Thomas Coutts (1735-1822) was senior partner in Coutts & Co from 1775 until his death.
Background and early life
Thomas Coutts was the youngest of four sons born to John Coutts (1699-1750), an Edinburgh merchant and banker who served as Lord Provost of Edinburgh, 1742-4, and was a director of The Royal Bank of Scotland from 1743 until his death in 1750. John Coutts educated his sons to recognise the importance of building political and business allegiances, and Thomas grew up with a clear understanding of how such relationships could help – or hinder – a growing business.
John Coutts died in 1750, and for the next ten years Thomas Coutts worked for the family firm in its office in the City of London.
In 1755 Thomas's elder brother James married into a Strand-based goldsmith-bank, founded by John Campbell in 1692. By 1760, James’s Campbell business partner and his wife had both died, leaving him in need of business support. In 1761 Thomas joined his brother as partner in the firm, now named 'James & Thomas Coutts'.
James’s focus gradually strayed from the bank; he stood for election as a Member of Parliament in the 1760s, and later also suffered a mental breakdown. In 1775 Thomas took sole charge of the bank, renaming it 'Thomas Coutts & Company'.
Thomas took on partners of high calibre, and by 1822 had shaped the once-struggling business into a successful bank with a reputation for reliability. Thomas’s discreet nature, thoughtful approach and flexibility in handling his customers’ needs were strong factors in this success. He counted among his friends and customers many of the leading politicians, actors, diplomats and socialites of the day. The King himself was a customer. Throughout his life Thomas retained a 50 per cent share in the business, and planned to keep this ‘supremacy’ for his family after his death.
Thomas was married twice; firstly, in 1763, to Susannah Starkie, a nursemaid in the household of his brother James. The marriage was a happy one, and lasted until Susannah’s death in 1815. The couple had three daughters. Soon after Susannah’s death, Thomas married Harriot Mellon, a West End actress approximately half his age.
Thomas Coutts's health declined sharply in the last two years of his life. He died on 24 February 1822, at the age of 86.
His will bequeathed to his widow Harriot most of his property, his 50 per cent share in the bank and responsibility for deciding who should inherit it. Harriot took up the role of senior partner at the bank with energy and commitment, promoting her late husband's confidential clerk, Andrew Dickie, to partner, and drawing on him for guidance as required. She also handled the complex inheritance question with tact and foresight.
Meanwhile, Thomas’s modest spirit and measured business approach lived on at the bank long after his death. Until as late as the 1920s, clerks at Coutts continued to use his perfectly-worded template letters when corresponding with clients.
He was the fourth son of John Coutts (1699–1751), who carried on business in Edinburgh as a corn factor and negotiator of bills of exchange, and who in 1742 was elected lord provost of the city. The family was originally of Montrose, but about 1696 one of its members had settled at Edinburgh, where in due course Thomas received his education at the Royal High School. Soon after the death of John Coutts the business was divided into two branches, one carried on in Edinburgh, the other in London.
The banking business in London was in the hands of James and Thomas Coutts, sons of John Coutts. From the death of his brother in 1778, Thomas, as surviving partner, became sole head of the firm; and under his direction the banking house rose to the highest distinction. His ambition was to establish his character as a man of business and to make a fortune; and he lived to succeed in this aim and long to enjoy his reputation and wealth. A gentleman in manners, hospitable and benevolent, he counted amongst his friends some of the literary men and the best actors of his day. Of the enormous wealth which came into his hands he made munificent use.
His private life was not without its romantic elements. Soon after his settlement in London he married Elizabeth Starkey, a young woman of humble origin, who was in attendance on the daughter of his brother James. They lived happily together, and had three daughters: Susan, married in 1796 to the 3rd earl of Guilford; Frances, married in 1800 to John, 1st Marquess of Bute; and Sophia, married in 1793 to Sir Francis Burdett. Mrs Coutts died in 1815. Soon after, her husband married the popular actress, Harriot Mellon; to her he left the whole of his immense fortune. He died in London on 24 February 1822.
In 1827, his widow married the 9th duke of St Albans. She died ten years later, bequeathing her property to Angela, youngest daughter of Sir Francis Burdett, who then assumed the additional name and arms of Coutts. In 1871, this lady was created Baroness Burdett-Coutts
Authentic Memoirs of the Lives of Mr and Mrs Coutts (a monograph)
Edna Healey, Coutts & Co: portrait of a private bank (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1992)
Lord Dudley Coutts Stuart was born on 11 January 1803 at London, England.4,5 He was the son of John Stuart, 1st Marquess of the County of Bute and Frances Coutts.
He married Christine Charlotte Alexandrine Egypta Bonaparte, daughter of Lucien Bonaparte, 1st Prince de Canino and Catherine Christine Elenore Boyer, on 20 July 1824.1 He died on 17 November 1854 at age... 51 at Stockholm, Sweden.
He graduated from Cambridge University, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England, in 1823 with a Master of Arts (M.A.) He held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for Arundel between 1830 and 1837.4 He held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for Marylebone between 1847 and 1854
Frances Coutts, was one of 3 daughters of Thomas Coutts, the celebrated banker. She had two children