Cavendish, William, first Duke of Devonshire 1640-1707, eldest son of William Cavendish, third earl of Devonshire [qv.], by his wife Elizabeth, second daughter of William Cecil, second earl of Salisbury, was born 25 Jan. 1640. The commotion of the civil wars rendered his early education somewhat irregular, and after being brought up chiefly under the eye of the Countess of Devonshire, his grandmother, he was sent to travel abroad with Dr. Killigrew, afterwards master of the Savoy. Upon his return he was chosen one of four young noblemen to bear Charles II's train at his coronation 23 April 1661, and in the same year was elected member of parliament for Derby. Next year he went to Ireland, and on 27 Oct. married at Kilkenny Lady Mary, second daughter of James, Duke of Ormonde. In 1663 he returned to England, and was on 23 Sept. created an M.A. at Oxford, along with the Earls of Suffolk and Bath, by special command of the chancellor, who was then with the king and court at Oxford (Wood, Athenæ, ii. 830; Catalogue of Graduates). In 1665 he volunteered for service in the fleet, and was present in attendance upon the Duke of York at the fight with De Ruyter on 4 June. Lord Cavendish, writes Sir Thomas Clifford to Lord Arlington (5 June 1665, Green, State Papers, p. 431), behaved very well, and the shallop that brought him and the writer having six guns did much good. In 1666 he was in his place in parliament, and joined in an address by the commons, praying to have the laws against popery enforced, which produced a proclamation, but was otherwise fruitless. In the following year he gave proof of the fairness of his disposition by seconding a motion to fix a day on which Clarendon might be heard in his own defence upon the lords sending down their bill for his banishment. In 1669 he went with Mr. Montagu, afterwards Duke of Montagu, upon an embassy to France, and was there engaged in an affair which attracted attention throughout Europe. Being on the stage at the opera he was insulted by three French officers of the king's guard. One he struck, whereon they drew, and he, throwing himself against the side scenes, stood on his guard, but would have been overborne had not a Swiss of Mr. Montagu's taken him round the waist, and thrown him over into the pit for safety. In falling his arm was torn so that he bore the scar to his death. His assailants were arrested, but were liberated on his intercession. How much this matter was noticed appears by a complimentary letter to him from Sir William Temple 18 Jan. 1669. A similar affair illustrates his character after his return to his place in parliament in 1675. A Colonel Howard having been killed in the French war, it was reported that Lord Cavendish and Sir Thomas Meres had publicly wished that all others were equally served who acted against a vote of parliament. Howard's brother Thomas hearing this report circulated a broadsheet attacking Cavendish, and this on 14 Oct. was brought by a member before the House of Commons. Cavendish, learning the matter for the first time, was for quitting the house, when William afterwards Lord Russell moved and carried that he be enjoined to stay, and that neither he nor Sir T. Meres do give or accept any challenge from Howard; and Howard's print was also voted a breach of privilege. Howard, however, boasted that Cavendish had not dared to take notice of it till he was forced to do so by its publication in the house; whereon Cavendish, in spite of the resolution of the commons, posted on the palace gate a paper denouncing Howard as a poltroon. This was on 20 Oct. laid before the house, and, the speaker having informed Cavendish that he had broken privilege, he was after debate committed to the Tower. Howard, too, was summoned and called on to answer on his knees, and was committed; but Cavendish after two days, and Howard on 8 Nov., each on his own petition, were discharged, and the house directed them and Meres to attend Mr. Speaker, to be by him reconciled. On 25 Oct. the house had, on Mr. Waller's motion, voted it a breach of privilege to carry the affair further, and a bill was brought in, though not proceeded with, forbidding duelling.
