Evelyn Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire
The Duchess of Devonshire
Portrait of Lady Evelyn Cavendish, John Singer Sargent (1902)
|Mistress of the Robes to
|Monarch||Mary of Teck|
|Succeeded by||The Duchess of Sutherland|
|Monarch||Mary of Teck|
|Preceded by||The Duchess of Sutherland|
|Born||27 August 1870|
|Died||2 April 1960 (aged 89)|
|Spouse(s)||Victor Cavendish, 9th Duke of Devonshire|
Evelyn Emily Mary Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire GCVO JP (née Petty-FitzMaurice; 27 August 1870 – 2 April 1960) was the wife of Victor Cavendish, 9th Duke of Devonshire. She was born the elder daughter of the politician Henry Petty-FitzMaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne and grew up amidst public life. Evelyn's marriage to Cavendish, the heir of the 8th Duke of Devonshire, led to her becoming Duchess of Devonshire in 1908. With her position, she oversaw the reorganisation of the Devonshire estates and presided over four English houses and one Irish castle.
Evelyn held the position of Mistress of the Robes to Queen Mary from 1910 until 1916, when she accompanied her husband upon his appointment as Governor General of Canada. The Duchess held the position Viceregal Consort until the Duke's term ended in 1921. Upon returning to England, the Duchess again was appointed Mistress of the Robes to Queen Mary, holding the position until the latter's death in 1953. The Dowager Duchess, widowed since 1938, spent her final years living at Hardwick Hall, which was made over to HM Treasury in 1956, in part payment of death duties.
Family and early life
On 27 August 1870, Lady Evelyn was born the elder daughter of the politician and statesman Henry Petty-FitzMaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne and his wife, Lady Maud Hamilton, daughter of the 1st Duke of Abercorn. Lady Evelyn's father served as Governor General of Canada from 1883 to 1888, as Viceroy of India from 1888 to 1894, and as Leader of the Conservative Party in the House of Lords from 1903 to 1916. Lady Evelyn was consequently raised to public life.
Evelyn was married on 30 July 1892 to Victor Cavendish, the nephew and heir of the 8th Duke of Devonshire and the youngest member of the House of Commons. They and their growing family resided at Holker Hall in Lancashire, and would be sad to leave it to Lord Richard Cavendish upon Victor's ascension as Duke of Devonshire in 1908. The family eventually came to include two sons, five daughters, and twenty-one grandchildren.
As part of the celebrations for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897, Victor's uncle hosted the Devonshire House Ball, one of the event's most extravagant parties. Lady Evelyn attended in the dress of a Lady at the Court of the Empress Maria Theresa, while her husband dressed in sixteenth-century costume.
Duchess of Devonshire
Victor succeeded his uncle as 9th Duke of Devonshire in 1908, whereupon Evelyn became the Duchess of Devonshire. The Devonshires were one of the country's richest families, thought by some to have more wealth than the royal family. The Duchess was to oversee four large estates in England and one Irish castle. With her new position, she oversaw the reorganisation of the Devonshire estates. The Duchess strictly adhered to etiquette and her position, being characterised by a brother-in-law as "accustomed to authority." She was known for her abrasive personality; her granddaughter-in-law wrote that she "was not altogether easy to get on with," whilst another referred to her as "an unpleasant woman." Her husband's biographer described her as "cold, authoritarian, and frugal," and a servant recalled that "she wouldn't speak to you unless she wanted something, and I can't say she ever thanked you either."
In 1909, the Duchess founded the Derbyshire branch of the Red Cross and became its first president. She was appointed Mistress of the Robes to the newly crowned Queen Mary in 1910. In 1916, the Duke accepted the appointment of Governor General of Canada, and his wife relinquished her position to accompany him, along with six of their children. While in Canada, their daughter Lady Dorothy met Harold Macmillan, the future prime minister. While the Duke was delighted with the match, the Duchess was unhappy that Macmillan, though wealthy, was the member of a mere tradesmen family. She favoured a match between her daughter and the heir to the Duke of Buccleuch instead. Nevertheless, Dorothy and Macmillan were married in April 1920.
The Duke of Devonshire's tenure in Canada ended in 1921, and the Duchess resumed her role as Mistress of the Robes to Queen Mary, holding the appointment from 1921 to the latter's death in 1953. Queen Mary invested the Duchess as a Dame Grand Cross of The Royal Victorian Order in May 1937.
In April 1925, the Duke suffered a stroke that paralysed him and led to his gradual mental deterioration. Previously a jovial man, the duke became miserable towards his family and others, and suddenly could not tolerate his wife. Their granddaughter-in-law later recalled that "Granny Evie tried to carry on as if nothing had happened but the house and estate lacked a leader and it showed." The Duchess gained more authority over his estates, destroying its Joseph Paxton-designed conservatory and saving expenses by introducing nettle soup to Chatsworth House, but their affairs "gradually went downhill." He died in May 1938; after his death, the Duchess took up residence at Hardwick Hall, where she oversaw a significant amount of repair work of its tapestries and embroideries.
