The arbitrary number of Dukes reflects the course of the Eighteenth Century rather than an erroneous number of “lords a leaping.”
I actually dealt with the First Duke of Devonshire in my previous post as he was also the fourth earl. Having invited William and Mary to take the Crown in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 he conveniently died in 1707 having helped to negotiated the union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland. Despite his reputation for brawling and womanising he clearly did evolve into a serious political figure. This happened following his return from his Grand Tour when he entered the houses of Parliament principally because he was anti-Charles II and anti-Catholic. There was also the small matter of Colonel Culpepper as described in yesterday’s post. In addition to becoming a duke he was also made Lord High Steward by King William in grateful recognition of his services.
The First Duke was unusual in his family in that he was a Whig, i.e. he wanted parliamentary government rather than a government dominated by the monarchy. Presumably his uncle the Duke of Newcastle and his father the Third Earl must have been spinning in their graves. Roy Hattersley explains that the Whig attitude was that men of birth were endowed with a duty to protect the interest of the nation (of course, it helped if they prospered at the same time.) The basic caveat was that the men of birth should have land because the soil was the physical embodiment of their duties and responsibilities. Johnson described the first Whig as being the Devil! This description came about because these powerful men not only believed that they had a duty to protect the nation but that they could do what they wanted when they wanted irrespective of the law – which may be a bit of a swinging statement but you get the gist. Suffice it to say Horace Walpole described the first duke as “a patriot amongst the men and a gallant among the ladies – ” a stamens which had nothing to do with Cavendish’s manners.
On which note let us proceed to the Second Duke – unsurprisingly called William. William had gained the title Marquis of Hartington on his father’s elevation to a dukedom in 1594. This is the title by which the heir of the current duke is still known. This William was not a chip off the old block. He did not become involved in drunken brawls or debauchery. His marriage, arranged by his father to show his political loyalties, was to Lady Rachael Russell the daughter of William Russell who was executed in 1683 after attempting to have the Catholic Duke of York excluded from the succession. Charles responded by dissolving parliament thus removing the Whig voice. Russell was ultimately implicated in the Rye House Plot to assassinate Charles II – He hadn’t actually been involved in the actual plot, it was enough that he was a leading Whig – at worst his crime was misprision of treason which wasn’t a capital offence, which basically means that he knew something treasonous was about to happen but he didn’t tell the authorities. The political union between William and Rachael evolved into a love match rather to the first duke’s irritation.
William’s education followed the pattern of his father and grandfather. He was sent on a Grand Tour and then he entered into local politics and administration. He sat for Derbyshire but then lost his seat -again to his father’s irritation. However, this proved to be to his advantage as he then gained a seat in South Yorkshire. His corresponding member was Robert Walpole. The pair became firm friends and, let’s face it, it’s always handy to know a prime minister. In 1707 William became the Second Duke of Devonshire.
His arch enemy in political terms in Derbyshire was the Tory, Henry Sacheverell. The rise of Henry reflected the rise of the Tories in national government and William found himself out of his job as a privy councillor. Instead of sulking he had an amendment added to the Act of Settlement identifying the Elector of Hanover’s eldest son as an additional heir to the Crown. It reflected William’s protestantism as averse to the Tory High Church view of the world that came perilously close to Catholicism in William’s mind. It should be noted that not only did William support the established church but spoke out for dissenters as well. When Queen Anne died on August 1 1714 William rose once more with the role of Lord Steward of George I’s household.
There was an interlude whilst James III’s son, the so-called Old Pretender, made a bid for the throne getting so far as Preston before being beaten. Bills were passed against Catholics. Later he opposed the South Sea Bubble scheme which he argued would have horrible effects on the economy. He even managed to be friends with both George I and the Prince of Wales – a fairly unusual state of affairs.
The third duke is, completely unsurprisingly, also a William. He became duke in 1729 following his Oxford education and stint in parliament representing various counties. Dr Johnson who we have already seen was not keen on Whigs made an exception for the Third Duke of Devonshire. He described him as “a man faithful to his word” – though not necessarily of “superior abilities.” He was also described as a man of untidy dress, plain habits and noted on on account of the astonishing amount that he could drink.
In 1718 William, then Marquis of Hartington, married Katherine Hoskins. It was not a match arranged by the second duke. The marquis had fallen in love with a merchant’s daughter – fortunately the merchant was wealthy. Hugh Walpole described Katherine as “delightfully vulgar.” The pair had seven children upon whom their father doted (I’m warming to this Cavendish).
In 1737 he became the Viceroy, General Governor and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, his mother after all was the daughter of the First Duke of Ormonde. The Duke remained in post for the next seven years returning to England just in time for the next round of Jacobite plotting.
Arriving home in January 1745 the third duke became Lord Steward of the Royal Household – not that it stopped the Duke from spending his time in Derbyshire. By September England was in uproar over the arrival of Bonnie Prince Charlie in Scotland. On September 28th 1745 there was a meeting at the George Inn in Derby for the purpose of raising a militia. I’ve posted recently about the inglorious activities of the Derbyshire Blues who headed in the direction of Nottingham as soon as they realised that Derby was the next stopping point for the Jacobite army. The duke not known for his martial tendencies had expressed concern about his valuables. It was this duke and his wife who are the direct ancestors of both Prince Charles and Princess Diana. The third duke died in December 1755. His wife survived him by twenty-two years.
Which brings us to the Fourth Duke – yes his name is William. He was born in 1720. and like his forefathers became an MP and served in Government – briefly becoming Prime Minister. He married aristocratically to Elizabeth Boyle, the 6th Baroness Clifford which is why the Cavendishs own Bolton Abbey. In addition to which she brought huge quantities of London property and other assets into the Cavendish fold. All I really want to add about duke number four is that he arranged for Capability Brown to landscape Chatsworth and he was the chap who had the rather grand stable built.
Finally we arrive at the Fifth Duke of Devonshire and the nineteenth century. Yes, his name was William Cavendish – there does seem to be a bit of a pattern emerging. Like his father the fifth duke was Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire handheld administrative posts in Ireland but unlike his father who must have held the office of Prime Ministers for one of the shortest periods of time ever he declined cabinet positions. The Fifth Duke is more famous for his marriages, firstly to Lady Diana Spencer and secondly to his long term mistress Lady Elizabeth Hervey but that’s a post for another time as is the development of Buxton as a fashionable eighteenth century spa town.
And that is as far as I propose to go down the line of Cavendish dukes. The Sixth duke (another William ) is known to history as “the Bachelor Duke” and when he died the title passed to the descendants of the third son of the fourth duke.
Hattersley, Roy. (2014) The Devonshires: The Story of a Family and a Nation. London:Vintage Books
Pearson, John. (1984) The Serpent and the Stag. New York: Holt Reinhart