Lucy Cavendish

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Lucy Cavendish
Lucy Cavendish at about the time of her marriage
Lucy Caroline Lyttelton

5 September 1841
Died22 April 1925(1925-04-22) (aged 83)
Penshurst, Kent, England
(m. 1864; died 1882)
Parent(s)George Lyttelton, 4th Baron Lyttelton
Mary Glynne
RelativesLyttelton family

Lucy Caroline Cavendish, also known as Lady Frederick Cavendish, (née Lyttelton; 5 September 1841 – 22 April 1925) was a pioneer of women's education.

A daughter of George Lyttelton, 4th Baron Lyttelton, she married into another aristocratic family, the Cavendishes, in 1864. Eighteen years later her husband, Lord Frederick Cavendish, was murdered in Dublin by Irish nationalists. After his death she devoted much of her time to the cause of girls' and women's education, for which she was honoured in her lifetime with an honorary degree, and posthumously when, in 1965, Cambridge University named its first post-graduate college for women after her.


Lucy Lyttelton was born at Hagley Hall in Worcestershire, the second daughter of George Lyttelton, 4th Baron Lyttelton, and his wife, Mary Glynne, whose sister married William Ewart Gladstone.[1] In 1863 she was appointed a Maid of Honour to Queen Victoria, whom she attended until her marriage the following year.[2]

Marriage and husband's murder[edit]

On 7 June 1864 she married Lord Frederick Cavendish, the second son of the Duke of Devonshire. They had no children. Cavendish was elected to Parliament in 1865.[1] In the same year she was excited to join the Ladies Diocesan Association run by Catharine Tait with the prospect of visiting workhouses to try and bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.[3]

Her husband was murdered by Irish republicans on 6 May 1882, the same day he took the oath of office of Chief Secretary for Ireland.[1] Although devastated by the assassination, on the day before the ringleader was hanged she sent him the small gold crucifix she had long worn, as a token of her forgiveness.[4] Gladstone was greatly moved when she told him that she could bear the loss of her beloved husband "if his death were to work good to his fellow-men, which indeed was the whole object of his life."[2] She remained a firm supporter of Irish Home Rule. A window to Lord Cavendish's memory was placed in St Margaret's Church, Westminster, at the expense of the members of the House of Commons.[1]

Later years[edit]

After Cavendish's death, Lucy Cavendish was active in the sphere of women's education. She was President of the Yorkshire Ladies Council of Education from 1883 to 1912. She declined the offer of the post of Mistress of Girton College, Cambridge, in 1884. She was a member of the Royal Commission on Secondary Education and was a founding member of the Council of the Girls' Public Day School Company, which had been founded by her father.[1] On 6 October 1904 she received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws at the formal inauguration of Leeds University for "notable service to the cause of education".[5]


Lucy Cavendish died on 22 April 1925, aged 83, in her home, the Glebe, in Penshurst, Kent. She was buried with her husband in the Cavendish family churchyard, St Peter's.[1]


Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge, was named in her honour in 1965.[1] She was the great-aunt of one of its founders, Margaret Braithwaite.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Boase, G. C. "Cavendish, Lord Frederick Charles (1836–1882)" rev. H. C. G. Matthew, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, online edition, October 2005, accessed 23 April 2013 (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  2. ^ a b "Obituary – Lady Frederick Cavendish", The Times, 23 April 1925, p. 14.
  3. ^ Poole, Andrea Geddes (5 February 2014). Philanthropy and the Construction of Victorian Women's Citizenship: Lady Frederick Cavendish and Miss Emma Cons. University of Toronto Press. pp. 66–68. ISBN 978-1-4426-9354-8.
  4. ^ Lyttelton and Hart Davis, p. 40 – letter of 17 March 1960.
  5. ^ "The Papers of Lucy Cavendish".
  6. ^ Renfrew, Jane M. "Who was Lucy Cavendish?". Rooms of Our Own - Lucy Cavendish College. Retrieved 26 October 2019.


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