As I drove up to the drive to the house, past the peacefully grazing sheep, a scene of mad activity suddenly came into view. The car park was full to bursting. Massive lights and cables colonized the forecourt. No one was standing still except for the extras who clustered together in awkward little groups, gingerly wearing in their freshly pressed costumes. I climbed out of the car feeling very small and unimportant.

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He built a Spencer family residence at St. The wedding took place at Wimbledon Parish Church. Her father, who had always shown affection to his children, wrote to her, "My Dearest Georgiana, I did not know till lately how much I loved you; I miss you more every day and every hour. The spouses also had little in common. Before their marriage, the Duke had fathered an illegitimate daughter, Charlotte Williams, born from a dalliance with a former milliner, Charlotte Spencer of no relation to the House of Spencer.

She became close friends with Lady Elizabeth, who had become destitute after separating from her husband and three sons. While it was common for male members of the upper class to have mistresses, it was not common or generally acceptable for a mistress to live so openly with a married couple.

Furthermore, the Duchess had become emotionally dependent on Lady Elizabeth, whom she believed to be her best friend. Having no alternative, she became complacent over the matter. In one of her letters, the Duchess of Devonshire wrote to Lady Elizabeth, "My dear Bess, Do you hear the voice of my heart crying to you? Do you feel what it is for me to be separated from you? The love triangle itself was a notorious topic; it was an irregular arrangement in a high-profile marriage.

The Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough , Despite her unhappiness with her detached and philandering husband and volatile marriage, the duchess, as per the custom of the day, was not socially permitted to take a lover without first having produced an heir. The first successful pregnancy resulted in the birth of Lady Georgiana Dorothy Cavendish on 12 July Called "Little G", she would become the Countess of Carlisle and have issue of her own.

The Duchess had developed a strong mothering sentiment since raising Charlotte, and she insisted on nursing her own children contrary to the aristocratic custom of having a wet nurse. Finally, on 21 May , the duchess gave birth to a male heir to the dukedom: William George Spencer Cavendish , who took the title of Marquess of Hartington at birth, and was called "Hart".

He would never marry and became known as "the bachelor duke". With the birth of the Marquess of Hartington, the Duchess was able to take a lover. While there is no evidence of when the Duchess began her affair with Charles Grey later Earl Grey , she did become pregnant by him in Sent off to France, the Duchess believed she would die in childbirth.

In this spirit, she wrote a letter to her recently born son stating, "As soon as you are old enough to understand this letter it will be given to you. It contains the only present I can make you--my blessing, written in my blood I love you dearly. While in exile in France in the early s, the Duchess of Devonshire suffered from isolation and felt her separation from her children. This year has been the most painful of my life.

She sought further personal consolation from a "dissipated existence" [7] in passions socializing, fashion, politics, writing , addictions gambling, drinking, and drugs , and affairs with a number of men, not just Grey, possibly including the bachelor Duke of Dorset. The fashionable styling of her hair alone reached literally extraordinary heights above her exuberant costume.

As part of her illustrious social engagements, she would gather around her a large salon of literary and political figures.

The Prince of Wales, who always relished going against the grain with his father, joined the Whig party at the time his friend, the duchess, became involved. Fanciful rumours and political cartoons circulated during the campaign, ridiculing her for securing votes in exchange for sexual — and monetary — rewards.

Her mother pleaded with her to step down, but the duchess was not daunted and was adamant in her activism. She composed poetry as a young girl to her father and some of it later circulated in manuscript and was read by Walpole who said it was "easy and prettily expressed, though it does not express much" and Reverend William Mason who was more favorable with higher opinions. In , the epistolary novel The Sylph was released.

However, it is thought more likely that Briscoe may have served as an intermediary between the Duchess of Devonshire and her publisher, so that the duchess could keep her anonymity.

It was in fact written by Rowley Lascelles, based on a Swiss tour in The 5th Duchess of Devonshire was connected to some of the greatest men of letters of her time, and Samuel Johnson , a famed writer of the era, had even paid visit to the duke and duchess, in , at their Chatsworth home. She took interest in scientific experiments [6] and began a collection of crystals at Chatsworth , the main seat of the dukedom of Devonshire.

Gambling[ edit ] As was common among the aristocracy of her time, the duchess routinely gambled for leisure and amusement. Her gaming spiraled into a ruinous addiction, however, made worse by her emotional instability. In the first years of her marriage, she accumulated debts that surpassed the 4, pounds that the duke provided her annually as pin money. All the inhibitions about whether she was beautiful enough or whether she was up to the job left her. The debutante was presented in , and the duchess saw her daughter wed Lord Morpeth , the heir apparent of the Earl of Carlisle, in ; it was the first and only time the Duchess of Devonshire saw one of her issue marry.

She once reached out to her mother, begging for a sum of pounds and complaining to her of jaundice. The legacy of the life of Georgiana Cavendish, 5th Duchess of Devonshire, has remained a topic of study and intrigue in cultural and historical spheres centuries after her death. Immediately after her death, the Duke of Devonshire discovered the extent of her debts.

Infuriated, Lady Elizabeth brought back up her affair with the 5th Duke of Devonshire by publicly announcing he had sired her illegitimate children. Artwork representing the Duchess of Devonshire by reputable painters of the Georgian era remain, including a portrait by the famed Thomas Gainsborough which was once thought lost.

Over 1, of personal letters written by the Duchess of Devonshire remain in existence. Chatsworth , the seat of the duke of Devonshire, houses a majority of her letters in historical archives.


Amanda Foreman (historian)

Family[ edit ] Foreman was born in London. Her brother, Jonathan Foreman , is an international correspondent and film critic. She has five children and is married to Jonathan Barton. Career[ edit ] Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire[ edit ] After completing her DPhil, Foreman remained at Oxford as a researcher,[ citation needed ] and in she published her first book, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire , based on her doctoral thesis. Published by HarperCollins in the UK and Random House in the US, the book was an international best-seller and reached number one[ citation needed ] in the UK as a hardback, paperback, and reissue nine years later. The refurbished Palace reflected a new form of gendered power. The Guardian newspaper reported: "The story of how Victoria and Prince Albert rebuilt the palace into the most glittering court in Europe is explored through paintings, sketches and costumes, and includes a Hollywood-produced immersive experience that brings to life the balls for which she was famous.


Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire

Shelves: read-authors-e-h , non-fiction , auto-and-biography Do you recognise this person? A shy English teenager, she blossomed after she was catapulted to fame by marrying an older, wealthier man. Although she had been born into a rich and influential family, her husband came from an even more prestigious family. After her marriage, she became universally adored; a trendsetting fashion icon, who turned heads whenever she entered a room. Everything she did, said and wore became news.


Amanda Foreman


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