Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Today marks 186 years since the death of this scandalous lady

Elizabeth Christiana Hervey Foster Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, 13 May 1759 - 30 March 1824, is best known as an early woman novelist, and as the close friend of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. Elizabeth supplanted the Duchess, gaining the Duke's affections and later marrying him.
Sir Joshua Reynolds. Lady Elizabeth Foster

Lady Elizabeth was the daughter of Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol. In 1776, she married Irishman John Thomas Foster. The Fosters had three children; two sons, Frederick and Augustus John Foster and a daughter Elizabeth, who was born premature on 17 November 1778 and lived only 8 days.

The couple lived with her parents at Ickworth House, the ancestral Bristol home. The marriage was not a success, and the couple separated within five years, plausibly after Foster had a relationship with a servant. He retained custody of their sons, and did not allow the boys to see Bess for 14 years. In May 1782, Bess met the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire in Bath, and quickly became Georgiana's closest friend.

From this time, she lived in a ménage à trois with Georgiana and her husband, William, the 5th Duke of Devonshire, for about twenty-five years. She bore two children by the Duke: a son, Augustus later Augustus Clifford, 1st Baronet, and a daughter, Caroline St. Jules, who were raised at Devonshire House with the Duke's legitimate children by Georgiana. Lady Elizabeth finally married the Duke in 1809, three years after the death of his first wife, during which time she had continued to live in his household.

Angelica Kauffman painting of Lady Elizabeth Foster

All that and she wrote. She was the author of seven novels over the course of her lifetime: Melissa and Marcia, or the Sisters. A Novel; Louisa; The History of Ned Evans; The Church of St. Siffrid; The Mourtray Family. A Novel; Julia (which was never published); and Amabel; or, Memoirs of a Woman of Fashion. This last novel was the only one published with her name attached during her lifetime, and it was not on the cover, but on the dedication page. The rest of her novels were published anonymously.

Oh and there are letter too, Lady Elizabeth was a friend of the French author Madame de Staël, with whom she corresponded from about 1804.

And a wink, Lady Elizabeth Foster is the great-great-great-Grandmother of Vogue magazine's Anna Wintour.

I think her a captivating personality and I read her history with open fascination.

Warm regards to all,
My love and care,


  1. Captivating history (once again, new to me) and marvelous art.

  2. I watched that movie with , was it Keira, and it was so sad, but then I never was on Elizabeths side

  3. Hello,dear Simone!-)*

    I reed you post and I think...you stories are always intresting and I come always back from time to time to read again***
    These first painting is beautiful!
    The expression of her eyes tuched me!-)

    Wish you blessed,sunny Easter days,my dear Simone!-)))*
    Much Love,


  4. Chatsworth is a great house, Simone - well worth a visit.

  5. she was a naughty bitch....

    good history lesson baeutiful...

  6. Love the scandal!!! Thanks for the history lesson :-)
    Have a great week!

  7. She was indeed a fascinating woman. Did you read Amanda Foreman's book? Lots of wonderful info, but a tad on the dry side.

  8. Love the second image. I always leave your posts feeling a little more cultured. Thanks for the history lesson.

  9. What an intriguing lady - especially for her times :)

  10. I always learn the most wonderful tidbits of history here. Very intriguing lady indeed.

  11. The little minx. And today's teenagers think they invented fun.

    Bisou, Cro.

  12. She definitely sounds intriguing - what an interesting life. :)

  13. I know I'm talking out of the topic but, isn't Georgiana Cavendish the aunt to Lady Caroline Lamb? The one who was totally gaga over Lord Byron?

  14. I agree. What an amazing story. Thanks so much for sharing.