Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.
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| Georgiana Cavendish Duchess of Devonshire. |
Born: 7th June 1757
Died: 30th March 1806
Spouse: William Cavandish
5th Duke of Devonshire
Children: Lady Georgiana Cavendish
("little G") - 12th July 1783
Died: 8th August 1858
Married: 6th Earl of Carlisle (George Howard)
Issue: 12 Children (6 boys and 6 girls)
They lived in Howard Castle where Little G's room has been preserved since her death, and can still be viewed today.
Lady Harriet Cavendish
("Harryo") - 29th August 1785
Died: 25th November 1862
Married: 1st Earl of Granville (Who was also her Aunt Harriet current lover and had born him 2 illegitimate children)
Issue: 4 Children
6th Duke of Devonshire
("Hart") - 21st May 1790
Died: 18th January 1858
Married: (never married)
(He had health issues since his mother's exile and was quite deaf. It was a rumor he was very found of his gardener...)
(illegitimate Daughter with 2nd Earl Grey)
- 20th February 1792
Died: 2nd May 1859
Married: Lieutenant-colonel Robert Ellice.
The Cavendish way of doing things stamped itself on all members of the family, from the relentless self-control they exerted on their emotions to the peculiar drawl which marred their speech. They pronounced her name "George-aina" (as in rain-a), as opposed to George-i-ahna. In her eagerness to be accepted she adopted all their mannerisms and insisted everyone should call her "George-ayina". The drawl has been characterized as part baby-talk, part refined affection. Hope was written and pronounced as "whop", you became "oo". Vowels were compressed and extended so that cucumber became "cowcumber," yellow "yaller", gold "goold," and spoil rhymed with mile. By the middle of the next century all Whigs would speak in the Drawl thus transforming a family tradition into a symbol of political allegiance.
Childhood of Georgiana
Georgiana was the first born child of her parents and was the most loved one of her mother, because she was able to see the most of herself in her. G studied at an early age a range of subjects that were both feminine, like deportment and harp-playing, as well as practical such as geography and languages. The aim was to make her polished but not too overly educated. She learened French, Latin, Italian, dancing, and horsemanship and everything seemed to come very naturely to her. Like mainly girls of the ages she was brought up knowing Jean-Jacques Rousseau and was very much influenced by it. (Because of this she nursed all her children herself and was applauded for doing so in the newspapers.) From an early age though she was very anxious and attention seeking and was very concerned with disappointing her parents. When her parents left her with her grandmother in Spa while they went to Italy for her father's health, G was very distressed that she had done something to displease them, and attempted to have everyone around her like her so that they too would not be disappointed with her. Her parents were very wealthy, though had half the income of her future husband. She recieved her gambling nature early from her mother who would play at the tables til 6 in the morning at times. When she was 16 she met while abroad the Duke of Devonshire and was married shortly after her 17th birthday. (Her husbands child Charlotte was born the day of their wedding to a maid and long time mistress of the Duke) She was already very popular among friends at this point.