From this time Cavendish engaged himself in parliamentary opposition to the court party. When parliament met in 1676, after a prorogation of fifteen months, it was he who moved that the act of Edward III for annual parliaments should be laid on the table, arguing that by the prorogation parliament was ipso facto dissolved. In 1677 he promoted a bill for recalling the English forces out of the French king's service, which was read a second time 22 Feb., revived in committee 21 May, and passed 27 May. On 29 May the king ordered the house to adjourn to 16 July, and when Seymour, the speaker, had declared the house adjourned, he fairly ran out of the house to avoid Cavendish's question, by what authority save the house's consent that could be done. When the house reassembled on 16 July, Cavendish moved to read the journals to show how the house came to have been adjourned; but the matter was disposed of by further adjournments to 28 Jan. 1677-8. After the disclosure of the popish plot Cavendish was active in the protestant interest. He was a member of committees, for privileges and elections, against popish recusants, for inquiring into the murder of Sir Edmundbury Godfrey, and for bringing in the lords to concert means for securing the king and the protestant religion. In October he was a member of a select committee to take the examination in Newgate of Coleman as to the plot, and to report on the plot to the House of Lords; and on 2 Dec. of another to urge the king to a stricter observance of the laws against popery. On the same day, 19 Dec., he was both chosen to attend the king with the votes relating to an information against Montagu, and to draw articles of impeachment against Danby. A new parliament met on 6 March 1678-9, and the king refusing the reappointment of Seymour as speaker, Cavendish was among the chief members who waited on the king with the vote on the election of a new one. On 16 April 1679 he was appointed a member of a committee to draw a bill against the growth of popery, and on 14 May he carried up an address against papists. So vigorous and popular were his speeches that they got abroad in an imperfect copy, and a pamphlet called A Speech of Lord Cavendish was even referred to a committee of the House of Commons.
The fall of Danby's ministry was now inevitable, and the king determined to adopt the scheme, originated by Sir William Temple, of raising the privy council into a counterpoise to the House of Commons. Shaftesbury was president, and Russell, Cavendish, Essex, and Halifax were sworn in as ordinary members. In April and May the king and the new government brought in resolutions for preserving the protestant religion without interfering with the hereditary succession, but the commons pressing their exclusion bill, in spite of a remonstrance from Cavendish in favour of first trying milder measures, they were hastily prorogued on 27 May 1679. In this session Cavendish had also been forward in procuring the passing of the Habeas Corpus Act. Parliament was shortly after dissolved, and before the new parliament met, on 17 Oct., the Duke of York had returned from Flanders and retired into Scotland. The new parliament was at once prorogued to prevent any legislation for his exclusion. Before it reassembled the king, falling ill, recalled the duke, 25 Jan. 1679-80, whereupon the coalition of the country and court parties into one government broke down, and Cavendish, Russell, Capel, and Powle praying leave to withdraw from the council, their prayer was very readily granted. Sunderland, Godolphin, and Lawrence Hyde remained in power. Parliament again met 21 Oct. 1680, and Cavendish carried up articles of impeachment against Sir William Scroggs, chief justice of the king's bench. While the grand jury of Middlesex was sitting at Westminster Hall, Lord Shaftesbury induced Huntingdon, Russell, Cavendish, Thynne, and others to appear with him before them, to present reasons for indicting the Duke of York as a popish recusant. While the grand jury were deliberating on this, they were hastily discharged by the queen's bench. The committee of the commons which sat to consider the conduct of the queen's bench resolved that the discharge was illegal, and the house directed Cavendish to prepare articles, but parliament being prorogued the matter dropped. He was also active in debates upon the exclusion of the duke, and promoted an address praying the king to remove his ministers. Parliament, however, was prorogued 10 Jan., and dissolved 18 Jan. 1680-1. In the new parliament, which met at Oxford on 21 March and was dissolved in a week, Cavendish showed his natural fairness, when Mr. Secretary Jenkins absolutely refused to obey the house's order to carry up articles of impeachment against Fitzharris, an Irish papist, then under arrest for a libel on the king. The house was crying To the bar! to the bar! when Cavendish interposed and induced Jenkins to submit himself to the house. A similar proof of his superiority to mere party spirit appears in his protest against the description of Monmouth, when in favour, in commissions as the king's dear and entirely beloved son, showing