Tag Archive | Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #6: Lady P Dishes the Dirt on the Duchess of Devonshire

Lady Pendleton, Damian Ashby’s eccentric aunt (see the epilogue to Treasuring Theresa on Susana’s web site), is visiting Susana from the early 19th century. She’s intrigued by life in 21st century Toledo, Ohio, and, of course, Susana is thrilled to have the opportunity to pick her brain about life in Regency England. It certainly gives her a great deal to write about in Susana’s Parlour!

Susana (To the Reader): I’ve always been fascinated by what I’ve heard about Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, who was a great-great-great aunt of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, and who counts among her descendents (through her illegitimate daughter, Eliza Courtenay) Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York. Lady P discussed her problem with gambling in Episode #3, but seeing as she and the Duchess were contemporaries—Lady P is two years older—I’ve asked her to tell us a bit about the infamous Duchess’s life.

carolinelambLady P: Lady Caroline Lamb, that silly woman who chased after Lord Byron even after he cast her off, was the daughter of Georgiana’s sister Harriet…if you recall, Harriet was the one who had to be bailed out of the Fleet for debt. Truly, there is something seriously not right about that Caroline. I suppose it’s not to be surprised at, since Bessborough, her father, was such a brute that Harriet and Caroline departed his house and lived with the Devonshires. Caroline grew up there, along with Georgiana’s children, and, of course, the illegitimates.

Susana: Illegitimates?

Lady P: Well, that is the polite term for them. I’ve heard them called worse, let me tell you. First, there was the duke’s daughter by the maid, Charlotte, I believe was her name. Georgiana took her in after her mother died…at the Duke’s request.

Susana: That was generous of her. There were more, you say?

eliz.fosterLady P: Indeed. Georgiana became great friends with a woman estranged from her husband, one with a shady past, if you ask me. That was Lady Elizabeth Foster, and dear Georgiana took pity on her and invited her to stay with them until her situation improved. No money, you see, and no home either.

Susana: The Duchess seems a very kind person indeed.

Lady P: Harrumph! I told her on many an occasion that she was far too kindhearted for her own good. Why, everyone saw through that conniver, Bess Foster, except for Georgiana. And the Duke, of course. She lived with them for twenty-five years, mind!

devonshire_dukeSusana: She was friendly with the Duke as well?

Lady P: Oh, very. She gave birth to two illegitimate children by him!

Susana: Goodness! And Georgiana knew this was going on?

Lady P: Of course she did. Everyone knew. Not that she was happy about it, mind. But by that time, she was far too dependent on Bess to cast her aside. It’s not like she and the Duke were a love match, you know. And Bess helped her deal with her creditors too; I don’t think she could have managed without her.

Susana: This blows my mind. So the Devonshires lived in a ménage à trois surrounded by illegitimate children for twenty-five years, and yet Georgiana was an acclaimed leader of the ton?

devonshireLady P: Indeed. You see, Georgiana’s personality was such that she made it the fashion to be different. You should have seen the hats she wore…some of them scraped the ceiling and one nearly caught fire when it brushed against a chandelier! She was a great friend of Marie-Antoinette, you know, before the Revolution. Georgiana ruled the French court as well, when she was in France. Everyone sought to imitate her.

Susana: Including her lifestyle?

Lady P: Dear Susana, you mustn’t assume that the leaders of the ton actually practiced the morals they espoused for others. No, indeed. Society was full of rakes and drunkards and wife beaters even then. People whispered about the Devonshires, of course, and perhaps even spoke of them openly, but it didn’t stop them from worshipping her. Not even when she fled to France to give birth to her own illegitimate daughter.

Susana: No, really?

Lady P: Georgiana was no paragon, you know. She had love affairs of her own. She fell in love with Charles Grey, who was seven or eight years younger than she, and would have run away to live with him had the Duke not threatened to keep her children from her. As it was, the Duke banished her to France to have Grey’s daughter, and Eliza was raised by Grey’s parents as their own daughter.

Susana: So Georgiana had to give her daughter up while the Duke’s illegitimate children lived in the household with his legitimate children? How hypocritical!

Lady P: That is the way of things where I come from. The men rule—or think they do—and their wives or daughters have little recourse but to become beggars or do as I did, and become an expert at diversion.

Susana: Diversion?

