History and Tour

Duke of Devonshire

William Cavendish Born: 1720

First entered Parliament: 19 May 1741

Age he became PM: 36 years

Maiden speech: On 16 November 1742 he moved the Address on the King’s Speech

Total time as PM: 225 days

Died: 2 October 1764 at Spa, Germany

Facts and figures

Education: It is assumed that Cavendish had private tuition

Family: Devonshire was the eldest son and second of seven children. He was married to Charlotte Elizabeth Boyle, Baroness Clifford, and had three sons and one daughter

Interests: Horse racing (he was one of the founders of the Jockey Club)


The reluctant PM

A reluctant prime minister - and known as one the best looking men in London - the Duke of Devonshire had no real thirst for political power, and his short time in office was dominated by Pitt the Elder.

George II had to work hard to persuade him to accept the position of prime minister. When he did, at the age of 36, the effective premier was Pitt the Elder, acting as Secretary of State.

The chief events of Devonshire’s term were the court martialling of a navy admiral for his failure to relieve Minorca, and a dispute with the Duke of Cumberland over the defence of Hanover.

Devonshire resigned after a lacklustre seven months. In 1764 he died in Germany, at a younger age than any other British PM - just 44 years old.

Quote unquote

“Every King must make use of human means to attain human ends or his affairs will go to ruin.”

Did you know?

A tall man, Devonshire came from a powerful family of wealthy Whigs who had helped to establish the House of Hanover on the British throne.


Charlotte Elizabeth Boyle was 16-years-old when she married the Duke, 11 years her senior. Little is known about her life but she appears to have been a loyal wife, bearing the PM four children before her death in 1754 at the young age of just 23.

The previous Prime Minister

The next Prime Minister

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