The Duchesses of Devonshire in the long eighteenth-century

We all know of the famous (or infamous) Duchess of Devonshire, Georgiana Cavendish née Spencer. But, what of the other Duchesses of Devonshire during the long eighteenth-century? Today, we are taking a whistle-stop tour to look at them one-by-one.

We start with Lady Mary Butler (1646-1710), daughter of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde. In 1662 she married William Cavendish (1640-1707), then merely Lord Cavendish, the eldest son of William Cavendish, 3rd Earl of Devonshire; in 1684 Mary became the Countess of Devonshire when her husband succeeded to the earldom. His support of the Glorious Revolution in 1688 brought him the support of William III (of Orange) and in 1694 the Earl and Countess of Devonshire became, additionally, the 1st Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.

Lady Mary Butler (1646-1710), Duchess of Devonshire by Willem Wissing
Lady Mary Butler (1646-1710), Duchess of Devonshire by Willem Wissing; National Trust, Hardwick Hall

Next is the Honourable Rachel Russell (1674-1725), daughter of William Russell, Lord Russell and the wife of William Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Devonshire (c.1672-1729) (you might be gathering by this point that the Cavendish family weren’t that imaginative when it came to naming the heir!). William and Rachel married on 21st June 1688 and had five children.

Rachel Russell (1674-1725), Duchess of Devonshire by Godfrey Kneller
Rachel Russell (1674-1725), Duchess of Devonshire by Godfrey Kneller; National Trust, Hardwick Hall

The eldest son of the 2nd Duke and Duchess was… you’ve guessed it! William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire (1698-1755). At a young age, he married Katherine Hoskins or Hoskyn (c.1698-1777) of whom little appears to be known.

An interesting snippet concerning the 3rd Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, they are the most recent common ancestors of Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer; Charles is descended from the 3rd duke’s eldest son (who we will come onto next, go on, have a guess at his name!) and the second eldest daughter of the family, Lady Elizabeth Cavendish (who married John Ponsonby) was the direct ancestor of Diana.

Katherine outlived her husband by more than 20 years.

Portrait of Katherine Hoskins, Duchess of Devonshire as St Catherine by Charles Jervas
Portrait of Katherine Hoskins, Duchess of Devonshire as St Catherine by Charles Jervas; Chatsworth House

Yes, you’re correct! The next to hold the title was William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire who, when Marquess of Hartington, married Lady Charlotte Elizabeth Boyle, the only surviving daughter of Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington (it was a wedding which had been planned since they were both children, and was a very happy one). Charlotte inherited all her father’s estates and the title of Baroness Clifford in her own right.

Lady Dorothy Boyle (1724-1742), Countess of Euston, and Her Sister Lady Charlotte Boyle (1731-1754), Later Marchioness of Hartington by Dorothy Savile
Lady Dorothy Boyle (1724-1742), Countess of Euston, and Her Sister Lady Charlotte Boyle (1731-1754), Later Marchioness of Hartington by Dorothy Savile; National Trust, Hardwick Hall

Now, strictly speaking, Charlotte should not be included here as she never actually became the Duchess of Devonshire. She died of smallpox at Uppingham in Rutland at the beginning of December 1754, mere months before her husband became the duke upon the death of his father (and tragically, she died just over 8 months after the birth of her fourth child). So, Charlotte was only ever Marchioness of Hartington, but we felt she should take her place on this blog.

Lady Charlotte Boyle (1731-1754) by George Knapton
Lady Charlotte Boyle (1731-1754) by George Knapton; English Heritage, Chiswick House

And so we come to William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire (1748-1811), who married Lady Georgiana Spencer (1757-1806) in 1774, on her 17th birthday at Wimbledon parish church. It is well-known that the marriage was unhappy; the duke was emotionally cold to Georgiana although he continued to entertain mistresses.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787; Chatsworth House

In 1782, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire made the acquaintance of Lady Elizabeth (Bess) Foster née Hervey (1758-1824), the daughter of Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol who was separated from her own husband (and three sons). The two ladies became friends, and Bess and the duke more than that; Bess went to live with the couple and something of a ménage à trois developed, reluctantly tolerated by Georgiana (Bess and the duke had two illegitimate children together).

