Reunited in death, the 5th Duke of Devonshire, Georgiana and Bess

Having previously written about the final days of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire it seemed appropriate to also write about the demise of her husband, William, 5th Duke of Devonshire and that of her successor, Lady Elizabeth Christiana Foster, née Hervey, better remembered to the world as Bess, as they were probably the most famous ménage à trois of the period.

Until her death in 1806, Georgiana lived alongside her husband, in her name only, whilst he and Bess effectively lived as husband and wife, although, of course, unable to marry whilst Georgiana was still alive.

From the film, The Duchess
From the film, The Duchess

1809 proved to be a busy year socially for the Duke and Lady Elizabeth, as not only did their illegitimate daughter, Caroline Rosalie Adelaide St Jules (1786- 1862) marry George Lamb, in May of that year, but this was to be followed by Bess’s own marriage, finally, to the duke on 19 October 1809, at their Chiswick home. Given the lack of commentary in the media, it appears to have been a somewhat low key event.

Chiswick House. Yale Centre for British Art
Chiswick House. Yale Centre for British Art

The third marriage of the year was that of Lady Harriet Cavendish, known by the family as Harryo, the younger daughter of Georgiana and the duke. Harryo married Lord Granville Leveson-Gower on 24 December 1809, also at Chiswick House.

Bess’s marriage to the Duke proved to be relatively short lived, as the 5th Duke of Devonshire died suddenly at his house in Piccadilly on 29 July 1811. It was reported that he had been feeling unwell for a couple of weeks, however, that day his condition greatly deteriorated, and he died peacefully in Bess’s arms.

William Cavendish 5th Duke of Devonshire. Pompeo Batoni
William Cavendish 5th Duke of Devonshire. Pompeo Batoni

As the duke’s death was regarded as sudden, a post mortem was carried out, at which, around three pints of fluid were found in his chest and it was agreed by the doctors present that this would have been the cause of his death. Today we would most likely describe this as plural effusion.

Following the post mortem, the St James’s Chronicle reported that the duke’s remains would be taken from Devonshire House early in the morning and would proceed as far as Woburn, where the cortège would remain overnight before travelling onwards to Derby to be deposited in the vault close to the late Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Sir Thomas Lawrence. Holburne Museum. © The Devonshire Collections, Chatsworth.
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Sir Thomas Lawrence. Holburne Museum. © The Devonshire Collections, Chatsworth.

As was the case for Georgiana, the duke’s final resting place was also to be in the magnificent mausoleum, at All Saints Church, better known as Derby Cathedral.

On 5 August 1811 the duke’s remains were removed from Devonshire House and headed via the Great Northern road, for the family vault at Derby, with the procession being led by Messrs. Wilson, the undertakers.

Following the procession was his personal carriage with six horses and a mourning coach with six horses containing the upper servants of the household. His Royal Highness, the Prince Regent’s coach with six horses, four grooms and footmen in their liveries.

These were followed by the Prince Regent’s carriage and six; Earls Bessborough, Spencer, Liverpool and Cowper; Lords Holland, Yarborough, Morpeth and Gower plus sets of horses. This must have been an impressive sight for the average person to witness.

His coffin was described as being very beautiful and, if possible, even more highly decorated than that of the late Duchess of Devonshire. It was covered with Genoa crimson velvet, ornamented with exquisitely chased handles. The stars were silver and the coronets, rails etc were silver gilt. On a plate of copper gilt was engraved:

The Most Noble WILLIAM CAVENDISH,

Fifth Duke of Devonshire

Born December 24th, 1748

Died July 29th, 1811

At Kentish Town the Price Regent’s carriage left the procession and proceeded to Highgate, whilst the remainder continued their onward journey, arriving at Derby Cathedral on 8 August, 1811.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire died 30 March 1806 and it would exactly 18 years later to the date, that on 30 March 1824, in Rome, her successor, Bess’s life would also come to an end.

Elizabeth, Duchess of Devonshire. British Museum
Elizabeth, Duchess of Devonshire. British Museum

According to the Morning Post, 16 April 1824, the cause of her demise was inflammation of the bowels. Bess was aged 65 when she died.

