SMITHSON, Sir Hugh, 4th Bt. (1715-86), of Stanwick, Yorks. and Tottenham, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 19 Dec. 1715, o.s. of Langdale Smithson of Stan-wick (o.s. of Sir Hugh Smithson, 3rd Bt.) by Philadelphia, da. of William Revely of Newby Wiske, Yorks. educ. Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1730. m. 16 July 1740, Lady Elizabeth Seymour, da. and h. of Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset, 2s. 1da. suc. gd.-fa. Sir Hugh Smithson, 3rd Bt., 2 Mar. 1733; his cos. Hugh Smithson at Tottenham High Cross, Mdx. and Armin, Yorks. 1740; his fa.-in-law the 7th Duke of Somerset as Baron Warkworth and Earl of Northumberland 7 Feb. 1750, taking name of Percy in lieu of Smithson; K.G. 29 Mar. 1757; cr. Duke of Northumberland 22 Oct. 1766, Lord Lovaine, Baron of Alnwick 28 Jan. 1784.
Sheriff, Yorks. 1738-9; trustee, British Museum 1753-d.; ld. of the bedchamber 1753-63; ld. lt. Northumb. 1753-d.; v.-adm. Northumb. 1755; P.C. 22 Nov. 1762; ld. chamberlain to the Queen 1762-8; ld. lt. Mdx. 1762-d.; ld. lt. [I] 1763-5; v.-adm. N. America 1764; master of the horse 1778-80.
Smithson was descended from a London merchant, who was made a baronet by Charles II. He was brought up a Roman Catholic, but entered the Church of England on becoming heir to his grandfather.1 In 1740 he became engaged to Lady Elizabeth Seymour, who was to have a portion of £10,000 from her grandfather, the 6th Duke of Somerset. The Duke of Leeds wrote on behalf of Smithson, asking for Somerset’s consent, 9 Jan. 1740:
I know him to be a gentleman of great honour and worth, and one that is endowed with all those qualifications which are necessary to make an honest man, a sincere friend and an agreeable companion, having made the best use of every part of his education and being naturally of an extreme good and natural temper ... As it is usual upon these occasions to mention estates, I will inform your Grace that Sir Hugh has at present better than £4,000 a year entirely in his power ... He will likewise inherit at the death of a relation who is upwards of fourscore years of age [Hugh Smithson], very near if not quite three thousand pounds a year more, and who while living is ready to come into any settlements as to that part of the estate, as is Sir Hugh himself with regard to his part.
Somerset was dissatisfied with the marriage settlement, writing to his granddaughter:
you are descended by many generations from the most ancient families in England and it is you who doth add ancient blood to Sir Hugh Smithson’s family. He adds not so ancient blood to your family.
He insisted that Hugh Smithson’s Yorkshire and Tottenham estates should be included in the settlement, but Hugh Smithson refused.2 In the end Somerset reluctantly consented to the marriage. While these negotiations were in progress, Smithson was returned for Middlesex as a Tory with the support of the Duke of Somerset.3 He withdrew with most of the Tories in the division on the dismissal of Walpole in February 1741, was reelected unopposed for the county three months later, having succeeded to his cousin’s estates, and voted against the Hanoverians in 1742 and 1744.
On the death of Lord Beauchamp, Lady Elizabeth’s brother, in 1744, she became heir to the Percy estates. At the end of the year, Somerset, who had conceived a violent dislike for Smithson, petitioned the King to create him, Somerset, Earl of Northumberland with remainder to Sir Charles Wyndham to the exclusion of Smithson and Lady Elizabeth. Smithson’s father-in-law, Lord Hertford, sent Smithson to George II with a letter of protest, on which
the King immediately called him to his closet and allowed him to explain the case which he listened to with the greatest attention and humanity, and said it was far from his intention to do a hardship to my Lord Hertford.4
As a result, the King held up the patent. From then on, acting through Lord Hertford, Smithson worked to secure the reversion of the earldom of Northumberland for himself. He gradually abandoned Toryism. During the rebellion he was praised for his ‘zealous behaviour for his religion, his King and his country’.5 He was absent from the division on the Hanoverian troops of April 1746, when he was classed as ‘doubtful’, but he spoke on the government side in the debate on the bill to abolish hereditary jurisdictions in Scotland in April 1747.6 He was successful for the county with another government supporter in 1747 against two Tories, writing to Newcastle:
I am not less sensible of the honour of your Grace’s congratulations upon my success, than I am grateful for your Grace’s assistance and goodness in promoting it, and shall be happy to find that my endeavours have in any degree contributed to his Majesty’s service, which I shall always esteem as inseparable from the interest of my country and shall never think any expense or trouble too great to defeat the designs of those who act upon different principles.
After the death of the 6th Duke of Somerset in 1748, Lord Hertford, now Duke of Somerset, applied to the King for the earldom of Northumberland with remainder to Smithson and his male heirs by Lady Elizabeth. Newcastle replied, 21 July 1749:
According to my promise to Sir Hugh Smithson, I laid before the King your Grace’s request as to the limitations of the title of Earl of Northumberland. His Majesty ... told me that he was very ready to grant the earldom of Northumberland to your Grace and to Lady Elizabeth Smithson and her heirs male, but that he did not think it proper to go any farther ... The King is very sorry, that, in this instance, he cannot comply with what is asked in favour of Sir Hugh Smithson though upon any other proper occasion, his Majesty will be ready to show him any mark of his regard.
But three months later George II relented, granting the patent with remainder to Smithson, who succeeded his father-in-law to the earldom a year later, asking Newcastle
to represent my most dutiful and inviolable attachment to his Majesty, and the grateful sense I shall always retain of the great honour his Majesty out of his unbounded goodness has been pleased to confer upon me and my family and that I shall certainly take the most early opportunity that decency and my unfeigned grief for so great a loss will permit, to throw myself at his Majesty’s feet, whose service upon all occasions I shall zealously endeavour to promote and to prove myself a most dutiful and loyal subject to his Majesty.7
He died 6 June 1786.
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Eveline Cruickshanks
- 1. F. Brenan, House of Percy, ii. 433.
- 2. Somerset to Lady Betty Seymour, 8 July 1740, and Cowslade’s jnl., Duke of Northumberland’s mss at Alnwick.
- 3. H. Finch to Ld. Malton, 18 Nov. 1742, Fitzwilliam mss; Somerset to Smithson, 26 May 1740, Northumberland mss.
- 4. 27 Sept. 1744, Northumberland mss.
- 5. T. Duncombe to Lady Hertford, 22 Jan. 1746, ibid.
- 6. Add. 35876, f. 250.
- 7. Add. 32712, ff. 36-37; 32714, ff. 239, 319; 32718, f. 330; 32719, f. 117; 32720, ff. 88-89.