John Egerton, 6th Duke of Sutherland
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, he married Lady Diana Percy (23 November 1917–16 June 1978), daughter of Alan Percy, 8th Duke of Northumberland, on 29 April 1939. He sailed to France with the British Expeditionary Force and was captured at St Valery in 1940. He spent four years in a prisoner of war camp. Upon his return in 1944, he succeeded his father as Earl of Ellesmere.
In 1963, the 5th Duke of Sutherland, his distant cousin Geordie, died, leaving no immediate male heir. Egerton succeeded to the dukedom, but did not inherit the Sutherland estates or Dunrobin Castle, which went to Elizabeth Janson, Geordie's niece, who became the Countess of Sutherland.
Estate duty forced the Duke to sell many pieces from the family's renowned collection of paintings and drawings. The family's wealth had shifted from landholdings to an estimated £120m collection of paintings which included Raphaels, Titians, Tintorettos, Poussins, and a large part of the famouus Orléans collection from the Palais Royal in Paris. The wealth had come from the acquisitions of the first Duke of Bridgewater, who built the famous canal and passed on his mining riches, and from intermarriage. Benjamin Disraeli once paid tribute to the family's "talent for absorbing heiresses".
Despite the hundreds of paintings the Duke was forced to sell, he retained the Dutch masters for Mertoun. The Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh had a number of notable paintings in its possession on long-term loan from the Duke of Sutherland's estate, including pieces by Titian, El Greco, Raphael and van Dyck (one of which, the Venus Anadyomene, was bought by the gallery after his death, partly in lieu of inheritance tax). The Duke made it clear, by selling Bridgewater House in London, that he was abandoning metropolitan pursuits, but maintained the family horseracing tradition.
Although a Conservative, he never claimed his seat in the Lords, eschewing his right to vote or speak for more than half a century. He did find his political voice as a Berwickshire county councillor.
The sixth duke kept a very local profile. In 1984 he sold four masterpieces to fund opening his Template:Convert garden to the public. In 1994 he disagreed when the National Gallery of Scotland sought to rehouse some of his paintings in a new gallery in Glasgow, preferring them to be dispersed around Scotland.