This is the fourth post in our blog series The Cavendish Story written by our Archivist, Louise Clarke. Read the first post, Cataloguing the Cavendish Family Papers, and the second post, Cataloguing the 8th Duke's Personal Papers, and the third post Chatsworth in Wartime.

9th Duke's grandchildren in the garden at Chatsworth

This month in the archive I have been cataloguing the papers of Victor Cavendish, 9th Duke of Devonshire. The majority of the material I have been looking at is correspondence. Two of our dedicated volunteers have already individually catalogued and indexed over 11,700 letters and over 6000 more letters have been catalogued at file level as part of the Cavendish Family Papers project.

9th Duke's letters in the archive store

Unfortunately time constraints mean that I cannot catalogue each letter individually but I do get to read a few! There are letters relating to the Duke’s involvement in politics, his time in Canada when he was Governor-General, his involvement in education and more general correspondence. However what has really caught my eye are the thousands of letters (2914 to be precise!) written to Victor by his wife, Evelyn Cavendish, their children and their grandchildren.

Duchess Evelyn pictured with her mother-in-law and children

Evelyn was a prolific writer and would send her husband almost daily correspondence when she was away from him. Her letters show the nature of their relationship through the personal details she wrote in the letters and the affectionate way she would address her husband, often starting letters ‘Darling old boy’. Her keen interest and knowledge in the current political affairs of the time also shows through in the letters as she discusses these subjects as easily as she writes about local news and family matters.

A letter from Evelyn Cavendish to Victor Cavendish concerning events of the Boer War and local news
With 7 children and a plethora of grandchildren, the Duke and Duchess had their hands full. Through the hundreds of letters sent to the Duke from his children and grandchildren we can see some close family connections. Some of the most heart-warming letters were sent by his children and grandchildren when they were young, often finishing letters with a page of kisses, showing the warmth of their relationship with their father and grandfather.

Letters and postcards from the 9th Duke's children
These letters from Duchess Evelyn, their children and grandchildren are just a few of the 1000s of personal letters in the collection of the 9th Duke of Devonshire. His mother, siblings and aunts were also all prolific writers and the letters reveal not only what day to day life was like for the family but also chart the family’s happiness at the news of engagements and births and the sorrow felt at losing family members in conflict or illness. As a collection, these letters not only provide us with a window into the current and political affairs of the late 19th and early 20th centuries but also give us a unique insight into the personalities behind the grandeur associated with being a Duke and a Cavendish.


Louise Clarke
Cataloguing Archivist

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