Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of Susannah Elizabeth Knight, Lady Delaval, c.1795 

Samuel Shelley (1750-1808)

Portrait miniature of Susannah Elizabeth Knight, Lady Delaval, c.1795, Samuel Shelley
Watercolour on ivory
18th Century
Oval, 70 mm (2 3/4in)
By family descent Private Collection
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Miss Susannah Elizabeth Knight (c.1762-1822) became the second wife of John Hussey Delaval (1728-1808), 1st Baronet Delaval of Seaton Delaval and Baron Redford of County Wicklow and 1st Lord Delaval of Seaton Delaval, co. Northumberland in 1803.

Susannah was a former mistress, sharing the affections of Baron Delaval with Elizabeth Hicks, who had become his paramour at the age of sixteen. From 1795, around the time of this portrait, Delaval was spending lavishly on his two mistresses. His reputation as a womaniser stretched back to his university days, his academic career at Cambridge cut short after the ‘Captain Hargreaves’ living with him turned out to be female. It is not known what finally persuaded him to marry Susannah, but the 75-year-old Lord may have been keen to secure a male heir, his only son from his first marriage having died.

Lord Delaval died (without a male heir) on 17 May 1808 at Seaton Delaval Hall and was buried in June 1808 in St Paul's Chapel at Westminster Abbey. He must have held great affection for Susannah, as The Ford estate (including Ford castle, where she lived after his death), the Hartley glassworks, and his personal possessions passed to her for life. His brother, Edward Hussey Delaval inherited the estates of Seaton Delaval, but on his death in 1814 the Delaval family became extinct in the male line.
The Delavals originally hailed from France and came to England with Duke William of Normandy and his army in 1066. They eventually settled in Northumberland at the end of the eleventh century. The King granted them lands in Seaton, Callerton and Dissington. Like many of the northern barons, the Delavals, clashed with King John and played a part in forcing him to sign the Magna Carta in 1215. The family nearly died out during the fifteenth Century but, James Horsley, whose mother was a Delaval, changed his name so that the line could continue. They were a prominent family, several of them serving as High Sheriff of the county, others as Members of Parliament and a few as Border Commissioners. Their estates expanded as they acquired land at Biddleton, West Heddon, Horsley and Holywell.

The magnificent Seaton Delaval Hall, designed by Sir John Vanbrugh, was completed in 1728 and is considered to be his finest work. In December 2009 the National Trust announced that it had been successful in securing the house for the nation, having launched an appeal for over £6 million.

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