Family Group Sheet
Family Group Sheet
NameSir William CAVENDISH 5th DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
SpouseGeorgiana SPENCER DUCHESS OF DEVONSHIRE
Birth1757
Death1806
MotherGeorgiana POYNTZ (1738-1814)
Children
Birth1784
Death1858
Birth1786
Death1862
Notes for Georgiana SPENCER DUCHESS OF DEVONSHIRE
Georgiana was a celebrated beauty and a socialite who gathered around her a large circle of literary and political figures—a salon. She was also an active political campaigner in an age when women's suffrage was still over a century away. Both the Spencers and the Cavendishes were Whigs. Georgiana campaigned for the Whigs—particularly for a distant cousin, Charles James Fox—at a time when the King (George III) and his Ministers had more direct influence over the House of Commons, principally through their power of patronage. During the 1784 general election, the Duchess was rumored to have traded kisses for votes in favor of Fox and was famously 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". [1] [2]

Husband and children
Georgiana married the incumbent Duke of Devonshire on 6 June 1774. The marriage was a brilliant but unhappy one, with the couple mismatched by temperament. (The Cavendishes' marriage was famously satirised in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play, School for Scandal, where a young wife from the country, Lady Teazle, is beguiled by fashionable people.) The young Duchess's early childlessness was also a matter of concern when aristocratic wives were valued as much for their fertility as for their dowries and connections. She had numerous miscarriages before finally birthing two daughters, before the much-awaited heir (and only son) was born. This son William George Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire (1790-1858) died unmarried. Her daughters were Georgiana Cavendish (1783-1858), who married George Howard, 6th Earl of Carlisle (1773-1844), and Harriet Cavendish (1785-1862), who married Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Earl Granville.
It was Georgiana who introduced the Duke to his mistress and second wife-to-be, Lady Elizabeth Foster. "Bess" was Georgiana's best friend, and she tolerated the menage-a-trois for many years. Georgiana herself formed a relationship with Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, by whom she had a daughter in 1792, Eliza Courtney (an ancestor of Sarah, Duchess of York). See Eliza's page for two poems attributed to Georgiana.
Lady Elizabeth Foster had two children by the Duke—a son and daughter. When the Duchess died, her husband married Bess Foster—and promptly set up a new mistress. At his death, his son by his first wife Georgiana became 6th Duke but died unmarried. He was succeeded by a first cousin once removed William Cavendish, 7th Duke of Devonshire (1808-1891), who was widower of the 6th Duke's niece and Georgiana's granddaughter Lady Blanche Howard.

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Fashion & Debt

Joshua Reynolds : Georgiana, duchess of Devonshire, 1786
Georgiana was famous not only for her marital arrangements, her beauty and sense of style, and her political campaigning, but also for her love of gambling. She was reported to have died deeply in debt, even though her own family the Spencers and her husband's family the Cavendishes were immensely wealthy. She died on 30 March 1806 at age 48 from what was thought to be an abscess of the liver. She was buried at All Saints Church, Derby, Derbyshire, England.
During her years in the public eye, Georgiana was painted by Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds. Gainsborough's famous painting of her in a large French hat was lost for many years. It had been stolen from a London art gallery by Adam Worth then somehow restored to Agnew's Art Gallery by Allan Pinkerton of the American detective agency Pinkerton's. It turned up again at Sotheby's a decade ago and was purchased by Andrew Cavendish, 11th Duke of Devonshire for the Chatsworth collection. Georgiana managed to keep a “natural relationship”[3] with the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, in which people in the past have noted how similar the lives they led were.
Another well-known woman from the same family as Georgiana was Diana, Princess of Wales (born Lady Diana Spencer), who was descended from Georgiana's brother, the 2nd Earl Spencer.
Last Modified 31 Dec 2008Created 28 Jan 2018 using Reunion for Macintosh