1902 Encyclopedia > William Cavendish, First Duke of Devonshire

William Cavendish, First Duke of Devonshire
English solider and politician
(1640-1707)




WILLIAM CAVENDISH, FOURTH EARL and FIRST DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE (1640-1707), distinguished as a statesman and patriot, born in 1640, was the eldest son of the third earl, After completing his education he made the tour of Europe according to the custom of young men of his rank, being accompanied on his travels by Dr Killigrew. On his return he obtained, in 1661, a seat in Parliament for the county of Derby, and soon became con-spicuous as one of the most determined and daring opponents of the general policy of the court. In 1678 he was one of the committee appointed to draw up articles of impeachment against the lord-treasurer Danby. In 1679 he was re-elected for Derby, and made a privy councillor by Charles II. ; but he soon withdrew from the board with his friend Lord Russell, when he found that the Romish interest uniformly prevailed. He carried up to the House of Lords the articles of impeachment against Lord Chief-Justice Scroggs, for his arbitrary and illegal proceedings in the Court of King's Bench; and when the King declared his resolution not to sign the bill for excluding the duke of York, afterwards James II., he moved in the House of Commons that a bill might be brought in for the association of all his majesty's Protestant subjects. He also openly denounced the king's counsellors, and voted for an address to remove them. He appeared in defence of Lord Russell at his trial, at a time when it was scarcely more criminal to be an accomplice than a witness. After the condemnation he gave the utmost possible proof of his attachment by offering to exchange clothes with Lord Russell in the prison, remain in his place, and so allow him to effect his escape. In November 1684 he succeeded to the earldom on the death of his father. He opposed arbitrary government under James II. with the same consistency and high spirit as during the previous reign. He was withdrawn from public life for a time, however, in consequence of a hasty and imprudent act of which his enemies knew how to avail themselves. Fancying that he had received an insulting look in the presence chamber from Colonel Colepepper, a swaggerer whose attendance at court the king encouraged, he immediately avenged the affront by challenging the colonel, and, on the challenge being refused, striking him with his cane. This offence was punished by a fine of £30,000, which was an enormous sum even to one of the earl's princely fortune. Not being able to pay he was imprisoned in the King's Bench, from which he was released only on signing a bond for the whole amount. This was afterwards cancelled by King William. After his discharge the earl went for a time to Chatsworth, where he occupied himself with architectural improvements on his mansion. The Revolution again brought him into prominence. He was one of the seven who signed the original paper inviting the Prince of Orange from Holland, and was the first nobleman who appeared in arms to receive him at his landing. He received the Order of the Garter on the occasion of the coronation, and was made lord high Stewart of the new court. In 1691 he accompanied King William on his visit to Holland. He was created marquis of Hartington and duke of Devonshire in 1694 by William and Mary, on the same day on which the head of the house of Russell was created duke of Bedford. Thus, to quote Macaulay, " the two great houses of Russell and Cavendish, which had long been closely connected by friendship and by marriage, by common opinions, common sufferings, and common triumphs, received on the same day the highest honour which it is in the power of the Crown to confer." His last public service was assisting to conclude the union with Scotland, for negotiating which lie and his son, the marquis of Hartington, had been appointed among the commissioners by Queen Anne. He died on the I8th August 1707, and ordered the following inscription to be put on his monument:—

Willielmus Dux Devon, Bonorum Principum Fidelis Subditus, Inimicus et Invisus Tyrannis.
(English translation: "William, Duke of Devonshire, a faithful subject to good princes, hating and hated by tyrants." Alternative English translation: "William, Duke of Devonshire, faithful to princes, good and great, But hating tyrants, — and their hate.").







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