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Discover Princess Diana's Kin Whom Cavendish Banana Owed Its Name

William Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire

The most widely traded and commercially produced banana variety in the world is the Cavendish, which can be either Dwarf Cavendish or Chiquita.

Cavendish is the popularly consumed commercial banana in the world today and considered high grade which dominated the world export of commercial crop.

Cavendish banana

Today, the world's largest producers of this Cavendish banana variety are India, China and The Philippines.

And almost all regions in the world consumed this type of fruit, either dessert, refreshment or condiments.

But did you know that this variety was originally cultivated in greenhouses at Chatsworth estate?

The nobleman whom the fruit got its name was a direct blood relative of Diana, Princess of Wales.

The Cavendish Group

The widely commercially produced Cavendish banana began its import shipment in 1950s but the variety started its history of cultivation way back in the 19th century at the Chatsworth estate of William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire.

Today, all commercially produced Cavendish banana varieties around the world are cloned from this cultivation.

Cavendish banana

Around 1834, while serving as Lord Chamberlain of the British royal household of King William IV, Lord Cavendish received a shipment of bananas from Mauritius. 

Known for his passion for horticulture and gardening, he contacted his horticulturist friend, who would become his head gardener, Sir Joseph Paxton, to cultivate this Mauritius banana specimen into a high-grade commercial variety.

Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire, England

Sir Paxton cultivated it at the Duke's Chatsworth estate's greenhouses and named it Musa Cavendishii in honor of Lord Cavendish.

The varieties eventually known as Cavendish bananas and began its shipment to various countries in the Pacific including Southeast Asia.

Cavendish banana cultivation

However, it did not enter mass commercial production until 1903 and did not gain worldwide prominence until 1950s when the varieties entered the worldwide trading.

Prior to the popularity of the Cavendish group, the most widely traded banana was Gros Michel but in the 1950s, the Panama disease wiped out Gros Michel. Banana growers began looking for another banana variety that can withstand the threat of fungus, they turned to Cavendish banana which was resistant to any fungus including the Panama disease.

Other countries started growing the Cavendish bananas recognizing its huge potential in world export. This variety is valued for its sweetness and gourmet production, thus, the most widely acknowledged best variety of banana.

So, that's how this sweet fruit, dessert-grade banana came into the world's consciousness. But let's get to know more the aristocrat whom the Cavendish banana owed its name.

The Bachelor Duke

William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire was known as Hart before he inherited the title Duke of Devonshire. Hart was short for Hartington because prior to becoming Duke of Devonshire, his courtesy title was Marquess of Hartington.

Hart was known as the bachelor duke because he did not marry, and chose not to, after a devastating rejection he felt from the woman he loved.

Oh. Hart. Such an irony having that nickname when he was heartbroken.

He was a wealthy nobleman, a politician, and a palace courtier during the reigns of his best friend, King George IV, and his brother, King William IV, as Lord Chamberlain.

Diana, Princess of Wales

He descended from two prominent and distinguished aristocratic families in England, the Spencer and the Cavendish. Through the Spencer bloodline, he was a direct relative of Diana, Princess of Wales. They shared a common ancestor, John Spencer, 1st Earl Spencer of Althorp.

Hart's father was William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire, and his mother was Lady Georgina Spencer, daughter of John Spencer, the notorious socialite who was known for some misconduct including a scandalous affair with Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey whom Queen Elizabeth II's favorite tea, Earl Grey Tea, was named.

The book, and later movie, The Duchess, was about Lady Georgina's intriguing life.

Portrait of Lady Georgina Spencer-Cavendish

Hart inherited his father's title in 1811, and with it, a massive wealth, properties, eight stately homes and some 200,000 acres of land. 

Lord Cavendish had a great interest towards gardening and horticulture, he served as President of the Royal Horticulture Society from 1838 until his death in 1858. It led him to establish the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

But the Duke had a heartbreaking story of romance which affected his behavior towards matrimony and decided to remain single.

The Enduring Heartbreak

Though personally, he was known of having several mistresses, his intention to get married was with Lady Caroline Ponsonby, daughter of his mother's sister, Lady Henrietta Spencer, making them first cousin through the first Earl Spencer of Althorp.

Unfortunately, his marriage proposal was turned down. Lady Caroline chose to marry an old friend, Lord William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, who served as Prime Minister of Queen Victoria during her early reign.

Brokenhearted, Lord Cavendish found this rejection devastating and was not heard finding a fiancee again. He devoted his time managing his estate and the cultivation of many botanical plants including the Cavendish bananas.

Lady Caroline gained notoriety in later years when she became the mistress of Lord Byron, a popular English poet and politician.

Chatsworth House, a palatial home in the Duchy of Lancaster

He declared his estates, wealth and titles be inherited by his cousin, William Cavendish, 2nd Earl of Burlington who by then married his favorite niece, Lady Blanche Howard, daughter of his sister, Lady Georgina Cavendish who married the 6th Earl of Carlisle, George Howard. 

The official seat of the Dukes of Devonshire is the Chatsworth House, a palatial home in Derbyshire, in the duchy of Lancaster, England. Its architectural design is Baroque, and has 126 rooms.

Lord Cavendish died in 1858, leaving behind a great legacy in food consumption that would become part of the fruit trading in the world. 

We will view Cavendish banana differently from now on and in every bite will remember the bachelor duke who shunned marriage due to a heartbreak.

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