Spencer Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire

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The Duke of Devonshire

Spencer Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire.jpg
Leader of the Liberal Party
In office
3 February 1875 23 April 1880
Preceded by William Ewart Gladstone
Succeeded by William Ewart Gladstone
Leader of the House of Lords
In office
12 July 1902 13 October 1903
Monarch Edward VII
Prime Minister Arthur Balfour
Preceded by The Marquess of Salisbury
Succeeded by The Marquess of Lansdowne
President of the Board of Education
In office
3 March 1900 8 August 1902
Monarch Victoria
Edward VII
Prime Minister The Marquess of Salisbury
Arthur Balfour
Preceded by Sir John Eldon Gorst
Succeeded by The Marquess of Londonderry
Lord President of the Council
In office
29 June 1895 19 October 1903
Monarch Victoria
Edward VII
Prime Minister The Marquess of Salisbury
Arthur Balfour
Preceded by The Earl of Rosebery
Succeeded by The Marquess of Londonderry
Secretary of State for War
In office
16 December 1882 9 June 1885
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone
Preceded by Hugh Childers
Succeeded by W. H. Smith
In office
16 February 1866 26 June 1866
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister The Earl Russell
Preceded by The Earl de Grey
Succeeded by Jonathan Peel
Secretary of State for India
In office
28 April 1880 16 December 1882
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone
Preceded by The Viscount Cranbrook
Succeeded by The Earl of Kimberley
Chief Secretary for Ireland
In office
12 January 1871 17 February 1874
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone
Preceded by Chichester Parkinson-Fortescue
Succeeded by Michael Hicks Beach
Postmaster General
In office
9 December 1868 14 January 1871
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone
Preceded by The Duke of Montrose
Succeeded by William Monsell
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for War
In office
2 May 1863 17 February 1866
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister The Viscount Palmerston
The Earl Russell
Preceded by The Earl de Grey
Succeeded by The Lord Dufferin and Claneboye
Civil Lord of the Admiralty
In office
23 March 1863 2 May 1863
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister The Viscount Palmerston
Preceded by Samuel Whitbread
Succeeded by James Stansfeld
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
21 December 1891 24 March 1908
Hereditary Peerage
Preceded by The 7th Duke of Devonshire
Succeeded by The 9th Duke of Devonshire
Member of Parliament
for Rossendale
In office
18 December 1885 21 December 1891
Preceded byConstituency created
Succeeded by John Maden
Member of Parliament
for North East Lancashire
In office
27 April 1880 18 December 1885
Preceded by James Maden Holt
Succeeded byconstituency abolished
Member of Parliament
for Radnor
In office
25 February 1869 27 April 1880
Preceded by Richard Green-Price
Succeeded by Samuel Williams
Member of Parliament
for North Lancashire
In office
24 April 1857 7 December 1868
Preceded by James Heywood
Succeeded by Hon. Frederick Stanley
Personal details
Born(1833-07-23)23 July 1833
Died24 March 1908(1908-03-24) (aged 74)
Cannes, France
Nationality British
Political party Liberal
Liberal Unionist
Spouse(s)
Parents
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Shield of arms of Spencer Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire Shield of arms of Spencer Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire, KG, GCVO, PC, FRS.png
Shield of arms of Spencer Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire

Spencer Compton Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire KG GCVO PC PC (Ire) FRS (23 July 1833 24 March 1908), styled Lord Cavendish of Keighley between 1834 and 1858 and Marquess of Hartington between 1858 and 1891 [1] , was a British statesman. He has the distinction of having served as leader of three political parties: as Leader of the Liberal Party in the House of Commons (1875–1880) and as of the Liberal Unionist Party (1886–1903) and of the Unionists in the House of Lords (1902–1903) (though the Conservatives and Liberal Unionists operated in close alliance from 1892–1903 and would eventually merge in 1912). He also declined to become prime minister on three occasions, not because he was not a serious politician but because the circumstances were never right.

