William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire

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His Grace
The Duke of Devonshire
William Cavendish 5th Duke of Devonshire.jpg
William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire, painted in Rome by Pompeo Batoni, 1768
Lord High Treasurer of Ireland
In office
13 March 1766 – 1793
Monarch George III
Preceded by Vacant
William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire, 1764
Succeeded by In Commission
Richard Boyle, 2nd Earl of Shannon, First Lord
Personal details
Born (1748-12-14)14 December 1748
Died 29 July 1811(1811-07-29) (aged 62)
Spouse(s) Lady Georgiana Spencer
(m. 1774–1806; her death)
Lady Elizabeth Foster
(m. 1809–11; his death)
Children William George Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire
Georgiana Howard, Countess of Carlisle
Harriet Leveson-Gower, Countess Granville
Charlotte Williams
Sir Augustus Clifford, 1st Baronet
Caroline St. Jules
Parents William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire
Lady Charlotte Boyle

William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire, KG (14 December 1748 – 29 July 1811), was a British aristocrat and politician. He was the eldest son of William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire by his wife the heiress Lady Charlotte Boyle, suo jure Baroness Clifford, who brought in considerable money and estates to the Cavendish family. He was invited to join the Cabinet on three occasions, but declined each offer.[1] He was Lord High Treasurer of Ireland and Governor of Cork, and Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire.[1] The 5th Duke is best known for his first wife Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. At the age of about twenty, Devonshire toured Italy with William Fitzherbert which is where they commissioned the pair of portraits by Pompeo Batoni.[2]

Family and inheritance

He was married twice: first, to Lady Georgiana Spencer (1757-1806) daughter of John Spencer, 1st Earl Spencer; second, to Lady Elizabeth Foster, née Hervey (1759–1824), daughter of the 4th Earl of Bristol, who had been his mistress and his first wife's friend and confidante for more than twenty years.

First marriage

By his first wife, he had one son (William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire, sometimes called "The Bachelor Duke", who succeeded him and who died unmarried in 1858), and two daughters: Lady Georgiana "Little G" Cavendish, later the Countess of Carlisle (wife of George Howard, 6th Earl of Carlisle), and Lady Harriet "Harryo" Cavendish, later the Countess Granville (wife of Lord Granville Leveson-Gower, who was created 1st Earl Granville). Both daughters left descendants. The title of Baron Clifford fell into abeyance between them, and the present Earl of Carlisle and the present Earl Granville have inherited their titles from Georgiana and Harriet respectively. The dukedom and estates passed eventually to a grandson of a younger brother of the 5th Duke of Devonshire; however, the 7th Duke of Devonshire eventually married a daughter of the 6th Earl of Carlisle, who was thus a granddaughter of the 5th Duke and niece of the 6th Duke.

Georgiana Cavendish became a socialite who gathered around her a large circle of literary and political friends. She was painted by Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds; the Gainsborough painting was disposed of by the 5th Duke and was recovered only much later, after many vicissitudes.

Second marriage

By his second wife, Lady Elizabeth Foster, he had no legitimate issue, but the couple had two illegitimate children born before their marriage. A son, Augustus, was given the surname Clifford and became Sir Augustus Clifford and rose to be an admiral in the Royal Navy and the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod in the House of Lords; his descendants eventually died out in the male line in 1895. The Duke's daughter by Lady Elizabeth, Caroline, was given a different surname from her brother, St. Jules. Caroline St. Jules married the Hon. George Lamb, a brother of the 2nd Viscount Melbourne (himself married to Lady Caroline Ponsonby, niece of Lady Georgiana Spencer, the 5th Duke's 1st wife). Caroline and George Lamb had no issue.


The 5th Duke also had a daughter—Charlotte, given the surname Williams—by his mistress, Charlotte Spencer, the daughter of an indigent clergyman. His first child was born shortly after his marriage to Lady Georgiana Spencer (no relation to his mistress). Charlotte was later married off suitably.[3]


The fifth Duke was closely involved with the nearby spa town of Buxton. He used the profits from his copper mines to transform the town into a replica of Bath, including the Crescent Hotel and an octagonal set of stables, which would later become The Devonshire Dome.

Cavendish in popular culture


  1. 1.0 1.1 Michael Durban, ‘Cavendish, William, fifth duke of Devonshire (1748–1811)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 30 April 2010
  2. Catalogue of Fitzherbert possessions, Christies, accessed June 2009
  3. https://georgianera.wordpress.com/2015/02/15/what-became-of-charlotte-williams-illegitimate-daughter-of-the-5th-duke-of-devonshire/

External links

Political offices
Title last held by
The Duke of Devonshire
Lord Treasurer of Ireland
In commission
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Lord George Cavendish
Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire
Succeeded by
The Duke of Devonshire
Peerage of England
Preceded by
William Cavendish
Duke of Devonshire
Succeeded by
William Cavendish
Preceded by
Charlotte Cavendish
Baron Clifford