In 1950, the unexpected death of the 10th Duke of Devonshire and the subsequent death duties (rated at 80%) caused the sale of many of the Devonshire assets and estates, including Hardwick. The decision was made to hand the house over to HM Treasury in lieu of Estate Duty in 1956. The Duchess agreed to the plan despite her love for the estate. In 1959, the Treasury transferred the house to the National Trust. The Duchess remained in occupation until her death on 2 April 1960. Having done much to conserve the textiles in the house, she was to be its last occupant.
They had two sons and five daughters.
- Edward William Spencer Cavendish, 10th Duke of Devonshire (6 May 1895 – 26 November 1950); married Lady Mary Alice Gascoyne-Cecil, daughter of James Gascoyne-Cecil, 4th Marquess of Salisbury
- Lady Maud Louisa Emma Cavendish (20 April 1896 – 30 March 1975)
- Lady Blanche Katherine Cavendish (2 February 1898 – 1987)
- Lady Dorothy Evelyn Cavendish (28 July 1900 – 21 May 1966); married Harold Macmillan
- Lady Rachel Cavendish (22 January 1902 – 2 October 1977); married James Stuart, 1st Viscount Stuart of Findhorn
- Lord Charles Arthur Francis Cavendish (29 August 1905 – 23 March 1944); married Adele Astaire
- Lady Anne Cavendish (20 August 1909 – 1981); married Henry Hunloke
Honours and awards
- She was invested as a Dame Grand Cross, Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) in 1937
- She held the office of Justice of the Peace (JP) for Derbyshire
- She was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws (LLD) by the University of Leeds
- She was invested as a Dame of Justice, Order of St. John of Jerusalem (DStJ)
- Davenport-Hines 2004.
- Adonis 2004.
- Cavendish 2010, p. 218.
- Simon Shkolnik 1996, p. 274.
- Cavendish 1999, p. 94.
- Simon Shkolnik 1996, pp. 274–75.
- Cavendish 2011, p. 320.
- "Lady Evelyn Cavendish, later Duchess of Devonshire". Chatsworth.org. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
- Olson 2007, p. 41.
- Olson 2007, p. 40.
- Cavendish 2010, p. 143.
- "100 years and Derbyshire Red Cross is still going strong" (Press release). Red Cross. 22 September 2009. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
- "Queen Mary's New Right-Hand Woman". The Washington Post. 1 June 1910. Retrieved 9 February 2014. (subscription required)
- "Peeress Whose Departure Will Deprive Queen Mary of One of Her Close Friends". The Washington Post. 16 July 1916. Retrieved 9 February 2014. (subscription required)
- "Duchess of Sutherland is New Mistress of Robes". The Washington Post. 28 October 1916. Retrieved 9 February 2014. (subscription required)
- Simon Shkolnik 1996, p. 275.
- Olson 2007, p. 67.
- Olson 2007, pp. 40–41.
- "Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood" (PDF). Edinburgh Gazette. 14 May 1937. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
- McCreery 2008, p. 109.
- Cavendish 2010.
- Cavendish 2010, p. 136.
- Simon Shkolnik 1996, pp. 275–76.
- Montgomery-Massingberd 1994, p. 178.
- Chatsworth: Home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire; Derbyshire Countryside Ltd; 2005: p. 56.
- Cavendish 2010, p. 141.
- Hardwick Hall; The National Trust; 2006; ISBN 978-1-84359-217-4: p. 72
- "Duchess of Devonshire Dead". The New York Times. 4 April 1960. Retrieved 9 February 2014. (subscription required)
- Burke 1914, p. 621.
- Works cited
- Adonis, Andrew (2004). "Fitzmaurice, Henry Charles Keith Petty-, fifth marquess of Lansdowne (1845–1927)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/35500. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Burke, Bernard, ed. (1914). General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage, the Privy Council, Knightage and Companionage (76th ed.). Harrison and Sons.
- Cavendish, Deborah (1999). The Garden At Chatsworth. Frances Lincoln Limited. ISBN 0711214301.
- Cavendish, Deborah (2010). Wait for Me!: Memoirs. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. ISBN 0374207682.
- Cavendish, Deborah (2011). All in One Basket. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. ISBN 0374103461.
- Davenport-Hines, Richard (2004). "Cavendish, Victor Christian William, ninth duke of Devonshire (1868–1938)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/32332. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- McCreery, Christopher (2008). On Her Majesty's Service: Royal Honours and Recognition in Canada. Dundurn. ISBN 1550027425.
- Montgomery-Massingberd, Hugh (1994). Great Houses of England & Wales. Laurence King Publishing. ISBN 0847818241.
- Mosley, Charles, ed. (2003). Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage. 2 (107th ed.). Wilmington, Delaware: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd. pp. 1130–31, 2240.
- Olson, Lynne (2007). Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England. FSG Books. ISBN 0374179549.
- Simon Shkolnik, Esther (1996). "Cavendish, Victor William (9th Duke of Devonshire)". In Stuart Olson, James; Shadle, Robert. Historical Dictionary of the British Empire, Volume 1. Greenwood Press. ISBN 031329366X.
- Media related to Evelyn Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire at Wikimedia Commons
- Evelyn Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire at Find a Grave
|Mistress of the Robes to
The Duchess of Sutherland
The Duchess of Sutherland
|Mistress of the Robes to
HRH The Duchess of Connaught
|Viceregal Consort of Canada
The Viscountess Byng of Vimy