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"The most dissolute man in London": the first Duke of Devonshire and the building of Chatsworth

Lecture on Monday 4th December 2023 at 1:45PM

Lecturer: Gillian White
Venue: Larruperz Centre

Aristocrat, politician, rake and revolutionary: William Cavendish, 4th Earl and 1st Duke of Devonshire, is certainly one of the more colourful of seventeenth-century noblemen. So wicked was he, that an Italian visitor to Restoration England described him as ‘the most dissolute man in London’.

Yet Cavendish is also remembered as one of the great saviours of English civil liberties, part of a small group of aristocrats who overthrew James II and brought William of Orange and constitutional monarchy to the throne. In addition, he remodelled his Elizabethan family seat and transformed it into one of our greatest country houses and a monument to his success, Chatsworth in Derbyshire.

So this is a lecture about depravity, politics and fine architecture, as we look at Cavendish’s morals, his political redemption and his wonderful house and gardens: truly, ‘a Palace for a Prince’.

Dr Gillian White specialises in the history and visual arts of late medieval and sixteenth-century England. After beginning her career at the Warwickshire Museum, she then worked for the National Trust as Curator/Collections Manager at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, about which she wrote her PhD at Warwick University. Since that she taught part-time at Leicester University in the Centre for the Study of the Country House and continues to teach History of Art in the Department of Continuing Education at Oxford University and elsewhere.

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