Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire

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Georgiana Cavendish
Joshua Reynolds - Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.jpg
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Sir Joshua Reynolds, c. 1775, The Devonshire Collection
BornGeorgiana Spencer
(1757-06-07)7 June 1757
Althorp, Northamptonshire
Died30 March 1806(1806-03-30) (aged 48)
Devonshire House, London
TitleDuchess of Devonshire
Spouse(s)William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire
ChildrenGeorgiana Howard, Countess of Carlisle
Harriet Leveson-Gower, Countess Granville
William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire
Eliza Courtney (illegitimate)
ParentsJohn Spencer, 1st Earl Spencer
Margaret Georgiana Poyntz
 
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Georgiana Cavendish
Joshua Reynolds - Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.jpg
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Sir Joshua Reynolds, c. 1775, The Devonshire Collection
BornGeorgiana Spencer
(1757-06-07)7 June 1757
Althorp, Northamptonshire
Died30 March 1806(1806-03-30) (aged 48)
Devonshire House, London
TitleDuchess of Devonshire
Spouse(s)William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire
ChildrenGeorgiana Howard, Countess of Carlisle
Harriet Leveson-Gower, Countess Granville
William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire
Eliza Courtney (illegitimate)
ParentsJohn Spencer, 1st Earl Spencer
Margaret Georgiana Poyntz

Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (née Spencer; /ɒrˈnə/ jor-JAY-nə; 7 June 1757 – 30 March 1806) was the first wife of the 5th Duke of Devonshire, and mother of the 6th Duke of Devonshire. Her father, the 1st Earl Spencer, was a great-grandson of the 1st Duke of Marlborough. Her niece was Lady Caroline Lamb. She was the great-great-great-great-aunt of Diana, Princess of Wales, and attained a large amount of fame (that in some ways can be compared to Diana) in her own time period.[1][2][3]

Family and early life[edit]

Lady Georgiana Spencer was born on 7 June 1757 to John Spencer and his wife Margaret Georgiana Poyntz (later Earl and Countess Spencer). Upon her daughter's birth, her mother wrote that "I will own I feel so partial to my Dear little Gee, that I think I never shall love another so well".[4]

Marriage[edit]

Lady Georgiana Spencer married the Duke of Devonshire on her seventeenth birthday, 7 June 1774 at Wimbledon parish church.[5] He was one of the period's most eligible bachelors.[6]

She had a number of miscarriages before giving birth to four children: three with her husband, and an illegitimate daughter fathered by Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey. She also raised the Duke's illegitimate daughter, Charlotte, who was conceived with a mistress.

The Duchess introduced the Duke to her best friend, the Lady Elizabeth Foster (who later married the Duke), and lived in a triad with them for the next 25 years. Lady Elizabeth had two illegitimate children by the Duke, a son (Augustus Clifford) and a daughter (Caroline Rosalie St Jules).

Politics & social and cultural life[edit]

With her siblings, Henrietta and George, by Angelica Kauffman, c. 1774. The painting was painted just before Georgiana's marriage to the Duke of Devonshire
"THE DEVONSHIRE, or Most Approved Method of Securing Votes", by Thomas Rowlandson, 1784

The Duchess of Devonshire was a celebrated beauty and socialite who gathered around her a large salon of literary and political figures. She was connected to key figures of the age such as the Prince of Wales and Marie Antoinette.[7]

She was also an active political campaigner in an age when women's suffrage was still over a century away. The Spencers and the Cavendishes were Whigs. The Duchess of Devonshire campaigned for the Whigs—particularly for a distant cousin, Charles James Fox—at a time when the King (George III) and his Ministers had a direct influence over the House of Commons, principally through their power of patronage. During the 1784 general election, the Duchess was rumoured to have traded kisses for votes in favour of Fox, and was satirised by Thomas Rowlandson in his print "THE DEVONSHIRE, or Most Approved Method of Securing Votes".

Famously, when she was stepping out of her carriage one day, an Irish dustman exclaimed: "Love and bless you, my lady, let me light my pipe in your eyes!", a compliment which she often recalled whenever others complimented her by retorting, "After the dustman's compliment, all others are insipid."[8][9]

The Duchess was also instrumental in formulating, with Thomas Beddoes, the idea of establishing a Pneumatic Institution in Bristol.[10] This arose in part as a result of the fact that she was related through marriage to the pneumatic chemist Henry Cavendish.

Literature[edit]

Cavendish wrote a number of works of both prose and poetry during her lifetime.

In 1779, she anonymously published the epistolary novel The Sylph. It has been speculated that The Sylph was written by Sophia Briscoe. A receipt at the British Library suggests that Briscoe was paid for The Sylph, but it is thought more likely that Briscoe may have served as an intermediary between the Duchess and her publisher, so that Georgiana could keep her anonymity.[11]

Fashion and debt[edit]

The Duchess of Devonshire is famous not only for her marital arrangements, her catastrophic affairs, her beauty and sense of style and best clothes, and her political campaigning, but also for her love of gambling. Even though her own family, the Spencers, and her husband's family, the Cavendishes, were immensely wealthy, she was reported to have died deeply in debt due to her excesses. She died on 30 March 1806, aged 48, from what was thought to be an abscess of the liver; she was buried at All Saints Parish Church (which is now Derby Cathedral). At her death, she owed today's equivalent of £3,720,000.[12] The Duchess was so petrified of her husband discovering the extent of her debts that she kept them secret; the Duke only discovered the extent of her debts after her death and remarked, "Is that all?"....[12]

Legacy[edit]

The Duchess was a frequent sitter in portraits, including a 1787 work by Thomas Gainsborough that was once thought lost.

Film portrayals[edit]

Works by Georgiana Cavendish[edit]

Titles and styles[edit]

Gallery[edit]

Ancestry[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Foreman, Amanda. Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire. Modern Library. ISBN 0375753834. Retrieved 25 June 2014. [page needed]
  2. ^ Blasberg, Derek (2011). Very Classy: Even More Exceptional Advice for the Extremely Modern Lady. Penguin. ISBN 1101563060. Retrieved 26 June 2014. [page needed]
  3. ^ Hastings, Chris. "Princess Diana and the Duchess of Devonshire: Striking similarities". The Telegraph. Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
  4. ^ Foreman 1998, p. 4.
  5. ^ Foreman 2004.
  6. ^ Gleeson 2008, p. 18.
  7. ^ Foreman 1998, pp. 40, 313.
  8. ^ "Beauty — A natural compliment", The Every-day Book and Table Book. Vol III., ed. William Hone, (London: 1838) p 344. Retrieved on 2008-06-11
  9. ^ "The Disappearing Duchess", The New York Times, 31 July 1994. Retrieved 11 July 2008.
  10. ^ Bergman, Norman A. (April 1998). "Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and Princess Diana: a parallel". J R Soc Med. 91 (4): 217–219. PMC 1296647. PMID 9659313. 
  11. ^ Cavendish 2007, p. 11.
  12. ^ a b Michael Hellicar (29 August 2008). "Diana and me - by Keira... or how movie marketers used the princess' troubled marriage to promote The Duchess". Daily Mail. Retrieved 23 March 2010. 

Works cited[edit]

Further reading[edit]