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A Bastard of Dukes

Cymon is a geeky historian with a passion for finding out and researching peculiarities and historical coincidences and unsung heroes.

The Collective Noun

To most, a lord, is a lord, is a lord, we don’t know much about them beyond a general acceptance, somewhat misplaced in many cases, that they are rich, powerful and landed. However within the rarefied atmosphere of high society this is not the case and although holders of titles are all venerated, these people know who has the senior title.

When royalty isn’t present it is the dukes that sit atop the social pyramid. And even within the world of dukes there is an order of precedence. However, when turning to the question of how these titles came into existence, the general perception of the great and the good being thus rewarded does not always hold true.

So herewith we have a list of, shall we say, less legitimate, reasons why the following eight dukedoms still exist to this very day, although they are held by only four men. I have created (which is an apt word for those of you who know that peerages are “created” by the monarch) a collective noun for these gentlemen – A Bastard of Dukes.

Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond


The current Duke of Richmond, 66 year old Charles Gordon-Lennox, is the eleventh duke to succeed to the title which was created for three year old Charles Lennox on 9th August 1675. What had this boy done to deserve such an honour? Well his father was King Charles II, the merry monarch himself, who famously sired no legitimate children but a whole stable full of offspring on the wrong side of the blanket, as my grandmother would have said.

The first duke’s mother was Louise Renée de Penancoët de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth (another dukedom created by Charles, especially for her, but only for her lifetime, an ancient Life Peerage, if you will). Louise had originally been pushed forward by her family to be a mistress of Louis XIV but eventually found her way into Charles’ bed.

The young duke obviously acquitted himself well as Duke of Richmond, for just a month later, on 9th September 1675, his father, the King, created another dukedom for him, so, at the age of four the Duke of Richmond also found himself as the Duke of Lennox.

Having two dukedoms was clearly not enough and a third and fourth were added over time.

Thirdly, in the French Peerage initially Louise and then her son, Charles, were created Dukes of Aubigny.

Fourthly, in 1876, the then 6th Duke of Richmond and Lennox, not forgetting that he was also the 6th Duke of Aubigny in France, was also created first Duke of Gordon.

Thus the current Duke holds four dukedoms.

We owe much to several of the Dukes of Richmond, Lennox and Gordon, over the generations. The first Duke was instrumental in the early years of professional cricket and reportedly took part in a “great match” in 1697, for a prize of fifty guineas. That same year the duke purchased Goodwood House and its estate in Sussex, which is still the family seat. Subsequent dukes also had an interest in cricket, the second being one of the most influential figures in the evolution of the game, particularly his involvement with the early setting up of the official rules of the game.

The third Duke acquired the sobriquet “the radical duke” he supported the colonists on the run up to and during the American Revolution and put forward a motion in parliament for the removal of British troops. He also coined the phrase “a union of hearts” when advocating a loosening of draconian laws in Ireland.

The fourth Duke was a renowned duelist and became Governor General of British North America (Canada), where he died of rabies in 1819. However it was his wife who stole the limelight for it was his Duchess of Richmond who gave, what has been called, the world’s most famous ball on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo.

The ninth Duke was a noted motor racing driver in the 1920s and had the Goodwood race track built on his estate. He was influential in the world of motor sport throughout his life. After he had finished construction on the motor racing track the Goodwood estate not only had that but also a cricket pitch, and horse racing track.

The current Duke, shares his grandfather’s love of motor sport and founded the Goodwood festival of speed. He is a noted photographer and has worked with Stanley Kubrick.

Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Grafton


The title is currently held by the debonair 12th duke, 43 year old Henry Oliver Charles Fitzroy. The dukedom was created for his ancestor Henry Fitzroy when he was twelve years old on 9th September 1675. Henry was the illegitimate son of Charles II and his mistress Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine. The Earl of Castlemaine was raised to the peerage after the King had commenced his affair with Barbara and it is acknowledged that the title was, in effect, compensation for allowing His Majesty to bed his wife.

Although the first duke was nine years older than his half-brother, Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond, the latter possesses the senior dukedom due to the fact that it was created a month earlier. Henry Fitzroy’s dukedom was created on the same day that Lennox received his second dukedom, that of Lennox itself.

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Barbara Villiers was created Duchess of Cleveland in her own right in 1670, the title eventually passing to her third son by the King, Charles Fitzroy, 1st Duke of Southampton, both of these dukedoms became extinct, due to there being no legitimate (ironic?) male heir, in 1774.

Henry, 1st Duke of Grafton, was married to the same young lady, Isabella Bennet, twice. Firstly in 1672, when he was nine years old and she five and then again in 1679, when they were sixteen and twelve respectively. Grafton was a military man and died at the siege of Cork in 1690 at the age of 27.