Contents

Background and education

Devonshire was the eldest son of William Cavendish, 2nd Earl of Burlington, who succeeded his cousin as Duke of Devonshire in 1858, and Lady Blanche Cavendish (née Howard). Lord Frederick Cavendish and Lord Edward Cavendish were his younger brothers. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated as MA in 1854, having taken a Second in the Mathematical Tripos. He later was made honorary LLD in 1862, and as DCL at Oxford University in 1878. [2]

In later life he continued his interests in education as Chancellor of his old university from 1892, and of Manchester University from 1907 until his death. He was Lord Rector of Edinburgh University from 1877 to 1880. [2]

Liberal, 1857–86

After joining the special mission to Russia for Alexander II's accession, [3] Lord Cavendish of Keighley (as he was styled at the time) entered Parliament in the 1857 general election, when he was returned for North Lancashire as a Liberal (his title "Lord Hartington", by which he became known in 1858, was a courtesy title; as he was not a peer in his own right he was eligible to sit in the Commons until he succeeded his father as Duke of Devonshire in 1891). Between 1863 and 1874, Lord Hartington held various Government posts, including Civil Lord of the Admiralty and Under-Secretary of State for War under Palmerston and Earl Russell. In the 1868 general election he lost his seat; having refused the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland, he was made Postmaster-General, without a seat in the Cabinet. The next year he re-entered the Commons, having been returned for Radnor. In 1870 Hartington reluctantly accepted the post of Chief Secretary for Ireland in Gladstone's first government.

In 1875 — the year following the Liberal defeat at the General Election — he succeeded William Ewart Gladstone as Leader of the Liberal opposition in the House of Commons after the other serious contender, W. E. Forster, had indicated that he was not interested in the post. The following year, however, Gladstone returned to active political life in the campaign against Turkey's Bulgarian Atrocities. The relative political fortunes of Gladstone and Hartington fluctuated — Gladstone was not popular at the time of Benjamin Disraeli's triumph at the Congress of Berlin, but the Midlothian Campaigns of 1879–80 marked him out as the Liberals' foremost public campaigner.

In 1880, after Disraeli's government lost the general election, Hartington was invited by the Queen to form a government, but declined — as did the Earl Granville, Liberal Leader in the House of Lords — after William Ewart Gladstone made it clear that he would not serve under anybody else. Hartington chose instead to serve in Gladstone's Second government as Secretary of State for India (1880–1882) and Secretary of State for War (1882–1885).

In 1884 he was instrumental in persuading Gladstone to send a mission to Khartoum for the relief of General Gordon, which arrived two days too late to save him. [4] A considerable number of the Conservative party long held him chiefly responsible for the "betrayal of Gordon." His lethargic manner, apart from his position as war minister, helped to associate him in their minds with a disaster which emphasized the fact that the government acted "too late"; but Gladstone and Lord Granville were no less responsible than he. [5]

Liberal Unionist, 1886–1908

The Duke of Devonshire by Sir Hubert von Herkomer. Spencer Compton Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire by Sir Hubert von Herkomer.jpg
The Duke of Devonshire by Sir Hubert von Herkomer.

Hartington became increasingly uneasy with Gladstone's Irish policies, especially after the murder of his younger brother Lord Frederick Cavendish in Phoenix Park. After being elected in December 1885 for the newly created Rossendale Division of Lancashire, he broke with Gladstone altogether. He declined to serve in Gladstone's third government, formed after Gladstone came out in favour of Irish Home Rule (unlike Joseph Chamberlain, who accepted the Local Government Board but then resigned), and after opposing the First Home Rule Bill became the leader of the Liberal Unionists. After the general election of 1886 Hartington declined to become Prime Minister, preferring instead to hold the balance of power in the House of Commons and give support from the back benches to the second Conservative government of Lord Salisbury. Early in 1887, after the resignation of Lord Randolph Churchill, Salisbury offered to step down and serve in a government under Hartington, who now declined the premiership for the third time. Instead the Liberal Unionist George Goschen accepted the Exchequer in Churchill's place.