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and Lady Elisabeth Foster, miniature by Jean-Urbain Guérin, 1791.
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and Lady Elisabeth Foster, miniature by Jean-Urbain Guérin, 1791. The Wallace Collection

Georgiana embarked upon an affair of her own after having given birth to two daughters (Lady Georgiana Dorothy Cavendish, known as Little G and Lady Harriet Elizabeth Cavendish, or Harryo) and a son and heir, William George Spencer Cavendish, aka Hart (as his title from birth was Marquess of Hartington). Her lover was the politician Charles Grey (later Earl Grey), and the affair resulted in a daughter, known as Eliza Courtney, in 1792, resulting in the duchess being banished abroad for a period of time before she was allowed home to live with her husband, children and Bess.

After Georgiana’s early death in 1806 (she was 48), the 5th Duke of Devonshire married Bess, so she too gained the title of Duchess of Devonshire although the duke died just two years after their wedding.

Lady Elizabeth Christiana Hervey (1759-1824), Lady Elizabeth Foster, Later Duchess of Devonshire by Angelica Kauffman
Lady Elizabeth Christiana Hervey (1759-1824), Lady Elizabeth Foster, Later Duchess of Devonshire by Angelica Kauffman; National Trust, Ickworth

Hart (otherwise William Cavendish, 1790-1858), the eldest son of the 5th Duke of Devonshire and Georgiana did in time become the 6th Duke (in 1811) but he never married.

After Hart’s death, in 1858, the title passed to the eldest son of George Cavendish, 1st Earl of Burlington who, in turn, was the eldest son of the 4th Duke of Devonshire and Lady Charlotte Boyle. With excellent forward planning, he too was named William Cavendish and, although we’re well out of the ‘long eighteenth-century’ now, we’ll share one last image with you, of another woman who took her place in the Cavendish family tree but who never became Duchess of Devonshire.

In 1829, the 7th Duke, before he had come into his estates and titles (he was, from 1834, the 2nd Earl of Burlington), married Blanche Georgiana Howard (1812-1840), the daughter of George Howard, 6th Earl of Carlisle and Georgiana Cavendish who we have already mentioned above as ‘Little G’, the eldest daughter of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.

Lady Blanche Georgiana Howard (1812-1840), Countess of Burlington by John Lucas
Lady Blanche Georgiana Howard (1812-1840), Countess of Burlington by John Lucas; National Trust, Hardwick Hall

It was to be a short but happy marriage, engineered by Hart, the childless 6th Duke of Devonshire; five children were born to the couple before Blanche died in 1840, aged just 28. For the last two years of her life, Blanche, Countess of Burlington, was one of Queen Victoria’s Ladies of the Bedchamber.

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Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire with her infant daughter Lady Georgiana Cavendish by Joshua Reynolds; Chatsworth House.

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View of Chatsworth Looking across the Lake; British School; Government Art Collection

What became of Charlotte Williams, illegitimate daughter of the 5th Duke of Devonshire?

NPG D1752; William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire by John Raphael Smith, after Sir Joshua Reynolds
Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

You may be aware that just before William Cavendish, the 5th Duke of Devonshire married Georgiana Spencer in 1774 he had had a relationship with a Charlotte Spencer (no relation to Georgiana) and that as a result of this liaison a child was born. This child was named Charlotte, after her mother and Williams after her father, but not until her mother had died in 1781.

During the early part of her life, she was provided for by the Duke but raised by her mother, a milliner, until she died. At this point, Charlotte was taken into the Cavendish household and lived with him and his wife Georgiana as an ‘orphaned member of the Spencer family’. Georgiana always treated Charlotte as if she were her own child.

NPG D35170; Georgiana Cavendish (nÈe Spencer), Duchess of Devonshire published by Excelsior Fine Art Association, with permission of Henry Graves & Co, after Robert Graves, after Thomas Gainsborough
Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

Everything went well until Charlotte acquired a new governess, Elizabeth Foster, who later became the Duke’s mistress. Soon after this Elizabeth took Charlotte to France, partly for her own health and partly for Charlotte’s education. Elizabeth was fond of socializing and preferred to party rather than spend time with Charlotte and so at this point Charlotte was sent to Paris until the start of the French Revolution when she returned to England.

Elizabeth Christiana Cavendish (née Hervey), Duchess of Devonshire when Lady Elizabeth Foster. Image from The Two Duchesses by Vere Foster, 1898.
Elizabeth Christiana Cavendish (née Hervey), Duchess of Devonshire when Lady Elizabeth Foster. Image from The Two Duchesses by Vere Foster, 1898.

So, what became of Charlotte?

