Infamous reformer. Leveson-Gower was the son of a noted English family and succeeded his father as Marquess of Stafford in 1803. He had married Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland, in 1785. He served as British Ambassador to France and was in Paris at the time of the French Revolution. Leveson-Gower and his wife were arrested for attempting to help Marie Antoinette and her son escape.
Shocked at the conditions of his tenants and convinced that the interior of Sutherland could not support subsistence farming in the longer term, he initiated the most notorious of the 'Highland Clearances' around 1810. Inspired by progressive social and economic theories and having consulted widely, he set about resettling thousands of families along the coast, making way for sheep. Unfortunately, the evictions were carried out ruthlessly by the Duke's factors, who burned the houses and forced many out of the area. It is therefore he who must shoulder at least some of the blame for this event and the consequent destruction of the highland way of life.
Leveson-Gower was made 1st Duke of Sutherland in his own right just months before his death. He is remembered by a massive statue which towers over Golspie and has become the focus for nationalist hatred of a man motivated by high principles but let down by their implementation.
He died at Dunrobin Castle and is buried at Dornoch. He is remembered by a large and controversial statue on Beinn Bhragaidh, overlooking Golspie.