Having succeeded as Duke of Devonshire in 1891 and entered the House of Lords where, in 1893, he formally moved for the rejection of the Second Home Rule Bill. Devonshire eventually joined Salisbury's third government in 1895 as Lord President of the Council. Devonshire was not asked to become Prime Minister when Lord Salisbury retired in favour of his nephew Arthur Balfour in 1902. He resigned from the government in 1903, and from the Liberal Unionist Association the following spring, in protest at Joseph Chamberlain's Tariff Reform scheme. Devonshire said of Chamberlain's proposals:

I venture to express the opinion that [Chamberlain] will find among the projects and plans which he will be called upon to discuss none containing a more Socialistic principle than that which is embodied in his own scheme, which, whether it can properly be described as a scheme of protection or not, is certainly a scheme under which the State is to undertake to regulate the course of commerce and of industry, and tell us where we are to buy, where we are to sell, what commodities we are to manufacture at home, and what we may continue, if we think right, to import from other countries. [6]

Balfour, trying to juggle different factions, had allowed both Chamberlain and Free Trade supporters to resign from the government, hoping that Devonshire would remain for the sake of balance, but the latter eventually resigned under pressure from Charles Thomson Ritchie and from his wife, who still hoped that he might lead a government including leading Liberals. But in the autumn of 1907 his health gave way, and grave symptoms of cardiac weakness necessitated his abstaining from public effort and spending the winter abroad. He died, rather suddenly, at Cannes on 24 March 1908. [5]

Military service

The Duke of Devonshire's grave in St Peter's Churchyard, Edensor St Peter's Churchyard, Edensor - grave of Spencer Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire.JPG
The Duke of Devonshire's grave in St Peter's Churchyard, Edensor
Statue of the Duke of Devonshire by Herbert Hampton in Whitehall, London Statue of the Duke of Devonshire in Whitehall (cropped).jpg
Statue of the Duke of Devonshire by Herbert Hampton in Whitehall, London

He served part-time as Captain in the Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry from 1855 to 1873, and was Honorary Colonel of the 3rd (Militia) Battalion of the Derbyshire Regiment from 1871 and of the 2nd Sussex Artillery Volunteers from 1887. [7]

Personal life

Hartington took great pains to parade his interest in horseracing, so as to cultivate an image of not being entirely obsessed by politics. For many years the courtesan Catherine Walters ("Skittles") was his mistress. He was married at Christ Church, Mayfair, on 16 August 1892, at the age of 59, to Louisa Frederica Augusta von Alten, widow of the late William Drogo Montagu, 7th Duke of Manchester. Upon his death, he was succeeded by his nephew Victor Cavendish. He died of pneumonia at the Hotel Metropol in Cannes and was interred on 28 March 1908 at St Peter's Churchyard, Edensor, Derbyshire. A statue of the Duke can be found at the junction of Whitehall and Horse Guards Avenue in London, and also on the Western Lawns at Eastbourne.

Legacy

Upon receiving news of the Duke's death, the House of Lords took the unprecedented step of adjourning in his honour. [8] Margot Asquith said the Duke of Devonshire "was a man whose like we shall never see again; he stood by himself and could have come from no country in the world but England. He had the figure and appearance of an artisan, with the brevity of a peasant, the courtesy of a king and the noisy sense of humour of a Falstaff. He gave a great, wheezy guffaw at all the right things and was possessed of endless wisdom. He was perfectly disengaged from himself, fearlessly truthful and without pettiness of any kind". [9]

Historian Jonathan Parry claimed that "He inherited the whig belief in the duty of political leadership, afforced by the intellectual notions characteristic of well-educated, propertied early to mid-Victorian Liberals: a confidence that the application of free trade, rational public administration, scientific enquiry, and a patriotic defence policy would promote Britain's international greatness—in which he strongly believed—and her economic and social progress...he became a model of the dutiful aristocrat". [10] It has been said[ according to whom? ] that he was "the best excuse that the last half-century has produced for the continuance of the peerages".