Lady P: Well, I certainly never told Pendleton I had become a Whig follower. He was a Tory through and through, and he would never have allowed me to join Georgiana in her marches for Charles Fox. No indeed. So I never mentioned it, and whenever he asked me what I had done on those days, I simply told him I was at the milliner’s and began chattering away about lace and ribbons and the latest fashions until he changed the subject or stalked off. Of course, now that I am widowed, I can do as I please. Of course, I do miss my dear Pendleton, but I must confess, the freedom of widowhood is much to be desired.

Susana (To the Reader): Our time is up for today, but I’ve asked Lady P to continue her memories of the Duchess, particularly her political activities, in our next episode. Thanks for dropping by.

And, as always, please do comment if you have any questions you’d like to ask Lady P about the late Georgian/Regency era. She does love to chat!

The Lady P Series

Episode #1: Susana’s Adventures With Lady P: The Introduction

Episode #2: Lady P Talks About… Pride and Prejudice?

Episode #3: Lady P and the Duchess Who Lost a Billion Dollars

Episode #4: Lady P and the Face On the $100 Bill

Episode #5: In Which Lady P Discovers Sparkly Fabrics and Ponders Violating the Prime Directive

Episode #6: Lady P Dishes the Dirt on the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #7: The Political Exploits of Lady P and the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #8: Lady P and the Prince Regent’s Illicit Marriage

Episode #9: In Which Lady P Depletes the Cooking Sherry During Her Discussion of Caroline of Brunswick

Episode #10: Lord Byron: Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know

Episode #11: In Which Lady P Talks About Hannah More and the Rights of Women

Episode #12: Lady P’s Revelations Regarding George III and His Peculiar Progeny

Episode #13: Lady P Discusses the Luddite Uprising, the Assassination of Spencer Perceval, and the General Unfairness of Life

Episode #14: In Which Leticia, Lady Beauchamp, Pops In For an Interview On Her Personal Acquaintance With Princess Charlotte of Wales

Episode #15: Lady P On Assignment in 1814 Kent

Lady P Quizzes Jane Livingston, the Hero’s Sister From “A Twelfth Night Tale”

Episode #3: Lady P and the Duchess Who Lost a Billion Dollars

Lady Pendleton, Damian Ashby’s eccentric aunt (see the epilogue to Treasuring Theresa on Susana’s web site), is visiting Susana from the early 19th century. She’s intrigued by life in 21st century Toledo, Ohio, and, of course, Susana is thrilled to have the opportunity to pick her brain about life in Regency England. It certainly gives her a great deal to write about in Susana’s Parlour!

Susana (to the Reader): Lady P took to driving like a duck to water, except that she has no sense of distance and thought she had to press the accelerator down to the floor. There was a point when I saw a pole looming closer and closer and was convinced we were both goners when she jerked the steering wheel and swerved away, narrowly missing it, but running straight through a deep pothole that would have jerked us out of our seats had we not been wearing seat belts. To make a long story short, the car is in the shop for the next several days—I told them to take their time fixing it—and so Lady P and I are walking and begging rides with friends for awhile.

My next-door neighbors, Stephanie and Derrick, invited us to go with them to the Hollywood Casino that opened last year in Rossford, and Lady P wanted to know more about it.

Lady P: A casino? Where people play games of chance and lose their fortunes?

Susana: Well, I don’t know about that last part. I think a few people must win. But there are other things to do there besides gamble.

Lady P: Oh, I know about that. Pendleton told me about the painted ladies upstairs.

Susana: Oh no! I didn’t mean that. I mean, there are no painted ladies there. There are several restaurants—my friend Ray works as a cook there and he says the food is excellent.

Lady P: So people go there only for a good meal?

Susana: I think they have entertainment and dancing on weekends. But…I don’t suppose that would appeal to you.

Lady P: Why not? I was told once by my friend Charles James Fox that I am one of the best dancers in the ton.

Susana: Er, it’s not that kind of dancing. It’s modern dancing. But perhaps you’d be more interested in the slots.

Lady P: The slots? Is that a dance?

Susana: No, the slots are machines into which you insert money, push down a lever to make the pictures spin, and if you get just the right combination, you win more money.

Lady P: And if you don’t?

Susana: You lose. Most of the time you lose, actually. But it’s fun to watch the little pictures spinning around and the excitement of waiting for the machine to stop to find out if you won anything. And the clanging and ringing noises the machines make too. I like the slots.devonshire

Lady P: How much money have you won from the machines?

