Georgiana <I>Spencer</I> Cavendish

Georgiana Spencer Cavendish

Althorp, Daventry District, Northamptonshire, England
Death 30 Mar 1806 (aged 48)
Piccadilly, City of Westminster, Greater London, England
Burial Derby, Derby Unitary Authority, Derbyshire, England
Plot Cavendish Vault
Memorial ID 10126610 · View Source
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English Royalty. She is most remembered for her beauty, out-going personality, political opinions, numerous talents, and fortitude to continue in life's worst circumstances. She became a fashion innovator designing her own gowns and flamboyant three-foot tall hairdos, a patron of virtually every performing art, and a rising liberal politician for her era. At the same time, she was known to have an eating disorder, abusing alcohol, and losing colossal amounts of money at the gambling tables. Born Lady Georgiana Spencer from Althorpe in Northamptonshire, England, she, as a naïve teenager, became the first wife of William Cavendis, 5th Duke of Devonshire on June 7, 1774, her seventeenth birthday. With wealthy parents providing her with every opportunity to become a wife of a gentleman, her wedding trousseau consisted of numerous gowns, hats, coats, and 65 pairs of shoes. With an arranged loveless marriage, she dreamed of stepping into a world of a wealthy society on her husband's arm, yet the Duke's only purpose for this marriage was to have a bride to bear him a legal male heir. For years, the Duke and his mistress, Lady Elizabeth Foster, lived together openly at the his estate, Chatsworth, which was Georgiana's home too. Shortly after their marriage, the Duke “adopted” Charlotte Williams, his five-year-old daughter from an earlier relationship and later, the children born to Lady Foster during their relationship, Caroline St Jules and Augustus Clifford. Over a nine-year period, Georgiana had several miscarriages before giving birth to three children with the Duke: two daughters and at last, a son in 1790, who may have been the legal heir but since he never married, he ended the Duke's line. She was a loving mother putting her children, including Charlotte, first. As stated in their premarital agreement, she was paid for giving the Duke a male heir. In the years that followed her son's birth, she had a string of relationships including Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey and future Prime Minister of England; Richard Sheridan; Dr. Samuel Johnson; and others. In 1791, she was exiled to France by her husband for two years to birth a daughter fathered by Charles Grey; the newborn daughter, Eliza Courtney, was given to the Grey family.While in exile, she met the scientist Dr. Charles Blagden and developed a keen interest in chemistry, which led later to a mineral collection at Chatsworth. Politically, she was the first woman to publicly campaign for a candidate in an election, Charles James Fox in 1784. He became a negotiator, fundraiser and manager of the Whig Party, a political party that she supported until her death. In 1796, Georgiana's health was in question as she had an infection or tumor in one of her eyes. After treatment, she became blind in that eye with a disfiguring scar on her face. Depressed after this ordeal, she would not be seen in public until her oldest daughter's debut in 1800. Her health continued to decline as she turned jaundice with liver problems before her death. The Duchess' fame was so great that when the news that she was on her deathbed, a large crowd gathered at the gates to Devonshire house in Piccadilly for daily reports. She died knowing that she would soon be a grandmother; her husband had repented; Lady Foster would marry the Duke; and her loving children and other family members were at her bedside. In 1779, she published a satire about her life, “The Sylph”, and she also wrote a number of poems, including “The Passage of the Mountain of St Gothard” in addition to verses on the bust of Charles James Fox at Woburn. Amanda Foreman's 1998 best-selling book, “Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire”, was the inspiration for the film “The Duchess”. Since the 1920's, four films have been made about her most-interesting life. She was reputed to be the model for one of the characters in Sheridan’s play "A School for Scandal”. Lady Georgiana was the sister of a distant grandmother of the late Diana, Princess of Wales. Although two centuries apart, these Spencer ladies shared similarities of being devoted mothers, beautiful, well-dressed, and both had ill-fated marriages; the public loved them.

Bio by: Linda Davis


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: K F
  • Added: 15 Dec 2004
  • Find a Grave Memorial 10126610
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Georgiana Spencer Cavendish (7 Jun 1757–30 Mar 1806), Find a Grave Memorial no. 10126610, citing Derby Cathedral, Derby, Derby Unitary Authority, Derbyshire, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .