Papers of Blanche Cavendish, Countess of Burlington (1812-1840)

Scope and Content

The collection contains correspondence and other papers of Blanche Cavendish, as well as some papers of other individuals closely associated with her.

There is a series of correspondence, containing letters both sent and received by Blanche; this includes letters from Blanche to her sister and her children, personal letters from Margaret Newburgh, wife of Thomas Eyre, 7th Earl of Newburgh, and letters of condolence on the death of Blanche's eldest son, William Cavendish, who died in 1834 aged two. There are also items kept by Blanche Cavendish in memory of her son William, including poems, journal entries, locks of her son's hair and a painted portrait.

The collection also contains sketches attributed to Blanche Cavendish – a talented amateur artist – as well as her embroidered pin cushion. There is a small number of journals and notebooks thought to be by Blanche Cavendish, including a book of religious writing and a notebook dating from before her marriage with the title 'Fables written by the Duchess of Devonshire'.

There are also further papers thought to be by Blanche Cavendish, among them a list of ladies in waiting which details the number of waits they had in 1840; this includes the number of waits for Blanche Cavendish. There is also some sheet music composed by William Cavendish, Earl of Burlington, and the Countess of Carlisle, as well as samples of the Countess of Burlington's handwriting kept by her husband after her death.

Administrative / Biographical History

Born on 11 January 1812, Lady Blanche Georgiana Cavendish (née Howard), Countess of Burlington (1812-1840), was the 6th daughter of George Howard, 6th Earl of Carlisle, and his wife Lady Georgiana Dorothy Cavendish. Her grandparents were William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire, and Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. She was the favourite niece of William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire.

The 6th Duke promoted a marriage between Blanche and her second cousin (who was also the Duke's heir), William Cavendish, son of William Cavendish and Louisa O'Callaghan, and grandson of the 5th Duke of Devonshire. The couple had much in common, including their strong commitment to religion, and married on 6 August 1829, when Blanche was seventeen. She was styled as the Countess of Burlington after her husband succeeded to the title of Earl of Burlington (2nd creation) in 1834.

She had five children with William Cavendish, although their firstborn, a son, died aged two. Their three surviving sons became distinguished politicians: the eldest, Spencer Compton Cavendish, known after 1858 by the courtesy title Marquess of Hartington, led the Liberal Party; Lord Frederick Cavendish was Chief Secretary for Ireland and was assassinated in 1882; and Lord Edward Cavendish was MP for West Derbyshire. They also had a daughter, Lady Louisa Caroline Cavendish, who married Admiral the Honourable Francis Egerton.

The Countess died – possibly of tuberculosis – after a period of ill health in 1840, aged 29, and was mourned by her husband and uncle for the rest of their lives. After her death the 6th Duke of Devonshire commemorated the Countess with an inscription in the Painted Hall at Chatsworth House, stating that he completed his reconstruction of the house in the year of his bereavement, 1840; he also placed an urn in her memory at the top of the Broad Walk in Chatsworth's garden.


The material has been arranged into five series, as follows:

  • DF13/1: Correspondence of Blanche Cavendish, 1829 - 1840
  • DF13/2: Items relating to William Cavendish, son of Blanche and William Cavendish, 1833 - 1834
  • DF13/3: Drawings and crafts attributed to Blanche Cavendish, c.1830
  • DF13/4: Journals and notebooks of Blanche Cavendish, 1820; 1837
  • DF13/5: Other papers of Blanche Cavendish, c.1829; 1840

Access Information

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.

Most of the material remains in the copyright of Chatsworth House Trust, but some 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

The material in the collection was largely created or acquired by Blanche Cavendish, Countess of Burlington, and remained within the family; its exact archival history is unknown.

Related Material

Other collections held at Chatsworth which contain papers of or relating to Blanche Cavendish include: GB 2495 (the 6th Duke's Correspondence Group), GB 2495 DF4 (Papers of the 6th Duke of Devonshire), GB 2495 DF5 (Papers of the 7th Duke of Devonshire) and GB 2495 DF25 (Papers of Lady Louisa Egerton, née Cavendish).