Cavendish, William

, the first duke of Devonshire, was born Jan. 25, 1640. He made the tour of Europe, under the care of Dr. Killigrew, afterwards master of the Savoy. In 1661 he was chosen to represent the county of Derby, and continued a member of the long parliament | till its dissolution. Sept. 21, 1663, he was created M. A. of the university of Oxford, by the special command of the chancellor. In 1665 he went a volunteer on board the fleet under the duke of York, and in 1669 accompanied Mr. Montague in his embassy to France. Being accidentally at the opera in Paris, three officers of the French king’s guard, intoxicated with liquor, came upon the stage, and one of them coming up to him with a very insulting question, he gave him a severe blow on the face; upon which they all drew, and pushed hard upon him. He set his back against one of the scenrs, and made a stout defence, receiving several wounds; till a sturdy Swiss, belonging to the ambassador Montague, caught him up in his arms, and threw him over the stage into the pit. In his fall one of his arms caught upon an iron spike, which tore out the flesh. The three assailants were, by the king’s command, sent to prison, and not released but by his intercession. In 1677 he distinguished himself in the house of commons, by a vigorous opposition to the measures of the court. The year following he assiduously promoted an inquiry into the murder of sir Edmundbury Godfrey, and other particulars of the popish plot; and was one of the committee appointed to draw up articles of impeachment against the treasurer Dan by. In the parliament which met in the spring of 1679, he again represented Derby. This year he was chosen one of the king’s new privy-council: but soon finding that his attendance at the board would be wholly ineffectual, he, in conjunction with lord Russel and others, desired leave to withdraw. The county of Derby again elected him their representative in that parliament which met Oct. 21, 1680. The articles of impeachment against the chief justice Scroggs, for his arbitrary and illegal proceedings in the court of king’s bench, were carried up by him to the house of lords. When the king declared his resolution not to consent to a bill of exclusion, lord Cavendish made a motion, that a bill might be brought in for the association of all his majesty’s protestant subjects. He was also one of those who openly named the evil counsellors, and promoted the address to his majesty to remove them from all offices, and from his majesty’s councils and presence for ever. He shewed the same steadiness and zeal in the next parliament, in which also he represented Derbyshire. When parliaments were kid aside, though he was as obnoxious | to the court as any, he was not afraid of meeting and conversing with his noble friends; but he condemned a bold overture which was made at one of those meetings, and declared, with great earnestness, that he would never more go with them. At the lord Russel’s trial, when it was almost as criminal to be a witness for him as to be his accomplice, he dared to appear to vindicate him in the face of the court. He afterwards sent him a message by sir James Forbes, that he would come and change clothes with him in the prison, and stay there to represent him, if he thought he could make his escape, but lord Russei was too generous to accept of this proposal. He prosecuted the immediate murderers of his friend Mr. Thynne to condign punishment, and brought the great abettor of it, count Koningsmark, to his trial, who happened to be acquitted by a jury prepossessed, or rather prepared, in favour of him. Lord Cavendish felt great indignation at the discharge of the count, which he thought owing to corruption; and knowing that an appeal to single combat was anciently the last resort in law for convicting a murderer, he obtained the favour of a noble peer to go in his name to count Koningsmark to charge the guilt of blood upon him, and to offer to prove it in the open field; but this method of trial the count thought fit to decline. In Nov. 1684 he became, by the decease of his father, earl of Devonshire. In the reisrn of James he was the same man in greater honour, and in greater zeal and concern for his country. He had been very much affronted within the verge of the court by colonel Culpepper; but restrained his resentment at the time, and pardoned him upon condition he should never more appear at Whitehall, but when, immediately after the defeat of the duke of Mon mouth, the colonel was encouraged to come publicly to court, and was rising to some degree of favour, the earl of Devonshire meeting him in the king’s presencechamber, and receiving from him, as he thought, an insulting look, took him by the nose, led him out of the room, and gave him some di>dainful blows with the head of his cane. For this bold act he v\as prosecuted in the king’s-bench upon an information, and had an exorbitant fine of 30,000l. imposed upon him; and, though a peer, was committed to the king’s-bench prison till he should make payment of it. He was never able to bear any confinement he could break from; and therefore escaped. | only to go home to his scat at Chatsworth. Upon the news of his being there, the sheriff of Derbyshire had a precept to apprehend him, and bring him with his posse to town. But he invited the sheriff in, and kept him a, prisoner of honour, till he had compounded for his own liberty, by giving bond to pay the full sum of 3O,000l. This bond was found among the papers of king James, and given up by king William.

