Leveson-Gower, Harriet Elizabeth Georgiana (DNB00)
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Leveson-Gower, Harriet Elizabeth Georgiana
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LEVESON-GOWER, HARRIET ELIZABETH GEORGIANA. Duchess of Sutherland (1806–1866), third daughter of George Howard, sixth earl of Carlisle, and Lady Georgiana Dorothy Cavendish, eldest daughter of the fifth Duke of Devonshire, was born 21 May 1806. On 28 May 1823 she was married to her cousin George Granville Leveson-Gower, earl Gower (1786–1861), who had been elected M.P. for St. Mawes, Cornwall, in 1808, and succeeded his father as second Duke of Sutherland in 1833. He had previously been debarred from matrimony by a romantic attachment for Louise, the unfortunate queen of Prussia; but the union with Lady Harriet Howard proved one of affection. By the duchess's influence Stafford House, St. James's Palace, became an important centre of society (Lord Ronald Gower, Reminiscences, vol. i. chap. i.), and the starting-point of various philanthropic undertakings. There the protest of the English ladies against American slavery was framed in 1853. On the accession of Queen Victoria the duchess was appointed mistress of the robes, and held that post when the whigs were in office until her husband's death (August 1837 to September 1841, July 1846 to March 1852, January 1853 to February 1856, June 1859 to April 1861). From the queen's refusal to part with the duchess and her other ladies arose the bedchamber crisis of 1639, with the result that the whigs returned to office. Her majesty has given a sympathetic description of the duchess's character (Martin, Prince Consort, ii. 246), and after the death of the prince consort spent the first weeks of her widowhood with the duchess as her solitary companion. The duchess's last public appearance was at the Prince of Wales's marriage in 1863. In that year she was seized with an illness from which she never recovered. However, she was able to entertain Garibaldi, for whom she had great admiration, at Chiswick House and Trentham, Staffordshire, during his visit to England in April 1864. She died 27 Oct. 1868.
The duchess's letters, of which a selection has been published by her son Lord Ronald Gower in Stafford House Letters, pts.iv-vi., prove her to have been possessed of an affectionate disposition, with some sense of humour. She had also a taste for architecture and gardening. Her eleven children included George Granville William Sutherland, the third duke [see under Leveson-Gower, George Granville, first Duke]; of her daughters, Elizabeth (1824-1878) was married in 1844 to the eighth Duke of Argyll; Evelyn (1826-1869) to the twelfth Baron Blantyre in 1843; Caroline (1828-1687) to the fourth Duke of Leinster in 1847; and Constance (1838-1880) to the first Duke of Westminster in 1852.[Lord Ronald Gower's Reminiscences, 1883; Stafford House Letters. edited by the same, 1891.]