Susana: Well, once I won about 150 quarters, but I spent them all trying to win more, and ended up losing about $60 overall.

Lady P: Indeed. You sound very much like dear Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire. Such a lovely woman, before she took ill. Very popular, quite a leader of society. Charles Fox was her cousin, in fact. I was sincerely fond of them both, but they had quite an appetite for games of chance. Especially Georgiana. I knew her since her marriage, and every time I saw her—at parties or balls or even political dinners—she’d find her way to start some sort of game of chance. Why, at Lady Fontaine’s Venetian breakfast, she took a deck of cards out of her reticule and won 400 guineas from her hostess’s mother. Of course, the next night she lost 1,700 and had to beg her husband for the money to pay it. But instead of paying the debt, she had the notion to try to increase it, and before she knew it, she had lost all of it, plus more.

Susana: I imagine her husband was livid.

Lady P: You don’t think she ever told him, do you? Indeed not. She simply couldn’t bring herself to do it, unless the dunns were at her door. In any case, Pendleton told me Devonshire was similarly afflicted. Quite a pair, those two. Why, I heard she had lost nearly a million pounds in her lifetime; there’s no telling how much more he lost.

Susana: A million pounds? Why…that would be—let’s see, where’s my calculator—oh my goodness—over a billion dollars today!

Lady P: Indeed. Georgiana told me once that her pin money was 4,000 pounds a year, which would be enough to provide her all the gowns and fripperies she could possibly desire. Her sister Harriet had only 400 pounds, but she managed to drive her family into bankruptcy. Georgiana had to bail her out of the Fleet Prison when she was arrested for debts.cjfox

Susana: The gambling fever tends to run in families. You say her cousin was a gambler too?

Lady P: Such a shame. He was an amiable gentleman. Even after he got so fat and they circulated all those cartoons ridiculing him. But he had no self-restraint at all, poor man. Pendleton told me the night before he died, Fox had been drinking most intemperately, and the doctors said his liver was hard as a rock.

Susana: Oh dear. I’m suddenly not feeling like a trip to the casino. What would you think, my lady, if we were to order a pizza again tonight?

Lady P: Italian food again? In my day, it was French food that everyone doted on.

Susana: There is no French restaurant in Toledo, and we have no vehicle to travel up to Detroit, so it’s either pizza or the McDonalds across the street.

Lady P: I suppose the pizza will do, since you only have the one vehicle. But no anchovies this time, if you please. Wine too, if they have it. I didn’t care for that strange bubbly drink they brought last time.

Susana: They don’t sell alcoholic beverages, but I have some red wine somewhere.

Lady P: Excellent. And then perhaps I can tell you about the discussion I had with Pendleton when he returned from White’s in the early hours of the morning with pockets to let after losing a hundred pounds. Well, we were newly married at the time, and after the talking-to I gave him, he never did it again. Have I mentioned that I can be quite convincing at times…?

Susana (to the Reader): As you can see, Lady P thrives on recounting all of her experiences in Regency England. If you have any questions you would like to ask her, or possible suggestions for outings—when the car is repaired, of course—please mention it in your comments, and I’ll do my best to get answers for you.

The Lady P Series

Episode #1: Susana’s Adventures With Lady P: The Introduction

Episode #2: Lady P Talks About… Pride and Prejudice?

Episode #3: Lady P and the Duchess Who Lost a Billion Dollars

Episode #4: Lady P and the Face On the $100 Bill

Episode #5: In Which Lady P Discovers Sparkly Fabrics and Ponders Violating the Prime Directive

Episode #6: Lady P Dishes the Dirt on the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #7: The Political Exploits of Lady P and the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #8: Lady P and the Prince Regent’s Illicit Marriage

Episode #9: In Which Lady P Depletes the Cooking Sherry During Her Discussion of Caroline of Brunswick

Episode #10: Lord Byron: Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know

Episode #11: In Which Lady P Talks About Hannah More and the Rights of Women

Episode #12: Lady P’s Revelations Regarding George III and His Peculiar Progeny

Episode #13: Lady P Discusses the Luddite Uprising, the Assassination of Spencer Perceval, and the General Unfairness of Life

Episode #14: In Which Leticia, Lady Beauchamp, Pops In For an Interview On Her Personal Acquaintance With Princess Charlotte of Wales

Episode #15: Lady P On Assignment in 1814 Kent

Lady P Quizzes Jane Livingston, the Hero’s Sister From “A Twelfth Night Tale”