He was one of the earliest in inviting over the prince of Orange; and James II. upon the first alarm from Holland, being jealous of him above any other peer, endeavoured to draw him to court, which the earl evaded. Upon the prince’s landing, he appeared in arms for him, and was afterwards received by him with the highest marks of affection and esteem. In the debates of the house of lords concerning the throne, he was very zealous for declaring the prince and princess of Orange king and queen of England. Feb. 14, 1689, he was admitted one of the privy-council, and not long after, named lord steward of their majesties’ houshold; and, April 3, 1689, chosen a knight of the garter. At their majesties’ coronation he acted as lord high steward of England; and, in the first session of parliament afterwards, procured a resolution of the house of lofds, as to the illegality of the judgment given against him in the former reign, and a vote, that no peer ought to be committed for non-payment of a fine to the crown. Jan. 1691 he attended king William to the congress at the Hague, where he lived in the utmost state and magnificence; and had the honour to entertain several sovereign princes at his table, the king himself being also present incognito. May 12, 1694, he was created marquis of Harrington, and duke of Devonshire; which, with his garter and white staff, the place of lieutenant and custos rotulorum of the county of Derby, and justiceship in Eyre, was perhaps as much honour as an English subject could enjoy. After the queen’s death, when the king’s absence made the appointment of regents necessary, he was one of the lords justices for seven successive years; an honour which no other temporal peer enjoyed.

In the case of sir John Fenwick, though he had a conviction of his guilt, yet he was so averse to any extraordinary judicial proceedings, that he opposed the bill, as he did likewise another bill for the resumption of the forfeited estates in Ireland. At the accession of queen Anne, | he was confirmed in all his offices. April 1705 he attended her majesty to Cambridge, and was there created LL. D. In 1706, himself and his son the marquis of Harrington were in the number of English peers appointed commissioners for concluding an union with Scotland; this was the last of his public employments. He died August 18, 1707. His mien and aspect were engaging and commanding: his address and conversation civil and courteous in the highest degree. He judged right in the supreme court; and on any important affair his speeches were smooth and weighty. As a statesman, his whole deportment came up to his noble birth and his eminent stations: nor did he want any of what the world call accomplishments. He had a great skill in languages; and read the Roman authors with great attention: Tacitus was his favourite. He was a true judge of history, a critic in poetry, and had a fine hand in music. He had an elegant taste in painting, and all politer arts; and in architecture in particular, a genius, skill, and experience beyond any one person of his age; his house at Chatsworth being a monument of beauty and magnificence that perhaps is not exceeded by any palace in Europe. His grace’s genius for poetry shewed itself particularly in two pieces that are published, and are allowed by the critics to be written with equal spirit, dignity, and delicacy. 1. “An Ode on the Death of queen Mary.” 2. “An allusion to the bishop of Cambray’s supplement to Homer.*


The above character of the duke of Devonshire and of his writings, is chiefly taken from bishop Kennett’s Sermon at his funeral. As a statesman there seems no reason to make any deduction from it; but the trifles from his pen above-mentioned, will not now be thought to entitle his grace to a place among poets. This funeral Sermon, by Dr. White Kennett, which he published with memoirs of the Caven dish family annexed, was afterwards censured as recommending a death-bed repentance, which the bishop denied) An elegant edition of the Sermou and Memoirs was printed by Mr. Nichols in 1797, with a preface, &c. and is now scarce, the greater part of the impression having been destroyed by the fire which consumed Mr. Nichols’s valuable stock in 1808.

He married the lady Mary, daughter of James duke of Ormond, by whom he had three sons and a daughter. 1

Biog. Brit. Collins’s Peerage, by sir E. Brydges. Nichols’s Poems, *pl. Ill Park’s Royal and Noble Authors,