Fashion of Georgiana
Georgiana was immensely popular from the day of her marriage onwards. The reasons for it are possibly because people had heard of her beauty and grace. Like all newly married couples they had to be recieved at court days after their marriage in their wedding apparel. There was never a more crowded day at court, excepting only the birthday of the King and Queen when all the court was required to come. After this Georgiana having a vast interest in fashion as well as politics immersed herself in creating fashions that made statements as well as looked nice. She held regular balls and went to plays and everyone who met her was instantly charmed. The Whigs as many are aware of were in favor of opposition to the crown and wanted more power given to the parliment, esp seeing as the King was at times mad. In this they supported the American Revolution and gained enemies from people believing they were traitors. To rebut these charges all the Whigs went and made shows on the latest military campagins bringing along their wives. G in particular wanted to be involved with showing their patriotism divised uniform looking dresses for all the women to wear and paraded in marches, which was very different from ordinary wives who stayed at their homes aways from the soliders. Georgiana was responsible for those towering headdresses we all relate to this century and after being present with a 4 foot ostrich feather by an abassador at great expensive made it the vogue to wear your hair 3 feet high with the 4 foot dropping feathers in it. Daily accounts of her dressing was made in all the papers so that others could intemidate her style. Once her tailor was bribed to show the Duchesses latest designs so that they may have them in advance. The results were shocking in that at the next event fou ladies who had all bribed the tailor all showed up wearing the same dress, none of which were the Duchess. She made political statements often with her clothing by wearing hats and muffs with fox fur to support fox, or having parties where you could only dress in blue and gold, the colors of the whig party. Her infamous picture shown above lead to that hat to be widely copied and worn. She also adapted and exchanged fashion with Marie Antoinette who sent her one of her favorite muslim gowns following her need for simplicty which was so mocked in France as being indecent. On G though the fashion was a great success
Role in Politics
In this century it was deemed to not be proper for the men to canvass themselves for votes as we see today (the shaking of hands and kissing babies bit). In this time, in England, when the women had the most power in politics in almost all of history until the right to vote was given. The highest position they could gain was being the best political hostess of the party, which Georgiana certainly was. They were incharge of running the dinners and balls in the parties favor and making sure everyone was satisfied and their plates never empty, which I'm sure was a hard task to do with hundreds of guests a night. Seeing G's popularity they had her come to canvass for the party as well by her and her sister and friends going while speeches were given (which greatly increased the attendance) but also went around talking to all the people even though they were below her station. Her impact was so great that when her mother called her away to visit during the great election, she recieved urgant reports to come back or the election was sure to fail. For the most part she firmly supported the leader of the party Charles Fox in most all things, though as she gained her independence and after her brother took an office for the Torys, she was offering him advice on how to run things, and was often considered the most knowing person in the country. She even knew of the reports on Napoleon's wars before even the King because the French ambassador who had befriended her knew of her interest and would tell her first. She was considered one of the most influential people in the day and had a great deal more influence than many men at the time. Because of this most of what we know about her is limited since Victorian members of her family as well as others had censored all her letters and information to make it seem that she was less than what she was.
Gambling and Debts
As mentioned before G was introduced to gambling at a young age by her mother, who also ran through almost her son's entire fortune, she along with other members of her circle gambled without worry of money. She was often in deep debt for in today's value millions of pounds. She was scared to inform the Duke of her problems and therefore took loans from various friends as well as more shaddy people to make up her losses. Saddly she mainly used these loans to gamble more and her debt just increased. It was much to her disadvantage as well her generous nature and she often loaned out money to friends who were in similar situations. From time to time on the brink of despair she would tell the Duke about some of the debts and he would in turn get very angry, and was being persuaded to divorce her on many occasions. G never told him the full amount of her loses though, from either forgetfulness or in the attempt to make it seem less than it truely was. Her sister Harriet was alos in great trouble of debt as well and due to her poor health G took on her debts as well so that her sister would not worry and cause her health to deteriorte more. Throughout her life G was harrassed by creditors and was only saved from shame of being an a debtors list along with her sister by the grace of her brother-in-law arrieving before publication and removing their names from it.
After G sent Charles Grey away she was aware that her circumstance was more dire than it was before. She was pregnant with his child. G along with the help of Bess, her sister and Lady Spencer were able to conceal the pregnancy for 6 months until the Duke arrived and told her she had to go into exile to have her bastard, who would in turn be taken from her and given away. Lady Spencer along with Harriet and Bess all went with her into exile. Lady Spencer was upset that Bess joined them but was blinded by her dislike in this situation because with Bess away as well there was reason for the Duke to recall them, whereas it might have been unlikely if Bess was in England. After Eliza was born and given away they asked when they were to return home. The answer was given that they were to wait until the Duke came for them. As winter turned in Harriet's health declined and she along with her mother went to Italy. Bess and G stayed behind until the last possible moment until it was clear the Duke wasn't coming then. In Italy G spend much time learning about minerals and rocks which fasinatied her and spent time studing them and even ventured and climbed to the top of Mt. Vesuivius. Her collection of minerals can still be viewed at Chatsworth. After two years in exile the Duke sent for G after finally forgiving her.
