Born Dorothy Savile in 1699 – to Mary Finch and William Savile, 2nd Marquess of Halifax – it was her marriage to Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington in 1721 that gave her the title Lady Burlington.
Lady Dorothy’s connection to Chatsworth is through her son-in-law William Cavendish (1720 – 1764) who married Lady Burlington’s daughter Charlotte Boyle, and became heir to the Burlington estates after Charlotte’s death, which included Bolton Abbey and Lismore Castle.
She was a skilled amateur painter and draughtswoman, and a passionate letter writer and the archives contain thousands of letters exchanged with the period’s most accomplished and recognised artists, architects, authors, and designers whom she counted as friends.
After the death of her parents, Lady Dorothy went to live with her grandfather Daniel Finch, 2nd Earl of Nottingham, 7th Earl of Winchilsea, at Burley in 1718.
With a healthy dowry and annual allowance, Lady Dorothy was in high demand by the country’s most eligible bachelors. However, in 1721, she married ‘the architect earl’, Lord Richard Burlington, a man with a lesser title and fortune than some of her admirers, but who shared her love of the arts.
Together, they amassed a wide and accomplished creative network, including William Kent, who lived with the couple for 30 years and who gave Dorothy drawing lessons. The Devonshire Collection contains around 24 works attributed to her, including a portrait of her daughter Charlotte, who became Marchioness of Hartington, wife of the future 4th Duke of Devonshire.
In 1727, she was appointed Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Caroline, a prestigious position at court that she would hold for ten years.
She died in September 1758 at Chiswick House in London, aged 59.
Find out more about Dorothy Boyle, Countess of Burlington in this blog.