The 6th Duke sent a courier to Rome to collect her body to have it repatriated to England. The journey took the courier some nine days to get there. After three days, arrangements were made for the repatriation and on the fourth day the procession left. It was estimated that her remains would reach Calais the following week. A hearse left London for Dover in readiness to receive her.

Bess’s body was then taken to Devonshire House and from there a state cavalcade took her to the family vault at All Saints church, Derby, where the Duke and Georgiana were already interred on 26 May 1824.

Her funeral was nowhere near as grand an affair as it had been for Georgiana and William, although it followed the same route when leaving London heading for Derby. It was simply preceded by one mourning coach and six outriders. The arms of family were on each side of the hearse and the initials E.D.D. The carriage containing her remains was drawn by six chestnut horses with crepe on their bridles; a second mourning coach closed the procession.

The ménage à trois were, once again reunited, this time for eternity

Sources

Pilot 1 August 1811

General Evening Post 3 Aug 1811

Globe 5 August 1811

Morning Advertiser 24 May 1824

Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire’s travels in exile

Georgiana had three legitimate children with William, 5th Duke of Devonshire, Georgiana, known as ‘Little G’ born 1783, followed by Harriet, known affectionately as ‘Harryo’, born 1785 and finally, a son and heir William, who was born in May 1790, whilst the couple were in Paris and who would later become 6th Duke of Devonshire. The 5th Duke also had an illegitimate daughter, Charlotte Williams, about whom I have written previously (see highlighted link)..

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The couple waited until 20 May 1791 to have their son baptised at St George’s Hanover Square and the following month attended court to celebrate King George III’s birthday. It would have been around this time that Georgiana found herself pregnant again, this child however, was the result of her affair with Charles Grey.

Lawrence, Thomas; Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey; National Portrait Gallery, London

The child, named Elizabeth Courtney, was said to have been born on 20 February 1792, at Aix de Provence, France. She was then taken back to England to be raised by Charles Grey’s parents, as his sibling, rather than his daughter. Eliza, as she was known, although seeing her mother, was unaware of the familial connection until after the death of Georgiana.

The disgraced, Georgiana was given a choice by her husband, either a divorce which would give him the ability to remarry, or to go into exile. In order to protect her children, she chose the latter.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire after 1778. Royal Collection Trust
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire after 1778. Royal Collection Trust

In October 1791 she left England for Paris, accompanied by Lord and Lady Duncannon, probably better known as Bessborough, Georgiana’s sister and brother-in-law, which would have been an interesting journey, given that Lord Bessborough had begun divorce proceeding against Henrietta the previous year. By this time Georgiana would have been about five months pregnant.

Her poem, The Passage of the Mountain of Saint Gothard, was based on her passage of the Saint Gotthard Pass in August 1793 on her return to England.

The Hampshire Chronicle, 6 January 1800, along with other newspapers printed the poem in full accompanied by a brief extract about her travels. This was just over one year after the birth of Elizabeth Courtney.

The extract gives us a fleeting glimpse into where she visited and who she travelled with, although it’s not entirely clear who all her companions were. The newspaper article began with an advisory, that publication was delayed for the following reason:

We have, through the length of the French Constitution, and other important, but temporary matter, deferred till now inserting the above elegant piece of composition; confident that its merits would render it acceptable to our readers at any time. Her Grace has adopted the measure, and justice compels us to add, caught the spirit of Gray’s Elegy. There are many passage, which in sublimity, beauty and classic allusion, divide approbation even with that celebrated performance.

In 1799 her most famous poem was published, not only in book form but also in the newspaper and can be read in full by following this link.

The published extract from her journal which gives us a very brief glimpse into what her journey would have been like at that time:

We quitted Italy in August 1793 and passed into Switzerland over the mountain of St Gothard. The third crop of corn was already standing in Lombardy.

We left Lady Spencer and Lady Bessborough at the Baths of Lucca, intending to pass the winter at Naples.