Georgiana was never lived a healthy lifestyle which was most likely the reason in which she had so many troubles with her pregnacys. Besides her drinking, she also had experimented in her youth with starvation diets which later followed with excessive eating with her weights fluctuated wildly because of this. She would had bouts of depression and hystaria which were calmed by Bess. A few years after her exile her health took turns for the worse. Since her exile she had complained of aches in her eyes during and following her many migraines. In July of 1796 she went to bed with a headache but the pain didn't go away. days later her right eye had swollen to the size of an apricot. She as you can imagine underwent horrible procedures in attempts to help her, one of which was a doctor almost strangling her in an attempt to have the blood rush to her head. (Why they didn't think this was a better idea then her hanging her head off the side of her bed for a few minutes we will never know!) 4 weeks later she still felt pain from light or motion. Her right eye could only detect shapes, and the left her sight was slightly blurred due to the treatments. At this time she feared Bess would leave her since her husband had finally died and she was trying to marry her current lover the Duke of Richmond. It doesn't appear that Bess was even at the same home as G when the illness took place even though G invited her sons to live with them in her kindness. Following her recovery (marred with a slightly droppy right eye and poor sight, though many say she was still as beautiful as ever) she suffered several more miscarriages that took it's toll. She also suffered from Kidney stones which their medicine couldn't sufficently numb the effects. In the Spring of 1806 G's health turned serious on the 26th of March she suffered through a fit that last for eight and a half hours. The doctors shaved her head and put blister plasters on her skin in an attempt to help her, but it only increased her pain. Georgiana had an abscess of her liver, in this situation the doctors concern should be to make her comfortable in which they failed miserably. She died at 3:30 am on March 30th, 1806. With the Duke, Bess, Harriet, Lady Spencer, and Little G with her until nearly the end.
Quotes about Georgiana
"When she appeared, every eye turned towards her; when absent, she was the subject of universal conversation."
-French diplomat Louis Dutens.
"Oh my beloved, my adored departed mother, are you indeed forever parted from me- Shall I see no more that angelic countenance or that bless voice- You whome I loved with such tenderness, you who were the...best of mothers, Adieu - I wanted to strew violets over her dying bed as she strewed sweets over my life but they would not let me."
-Little G about her mother's death
Literature by Georgiana
Georgiana had a very acknowleged talent for literature and writing. She wrote poetry often and wrote a thinly disquised autobiographical novel called the Slyph which she did anonymously as simply "a young lady". It quickly went through four editions, it became common knowledge shortly after who was the author though. Georgiana never recieved any money for any of her works though they were sold and hugely popular, similar to the items that were sold attached to her name (Like the duchesses favorite hair pomade). If this happened she certainly wouldn't have had as many problems with debt. She also was thinking of writing a history of the present time, though alas she did not.
Poem's by Georgiana
"My mind can no comfort or happyness fix
On seventeen hundred and eighty six
For Sorry and Folly delighted to mix
With seventeen hundred and eighty six
Abounding alone in unpromising tricks
Was seventeen hundred and eighty six
And none was e'er worse I can swear by the Styx
Than seventeen hundred and eighty six."
-Georgiana summing up her life during 1786
"I regret not the freedom of will,
Or sigh, as uncertain I tread;
I am freer and happier still,
When by thee I am carefully led.
Ere my Sight was doomed to resign,
My heart I surrendered to thee;
Not a thought or an Action was mine,
But I saw as thou badst to see.
They watchful affection I wait,
And hang with Delight on Thy voice;
And Dependance is softened by fate,
Since Dependance on Thee is my choice.
-Georgiana following her eye infection in a letter to Bess urging her to stay.
Did you know: - Georgiana is linked to the Tudors by
being a descendant of Mary Boleyn. She is also related
to Mary Tudor (King Henry VIII's youngest sister) through her
marriage to her husband William Cavendish which also
follows through to Charles Brandon, 1st duke of Suffolk (as
he was married to Mary Tudor), making their daughter
Frances Brandon and her daughter Lady Jane Grey her ancestors!!!
Did you know 2: - The country home of the Cavendish's was the grand estate at Chatsworth. This is commonly known as Mr. Darcy's home in Pride and Prejudice in which our own Tamzin Merchant who plays Katherine Howard on the Tudors played the pianoforte.
