The Duchess of Devonshire

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The Duchess of Devonshire

Princess Di’s great-great-great-great aunt.

 I recently saw the movie The Duchess, with Ralph Fiennes and
Keira Knightley after having read the book Georgiana, by Amanda Foreman many years
ago. This is one of my favorite time periods and after having visited
Versailles in 2009, I really got a feel for how these mega-rich aristocrats

The movie was actually pretty well done considering the
length and depth of the book, which was generally created from actual letters
written by or to the Duchess. What maybe wasn’t related very clearly in the
movie was that Princess Diana was a descendant of this wildly dysfunctional
couple’s family. Must be genetic.



What I found most fascinating about Lady Georgiana Spencer
Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, was that she was deeply political in a time
when women could not vote and really had no hope of such a right. Yet she was a
very powerful influence and sought after political force for the emerging Whig
party. She was an ally of the Right Honourable Mr. Charles Fox, who practically
ran the party for decades and he discussed the current politics with her at
length, according to letters saved from her estate. My guess would be this was
because her husband had little interest in the subject and it was the only way
for the Whig party to capture his ear. There are almost no letters saved from
the Duke’s correspondence as it was common practice for them to be burned upon
a high ranking person’s death in order to preserve their legacy (in case the
political tide turned).


Another fascinating aspect of Georgiana’s life was her
obsession with doctors and medicine. It’s a wonder she and her children weren’t
poisoned by all the crazy concoctions that the surgeons and apothecaries thought
up during that period. For goodness sake they prescribed mercury for their


Georgiana was a maverick in fashion as well inventing the
Devonshire Brown, a Devonshire Hair Powder, applied to her elaborate and
slightly ridiculous hair-do’s called hair towers.  These consisted of what looked like a panorama
of miniatures all arranged in a monstrous coif.

If you are interested in more information about Georgiana,
just Google her and you can find many books, blogs and websites dedicated to
this fascinating woman and her family.

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