The Late Countess

It seems somehow fitting that Henrietta spent one of her last evenings in the company of her beloved Horace Walpole. In the days after her death, he wrote an account of their final meeting and her poor health, but he hadn’t anticipated her imminent demise. His grief for his unlikely friend ran deep.

“Strawberry Hill, July 29 1767

I am very sorry that I must speak of a loss that [has] deprived of a most agreeable friend, with whom I passed here many hours. I need not say I mean poor Lady Suffolk. I was with her two hours on Saturday night; and indeed found her much changed, though I did not apprehend her in danger. I was going to say she complained – but you know she never did complain – of the gout and rheumatism all over her, particularly in her face. It was a cold night, and she sat below stairs when she should have been in bed; and I doubt this want of care was prejudicial.


In truth, I never knew a woman more respectable for her honour and principles, and have lost few persons in my life whom I shall miss so much.”176

Henrietta died on 26 July 1767, after spending the evening at home in the company of old friends. Perhaps fittingly, she was not alone at the time of her death but was instead with William Chetwynd, recently created 3rd Viscount Chetwynd. He had been a friend of her late husband who had remained close to Henrietta after George’s death. Henrietta and Lord Chetwynd had been warming themselves beside the fire when she decided to take supper in her chambers. The viscount escorted Henrietta upstairs and helped her to a chair. As she sat, she clutched her side and swooned. Within half an hour, Henrietta Howard, the Dowager Countess of Suffolk, was dead.

“On Sunday night died at her seat at Marble Hill, near Richmond, in the 86th year of her age, the lady of the Right Hon. the Earl of Suffolk. She was many years Keeper of the Wardrobe to her late Majesty Queen Caroline.”177

In her will, Henrietta bequeathed the bulk of her respectable 60-acre estate to her niece, Dorothy, and Dorothy’s daughter, Henrietta Hotham, whilst she left Marble Hill to her nephew, John. The will stipulated that her cherished estate and all the contents of the house were to remain together and that, should John die without male heirs, then the estate and its contents would pass to young Henrietta and from there, along the female line of the family. Henrietta had known to her cost that women all too often lacked resources to call their own.

Henrietta had lived through tumultuous times. She had watched the dawn of the modern era and played a personal role as the Hanoverians made themselves comfortable on the British throne, but it had taken her decades to achieve what she really dreamt of. With the key to her own front door at Marble Hill and the companionship of her beloved George Berkeley, Henrietta’s dreams finally came true. She outlived her husband by 21 years but at her death they could finally be reunited. Henrietta was laid beside her adored spouse in the family vault at Berkeley Castle, where they rest together to this day.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!