The contrast between Switzerland and the Milanese appeared very striking. The Milanese were infested with a band of robbers that caused us some alarm and obliged us to use some precautions; but from the moment we entered the mountains of Switzerland, we travelled without fear, and felt perfectly secure. Death is the punishment of robbers; this punishment, however, very rarely occurs. At Lausanne there had been but one execution in fifteen years.

On the 9th we embarked upon Lago Maggiore, at the little town of Sisto, situated where the Tesino runs out of the lake. In the course of two days navigation, we particularly admired the striking and colossal statue of St. Charles Borromeo (with its pedestal two feet from the ground). The beautiful Borromean Islands, and the shores of the lake, are interspersed with towns and wood, and crowned with the distant view of the Alps.

On the evening of the 10th, we landed at Magadino, one of the three Cisalpine Baliages belonging to Switzerland; and as the air was too noxious for us to venture to sleep there, we sent for horses to conduct us to Belinzona, a pretty town in the midst of high mountains, under the jurisdiction of three of the Swiss Cantons, Switz, Underald and Uri. From hence (after having prepared horses, chairs and guides, and having our carriages taken in pieces) we set out on the evening of the 12th to enter the mountain and ascended gradually by a road that nearly followed the course of the Tesino.  The Tesino takes its rise not far from the summit of St. Gothard and joins the Po near Pavia.

St Gothard itself arises from the top of several other high mountains. Some have given 17,600 fee of perpendicular height from the level of the sea; but General Plyffer, who completed the celebrated model of that part of Switzerland surrounding Lucerne, makes it only 9,075 feet about the Mediterranean.

There is a small convent at the top of the mountain, where two monks reside and who are obliged to receive and entertain the poor traveller that passes that way. Padre Lorenzo had lived there for twenty years and seemed a sensible and benevolent man. They have a large dairy and make excellent cheese. Five small lakes which are at the top of the mountain supply them with fish. The monks are Capuchins and belong to a convent at Milan.

Although Georgiana returned in 1793, her mother and sister remained in Europe for a further year, with Georgiana meeting them at Harwich.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806) c. 1774 Jeremiah Meyer. Royal Collection Trust
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806) c. 1774 Jeremiah Meyer. Royal Collection Trust

Following this enforced exile, Georgiana returned to England to continue caring for her children, living in a ménage à trois and playing out the role of the dutiful wife, until her death in March 1806.

Sources

The Passage of the Mountain of Saint Gothard: A Poem; by Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire

Sketch of a descriptive journey through Switzerland to which is added a poem by her Grace the Duchess of Devonshire. Attributed to Rowley Lascelles 1816

Derby Mercury 9 June 1791

The World 24 November 1791

True Briton 11 August 1794

Featured Image

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, with her daughter Georgiana, later Countess of Carlisle 1807-08 by William Etty. Royal Collection Trust

The Ladies of the Bon Ton – ‘Scoring sheet’!

One of our lovely readers asked for help in finding a document for some research he was doing. Having found the document I was fascinated by it and thought it was worth sharing with you.

The Morning Post, of 2nd October 1776 contained a ‘scoring sheet’ for twelve ladies of the ‘Bon Ton,’ Britain’s high society ladies of the day. The newspaper described it as ‘ Scale of Bon Ton’, with the ladies being marked out of twenty for each of nine virtues (there’s a copy at the end).

No explanation was offered as to who wrote it and more importantly who decided on the points awarded, but it reads a bit like the scores for a beauty pageant, so I’ll simply present them as per the newspaper and let you make your own decision about this!

The outright, clear winner was the Countess of Barrymore, who scored almost full marks in virtually all categories, but for whom there appears to be no portrait available, which is such a shame given her score.

In second place, we have joint runners-up, Lady Harriott Foley and Lady Anna Maria Stanhope, daughter of William Stanhope, 2nd Earl of Harrington who married Thomas Pelham-Clinton, 3rd Duke of Newcastle

Lady Harriot Foley NPG
Lady Harriot Foley NPG

Radicalism & Incivility, or The Fair Pensioners by John ('HB') Doyle, published by Thomas McLean lithograph, published 24 January 1831 (inscribed 1830). Anna Maria on the left. NPG
Radicalism & Incivility, or The Fair Pensioners by John (‘HB’) Doyle, published by Thomas McLean lithograph, published 24 January 1831 (inscribed 1830). Anna Maria on the left. NPG

Fourth place goes to Mrs Harriet Bouverie.