that his zeal for the exclusion of the Duke of York was not due to mere devotion to Monmouth. Afterwards, in 1681, in grand committee of the House of Commons, Mr. Powle in the chair, Cavendish renewed his efforts for the duke's exclusion by moving for leave to bring in a bill for the association of all protestant subjects, for the safety of the king's person and religion, and the exclusion of the duke from succession to the crown. But when, after the flight of Shaftesbury, Russell and others began to concert measures against the king's absolutism, Cavendish, alarmed at their expressions, early withdrew himself from their meetings; nor was he at a later date in any way implicated in Monmouth's rising. In May there was some talk of his quitting the popular for the court party along with Lord Howard of Escrick, and in October he kissed the king's hand at Newmarket, and was received into favour (Luttrell, i. 89, 133). Still he appeared as a witness for the prisoner on Russell's trial, and even, according to Burnet, offered, through Sir John Forbes, to change clothes with him in prison, they both being of much the same tall figure, though otherwise unlike enough. Russell, however, refused, and when Cavendish attended him on the day of execution, Russell earnestly exhorted him to a more christian way of life, and produced a deep impression by his farewell. Cavendish was also a very intimate friend of Mr. Thomas Thynne, and when the latter was assassinated in Pall Mall by three Germans, in Count Coningsmarck's pay, he not only brought the assassins to justice, but when Coningsmarck was corruptly acquitted, challenged him to a duel at Calais. The challenge only reached the count at Newport in Flanders, and he replied that he would wait there three weeks. The reply was sent in a packet to the Swedish president, who, mistrusting its contents, opened it and communicated them to the secretary of state. Thereon a writ of ne exeat regno was issued and was served on Cavendish and Lord Mordant, who also had sent a challenge, and they were compelled to give security. Later on Colonel Maccarty, meeting the count in Paris, told him of Cavendish's desire to meet him, to which the count replied that he was in the employment of Louis XIV, and that the French law rigorously forbade duels (ib. 174, 210). Cavendish had been out before. In 1676 he fought and dangerously wounded Lord Mohun, and in 1680 was Lord Plymouth's second in his duel with Sir G. Huet (Hutton Correspondence, Camd. Soc., i. 142, 222)
In 1684 he succeeded his father in the earldom, and on the accession of James he was one of the peers who proposed to discuss the speech from the throne. After Monmouth's rebellion he withdrew from court. Having been insulted by Colonel Thomas Colepeper [q.v.] he had forgiven him upon the terms of his appearing at Whitehall no more. But on Monmouth's defeat Colepeper reappeared. Evelyn, who was present, says (9 July 1685): ‘Just as I was coming into the lodgings at Whitehall, my lord of Devonshire standing very neare his majesty's bed-chamber doore in the lobby, came Colonel Colepeper and in a rude manner looking my lord in the face asked whether this was a time and place for excluders to appear. My lord told him he was no excluder; the other affirming it again, my lord told him he lied, on which Colepeper struck him a box on the ear, which my lord returned, and felled him’ (cf. Ellis Correspondence, ii. 289). On this an information was issued against Devonshire out of the king's bench, and in spite of his plea of peer's privilege the court, whether with or without consultation with the king or chancellor, sentenced him to a fine of 30,000l., and committed him to the king's bench prison till payment. The countess, his mother, brought to James bonds of Charles I for 60,000l., lent to him in the civil war by the Cavendishes, and offered them all for the release of ‘her son Billy;’ but James was obdurate. Devonshire, however, found means to escape, and fled to Chatsworth, where, when the sheriff of Derby and his posse came to arrest him, he imprisoned the whole force till he arranged for his liberty by giving his bond for payment of the fine. But the duke had his revenge. On 30 June 1697, ‘meeting Colonel Colepeper at the Auction House in St. Alban's Street, he caned him for being troublesome to him in the late reign’ (Luttrell, iv. 246). After the revolution the bond was found among James's papers and cancelled, and the record of the conviction was removed from the file of the exchequer. A committee of the lords reported, 22 April 1689, that the ‘court of king's bench, in overruling the Earl of Devonshire's plea of privilege of parliament and forcing him to plead over in chief, it being the usual time of privilege, did thereby commit a manifest breach of the privileges of parliament;’ the records were brought up, the judges, Sir Robert Wright, Sir Richard Holloway, and Mr. Justice Powell, brought to the bar (6 May), and after they had humbly apologised for their error, the legality of the committal of a peer was argued, and the opinions of the judges taken on 7 and 15 May, and it was decided to be illegal.
For some years Devonshire remained in strict retirement, and occupied himself with the erection of Chatsworth. The work began 12 April 1687, and lasted till 1706; the architect was William Talman; Verrio and Thornhill were employed on the painting; and it is said that the wood carving, though this is doubtful, was the work of Grinling Gibbons. It is a remarkable instance of the purity of the earl's taste that at this period and afterwards, in the time of the Dutch fashion, he should, in his building and collections, have adhered to the best Italian manner, but in architecture and fine art he was reputed a consummate judge. In the result, says Bishop Kennet, ‘though the situation seems to be somewhat horrid, this really adds to the beauty of it; the glorious house seems to be art insulting nature.’
But in his retirement he was secretly engaged in concerting plans for bringing in the Prince of Orange. James, suspecting his loyalty, first sent to summon him to court; the earl excused himself, and his kinsman, the Duke of Newcastle, whom the king sent later, could not change his purpose. In May 1687 Dijkvelt left England with letters from Devonshire, Bedford, Shrewsbury, Nottingham, and the Hydes, asking William to come over to the nation's assistance. Communications were usually kept up through Edward Russell and Henry Sidney, who were now in London, now in Holland, and through Vice-admiral Herbert, who remained at the Hague. After the birth of James's son, in 1688, the invitations became more urgent, and Devonshire was one of the whig lords who signed the cipher letter of 30 June. He was now reconciled to Danby, whom he owned he had misjudged, and with him, Lord Delamere, and Mr. D'Arcy, he laid plans for a rising. The meetings took place at Sir Henry Goodrick's in Yorkshire, and at Whittington, near Scarsdale in Derbyshire, in a farmhouse chamber, long known in the country-side as the ‘plotting parlour.’ At first it was designed that William should land in the north. Devonshire was to secure Nottingham, and Danby, York. The attack on York was to precede that on Nottingham, the former having a governor and a small garrison, who might take alarm if Nottingham, an open town, were first occupied. However, on hearing of William's landing at Brixham, the earl at once moved on Derby, and, being always one who kept on terms with the leaders of the middle class, invited the mayor and gentry to join him, and read to them his ‘Declaration in Defence of the Protestant Religion.’ For a short time he was in danger; a courier arrived with a letter in his boot-heel announcing James's flight and William's march on London, but it was hardly legible; the news was not credited, and James's party took heart. The earl, however, presently moved on Nottingham, and was well supported, and there he issued a proclamation justifying the rising and drilled troops. He raised a regiment of horse, afterwards the 4th regiment, and one of the first to go to Ireland next year, and was himself its colonel, and on 25 Nov., hearing of a plan to intercept the Princess Anne, while on her way from London to take refuge with him, he marched out to meet her, and conducted her to the castle. For some time he entertained her at his own charge, and then, his stock running low, accepted some contributions, and ‘at last borrowed the public money in such a manner as to satisfy the collectors and please the country.’ When Anne removed to Oxford to join Prince George, the earl escorted her to Christ Church, and thence, with one or two more, hastened to London, and met William at Sion House. On 25 Dec. the lords assembled at Westminster, and Devonshire was forward in procuring the address to the Prince of Orange, praying him to carry on the government till a convention could meet. The convention met 22 Jan. 1688-9, and the earl argued against Clarendon and Rochester for James's deposition and for a king, not merely a regent. This was rejected, whereupon he and forty others entered their protest, and finally it was carried. He now received the favours of the new sovereign. On 14 Feb. he was sworn of the privy council, on 16 March appointed lord-lieutenant of Derbyshire and lord-steward of the household; he was elected a knight of the Garter on 3 April and installed on 14 May. At the coronation on 11 April he acted for the day as lord high steward of England, and bore the crown, while his daughter bore the queen's train.