Close Friends and Family:
(As G has so many admirers I am only mentioning the main ones)
Lady Henrietta Frances (Harriet) Bessborough
Georgiana's younger sister whom had a great devotion for her elder sibling and refused to leave her even in her worst moments. Saddly she also followed Georgiana and her mother's love for gambling though she couldn't near afford to. She was married to a cousin of the Duke, Federick who became the 3rd Earl of Bessbourough.
George John Spencer (Future 2nd Earl of Spencer)
Georgiana's brother who also had a devotion to his sister though later in life took a political office from the Torys instead of the Whigs that Georgiana fervently supported. He married Lavinia Bingham who was very jealous of George's devotion to his sister and as a result was very bitter and angry toward her.
Mary was Georgiana's closest friend until she met "Bess" Foster. They exchanged letters for years and secretly exchanged their portraits
Charles Fox was the head of the Whig party and for whom Georgiana spent countless days and money canvassing for. She held political parties and balls in support of him and all the Whigs.
The Prince of Wales
He was a long time friend of G's and often upset his admirer's by only dancing with him. Her being the only woman to ever refuse him made her all the more intriquing to him.
They had a very natural relationship and often wrote to each other often and conversered about fashion and what was going on in their countries. They often exchanged gifts and portraits. G urged Lafayette to protect the Queen when the revolution was happening. (She was present for the mob scene at Versailles as well as visited her at Tullieres).
Lady Elizabeth Foster "Bess"
Possibly the most infamous of her friends, Bess met the Cavendishs at Bath in 1782 while they were were taking the cure. Bess was estranged from her husband with whom she had 2 sons and was living with an aunt. She was penniless and because of her title was unable to find work as a governess or anything of the like. Bess saw that both Cavendishs wished to be loved and approved and sought to fill that role in both of their lives. She acted towards G with sensitivity and flirted with the Duke. It appears the Duke and Duchess saw nothing amis with Bess, though everyone else surrounding her saw that she was just using her for position and money, desperately needed. She was accepted into society as a favor to Georgiana though most distrusted her, in particularly G's mother Lady Spencer, and when they were born G's children. Bess played on the two Cavendishs emotions for support and money and wanted to take some of G's fame, which is shown when G is ill Bess would be giving orders to servants and trying to be the hostess which wasn't her place. She had affairs with many other men including Count Fersan, Marie Antoinette's love, the Duke of Richmound, along with others. She bore the Duke of Devonshire two children, though the paternity of the second the Duke didn't quite trust to be his since she was with the Duke of Richmond at the same time. After G's death to much of every one's shock she married the Duke of Devonshire. Bess also didn't intervene when upon their daughter's marriage he gave her 30,000 pounds yet gave his legitatmate daughter Harryo only 10,000 pounds. Following his death she also told the world who was the parents of the children living with her, supposing to be just distant relations. Upon G's death she also was concerned for her friend's position and in her will stated she was in charge of dealing with her letters and sending out her last letters, a task that would take months. because of this we aren't sure about all of G's writings because Bess could have either censored or destroyed any letters that she disliked.
G loved Charles Grey and they carried on their affair rather recklessly. It is unknown how long they carried on their love affair but when it was found out by the Cavendishs and the Spencer most called for the Duke to divorce G finally. The Duke forced G to make her choice, to give up Grey or to never see her children again. G made her choice instantly but the problem wasn't quite finished then. Charles Grey was very hurt and never forgave Georgiana her decision. G went into exile for 2 years during which she gave birth to her daughter Eliza who was immediately taken away from her and given to Grey's family in England. G acted as an unoffical godmother to her, and Eliza simily thought she was a kind friend. The only toys Eliza ever had were given to her by G. Occasionly she met her half sisters who were told never to tell her their relationship to her. G spent the next 2 years in exile until the Duke finally forgave her and asked for her home. Years later Charles Grey married and G befriended her and her friendship with Grey continued though nothing romantic happened regardless of what Grey wished. It appears that Grey betrayed G and told people about their child Eliza. After her death he went to seek forgiveness and was very violent, beating his head and calling himself harsh names. Harriet was on the verge of forgiving him when he attempted to kiss her which made Harriet dislike him more so.
Fan- Inspired Artwork Of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire