Cavendish, William, seventh Duke of Devonshire, seventh Marquis of Hartington, tenth Earl of Devonshire, and second Earl of Burlington 1808-1891, born on 27 April 1808, in Charles Street, Berkeley Square, was the eldest son of William Cavendish (1783-1812), by his wife Louisa (d. 18 April 1863), eldest daughter of Cornelius O'Callaghan, first Baron Lismore. Lord George Augustus Henry Cavendish, first earl of Burlington (1754-1834), was his grandfather, and William Cavendish, fourth duke of Devonshire [qv.], was his great-grandfather. He was educated at Eton and at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating Bachelor of Arts in 1829 as second wrangler and eighth classic, Henry Philpott [qv.], afterwards bishop of Worcester, being senior wrangler. In the ensuing examination for the Smith's prizes the order of their names was reversed. He was also eighth in the first class of the classical tripos. He graduated M.A. in 1829, and received the honorary degree of Doctor of Law on 6 July 1835. On 18 June 1829 he was returned for the university to the House of Commons, where in 1831 and 1832 he supported the government proposals for parliamentary reform. He was, in consequence, rejected by the university at the election of 1831, but on 13 July was returned for Malton in Yorkshire. On 10 Sept. 1831 his grandfather was created Earl of Burlington, and he was henceforth styled Lord Cavendish. In the same year accepting the Chiltern Hundreds he succeeded his grandfather as M.P. for Derbyshire on 22 Sept., and on 24 Dec. 1832 he was returned for North Derbyshire, which he continued to represent until, on 9 May 1834, he succeeded his grandfather as second earl of Burlington. On 15 Jan. 1858 he succeeded his cousin, William George Spencer Cavendish, sixth duke of Devonshire [qv.].
From the time of his removal to the upper house Burlington abandoned politics and devoted himself to the scientific and industrial concerns of the country. On entering into possession of the ducal estates he found them heavily encumbered, and devoted himself to relieving them of their burdens. He showed himself an enlightened and liberal landowner, contributing 200,000l. towards the extension of railways in Cork and Waterford, where his Irish estate of Lismore was situated. In England his name was particularly associated with the development of Barrow-in-Furness, where he assisted to establish the iron mining and steel producing industries. He was chairman of the Barrow Hæmatite Company on its constitution on 1 Jan. 1866, and with (Sir) James Ramsden promoted the Furness railway and the Devonshire and Buccleuch docks, which were opened in September 1867. He was also closely associated with the growth of both Eastbourne and Buxton, where he owned much property, as watering places.
Devonshire was first president of the Iron and Steel Institute on its foundation in 1868, and was a munificent contributor to the Yorkshire College of Science and to Owens College, Manchester. He was chancellor of the university of London from 1836 to 1856, and on the death of the prince consort in 1861 was chosen chancellor of Cambridge University, an office which he retained till his death. After the foundation of Victoria University in 1880, he became its first chancellor. He was chairman of the royal commission on scientific instruction and the advancement of science, and presented the Cavendish laboratory to Cambridge University. He was one of the original founders of the Royal Agricultural Society in 1839, and was president in 1870. On 26 July 1871 he was nominated a trustee of the British Museum. For fifty years he was a breeder of shorthorns, and his Holker herd had a wide reputation.
Devonshire rarely spoke in the House of Lords. He supported Gladstone's Irish Church Bill in 1869, and remained in harmony with that statesman until the secession of the liberal unionists in 1885 on the question of home rule, when he became chairman of the Loyal and Patriotic Union. He was nominated K.G. on 25 March 1858, and a privy councillor on 26 March 1876.
Devonshire died on 21 Dec. 1891 at Holker Hall, his favourite residence, near Grange in Lancashire, and was buried at Edensor, near Chatsworth, on 26 Dec. He was married on 6 Aug. 1829, at Devonshire House, to Blanche Georgiana (1812-1840), fourth daughter of George Howard, sixth earl of Carlisle [qv.]. By her he had three sons—Spencer Compton Cavendish, eighth duke (1833-1908), Lord Frederick Charles Cavendish [qv.], and Lord Edward Cavendish (1838-1891)—and one daughter, Lady Louisa Caroline, married on 26 Sept. 1865 to Rear-admiral Francis Egerton.
Devonshire's portrait, painted by Mr. Henry Tanworth Wells, was presented to the Iron and Steel Institute on 19 March 1872 by a subscription among the members of the institute.
Times, 22 Dec. 1891
Proceedings of the Royal Society, 1892, vol. li. pp. xxxviii-xli
Journal of the Iron and Steel Institute, 1869 pp. 5-28, 1872 i. 213, 1892 ii. 120-7
Doyle's Official Baronage, 1886.
Contributor: E. I. C. [Edward Irving Carlyle]