William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire

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His Grace
The Duke of Devonshire
KG, PC, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
The Duke of Devonshire by Sir Thomas Lawrence
Lord Chamberlain of the Household
In office
22 November 1830 – 14 November 1834
Monarch William IV
Prime Minister The Earl Grey
The Viscount Melbourne
Preceded by The Earl of Jersey
Succeeded by The Earl of Jersey
In office
5 May 1827 – 21 January 1828
Monarch George IV
Prime Minister George Canning
The Viscount Goderich
Preceded by The Duke of Montrose
Succeeded by The Duke of Montrose
Personal details
Born 21 May 1790 (1790-05-21)
Paris, France
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Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire
United Kingdom
Nationality British
Political party Whig
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
St Peter's Churchyard, Edensor - grave of William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire KG, PC (1790–1858)

William George Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire KG, PC, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , (21 May 1790[1] – 18 January 1858), styled Marquess of Hartington until 1811, was a British peer, courtier and Whig politician. Known as the "Bachelor Duke", he was Lord Chamberlain of the Household between 1827 and 1828 and again between 1830 and 1834.

Background and education

Born in Paris, France, Devonshire was the son of William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire, and Lady Georgiana, daughter of John Spencer, 1st Earl Spencer.[1] He was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge.[2] His mother died in 1806 and in 1811, aged 21, he succeeded his father in the dukedom.[3] Along with the title he inherited eight stately homes and 200,000 acres (809 km² or 80,900 ha) of land. He went on to improve his houses and gardens (including the rebuilding of the village of Edensor) and travelled extensively.[citation needed]

Political career

File:Duke of Devonshire carrying the Orb.png
The duke carrying the Orb at the coronation of George IV in 1821

Politically Devonshire followed in the Whig family tradition. He supported Catholic emancipation and the abolition of slavery and reduced factory working hours.[4] He held office as Lord Chamberlain of the Household under George Canning and Lord Goderich between 1827 and 1828 and under Lord Grey and Lord Melbourne between 1830 and 1834. In 1827 he was sworn of the Privy Council[5] and made a Knight of the Garter.[5] He was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary to the Russian Empire on the coronation of Czar Nicholas I in 1826.[6]

Devonshire was also Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire between 1811 and 1858[7] and carried the Orb at the coronation of George IV in 1821. However, increasing deafness from an early age prevented him from taking an even greater part in public life.[4]

Personal life

Devonshire was a close friend of the Prince Regent.[4] Other friends included Antonio Canova and Charles Dickens.[citation needed] He befriended Sir Joseph Paxton, then employed at the Royal Horticultural Society's Chiswick Gardens, located close to Devonshire's London estate Chiswick House, and appointed him his head gardener at Chatsworth House in 1826, despite Paxton being only in his early twenties at the time. Paxton greatly expanded the gardens at Chatsworth, including the construction of a 300 foot long conservatory, which served as a model for The Crystal Palace constructed in London's Hyde Park. Devonshire himself developed a keen interest in horticulture and was elected President of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1838, a position in which he served for twenty years until his death.[8] It was this interest which led him to establish the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew as a national botanic garden.[8] He was also patron of The Derby Town and County Museum and Natural History Society, which founded Derby Museum and Art Gallery 1836.[9]

The world's most commercially exploited banana, the Cavendish, was named in honour of William Cavendish, who acquired an early specimen, which he raised in his glasshouse. This plant is the progenitor of almost all the worldwide varieties of Cavendish banana.[10]

Much of Devonshire's private correspondence, including letters to his mistresses (one of whom he installed nearby), was destroyed by his Victorian relatives. He intended to marry Lady Caroline Ponsonby, his cousin, but she married William Lamb, which he found devastating.[1]

Devonshire died at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire,[4] in January 1858, aged 67. As he was unmarried the dukedom passed to his cousin William Cavendish, 2nd Earl of Burlington. His junior title of Baron Clifford fell into abeyance between his sisters, Georgiana, Countess of Carlisle, and Harriet, Countess Granville.[3]


Family of William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire
16. William Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Devonshire
8. William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire
17. Hon. Rachel Russell
4. William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire, Prime Minister of Great Britain
18. John Hoskins
9. Catherine Hoskins
19. Catherine Hale
2. William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire
20. Charles Boyle, 2nd Earl of Burlington
10. Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington
21. Juliana Noel
5. Charlotte Boyle, 6th Baroness Clifford
22. William Savile, 2nd Marquess of Halifax
11. Lady Dorothy Savile
23. Lady Mary Finch
1. William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire
24. Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland
12. The Hon. John Spencer
25. Lady Anne Churchill
6. John Spencer, 1st Earl Spencer
26. John Carteret, 2nd Earl Granville
13. Lady Georgina Carolina Carteret
27. Frances Worsley
3. Lady Georgiana Spencer
28. William Poyntz
14. Stephen Poyntz
29. Jane Monteage
7. Margaret Georgiana Poyntz
30. Lewis Mordaunt
15. Anna Maria Mordaunt
31. Mary Collyer


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 K. D. Reynolds, ‘Cavendish, William George Spencer, sixth duke of Devonshire (1790–1858)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 accessed 6 June 2010
  2. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  3. 3.0 3.1 thepeerage.com William George Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Biography of Devonshire on Orchidologists website
  5. 5.0 5.1 The London Gazette: no. 18360. p. 1033. 11 May 1827.
  6. The London Gazette: no. 18241. p. 965. 25 April 1826.
  7. leighrayment.com Peerage: Desborough to Dorchester
  8. 8.0 8.1 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  9. Newsletter of the Geological Curators Club, Vol 1, No. 8, 1976. Retrieved 24 June 2011
  10. details of the taxonomic naming of the cavendish banana

Further reading

External links

Political offices
Preceded by Lord Chamberlain of the Household
Succeeded by
The Duke of Montrose
Preceded by Lord Chamberlain of the Household
Succeeded by
The Earl of Jersey
Honorary titles
Preceded by Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire
Succeeded by
The Duke of Devonshire
Peerage of England
Preceded by Duke of Devonshire
Succeeded by
William Cavendish
Baron Clifford
In abeyance