This question has been asked numerous times and the answer has always been that she was married off, then simply vanished. Given our love of solving mysteries we simply had to investigate. We had read in Amanda Foreman’s book, The Duchess, that Charlotte married – if that were true, who was her husband? Did she have her own family? What happened to her?

Well, on the 28th February 1793 Charlotte did marry. In fact, she married the Duke of Devonshire’s agent, John Heaton’s nephew, Jonathan Kendal, at St James in Piccadilly.  The Morning Post of the 1st March 1793 noted that they were both of Old Burlington Street.

According to his baptism Jonathan was some nine years older than Charlotte and Robert Athol, the Archives and Records Manager at Lincolns Inn Library, says that Jonathan was ‘admitted on 21st February 1784, the nephew of John Heaton, also a member of Lincoln’s Inn. He is not listed in our bar books that list members of the Inn who have been called to the bar, however, nor does he appear in any of the Law lists for the time which suggests to me that although he was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn, he didn’t pursue a career in law’.

Lincoln's Inn Gate. Picturesque Views with an Historical Account of the Inns of Court in London and Westminster, 1800. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
Lincoln’s Inn Gate. Picturesque Views with an Historical Account of the Inns of Court in London and Westminster, 1800. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

We know from the Land Tax records that the Heaton family were living in a property owned by the Duke of Devonshire on Old Burlington Street so it seems highly likely that Charlotte, shortly after her return from France, moved there and that is where she met her future husband.

If, as assumed, Charlotte was born 1774, then she had not reached adulthood when the couple married, i.e. she was under 21-years. That being the case it is usual to see parent’s permission on the marriage entry but there was no such reference as you can see. Does that mean that she was actually born earlier than previously thought, or did no-one check her age at marriage?

Charlotte Williams marriage

The couple lived at Barrowby in Lincolnshire for the majority of their married life as Jonathan appeared on Polls books and electoral registers in that village for many years.

According to the Clergy of the Church of England Database, on the 10th March 1800 Jonathan became a curate and served in the church for the remainder of his life; the living of Barrowby was in the gift of the Duke of Devonshire who was Lord of the Manor. One interesting entry against his name is that he was also appointed as Domestic Chaplain to the 6th Duke of Devonshire.

William Spencer Cavendish c.1806/1807, later the 6th Duke of Devonshire; National Trust, Hardwick Hall
William Spencer Cavendish c.1806/1807, later the 6th Duke of Devonshire; National Trust, Hardwick Hall

The 1841 census shows the couple still married and living at Barrowby at the Rectory House, along with 7 servants. Their son was born 1797 and followed in his father’s footsteps. After graduating from Trinity College, Cambridge he became the Rev Charles Edward Kendal, stipendiary curate of Barrowby in 1821.  Charlotte was to see her son be married by her husband to a Miss Catherine Downing in Barrowby church in 1825.

As the parish vicar and his wife, Jonathan and Charlotte would have led a life typical of any rural cleric, spending time tending to his flock, supported by his wife. According to the parish register at Barrowby Jonathan was buried there on the 11th May 1849.  Charlotte outlived Jonathan by just over 7 years.

It certainly appears that the couple were happy together and Charlotte specified in her will that she wished to be interred in the vault alongside her beloved husband at Barrowby.  However, after Jonathan’s death we find that Charlotte had moved to Leamington in Warwickshire, and on the 1851 census, she was visiting a relative in Dover. The census recorded her as a widow, aged 78 and her place of birth as London, although as yet no baptismal entry has been found, but as to what name she would have been baptized under remains a mystery, if she were baptized at all!

Barrowby_Lincolnshire,All_Saints_Church
All Saints Church Barrowby, Lincolnshire

The next and seemingly final record of Charlotte appeared in The Standard of Saturday 13th December 1856 with the record of her death:

On the 8th Inst. in Newbold Terrace, Leamington Charlotte, the relict of Rev Jonathan Kendal, Rector of Barrowby, in her 84th year.

For some reason her wish to be buried in the same vault as her husband in Barrowby was not carried out and she was buried at Leamington Priors on the 15th December 1856.

Charlotte Burial

Overall, it would appear that Charlotte led a quiet and happy life and the mystery is now solved.

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But, if you are interested in the mysterious life of another Charlotte Williams, one who was a Georgian heroine, then click here to discover the bizarre but true story of an astounding woman persevering in a man’s world.

 

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View of Chatsworth Looking across the Lake; British School; Government Art Collection