Of his descendants the most notable was Augustus Fitzroy, the third Duke, who served as Prime Minister between 1768 and 1770. When he became Prime Minister he was the youngest person, at thirty three, to have held the position.

No other Dukes forged any sort of notable career, especially since their pseudo royal recognition has fallen into the mists of time, with the exception of minor political posts and military commands.

At just 43 years old though, the current Duke still has time, however the area in which he may come to prominence is somewhat removed from traditional ducal careers. Henry has worked in the music industry for the last sixteen years or so and was part of the team organising The Rolling Stones tour in 2005. He lives at the family seat, Euston Hall, in Suffolk.

Charles Beauclerk, 1st Duke of St. Albans

Charles as Earl of Burford (right), with his younger brother James

Charles as Earl of Burford (right), with his younger brother James

The fourteenth Duke, 82 year old Murray de Vere Beauclerk (pronounced Bo Clare) can boast as his ancestor the most famous of Charles II’s mistresses, Eleanor (Nell) Gwynn.

The first duke, Charles Beauclerk, was born in 1670 and was created Duke of St. Albans on 5th January 1684 at the age of thirteen, so, as with his elder half-brother, the Duke of Grafton, he was older than the first Duke of Richmond but by reason of his dukedom being created later, it is junior.

Allegedly Nell used to refer to young Charles as “bastard”, which The Merry Monarch disapproved of and so created him Earl of Burford in 1676 in recognition that he was indeed his son.

The Duke was also appointed as Hereditary Master Falconer, a post that has passed down with the title and is still held by the current duke, until just a few years ago this position entitled the holder to a side of venison annually, culled from the royal estates. A military man, the first duke’s career suffered as a result of the politics of the day and he died at the age of 56 to be succeeded by his son.

None of the Dukes of St. Albans have excelled at anything really, again with the exception of minor government and military posts.

Unlike the other dukes in this list the current holder of the title has no ancient, stately pile to call home. He forged a career as a qualified chartered accountant and is also the Governor-General of the Royal Stuart Society.

James Scott, 1st Duke of Buccleuch


At sixty seven years of age Richard Walter John Montagu Douglas Scott, 10th Duke of Buccleuch (pronounced B’cloo) is a very active gentleman, he is a senior television executive, was knighted in 2000 for his work on the UK’s millennium celebrations and was President of The National Trust for Scotland.

Although created before the aforementioned dukedoms, dating from 1663, it is junior to them by reason that it was created in the peerage of Scotland and not England. Initially created for Charles II’s eldest illegitimate son, James Scott (or Crofts or FitzRoy!), Duke of Monmouth. James was born in 1650, before his father had acceded to the throne in 1660, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, whilst he was conceived in Paris, where the royal family had taken refuge during the “rule” of Oliver Cromwell. His mother was Lucy Walter, the daughter of minor Welsh gentry. Lucy led a, shall we say, colourful life, full of affairs and intrigue. This included a spell living above a barber’s shop in London during the time of the Protectorate under Cromwell. She was arrested as a Royalist spy and spent some time in the Tower of London. In 1658 Lucy was persuaded to hand her son over to a royal tutor in return for a pension of £400 per annum, equivalent to nearly £100,000 pa today. She died of venereal disease in Paris later the same year.

On 14th February 1663, some three years or so after Charles had returned to England as King, James Scott (or Croft or Fitzroy) was created Duke of Monmouth. On 20th April that year he married, at the age of 13, the 12 year old Anne Scott, daughter of Francis Scott, 2nd Earl of Buccleuch and was created Duke of Buccleuch.

Monmouth was executed after he led a rebellion against his uncle, James II, on 15th July 1685. An Act of Attainder was passed, thus rendering forfeit the Dukedom of Monmouth, however as his wife had been created Duchess of Buccleuch in her own right, that dukedom passed to their grandson, Francis Scott on her death in 1732.

The third duke inherited the Dukedom of Queensbury from his second cousin in 1810, thus he became 5th Duke of Queensbury, the current duke being the 12th. He also extended the surname Scott by adding the names Montagu and Douglas, which were in his recent ancestry, in order to keep those names alive. The surname Montagu Douglas Scott is not hyphenated. In addition to the two dukedoms, they are also the chiefs of Clan Scott.

No other Dukes of Buccleuch and Queensbury achieved that much in life, apart from the usual military careers and minor political positions. In fact the current (10th) duke can be said to have more about him than his ancestors for the last 250 years or so.

Due to extremely advantageous marriages and inheritance the Duke can call no fewer than four grand houses home: Boughton House (Northamptonshire), Drumlanrig Castle (Dumfries and Galloway), Dalkeith Palace (Midlothian) and Bowhill House (Scottish Borders).



The article was inspired by the 11th Duke of Grafton with whom the author had a lovely chat in 1975. The Duke had only recently inherited the title - the author was 15 years old!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Cymon Snow

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