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Author photo. Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire; Courtesy of the NYPL Digital Gallery (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire; Courtesy of the NYPL Digital Gallery (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

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Not to be confused with Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire.

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Short biography
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, was born Lady Georgiana Spencer at Althorp in Northamptonshire, a daughter of John Spencer, 1st Earl Spencer, and his wife Margaret Georgiana Poyntz, a noted letter writer. She was a descendant of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. Her sister Harriet (Henrietta) Spencer became Lady Bessborough. In 1774, at age 17, Georgiana was married to William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire. She became a famous society beauty and glamorous fashion leader, known for her vivacious personality and zealous Whig political activism. Her portraits was painted by Thomas Gainsborough, among others. She cultivated the Devonshire House Circle, a dissolute set that included her sister and brother-in-law, and friends Charles James Fox, the Prince of Wales, the Countess of Jersey, and Viscountess Melbourne. In 1782, she and her husband visited Bath, where they met Lady Elizabeth Foster, known as Bess, who attached herself to the couple and was invited to return home to stay with them. They lived together in a ménage à trois for 25 years. Georgiana had two daughters before producing a son and heir in 1790. She then had an affair with politician Charles Grey, and went abroad in disgrace to give birth to their daughter Eliza Courtney in 1792. The child was brought up by Grey’s parents. In 1799, she published her novel The Sylph anonymously. She also wrote poetry, including verses to accompany a bust of Charles James Fox at Woburn Abbey. She died in 1806, from what was thought to be liver problems, at age 48.
Disambiguation notice
Not to be confused with Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire.

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