Papers of Louise Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (1832 – 1911)

Scope and Content

The collection primarily consists of correspondence, including letters both sent and received by Louise Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, and members of her family.

There are over 80 letters sent to the Duchess by Spencer Compton Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire (DF14/1/1), as well as over 350 letters and telegrams of condolence sent to her on the 8th Duke's death in 1908 (DF14/1/2). These come from many correspondents, including Winston Churchill, King Edward VII, Queen Alexandra, and Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll.

There is a group of letters sent to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester by Liberal politician W.E. Forster (DF14/1/3), as well as general correspondence of the Duchess of Manchester (DF14/1/5). The latter includes letters from Queen Victoria; Lord and Lady Derby; Lord Granville; George, Duke of Cambridge; Princess Alice; the Duke of Manchester; Princess Alexandra; Francis Knollys; Princess Mary of Teck; Lord Hartington; and Prince Edward.

Family correspondence includes letters sent by the Duchess to her children Alice Stanley, Mary Montagu and Charles Montagu (DF14/1/4); correspondence of her first husband William Montagu, Duke of Manchester (DF14/1/3 and DF14/1/7); and correspondence of her children, Alice Stanley (DF14/1/6) and Charles Montagu (DF14/1/8).

The majority of the correspondence dates from the time when the Duchess was Duchess of Manchester; the overall covering dates extend to 1922, after the Duchess's death, as the series includes some correspondence of her son, Charles Montagu.

The only other material in the collection aside from correspondence are some papers relating to jewels and jewellery worn by the Duchess when she was Duchess of Devonshire.

Administrative / Biographical History

Louise Frederica Augusta Cavendish (née Countess Louise Friederike Auguste von Alten; other married name Louise Frederica Augusta Montagu, Duchess of Manchester), society figure, was born on 15 January 1832, the second of the three daughters of Karl Franz Victor, Count von Alten, of Hanover, and his wife, Hermine de Schminke.

While on a family visit to the French Riviera she encountered William Drogo Montagu, Viscount Mandeville (1823-1890), eldest son of the 6th Duke of Manchester. He proposed to her, and they married on 22 July 1852. They had two sons and three daughters.

Duchess of Manchester from 1855, she served as Mistress of the Robes to Queen Victoria under Derby's ministry of 1858–9. Victoria, who had initially been pleased to have a German in her household, rapidly came to disapprove of the Duchess, and urged the Princess of Wales to drop the acquaintance. The duchess, however, remained one of the principal members of the Marlborough House set, sharing with the Prince of Wales a passion for gambling and racing, and a willingness to overlook discreet infidelity.

Her liaison with Spencer Compton Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington (1833–1908), began in the early 1860s and lasted until their marriage some thirty years later. The relationship was well-known in aristocratic society, but never drew public attention.

Manchester died in 1890, and on 16 August 1892 she married Hartington, who had become 8th Duke of Devonshire the previous year. Widely referred to as 'the Double Duchess', she was one of the dominant figures of London society. Her entertainments at Chatsworth, at Devonshire House in London, and at the racecourses were lavish and spectacular. Most notable was her Devonshire House Ball – a fancy dress ball given to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The Duchess attended as Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra.

The 8th Duke of Devonshire died in 1908; three years later Louise Devonshire had a seizure at the Sandown racecourse, and died the following day, 15 July 1911, at Sir Edgar Vincent's house, Esher Place, Esher, Surrey. She was buried on 18 July at Edensor, Derbyshire.

Principal source: K.D. Reynolds, 'Cavendish, Louise Frederica Augusta, duchess of Devonshire [née Countess Louise Friederike Auguste von Alten; other married name Louise Frederica Augusta Montagu, duchess of Manchester] (1832–1911)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). By permission of Oxford University Press.


The collection has been arranged into two series:

  • DF14/1: Correspondence of Louise Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, 1855 – 1922
  • DF14/2: Papers relating to Jewellery worn by the Duchess of Devonshire, 1893-1908

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for consultation. Access to the archive at Chatsworth is by appointment only. For more information please visit the website.

Acquisition Information

The material was extant in The Devonshire Collection prior to 1 August 2011.

Other Finding Aids

An item-level catalogue of the collection in PDF format can be found on the Chatsworth website.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study and personal research purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

Some of the material remains in the copyright of Chatsworth House Trust, but much is also subject to third-party copyright. It is the responsibility of researchers to obtain permission both from Chatsworth House Trust, and from the any other rights holders before reproducing material for purposes other than research or private study.

Custodial History

Most of the material in the collection was created or accumulated by Louise Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. Its exact archival history is unknown.

Related Material

Related material can be found in the Papers of Spencer Compton Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire (GB 2495 DF6); the 8th Duke's Correspondence Series (GB 2495 CS8); and the Second Series of Family Correspondence (GB 2495 CS2).