Anne Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, Duchess of Sutherland (1829-1888), 1st Countess of Cromartie, also known as the Marchioness of Stafford, lived at Torquay’s Sutherland Tower.
Born Anne Hay-Mackenzie, she was the daughter of John Hay-Mackenzie of Newhall and Cromarty.
On 27 June 1849 Anne married George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, Marquess of Stafford, who succeeded as third Duke of Sutherland on 22 February 1861.
On 21 October 1861 the title held by her great-great-grandfather, George Mackenzie, was revived when she was created Countess of Cromartie. George, 3rd Earl of Cromartie, had lost his lands and titles when he was found to be on the wrong side of the failed Jacobite rising of 1745.
It is in her role as Mistress of the Robes to Queen Victoria from 1870 to 1874 that Anne is worth mentioning.
Anne was a close friend of Queen Victoria, and when Elizabeth, the daughter of Harriet Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 2nd Duchess of Sutherland (1806-1868) became ill, Anne was appointed by the Queen to serve as her Mistress of the Robes.
The close relationship between Anne and Victoria is reflected in their correspondence where the Queen refers to the Duchess simply as ‘Annie’. These give an insight into the life and views of the Queen of the British Empire.
Many of the letters from Queen Victoria refer to her thoughts about contemporary political issues.
In one letter of July 21st 1870, the Queen comments on the Franco-Prussian War. Victoria asks Anne to be discreet in repeating her remarks. She writes:
“Dear Annie, Might I ask you to be very cautious in speaking of what I may have said about this wicked war?”
The Queen writes that she considers the war to be “wicked & unjust” and that she felt “the greatest anxiety” for her family who she feared would “suffer cruelly in consequence”.
The Queen’s letters also reflect contemporary social and moral views such as this example on the topic of the social acceptability of divorced women.
In a letter dated May 3 1874 Victoria explains her reasons for refusing to receive a lady named Effie Millais. Effie had been married to John Ruskin but left him to marry the artist John Millais.
‘Annie’ had written attempting to persuade the Queen to receive the divorcée, but Victoria replied that “the rule has always been adhered to” and she refused to make an exception. She commented that receiving the lady would be “opening the door to many others” and would cause “remarks of every kind & sort which would be much more injurious to the Lady than her not being received”.
The Queen concludes her letter by instructing Anne “you should advise Mrs Millais in her own interest to say no more about it”.
To show the Queen’s appreciation of Anne’s friendship, the Duchess of Sutherland was awarded the Order of Victoria and Albert (3rd class).
Anne died at the family’s London mansion, Stafford House, St James’ Park, in 1888, aged 59 and is buried at Babbacombe Cemetery.