NPG D42054; Harriet Bouverie (nee Fawkener, later Lady Robert Spencer); Edward Bouverie sold by James Watson, sold by Butler Clowes, after Sir Joshua Reynolds
NPG D42054; Harriet Bouverie (nee Fawkener, later Lady Robert Spencer); Edward Bouverie sold by James Watson, sold by Butler Clowes, after Sir Joshua Reynolds

Somewhat surprisingly, given that she was always regarded as the most beautiful woman in England, the Duchess of Devonshire only achieved overall fifth place, scoring such a low mark for ‘expression’.

Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough
Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough

Sixth place, just one point behind was Mrs Damer (see image further on).

Seventh place went to the Countess of Sefton, formerly Lady Isabella Stanhope.

Thomas Gainsborough - Isabella,Viscountess Molyneux, later Countess of Sefton
Thomas Gainsborough – Isabella,Viscountess Molyneux, later Countess of Sefton

Eighth place to the Duchess of Gordon.

Jane, Duchess of Gordon, née Maxwell, standing three-quarter-length, portrayed in a green riding habit, wearing only one glove on her right hand. By Daniel Gardner c.1775.
Jane, Duchess of Gordon, née Maxwell, standing three-quarter-length, portrayed in a green riding habit, wearing only one glove on her right hand. By Daniel Gardner c.1775.

Ninth place went to Mrs Crewe, on the right, who score a zero for ‘grace’.

Mrs Bouverie and Mrs Crewe. Print after Sir Joshua Reynolds. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund.
Mrs Bouverie and Mrs Crewe. Print after Sir Joshua Reynolds. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund.

Tenth place, to Lady Melbourne, whose ‘figure’ scored her a zero.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne – the most famous political hostesses and society beauties of their day – are shown gathered around the witches’ cauldron alongside their friend, the sculptor Anne Seymour Damer. The Three Witches from Shakespeares Macbeth by Daniel Gardner, 1775NPG
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne – the most famous political hostesses and society beauties of their day – are shown gathered around the witches’ cauldron alongside their friend, the sculptor Anne Seymour Damer. The Three Witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth by Daniel Gardner, 1775

In Eleventh place, we have the Countess of Derby whose scores were well below average, to say the least.

Lady Elizabeth Hamilton (1753–1797), Countess of Derby
Lady Elizabeth Hamilton (1753–1797), Countess of Derby

Last, scoring a mere 48 out of 180 was the Countess of Jersey.

Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey (1753-1821) by Thomas Beach
Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey (1753-1821) by Thomas Beach

For your perusal is the full chart.

Scale of Bon Ton. Click on image to enlarge
Scale of Bon Ton. Click on image to enlarge

Devonshire House in 1844 by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire – her final days

March 1806 began well for the Duchess of Devonshire as she held a ball for the social elite. The whole suite of magnificent apartments was thrown open at ten in the evening and about eleven ‘the fashionables’ arrived, including The Prince of Wales, Duke of Sussex plus a whole host of lords, earls, counts and their respective spouses. There were supper tables consisting of every delicacy of the season and as you would expect, plenty of dancing and of course, with Georgiana’s love of gambling, there were card tables.  It was said that Georgiana never appeared in better health, with the whole party dancing the night away, until five in the morning.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Gainsborough. 1783
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Gainsborough 1783

A week or so later, Georgiana was to hold a supper party and according to the ‘Fashionable Arrangements for the Week’, all was well, or so it would appear.  It wasn’t until March 21st that the media first reported Georgiana as being dangerously ill. No further details of the cause were given, but it was reported a few days later that she was making a good recovery from her recent indisposition.

