title but the girl!).

“On 26th March, a Petition of his Grace John Duke of Atholl, Charles Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, the Honourable James Wemyss of Wemyss, Sir David Dalrymple of Hailes, Baronet, Sir Adam Fergusson of Kilkerran, Baronet, Alexander Boswell of Auchinleck, Esq; and John Makenzie of Delvin, Esq; Guardians to Elizabeth, claiming the title and dignity of Countess of Sutherland, was presented and read …”

At this point, the House of Lords threw up their collective hands and delayed until the next session, telling everyone to get their ducks in a row and prepare for the Select Committee on Privileges. When the Committee finally convened, it requested additional proofs to be printed and lodged at least fourteen days before the hearing. They further ordered that the agents of the claimants (all claimants have a solicitor acting for them) exchange with each other the case they intended to print beforehand so they could answer it.

After almost two years of back and forth, the Committee decided in favor of Lady Elizabeth, the legitimate daughter of the previous earl. So, Elizabeth, 19th Countess of Sutherland (Peerage of Scotland) grew up and married George Granville Leveson-Gower in 1785; he inherited the title of Marquess of Stafford from his father in 1803. He was made Duke of Sutherland in 1833 (Peerage of the United Kingdom).

Their son thus inherited the Earldom of Sutherland from his mother and the Dukedom of Sutherland from his father. The two titles continued united until the death of the fifth duke. The earldom then passed to his niece Elizabeth, who became the 24th Countess of Sutherland in 1921 (the heir apparent is her son).

So there you have it, the THREE suo jure Countesses of Sutherland.

 

 

 

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One Response to The Three Suo Jure Countesses of Sutherland

  1. Fascinating, Isobel! And wasn’t the 19th Countess gorgeous? Talk about a young lady who had it all –looks AND a title in her own right. 🙂

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