Lucy Caroline Cavendish (commonly known as Lady Frederick Cavendish) was the daughter of George William Lyttelton, 4th Baron Lyttelton and his wife Mary Glynne (sister-in-law of Prime Minister William Gladstone).

She was Maid of Honour to Queen Victoria for a year before marrying Lord Frederick Charles Cavendish, second son of the 7th Duke of Devonshire, in 1864.

The marriage came to a sudden end when her husband was assassinated in the Phoenix Park Murders of May 1882, an attack carried out by the extreme nationalist group, the ‘Irish Invincibles’. The death of her husband hit Lady Cavendish severely and she never remarried, although she claimed to hold no resentment towards his murderers.

She dedicated her widowhood to philanthropy, mainly in the area of girls’ and women’s education. This included The Girls Public Day School Company which promoted the establishment of large day schools for middle-class girls.

She was President of the Yorkshire Ladies Council for Education for twenty-seven years (1885-1912) and a member of the Royal Commission on Secondary Education (the Bryce Commission) in 1894. She was also president of the Friends of Armenia and was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Leeds in 1904 for ‘notable services to the cause of education’.

Although she declined the post of Mistress of Girton College, Cambridge, Lucy Cavendish College (also in Cambridge) was named after her in 1965. She died in 1925 and was buried in her husband’s grave in Edensor churchyard, near Chatsworth. Writing two years after her death, The Spectator described her as ‘a typical Victorian great lady’.

She was a prolific diarist throughout much of her life, keeping a diary from the age of thirteen to forty-one, with two edited volumes of her diaries published after her death. Chatsworth holds these original diaries and a large amount of her correspondence in the Devonshire Collection Archives, providing keen insights into both family life and political concerns across her lifetime.

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