By March 28th however, her health was in serious decline, she was suffering from a fever and did not appear to be showing any signs of making a speedy recovery. So well thought of was Georgiana that there was a constant stream of well-wishers arriving at her London home, Devonshire House, with none more anxious than the Countess of Uxbridge who was with her constantly as was Lady Melbourne, his Grace and all members of her family since the fever began. At 3.30am on the 30th March 1806, Georgiana’s life came to an end.

The cause of death was believed to be due to an abscess on her liver, but a post mortem was carried out to confirm this. Her body was opened up at seven in the morning in the presence of five physicians who had attended her whilst she was alive. A consultation was held afterwards, and the gentleman were much divided in their opinion on the cause of death, they felt it was either gallstones or an abscess on the liver, but it was ultimately agreed that the abscess was the cause.

It would appear that the whole of her social circle was shocked by her untimely death, aged only 48, and so upset were they by this news that many retired to their country home, it was not a time to be socialising, even the Prince of Wales left for Brighton. The Duke of Devonshire and family remained at Devonshire House until after the funeral, then left London to visit the Prince of Wales at Brighton.

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire by Henry Lark Pratt
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire by Henry Lark Pratt; Buxton Museum & Art Gallery

The Morning Advertiser of 2nd April 1806 reported that Georgiana was to be buried at Chatsworth as it was a place she loved and was loved by all on the estate; however this was suddenly changed and she was buried at All Saints Church, better known as Derby Cathedral.

View of Derby from the Meadows; Derby Museums Trust. E.M 
View of Derby from the Meadows; Derby Museums Trust. E.M

Needless to say, the newspapers all paid tribute to her; they loved Georgiana, despite some mockery of her involvement in politics and her some of her more unique tastes in fashion. The Bath Chronicle described her being:

A woman more exalted in every accomplishment of rapturous beauty, of elevated genius and of angelic temper, has not adorned the present age.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806) c. 1774. JEREMIAH MEYER. Royal Collection Trust
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806) c. 1774. Jeremiah Meyer. Royal Collection Trust

Georgiana’s funeral took place on April 9th.  At five o’clock in the morning, the procession left Devonshire House in the following order –

Eight mutes on horseback, an attendant on horseback carrying the coronet and cushion, the hearse drawn by eight horses, the deceased’s private coach and two morning coaches, containing the principal family and Mr Wilson of The Strand, the undertaker.

The coffin, which is very elegant, is six feet two inches in length by twenty three inches. It is covered with a very rich crimson velvet and ornamented with uncommonly rich and beautiful chased ornaments. At the head are placed a variety of appropriate devices, and at the foot a highly chased weeping figure, admirably executed. The inscription plate contains the arms of the two great families, namely Cavendish and Spencer Underneath is written – The Most Noble Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire, died the 30th March 1806, in the 48th year of her age. The coffin had eight gilt handles on each appeared her initials G.D.

RICHARD COSWAY (1742-1821) Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806)
RICHARD COSWAY (1742-1821) Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806)

Burial register, Derby

Burial register, Derby

ELEGIAC LINES

ON THE DEATH OF THE DUCHESS OF DEVONSHIRE

Faint are the numbers, and unskill’d the Muse,

Who vainly shall attempt to paint her worth;

Afflictions tear, what heart, or eye refuse,

To her whose virtues grac’d her rank and birth.

Well might our Gracious Prince then sorrowing say,

“Of England’s fairest daughter, none remain

More kind or amiable” – diffusely gay,

Her genuine merits shone in fashion’s train.

A mother’s sacred duties to discharge,

She sought retirement from the giddy town;

Taught the young mind with freedom to enlarge,

And form’d them good and virtuous like her own.

By all belov’d, by ev’ry heart deplor’d

Still mem’ry mourns amidst a nation’s sighs;

And mem’ry still her virtues shall record,

Virtues that waft her to her native skies

FRANCESCA JULIA

You can find out more about the deaths of 5th Duke of Devonshire and his second wife, Bess –  Reunited in death, the 5th Duke of Devonshire, Georgiana and Bess

Sources

Morning Post 01 March 1806 

Stamford Mercury 21 March 1806

Morning Post 02 April 1806

Morning Post 03 April 1806

Morning Post 07 April 1806