Fife House, Whitehall, London: designs for interior decoration, for James Duff, 2nd Earl of Fife, 1766-67 (4)
James Duff, 2nd Earl of Fife (1729-1809), was the son of William Duff, Lord Braco of Kilbryde (created Earl of Fife in 1759 - an Irish peerage), and succeeded his father in 1763. In 1759 he married Lady Dorothea Sinclair, daughter and heir of Alexander Sinclair, 9th Earl of Caithness. This was an unhappy marriage, culminating in Dorothea attempting to shoot her husband, and a legal separation. They had no children, and the Earldom passed to a nephew, also James Duff. The 2nd Earl served as MP for Banffshire in 1754-84, and Elginshire in 1784-90. His political career in the House of Commons was brought to an end when he was given an English peerage, being created Baron Duff of Fife in 1790. His lengthy political career can account for the necessity of a magnificent town house in Whitehall. He spent the majority of his time, however, in Aberdeen and Moray where he extended his lands, established a model farm, served as Lord Lieutenant of Banff in 1795-1809, and cared for his tenants, at considerable personal cost, during the failed harvest of 1782-83.
Fife House had been substantially altered, or rebuilt, for the 2nd Earl in 1756-57 to designs by John Woolfe (d.1793). Then in 1766 Adam was employed to make designs for the interior, executing unidentified designs he made for the great room. The 2nd Earl's maternal uncle was Sir Ludovic Grant, 6th Baronet, who had been Adam's patron at Moy House, Moray in 1759. It may have been through this connection that Adam came to the 2nd Earl's attention.
In 1809 repairs and alterations were made to Fife House by John Soane (1753-1837), and the house was demolished in 1869.
Literature: A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, index pp. 51, 71; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, p. 423; 'Duff, Hon. James (1729-1809), of Duff House, Banff. And Mar Lodge, Aberdeen', History of Parliament online