Today marks the 10th Anniversary of the Death of Elizabeth Percy, Duchess of Northumberland, who passed away at the age of 90 on this day in 2012! The daughter of the Duke of Buccleuch who was a WRNS Officer during WWII, she married the 10th Duke of Northumberland and remained a prominent society figure for decades, so we are featuring the spectacular Northumberland Foliate Tiara!
But first, lets learn about the Duchess! The daughter of the 8th Duke of Buccleuch and Mary Lascelles, she was the niece of Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester. Lady Elizabeth Montagu Douglas Scott grew between the family estates of Boughton House in Northamptonshire, Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries and Galloway, and Bowhill in the Scottish Borders, and Eildon Hall, studying languages in Germany, Italy and France before being a Debutante in the 1939 London Season, and then serving as a Women’s Royal Naval Service Officer during the Second World War.
In 1946, Lady Elizabeth married Hugh Percy, 10th Duke of Northumberland, the holder of one of England’s premier Dukedoms, in a magnificent ceremony at Westminster Abbey. The Duke and Duchess had seven children, including the 11th and 12th Duke of Northumberland, residing at the magnificent Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, Syon House in London and Albury Park. The Duchess was appointed a Commander of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in 1986 and after the Duke’s death in 1988, she took on the role of Honorary Colonel of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. The Duchess passed away in her house on the Albury Park Estate in 2012, with her funeral held at Albury, Memorial at Alnwick, and her ashes being interred in the Northumberland Vault at Westminster Abbey.
A spectacular piece composed of several antique diamond elements that can be broken down into 14 brooches, with the base being able to be worn as a Diamond Rivière, this magnificent Tiara was a wedding gift from the 6th Duke of Northumberland to his bride, Louisa Drummond, at the time of their Wedding in 1845, and despite being a spectacular Heirloom, it was not photographed until the 8th Duchess of Northumberland, who was the Mistress of the Robes to the Queen Mother, wore elements of the Tiara with the Strawberry Leaf Coronet for the Coronations of King George VI in 1937.
Since her mother-in-law was the Mistress of the Robes and wore the more important Strawberry Leaf Coronet, which was dramatically stolen in 1963, the daughter-in-law, Elizabeth, the 9th Duchess wore the Tiara for the Queen’s Coronation (when she was heavily pregnant), as well as at the Coronation Gala.
The Duchess continued to wear the Tiara through the 1950s and 1960s, when it became the family’s most important heirloom following the theft of the Coronet, with a notable appearance at the Queen Charlotte’s Ball in the mid-50s, which was described by the Duchess and her friend, Lady Macmillan, in Debutantes:
LM: “I tease Elizabeth Northumberland very much later on when she became the person who cut the cake for the Queen Charlotte’s Ball and I thought ‘What a Change?'”
DN: “I was Queen Charlotte and other people had to come curtsey to me, that was quite funny.”
LM: “As she was in a Tiara being very correct”
Most recently, the Northumberland Foliate Tiara was worn by Lady Melissa Percy, the younger daughter of the Duke and Duchess, for her wedding to Thomas van Straubenzee at St Michael’s Church in Alnwick in 2013. Lets hope we see the Tiara worn again soon!