Evelyn, the Last Lady of Hardwick

The bed in Duchess Evelyn's bedroom at Hardwick

You can discover more about the life of a duchess, her pioneering conservation works, her dedicated public life and private family life and the dramatic changes she made to the eastern landscape of Hardwick.

Duchess Evelyn, the last member of the Cavendish family to make Hardwick her main residence, differed in so many ways from the first lady to live her, Bess of Hardwick. In other ways, however, they were similar; strong determined women, with large families whose arguably greatest achievements came in their widowhood.

Discover the story of Evelyn at Hardwick this year
The Evelyn logo for the Last Lady exhibition

Evelyn was born in 1870, the eldest daughter of the 5th Marquis of Lansdowne. Evelyn spent much of her early life abroad while her father served as Governor General of Canada (1883 – 1888) and Viceroy of India (1888 – 1894). Evelyn returned to England from Simla, India in 1890 for the London season, in order to be presented at Court and moreover, to find a husband. The plan was successful and Evelyn married Victor Cavendish, the heir of the Duke of Devonshire on 30th July 1892.

Evelyn and Victor had a happy and successful marriage with seven children. The family grew up at their much loved home, Holker Hall, in the idyllic surroundings of Cumbria. In 1925, Victor had a serious stroke and Evelyn’s life altered forever.  Victor’s personality changed dramatically. The once loving husband and doting father became irritable and unpredictable.  Evelyn exercised power of attorney and managed Victor’s affairs until his eventual death in 1938.

This beautiful recreation of Duchess Evelyn's robes on display in 2016
A visitor looking at the robes at Hardwick this year

Like Bess before her Evelyn was a close friend of royalty. Evelyn was Mistress of the Robes to Queen Mary throughout her life and the two women had a deep and affectionate friendship. This relationship has inspired the creation of “Duchess Evelyn’s robes” a stunning interpretation of both Evelyn’s position within society as well as her deep friendship with Mary. The robes were created at Anderson Apparel Ltd. by award-winning Designer and Managing Director, Christine Anderson.

Explore and enjoy the story of the Last Lady of Hardwick and in the process discover the life, loves and adventures of one of the creators of Hardwick.