CAVENDISH, Henry Frederick Compton (1789-1873).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



8 Feb. 1812 - 1834

Family and Education

b. 5 Nov. 1789, 3rd s. of Lord George Augustus Henry Cavendish*, and bro. of Charles Compton Cavendish*, George Henry Compton Cavendish*, and William Cavendish*. educ. Eton 1805; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1807-8. m. (1) 24 Oct. 1811, Sarah (d. 31 Oct. 1817), da. and coh. of William Augustus Fawkener, clerk of the Privy Council, of Brocton Hall, Salop, 1s. 2da.; (2) 16 June 1819, Frances Susan, da. of William Henry Lambton*, wid. of Hon. Frederick Howard, 3rd s. of Frederick, 5th Earl of Carlisle, 4s. 1da.

Offices Held

Lt. 10 Drag, 1808; a.d.c. to Ld. William Bentinck 1808; lt. 24 Drag, 1810; capt. 103 Ft. 1811, 25 Ft. (half pay), 1813; maj. 9 Drag. 1818, 1 Life Gds. 1821, lt.-col. 1837, maj.gen. 1846; col. 2 Drag. Gds. 1853, lt.-gen. 1854, gen. 1862.

Equerry to King William IV 1831; chief equerry and clerk marshal to Queen Victoria 1837.


Cavendish made his military debut in the Peninsula and was wounded at Corunna.1 His cousin the Duke of Devonshire, who sponsored him as a member of Brooks’s, 19 Mar. 1809, thought well enough of him of replacing Cavendish as Member by his father wrote: ‘from her behaviour her character is somewhat blown upon, and ... few men, except those to whom her fortune would be an object, would be fools enough to marry her’. Lord George refused to receive her or forgive his eldest surviving son and reproached the duke biterly for his interference.2 In January 1812 Cavendish thanked the duke for ‘an additional mark of kindness’ when he was earmarked as family nominee for Derby on the death of his eldest brother William, being now as he put it the duke’s ‘nearest relation’. He assured him of his ‘firm intention of strictly following that line of politics, to which our family has long adhered’.3

Cavendish got off to a bad start when he had to be indemnified, 6 Mar. 1812, for having taken the Members’ oath under the void deputation of the lord steward the day before. He was seldom seen in the House between 1812 and 1815 and no speech of his is known until 1822. In April 1813 he was still smarting under the interdict placed by his father on his wife when Earl Fitzwilliam achieved a semblance of conciliation.4 He voted for Catholic relief steadily in 1813 and again in 1816 and 1817; and his only known vote in the session of 1814 was against the Speaker’s anti-Catholic speech, 22 Apr. In April 1815 he began to vote more regularly with the Whig opposition, opposing the resumption of war, 28 Apr. and 25 May, and favouring retrenchment that session and the next two, though he contrived to be shut out of the division on his father’s motion on the subject, 25 Apr. 1816. On 28 Feb. 1817 he paired against and on 23 and 26 June voted against the suspension of habeas corpus, and on 11 Mar. 1818 paired against the indemnity bill. He also paired in favour of the resumption of cash payments by the Bank, 1 May 1818.

In 1818 the Duke of Devonshire thought of replacing Carendish as Member by his brother Charles. His confidant James Abercromby* commented, ‘if Henry is either very much abroad or retains his dislike of going to Derby the measure will almost become a matter of necessity’.5 No change took place. Cavendish, who had signed the requisition to Tierney to lead the Whigs, took the oaths only a minute before the division on his leader’s motion of 2 Feb. 1819 ‘and the Speaker was obliged to ask him if he could positively assert he began taking the oath before 4’. His father had arrived too late and his future brother-in-law John George Lambton’s comment to Earl Grey was: ‘none but Cavendish could behave so, and it is no more than they always do’.6 He continued to vote for retrenchment, was in the minority for Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May 1819, and opposed the foreign enlistment bill in June. In November and December he voted, more steadily than in the previous session, against the ministry’s repressive measures against sedition, at least until 21 Dec.

In February 1819 Abercromby had suggested to the Duke of Devonshire that it would now be ‘harsh’ to take Cavendish out of the House to accommodate his brother, who might shortly find a seat elsewhere. Instead, Cavendish, by then a widower, met with harshness where he had learnt to expect it, when his father again opposed his marriage, this time to Lord Carlisle’s widowed daughter-in-law. Noting his parents’ refusal to receive her, the Duke of Devonshire’s sister Lady Morpeth, who was also the bride’s sister-in-law, exploded: ‘one would think Fanny Howard was Harriet Wilson’. This episode only made the duke more disposed to return Cavendish for Derby, despite his neglect of his constituents, rather than his brother, to their father’s displeasure. In thanking his cousin, he wrote that it was so important for him ‘in every point of view to be in Parliament’, that he could not but accept, though with the rueful reflection that his father had it within his power to return him for Sussex and possibly other counties.7 While his father lived, he remained Member for Derby. He died 5 Apr. 1873.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. F. H. W. Cavendish, Society, Politics and Diplomacy 1820-1864 .
  • 2. Chatsworth mss, Cavendish to Devonshire, 5 Sept. 1811, 20 Jan. 1812, reply, n.d.
  • 3. Ibid. H.F.C. Cavendish to Devonshire, 20 Jan. 1812.
  • 4. Colchester, ii. 372, 373; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F109/7-13.
  • 5. Chatsworth mss, Abercromby to Devonshire, 3 July 1818.
  • 6. Grey mss, Lambton to Grey, 3 Feb. 1819.
  • 7. Chatsworth mss, Abercromby to Devonshire, 9 Feb., Lady Morpeth to same, 4, 16 Mar. 1819, H.F.C. Cavendish to same, 4 Feb. 1820.