Manuscripts and Special Collections

Biography of Cassandra Brydges, née Willoughby, Duchess of Chandos (1670-1735)

Cassandra was the only daughter of Francis Willughby the naturalist and his wife Emma, and was only two years old when her father died. She was taught by her father's friend John Ray until her mother married Sir Josiah Child in 1676 and the family moved to Wanstead in Essex. In 1687, her brother Sir Francis gained control of his own estate from their stepfather, and decided to move into Wollaton Hall, which had lain empty since a fire in 1642 and the death of Sir Percival Willoughby in 1643. He asked Cassandra to be his housekeeper, and she acted as mistress of Wollaton until her marriage in 1713. She spent her time cataloguing her father's botanical and zoological collections, and the family archives, writing letters, and travelling extensively within Great Britain. She compiled two volumes (the second of which was not finished) narrating the history of the family and containing transcripts of, or extracts from, many letters which have since been lost.

On her marriage, at the age of 43, she moved to her husband's mansion at Canons in Middlesex and oversaw renovation works there. She became a Countess in 1714, when her husband was raised to the peerage as Earl of Carnarvon, and a Duchess in 1719 when he was created Duke of Chandos. She died on 17 July 1735 and was buried in the Chandos tomb at Whitchurch, Middlesex.


She married her cousin James Brydges (1674-1744), M.P. and paymaster of the forces, as his second wife in 1713. He was created 1st Duke of Chandos in 1719. She had no children.

Archive Collections

Published Works by Cassandra Willoughby

  • Chandos, Cassandra, Duchess of, History of the Willoughby Family . Published in Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, Report to the Commissioners on the Manuscripts of Lord Middleton Preserved at Wollaton Hall, Nottinghamshire (1911) [King's Meadow Campus East Midlands Collection Em. D2 HIS]
  • Chandos, Cassandra, Duchess of (ed. Wood, A.C.), The Continuation of the History of the Willoughby Family (The University of Nottingham, 1958) [King’s Meadow Campus East Midlands Collection Not 4H.V38 WIL]
  • More recent edition of Chandos, Cassandra, History of the Willoughby Family: Jo Ann Moran Cruz (ed), An Account of an Elizabethan Family: The Willoughbys of Wollaton by Cassandra Willoughby, 1670-1735 (Cambridge University Press, 2019) [King’s Meadow Campus East Midlands Collection Reference Not 4H.V38 WIL]
  • Hagglund, E., 'An account of the journeys I have taken & where I have been since March 1695': the travel journal of Cassandra Willoughby, a critical edition , MA dissertation, University of Birmingham, 1996

Published Sources

  • Johnson, Joan, Excellent Cassandra. The Life and Times of the Duchess of Chandos (Gloucester: Sutton, 1981)
  • Hagglund, Elizabeth, ‘Willoughby, Cassandra [married name Cassandra Brydges, duchess of Chandos] (1670–1735)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , Oxford University Press, 2004 [available online to subscribers, ]

Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

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