Cavendish, Victor Christian William, ninth Duke of Devonshire 1868-1938, was born in London 31 May 1868, the eldest son of Lord Edward Cavendish, youngest son of William Cavendish, seventh Duke of Devonshire [qv.], by his wife, Emma Elizabeth, fourth daughter of William Saunders Sebright Lascelles, third son of Henry Lascelles, second Earl of Harewood [qv.]. He was a nephew of Lord Frederick Cavendish [qv.]. He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. When he came down from Cambridge, where he had been president of the Amateur Dramatic Club, he went into a firm of accountants in the City in order to gain experience, and in order to obtain a knowledge of legal principles he entered the Inner Temple. On the death in 1891 of his father who had represented West Derbyshire as a unionist, he succeeded him unopposed, becoming the youngest member of the House of Commons. In 1892 he married Lady Evelyn Emily Mary, elder daughter of H. C. K. Petty-Fitzmaurice, fifth Marquess of Lansdowne [qv.]. They lived chiefly at Holker Hall in Lancashire where he carried on traditions of the famous Holker herd of shorthorns. A popular member of the House of Commons he was appointed treasurer of the household in 1900, and in 1901 he undertook the duties of a whip. From 1903 to 1905 he was financial secretary to the Treasury. On the death in 1908 of his uncle S. C. Cavendish, eighth Duke of Devonshire [qv.], he succeeded to the dukedom, and in 1916 he was appointed governor-general of Canada in succession to the Duke of Connaught.
During his tenure of the governor-generalship the Duke of Devonshire toured through the Dominion from east to west, from Nova Scotia to Vancouver. Without courting popularity he was exceedingly well liked and gained the confidence of the Meighen government without forfeiting the friendship of the liberals and agrarians. In 1922, the year after his return home, he declined the secretaryship of state for India in Lloyd George's coalition government, but when at the end of that year Bonar Law offered him the office of secretary of state for the Colonies he accepted and thereby became involved in the preparations for the British Empire Exhibition held at Wembley in 1924, the fortunes of which owed an immense debt to him for the particular care which he gave to it both before and after its opening. Without the knowledge of the public, he was a principal financial guarantor for its success. In the spring of 1925, relieved of the double strain of office and of the exhibition, he took continuous and violent exercise on his Irish estate, which caused a sudden collapse which endangered his life and left him something of an invalid for the rest of his days.
When Cavendish succeeded to the dukedom he decided to live at Chatsworth as far as possible. But the Duke was careful to arrange that the public should have access to the house and grounds, and he continued the same traditions at Bolton Abbey, where, as at Chatsworth, he was visited by King George V and Queen Mary. In 1926 he presented Pevensey Castle to the nation. In 1932 he was elected president of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, and he was vice-president of the Navy League from 1909.
The Duke of Devonshire was sworn of the Privy Council in 1905, and appointed G.C.V.O. in 1912 and K.G. and G.C.M.G. in 1916. He was high steward of Cambridge University from 1923, and chancellor of Leeds University from 1909. He died at Chatsworth 6 May 1938, and was survived by his two sons and five daughters. He was succeeded as tenth duke by his elder son, Edward William Spencer, Marquess of Hartington (born 1895), whose elder son, William John Robert, Marquess of Hartington, was killed in action in France in 1944.
A portrait of the Duke of Devonshire wearing the robes of chancellor of Leeds University, by P. A. de László (1928), is at Chatsworth: one of several copies is at Leeds University.
The Times, 7, 9, 11 May 1988.
Contributor: E. I. Carlyle.