Lady Harriet Elizabeth Georgiana Howard was born on 21 May 1806 and was the third daughter of George Howard, 6th Earl of Carlisle, and Lady Georgiana Cavendish, who was a daughter of the famous Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.
On 28 May 1823, Harriet married her cousin George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, the eldest son of George Leveson-Gower, 1st Duke of Sutherland, and Elizabeth Gordon. George was twenty years older than Harriet, but their marriage was a happy one and they had four sons and seven daughters. George’s father was created Duke of Sutherland in 1833 but he died six months later and was succeeded by his son. George’s mother was 19th Countess of Sutherland in her own right, and after her death in 1839, her ancient Scottish title passed to her son who also became 20th Earl of Sutherland.
Harriet was appointed as Mistress of the Robes to Queen Victoria in 1837 and she would hold the position whenever the Whigs were in office until the death of her husband in 1861. When Lord Melbourne declared his intention to resign in May 1839, the Queen reluctantly asked Robert Peel, a Tory, to form a government, however he would only agree if the Queen replaced some of her ladies with Tories. Queen Victoria was reluctant to replace her ladies as she considered them her closest friends and the crisis became known as the Bedchamber Crisis of 1839 resulting in the Whigs resuming power.
Harriet lost her position as Mistress of the Robes in 1841 when the Tories finally gained power, but she would resume the post in July 1846 to March 1852, January 1853 to February 1858, June 1859 to April 1861. Harriet had a close friendship with Queen Victoria and as a result of the relationship, Harriet’s family had a powerful position in society. Harriet became a vocal supporter of the anti-slavery movement and she helped organise the Stafford House Address petition which was also known as “An Affectionate and Christian Address of Many Thousands of the Women of England to their Sisters, the Women of the United States of America”. The petition was responded to by Julia Tyler, the second wife of John Tyler, the tenth President of the United States, who wrote an article entitled “The Women of England vs. the Women of America” which defended slavery. The First Lady’s article prompted a response from Harriet Ann Jacobs, a former slave, who wrote a letter to the New York Tribune which she signed “Fugitive”.
After the death of Prince Albert in 1861, Harriet was the devastated Queen’s sole companion during the first few weeks of her widowhood, however her last public appearance would be at the wedding of the Prince of Wales in 1863. That same year, Harriet contracted a serious illness from which she would never fully recover and she died on 27 October 1868.
Father: George Howard, 6th Earl of Carlisle
Mother: Lady Georgiana Cavendish
Born: 21 May 1806
Died: 27 Oct 1868
Spouse: George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 2nd Duke of Sutherland
Her Grace The Duchess of Sutherland
Her Grace The Dowager Duchess of Sutherland
Mistress of the Robes
Born: 30 May 1824
Died: 25 May 1878
Spouse: George Douglas Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll
Born: 08 Aug 1825
Spouse: Charles Stuart, 12th Lord Blantyre
Born: 15 Apr 1827
Spouse: Charles FitzGerald, 4th Duke of Leinster
Born: 19 Dec 1828
Died: 22 Sep 1892
Spouse 1: Anne Hay-Mackenzie
Spouse 2: Mary Caroline Michell
Born: 26 Jun 1830
Died: 24 Feb 1832
Born: 11 Nov 1832
Died: 06 Oct 1854
Born: 16 Jun 1834
Spouse: Hugh Grosvenor, 1st Duke of Westminster
Born: 16 May 1838
Died: 19 Jun 1839
Born: 16 Jun 1834
Spouse: Grace Abdy
Born: 02 Aug 1845
Died: 09 Mar 1916
Born: 03 Feb 1848
Died: 21 Jun 1849