CAVENDISH, Lord James (c.1678-1751), of Staveley, Derbys. and Latimer, Bucks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Feb. 1701 - 1702
1705 - 1710
1715 - 16 Mar. 1742

Family and Education

b. c.1678, 4th but 3rd surv. s. of William Cavendish†, 1st Duke of Devonshire; bro. of Ld. Henry Cavendish* and William Cavendish*, Mq. of Hartington. educ. travelled abroad (France, Italy) 1696–8; Padua Univ. 1697.  m. 6 July 1708 (with £8,000), Anne (d. 1721), da. of Elihu Yale of London, gov. of Fort St. George 1687–92 and founder of Yale University.1

Offices Held

Auditor of foreign revenues [I] 1742–d.


Upon the conclusion of the peace at Ryswick, Cavendish was able to travel abroad to complete his education. His adventures included an encounter with the exiled James II at the wedding of the Duke of Burgundy in December 1697 and a dinner at Count Grammont’s where the Duke of Berwick was among the guests.2

Cavendish inherited the family interest at Derby on the death of his brother Lord Henry, being returned in January 1701 in partnership with Sir Charles Pye, 2nd Bt.* Re-elected in November, he was classed with the Whigs in Robert Harley’s* list of December 1701. On 28 Apr. 1702 he acted as a teller in favour of increasing the relief to be given to Ignatius Gould out of his forfeited estate in Ireland. Following the blow to Cavendish prestige at the county election of November 1701, James was set up for Westminster in July 1702 on a joint interest with Sir Henry Dutton Colt, 1st Bt.* On finishing bottom of the poll he challenged one of his opponents, Thomas Cross*, to a duel ‘which is looked on as an act very rash, but his youth excuses him’. During his enforced absence from the House in the first Parliament of Anne’s reign, an Act was passed to enable his father and elder brother to break a settlement his grandfather had made in 1683 guaranteeing him an income of £600 p.a. from lands in Suffolk. James no doubt consented to this measure because he had been the chief beneficiary of his brother Henry’s death, inheriting his Buckinghamshire estate.3

After much preparation, Cavendish was returned for Derby in 1705 together with his partner Sir Thomas Parker*, unseating two Tories. He confirmed both his classification as a Low Churchman on a list of 1705 and Lord Sunderland’s (Charles, Lord Spencer*) assessment that his election meant a gain for the Whigs, by supporting the Court candidate in the contest for Speaker on 25 Oct. 1705. He again supported the Court on the regency bill proceedings on 18 Feb. 1706 and was classified as a Whig on two lists compiled before and after the 1708 election. At the election of 1708 he was again returned with Parker, this time without a contest, although some of his supporters had been rather keen that he did not attend in person. Soon after this election he married the daughter of a merchant, despite some adverse comments that his bride was ‘not handsome, and all his relations against the match’, and that he ‘has a fair prospect to be unhappy’. In the first session of the new Parliament he acted as a teller on 1 Feb. 1709 in support of the defeated Whig candidates at Coventry and later voted for the naturalization bill. In the following session he voted for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.4

Defeated at the election of 1710, Cavendish declined to stand in 1713 despite solicitations to join his interest to that of James Stanhope*. He was returned in 1715, being classified on a list of the new Parliament as a Whig, and continued to sit until accepting office in 1742. He died on 14 Dec. 1751, aged 73.5

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Stuart Handley


  • 1. Derby Mercury, 20–27 Dec. 1751; Devonshire mss at Chatsworth House, Whildon pprs. Aaron Kinton to James Whildon, 24 Aug. 1697; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 278; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 324; Boyer, Anne Annals, vii. 343; 7th Duke of Manchester, Court and Soc. Eliz. to Anne, ii. 366.
  • 2. Luttrell, 324; HMC Hastings, ii. 305; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 111.
  • 3. BL, Lothian mss, Robert Harding to [Thomas Coke*], 20 May 1700; HMC Portland, iv. 29; xiv. 467; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 233; Add. 70020, Thomas Bateman to Harley, 23 July 1702; Cumbria RO (Carlisle), Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/2/5, James Lowther* to Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. I*, 23 July 1702; Verney Letters 18th Cent. i. 167.
  • 4. G. Sitwell, Letters of Sitwells and Sacheverells, ii. 83; Whildon pprs. Kinton to Whildon, 23 Nov., 30 Dec. 1704; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Mellish pprs. Me144–83/57, Edmund Parker to Parker, 3 Apr. 1708; Add. 70149, Anne Pye to Abigail Harley, 9 June 1708; 7th Duke of Manchester, 366; Clavering Corresp. (Surtees Soc. clxxiii), 10.
  • 5. HMC Portland, iv. 612; Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss U1590/C9/28, Thomas Gisborne to [James Stanhope*], 11 Apr. 1713.