Regency Woman Wednesday – Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire

Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (née Spencer) (7 June 1757 – 30 March 1806) was the first wife of William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire, and mother of the 6th Duke of Devonshire.

Her father, John Spencer, 1st Earl Spencer, was a great-grandson of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. Her niece was Lady Caroline Lamb. She was the great-great-great-great-aunt of Diana, Princess of Wales.

She attained a large amount of fame in her lifetime. She became notorious for her marital arrangements, her catastrophic love affairs, and her love of gambling; she was famous for her beauty and her political campaigning; and she was a leader of fashionable style.

Lady Georgiana Spencer married the 5th Duke of Devonshire (then 25 years old) on her seventeenth birthday, 7 June 1774, at Wimbledon Parish Church. He was one of the period’s most eligible bachelors.

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 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.

Her best friend Lady Elizabeth Foster, was the William’s mistress and after Georgiana’s death became his second wife.

Legacy
The Duchess was a frequent sitter in portraits, including a 1787 work by Thomas Gainsborough that was once thought lost. In 1786, Susanna Rowson, who went on to become a bestselling author, dedicated her first published work, Victoria, to the Duchess of Devonshire.

Film portrayals
The Divine Lady (1929), played by Evelyn Hall.
Berkeley Square (1933), played by Juliette Compton
The House in the Square (also titled “I’ll Never Forget You” (US) and “Man of Two Worlds”) (1951), played by Kathleen Byron
The Duchess (2008), played by Keira Knightley. The film, directed by Saul Dibb, is based on the biography Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman.

Works by Georgiana Cavendish
Emma; Or, The Unfortunate Attachment: A Sentimental Novel (1773)
The Sylph (1778)
Memorandums of the Face of the Country in Switzerland (1799)
The Passage of the Mountain of Saint Gothard (1803)

Further Reading
Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire – Widipedia
Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806) – Regency History
Lady Elizabeth Foster, later Duchess of Devonshire (1758-1824) – Regency History
Princess Diana and the Duchess of Devonshire: Striking similarities – The Telegraph
Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire – Houses with History
Absolute plot spoiler for “The Duchess” and the life of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire – Georgiana CircleL Women Healing Hsitory
EXCERPT Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire By AMANDA FOREMAN – NYTimes
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire – Cheryl Bolen
Georgiana Cavendish (neé Spencer) Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806) – A Web of English History

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