Lady-frederick-cavendish.jpgLucy Caroline Cavendish, also known as Lady Frederick Cavendish, (née Lyttelton; 5 September 1841 – 22 April 1925) was the first woman Royal Commissioner (Secondary Education) in 1895. In 1858 Lucy Lyttleton, later Lady Cavendish, described meeting a Mrs. Preston: “The most fascinating beauty I have ever seen: shady deep eyes, all expression and grace; and such a lovely classical mouth; figure and manners most winning and refined.”

Lucy Cavendish was a pioneer of women's education. A daughter of George Lyttelton, 4th Baron Lyttelton, she married into another aristocratic family, the Cavendishes, in 1864. Eighteen years later her husband, Lord Frederick Cavendish, was murdered in Dublin by Irish nationalists. After his death she devoted much of her time to the cause of girls' and women's education, for which she was honoured in her lifetime with an honorary degree, and posthumously when, in 1965, Cambridge University named its first post-graduate college for women after her.

Lucy Lyttelton was born at Hagley Hall in Worcestershire, the second daughter of George Lyttelton, 4th Baron Lyttelton, and Mary Glynne, whose sister married William Ewart Gladstone.[1] In 1863 she was appointed a Maid of Honour to Queen Victoria, whom she attended until marrying the following year.[2]

On 7 June 1864 she married Lord Frederick Cavendish, the second son of the Duke of Devonshire. They had no children. Cavendish was elected to Parliament in 1865 and was murdered by Irish republicans in the Phoenix Park Murders on 6 May 1882, the same day he took the oath of office of Chief Secretary for Ireland.[1] Although devastated by the assassination, on the day before the ringleader was hanged she sent him the small gold crucifix she had long worn, as a token of her forgiveness.[3] Gladstone was greatly moved when she told him that she could bear the loss of her beloved husband "if his death were to work good to his fellow-men, which indeed was the whole object of his life."[2] She remained a firm supporter of Irish Home Rule. A window to Lord Cavendish's memory was placed in St Margaret's Church, Westminster, at the cost of the members of the House of Commons.[1]

After Cavendish's death, Lucy Cavendish was active in the sphere of women's education. She was President of the Yorkshire Ladies Council of Education from 1883 to 1912. She declined the offer of the post of Mistress of Girton College, Cambridge, in 1884. She was a member of the Royal Commission on Secondary Education and was a founding member of the Council of the Girls' Public Day School Company, which had been founded by her father.[1] On 6 October 1904 she received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws at the formal inauguration of Leeds University for "notable service to the cause of education".[4]

Lucy Cavendish died aged 83 in her home, the Glebe, in Penshurst, Kent. She was buried with her husband in the Cavendish family churchyard, St Peter's.[1]

Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge, was named in her honour in 1965.[1] She was the great-aunt of one of its founders, Margaret Braithwaite.[5]

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