With 24 years of government service, Devonshire's is the fourth longest ministerial career in modern British politics. [11]

Caricature of Spencer Compton Cavendish by Carlo Pellegrini Portrait of Spencer Compton Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire (4671361).jpg
Caricature of Spencer Compton Cavendish by Carlo Pellegrini

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References

  1. his title "Lord Hartington", by which he became known in 1858, was a courtesy title; as he was not a peer in his own right he was eligible to sit in the Commons until he succeeded his father as Duke of Devonshire in 1891
  2. 1 2 "Cavendish, Spencer Compton, Lord Cavendish (CVNS850SC)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. Chisholm 1911, pp. 131–132.
  4. Lytton Strachey, Eminent Victorians, Chato & Windus, 1918; p. 289
  5. 1 2 Chisholm 1911, p. 131.
  6. The Fiscal Question, HL Deb 22 February 1906 vol 152 cc456-86.
  7. Kelly's Handbook of the Titled, Landed and Official Classes, 1895. Kelly's. p. 368.
  8. Hansard, THE LATE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE HL Deb 24 March 1908 vol 186 cc1178-83 .
  9. Margot Asquith, The Autobiography of Margot Asquith. Volume One (London: Penguin, 1936), p. 123.
  10. Parry.
  11. Parkinson, Justin (13 June 2013). "Chasing Churchill: Ken Clarke climbs ministerial long-service chart". BBC News.

Further reading

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Wilson-Patten
James Heywood
Member of Parliament for North Lancashire
1857–1868
With: John Wilson-Patten
Succeeded by
John Wilson-Patten
Frederick Stanley
Preceded by
Richard Green-Price
Member of Parliament for Radnor
1869–1880
Succeeded by
Samuel Williams
Preceded by
James Maden Holt
John Starkie
Member of Parliament for North East Lancashire
1880–1885
With: Frederick William Grafton
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Rossendale
1885–1891
Succeeded by
John Maden
Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl De Grey and Ripon
Under-Secretary of State for War
1863–1866
Succeeded by
The Lord Dufferin and Clandeboye
Secretary of State for War
1866
Succeeded by
Jonathan Peel
Preceded by
The Duke of Montrose
Postmaster-General
1868–1871
Succeeded by
William Monsell
Preceded by
Chichester Fortescue
Chief Secretary for Ireland
1871–1874
Succeeded by
Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, Bt
Preceded by
The Viscount Cranbrook
Secretary of State for India
1880–1882
Succeeded by
The Earl of Kimberley
Preceded by
Hugh Childers
Secretary of State for War
1882–1885
Succeeded by
William Henry Smith
Preceded by
The Earl of Rosebery
Lord President of the Council
1895–1903
Succeeded by
The Marquess of Londonderry
Preceded by
The Marquess of Salisbury
Leader of the House of Lords
1902–1903
Succeeded by
The Marquess of Lansdowne
Party political offices
Preceded by
William Ewart Gladstone
Leader of the British Liberal Party in the House of Commons
1875–1880
Succeeded by
William Ewart Gladstone
New office Leader of the Liberal Unionist Association
1886–1903
Succeeded by
Joseph Chamberlain
Preceded by
The Marquess of Salisbury
Leader of the Conservative Party in the House of Lords
1902–1903
Succeeded by
The Marquess of Lansdowne
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Duke of Devonshire
Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire
1892–1908
Succeeded by
The Duke of Devonshire
Preceded by
The Marquess of Waterford
Lord Lieutenant of Waterford
1895–1908
Succeeded by
Henry Villiers-Stuart
Academic offices
Preceded by
Earl of Derby
Rector of the University of Edinburgh
1877–1880
Succeeded by
Earl of Rosebery
Preceded by
The Duke of Devonshire
Chancellor of the University of Cambridge
1892–1908
Succeeded by
The Baron Rayleigh
Peerage of England
Preceded by
William Cavendish
Duke of Devonshire
1891–1908
Succeeded by
Victor Cavendish