He now devoted himself to procuring the remission of his own fine and the reversal of the attainders of Lord Russell, Colonel Sidney, and others. On 18 Jan. 1689-90 he sailed with the king from Gravesend for the congress at the Hague. He was with the king when, at great peril to his life, William left the fleet in a shallop to hasten on shore. At the Hague he made a peculiarly splendid figure, outshining with his plate and furniture almost all the other nobles there assembled. On 9 March he gave a banquet to the elector of Brandenburg, the landgrave of Hesse, and the Prince de Commeray, at which the king appeared incognito, and in March of the year following he was present at the siege of Mons in attendance on the king, and with him returned to Whitehall on 13 April. Early in July, after the battle of Beachy Head, he and the Earl of Pembroke placed themselves at the queen's disposal, and were sent to Dover, and thence to the fleet, to inquire into its conduct under Lord Torrington during that battle (Hutton Correspondence, Camd. Soc., ii. 155, 156). In the same year, when Admiral Russell objected to the plan for a landing by Schomberg and Ruvigny on the French coast, on the ground that the men-of-war were of too great draught for the purpose, Devonshire was one of the ministers who visited the fleet at St. Helen's to inspect it, but the news of Heinkirk disposed of this design. In May 1692 he went, with the Duke of Richmond and the earls of Essex and Doncaster, as a volunteer to the camp in Flanders (Luttrell, ii. 463). He was lord-lieutenant of Nottinghamshire 1692-4. On 12 May 1694 he was created Duke of Devonshire and Marquis of Hartington, and having been omitted from the commission of the peace on succeeding his father in the title, was now appointed a justice in eyre, and in 1697 was elected recorder of Nottingham. When William quitted England, after Queen Mary's death in 1694, the Duke of Devonshire was named one of the lords justices for the administration of the kingdom, and he and Tenison, archbishop of Canterbury, were the only lords who held that appointment on all the occasions of the king's absence during the whole seven years of its existence. While in this office the case of Sir John Fenwick arose, in which the duke, though convinced by repeated interviews (see ib. iv. 83, 11 July and 24 Sept. 1696) of his guilt, was so apprehensive of creating a precedent that, almost alone of the whigs, he refused to agree to the bill for his attainder.
The question of the Irish land grants had long been a burning one. As early as 1690 the king disposed of the forfeited estates at his own private pleasure, and much offence was given by the grants to Mrs. Villiers and to foreigners like Ruvigny, Bentinck, and Ginkel. On 7 Feb. 1698 leave was given to bring in a bill ‘for vacating all grants of estates forfeited in Ireland since 13 Feb. 1688, and for appropriating them to the use of the public,’ and though the bill then dropped, a commission was in 1699 appointed to examine the grants, and on 15 Dec. their report, containing an exposure of the intrigues practised to obtain them, was laid on the table. The bill to resume all grants and to create a separate court to try all claims was read a second time 18 Jan. 1699-1700, and in April 1700 reached the lords. Devonshire strenuously opposed it, declaring ‘that by this bill the barriers between crown and people would be broken down,’ and by his influence with the younger peers carried material amendments. The commons, however, refused them, and though the whig peers would have stood firm, Sunderland induced the king to beg his friends to give way; the bill passed, and parliament was prorogued 11 April 1700. In 1701 he strenuously opposed the partition treaty, and on William's death and Anne's accession was confirmed in all his offices, acted with the Duke of Somerset as supporter to Prince George, at the king's funeral, and was again lord high steward at Anne's coronation. In March 1702 he introduced to the queen 127 dissenting ministers to congratulate her on her accession, to whom she promised her protection (Luttrell, v. 153). In May he was appointed, with Duke of Somerset, Lords Jersey, Marlborough, and Albemarle, to examine the late king's papers which were said to contain matter adverse to Anne's accession, and reported that the rumour was groundless (ib. 169). This was a check to the tories, who had originated the rumour. On 17 Dec. 1702, and on 19 Jan. 1703, upon the bill against occasional conformity, he was chief manager for the lords in the conference with the commons, and reported in favour of toleration, and in March 1705 was again manager in the conference arising out of the ‘writ of error for the Aylesbury men’ (ib. 529). He actively supported the protestant succession and the French war, and having been a commissioner in 1703 to negotiate the union of England and Scotland, without success, he at last, in 1706, brought that great measure to a successful issue. In April 1705 he attended the queen to Cambridge, and there, with his eldest son, was created an LL.D., but being borne down with dropsy, gout, and the stone, and his disease proving incurable, he treated with the Marquis of Dorchester for the transfer to him of the lord high stewardship in April 1707, and at length died, professing repentance and firm faith, at Devonshire House, Piccadilly, at 9 a.m., 18 Aug. 1707. He was attended on his deathbed by the Bishop of Ely. The autopsy proved stone and strangury to have caused his death (ib. 18 Aug. 1707). His body was conveyed in great state by the Strand to the city, and thence to Derby, where it was buried, 1 Sept., at Allhallows Church. His wife survived him, and dying 31 July 1710, aged 68, was buried in Westminster Abbey. He left three sons, William (who married Rachel, Lord Russell's eldest daughter, and succeeded to the dukedom), Lord James, Lord Henry, M.P. for Derby, who died of palsy in 1700, and a daughter, Elizabeth, who married Sir John Wentworth, bart., of Brodsworth, Yorkshire, and afterwards the second Sir James Lowther.
