There has been much historical debate over the role of aristocratic landed families in local and national politics throughout the nineteenth century, and the impact of the First, Second and Third Reform Acts on that role. Additionally, the period from 1881 in the Scottish Highlands was one of acute political and ideological crisis, as the debate over the reform of the Land Laws took a violent turn, and Highland landowners were forced to address the demands of their small tenants. This article addresses these debates, taking as its case-study the ducal house of Sutherland. The Leveson-Gower family owned almost the whole county of Sutherland and until 1884 dominated political life in the region. This article examines the gradual breakdown of that political power, in line with a more general decline in financial and territorial influence, both in terms of the personal role of the Fourth and Fifth Dukes of Sutherland, and the broader impact of the estate management on the mechanics and expectations of politics in the county.