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Georgiana Spencer, Duchess of Devonshire

(b. June 7, 1757, Althorp, Northamptonshire – d. March 30, 1806, Devonshire House, Piccadilly, Mayfair, London )

Gender: F

Georgiana Spencer (1757-1806) was the daughter of John Spencer, later Earl Spencer, and Georgiana Poyntz, Countess Spencer. At the age of 17, she married William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire. The marriage was unhappy: the Duke kept mistresses (including Georgiana’s friend Lady Elizabeth Foster) and Georgiana suffered multiple miscarriages; eventually she gave birth to a son and two daughters. She had an affair with Charles Grey (later Earl Grey) and gave birth to his child; this, together with her huge gambling debts, led her husband to exile her to France from 1791-1793. She threw herself into politics, supporting the Whig faction led by Charles James Fox and Richard Sheridan, and became a close associate of the Prince of Wales, later George IV. She died of an abscess on the liver at the age of 48.In May 1789, the Duke took Georgiana and Elizabeth Foster to Spa to take the waters, arriving in Paris during the early stages of the French Revolution. They left Paris in July and were in Brussels at the time of the storming of the Bastille. Georgiana discovered she was pregnant while at Spa, and the Duke left her and Foster in Lille rather than allow her to risk the crossing to England. They were expelled from Brussels and went to stay in Passy, near Paris, where she gave birth to the longed-for male heir in May 1790.

Also known as:

  • Duchess of Devonshire
  • Georgiana Spencer

Mentioned in 2 letters

Please note that all dates and location information are provisional, initially taken from the library and archive catalogues. As our section editors continue to work through the material we will update our database and the changes will be reflected across the edition.