The Douglas Archives

A collection of historical and genalogical records

The Dowager Duchess of Northumberland, who has died aged 90

The Dowager Duchess of Northumberland died on 19th September 2012, aged 90. Born on January 20 1922, Lady Elizabeth Diana Montagu-Douglas-Scott was the elder daughter of the 8th Duke of Buccleuch (and 10th Duke of Queensberry) and his wife, Mary (Mollie) Lascelles. She was the widow of the 10th Duke.

In June 1946 she married Hugh, 10th Duke of Northumberland, thus uniting the Percys and the Douglases, who had been enemies for centuries. The ceremony was attended by the King and Queen, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. Hugh was the second son of the 8th Duke, and had succeeded aged 26 when his brother, Alan, was killed in action in 1940.

On her marriage Elizabeth became chatelaine of two great houses — Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, the Duke’s ancestral home for 700 years, a feudal fortress on the outside and High Renaissance palace within, and Syon House in Middlesex — as well as of Albury Park in Surrey, home to the Dukes since 1890.

She devoted much of her life to charitable causes, many of them in Northumberland, where she was held in great respect and affection.

In August 1943 she and two other Wrens were posted to the liner Mauretania, which had to dodge U-boats on the voyage to New York. Elizabeth’s job was to decode messages and give them to a Wren officer to convey to the bridge. In New York they collected 8,000 American soldiers and brought them back to Liverpool. They made similar voyages to Boston and Nova Scotia.

Still in a decoding role, Lady Elizabeth was promoted to Leading Wren and in advance of D-Day sent to Chatham, and then Australia . By the end of the war, she felt that she had been converted from “a dull, shy, country girl” into a more confident person with her own identity — “without being somebody’s daughter or somebody’s sister”.

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