Evelyn Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire

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Evelyn Emily Mary Cavendish (Petty-FitzMaurice), Duchess of Devonshire

Birthplace: Bowood, Wiltshire, England
Death: April 02, 1960 (89)
Kensington, Greater London, Middlesex, England
Place of Burial: St Peter Churchyard, Edensor, Derbyshire, England
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Henry Charles Keith Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess Lansdowne and Maud Evelyn Petty-FitzMaurice, Marchioness of Lansdowne
Wife of Victor Cavendish, 9th Duke of Devonshire
Mother of Edward Cavendish, 10th Duke of Devonshire; Lady Maud Louisa Emma Cavendish; Lady Blanche Katherine Cavendish; Dorothy Evelyn Macmillan; Lady Rachel Cavendish, Viscountess Stuart of Findhorn and 2 others
Sister of Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 6th Marquess of Lansdowne; Maj. Charles George Francis Mercer Nairne and Beatrix Frances Petty-FitzMaurice

Managed by: Private User
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About Evelyn Cavendish, Duchess 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.

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.[1] 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.[2] 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[1][4] and the youngest member of the House of Commons.[5] 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.[5][6] The family eventually came to include two sons, five daughters,[1] and twenty-one grandchildren.[7]

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.[8]

Victor succeeded his uncle as 9th Duke of Devonshire in 1908, whereupon Evelyn became the Duchess of Devonshire.[1] The Devonshires were one of the country's richest families, thought by some to have more wealth than the royal family.[9] The Duchess was to oversee four large estates in England and one Irish castle.[3] With her new position, she oversaw the reorganisation of the Devonshire estates.[1] The Duchess strictly adhered to etiquette and her position,[9] being characterised by a brother-in-law as "accustomed to authority."[10] She was known for her abrasive personality; her granddaughter-in-law wrote that she "was not altogether easy to get on with,"[11] whilst another referred to her as "an unpleasant woman."[10] Her husband's biographer described her as "cold, authoritarian, and frugal,"[1] 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."[10]

In 1909, the Duchess founded the Derbyshire branch of the Red Cross and became its first president.[3][12] She was appointed Mistress of the Robes to the newly crowned Queen Mary in 1910.[13] In 1916, the Duke accepted the appointment of Governor General of Canada,[5] and his wife relinquished her position to accompany him,[14][15] along with six of their children.[16] 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.[17] Nevertheless, Dorothy and Macmillan were married in April 1920.[18]

The Duke of Devonshire's tenure in Canada ended in 1921,[16] 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.[citation needed] 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.[1][21] Previously a jovial man, the duke became miserable towards his family and others, and suddenly could not tolerate his wife.[22][23] 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."[22] The Duchess gained more authority over his estates, destroying its Joseph Paxton-designed conservatory and saving expenses by introducing nettle soup to Chatsworth House,[1] but their affairs "gradually went downhill."[22] He died in May 1938;[22] 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.[24]

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.[25] The Duchess agreed to the plan despite her love for the estate. In 1959, the Treasury transferred the house to the National Trust.[26] The Duchess remained in occupation until her death on 2 April 1960.[27][28] Having done much to conserve the textiles in the house, she was to be its last occupant.

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Evelyn Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire's Timeline

August 27, 1870
Wiltshire, England
May 6, 1895
Park Lane, Westminster, Middlesex, England
April 20, 1896
London, Middlesex, England
February 2, 1898
Park Lane, Westminster, Middlesex, England
July 28, 1900
Park Lane, Westminster, Middlesex, England
January 22, 1902
London, England
August 29, 1905
August 20, 1909