Duchess Elizabeth, one of Northumberland’s most inspirational women, has died aged 90.
She lived at Friar’s Well in Hulne Park, on the outskirts of Alnwick, but spent part of her time at Clive Lodge, Albury, in Surrey.
The Gazette learned late yesterday afternoon that she had passed away just a few hours earlier at her retreat in the south of England.
Her son, Ralph, who is the 12th Duke, was said to be en-route last night with his family.
He said: “She passed away after a lovely walk in her garden in Surrey. The family are greatly saddened by the death of our mother and grandmother, whom we all loved very dearly.”
Rory Wilson, agent for Northumberland Estates, said: “We are extremely sorry to have to announce the death of Duchess Elizabeth. She was a much-loved member of the community who devoted a great deal of her life to a wide range of charities and other causes, many of them local.
“She enjoyed life and in particular her family and her many grandchildren.
“Everyone who ever met her will agree that she was a lovely lady who will be sadly missed, particularly here in Alnwick and on the Estate.”
Sir Alan Beith MP said: “The Duchess will be hugely missed in the whole of Northumberland.
“She always took such an interest in people in every walk of life and showed a warmth which made her so many friends.”
Back in January, the Duchess marked her 90th birthday at Alnwick Castle – the ancestral seat of the Percy family – surrounded by family and friends.
Born Lady Elizabeth Montagu Douglas Scott in 1922, she was the eldest daughter of the 8th Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch.
During the Second World War, she served as a Navy Wren and her duties included code-breaking activities.
She married Hugh, the 10th Duke of Northumberland, in 1946 and the couple went on to have seven children.
Duchess Elizabeth then devoted herself to family and public life and acted as patron or president of many charities and other beneficial organisations, including the Red Cross and the Duchess’s School.
She was chairman of governors at the Duchess’s High School when Roy Todd was headteacher there and also patron of Alnwick Music Society, of which Mr Todd is chairman.
“I thought she was a wonderful woman,” he said.
“She was very gracious and yet in many ways, she was very ordinary, modest and down to earth.”
He added that she was supportive during his time at the high school and was a great friend of the music society.
After her husband’s death in 1988, Duchess Elizabeth took on the role of Honorary Colonel of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers.
She was also awarded the honorary degree of Doctor by University of Newcastle Polytechnic.
More tributes next week