The duke was addicted to sport, constantly visiting Newmarket for horse-racing and cock-fighting, now winning 500 guineas, now losing 1,900l. (Luttrell, iii. 539-40, iv. 340, 505, v. 231; Evelyn, Memoirs, 30 March 1699). He was munificent, giving 500l. to Greenwich Hospital, a supper and masked ball costing 1,000l., and a ‘fine concert of musick at Kensington.’ He lost heavily by the fire at Montagu House in 1686, and at Whitehall in 1698 (Luttrell, iv. 328, 531, 600; Ellis, Correspondence, ii. 11, 25). At various times he was engaged in many lawsuits; in 1696 with the Marquis of Normanby about the purchase of Berkely House by him, which, after discussion on the privilege of peers in the House of Lords (10 Dec.), he eventually won in the court of chancery by judgment of the lord chancellor and both chief justices, December 1697; in February 1698 and again in June 1699 against Mr. Frampton, about a horse-race, in which he obtained a verdict; in 1699 as ranger of Needwood Forest against the Earl of Stamford, who claimed a right to hunt there as chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; and in 1707 at the suit of the Duke of Buckinghamshire for damages by a fire at Arlington House, which he lost (Luttrell, iv. 151, 224, 298, 340, 474, vi. 187).
In person the duke was tall and handsome, and of an engaging and commanding mien and courteous address. He was a good Latin scholar, and especially a student of Horace, acquainted with Homer and Plutarch, so fine a critic that Lord Roscommon entrusted to him his poems for correction, and an admirable judge of art and music. The philosophy of Hobbes had influenced his early education, but in a work ascribed to him, ‘Reasons for Passing the Bill for Exclusion’ (1681), he uses the social compact as an argument for submitting the will of the monarch to that of his people, and is said by his domestic chaplain, Mr. Griffiths, ‘to have publicly disowned Mr. Hobbes's principles as damnable.’ He wrote an ode on the death of Queen Mary, which Dryden praised as the best written on that subject, and a poem called ‘The Charms of Liberty;’ an allusion to the Archbishop of Cambray's ‘Telemachus,’ written in 1707, and published after his death. Lord Orford's character of him was, ‘a patriot among the men, a Corydon among the ladies.’ He was personally dissolute, leaving many natural children, among them being Mrs. Heneage, who married Lord Huntingtower, eldest son of the Earl of Dysart (Luttrell, 10 Dec. 1706; cf. Wentworth Papers, 19 July 1709), and is said to have taken Mrs. Anne Campion from the stage into keeping, but as he was then an old man this may be ill-authenticated; at any rate he erected a tomb to her memory, and gave her a private funeral. A poem, ‘by a lady,’ upon his death, says of him,
Whose awful sweetness challenged our esteem,
Our sex's wonder and our sex's theme;
Whose soft commanding looks our breasts assailed;
He came and saw and at first sight prevailed.
Bishop Kennet's Memoir;
Grove's Lives of the Earls and Dukes of Devonshire;
Kennet's Funeral Sermon; Griffith's Funeral Sermon;
Monthly Miscellany, i. 326;
Braybrooke's Notes to Pepys, v. 251;
Glover's Derbyshire, ii. 223;
Akenside's Ode to the Earl of Huntingdon;
Introduction to Danby's Letters, 1710;
Von Ranke's History of England;
Hazard of a Deathbed Repentance, London, 1728;
Jacob's Complete Peerage, 1766, i. 247;
Lodge's Portraits, vol. iv. (after the painting by Riley);
Courtenay's Memoirs of Sir W. Temple.
Contributor: J. A. H. [John Andrew Hamilton]