CAVENDISH, Henry Frederick Compton (1789-1873), of Sutton Court, Chiswick and 34 Burlington Street, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



8 Feb. 1812 - 1834

Family and Education

b. 5 Nov. 1789, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Lord George Augustus Henry Cavendish* (d. 1834) and Lady Elizabeth Compton, da. and h. of Charles Compton†, 7th earl of Northampton; bro. of Charles Compton Cavendish*, George Henry Compton Cavendish†, and William Cavendish†. educ. Eton 1805; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1807. m. (1) 24 Oct. 1811, Sarah (d. 31 Oct. 1817), da. and coh. of William Augustus Fawkener, clerk of the PC, of Brocton Hall, Salop, 1s. 2da.; (2) 16 June 1819, Frances Susan (d. 23 Nov. 1840), da. of William Henry Lambton†, wid. of Hon. Frederick Howard, 4s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da.; (3) 28 Jan. 1873, Susanna Emma, da. of William Byerlie, s.p. d. 5 Apr. 1873.

Offices Held

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

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


Cavendish, a professional solder, remarried in 1819, shortly after the death of his first wife. But, even though his second wife was already a relation by marriage, his father Lord George Cavendish still persisted in ostracizing him on this account, writing to him, 4 Jan. 1820, that ‘I can only tell you that I am so much ashamed of you and disgusted with different parts of your behaviour in this business that reconciliation on my part would only be insincere and unavailing’.1 He remained open to re-establishing cordial relations with his father, but the following month wrote to his cousin, the 6th duke of Devonshire (on whose interest he had sat since 1812) that

it is of so much importance for me in every point of view to be in Parliament, that unless it can be otherwise arranged, I will avail myself of your kind wishes to return me again for Derby, and must in that case endeavour to struggle against the painful sensations I shall naturally undergo.

Devonshire, who believed Cavendish should be given a seat in priority to his brother Charles, duly returned him for Derby at the general election in March, when Cavendish’s father, who had declined to assist him in advancing his electoral ambitions elsewhere, angrily attempted to have Charles elected for Sussex.2 Slightly more active, and just as solidly Whig, as his father, Cavendish continued to vote silently against the Liverpool government, especially for retrenchment and lower taxation during the early 1820s.3

He divided against the aliens bill, 7 July 1820, and steadily with opposition on the Queen Caroline affair during the following session. He voted for reducing the number of office-holders in the Commons, 9 Mar., and to ban civil officers of the ordnance from voting in parliamentary elections, 12 Apr. 1821. He divided for inquiry into Peterloo, 16 May, and the forgery punishment mitigation bill, 23 May. Having purchased a lieutenant-colonelcy in the 1st Life Guards, in July 1821 he commanded George IV’s escort at the coronation, being given strict orders to ride close to the royal carriage in case there were any violent attacks from supporters of the disgraced queen.4 Like his father and brother, he was shut out of the division on the call for more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 11 Feb. 1822.5 Speaking in debate, possibly for the first time, he defended the conduct of his friend Sir Robert Wilson* and the Life Guards during the disturbances which had occurred after the queen’s funeral, 13 Feb., 6 Mar., claiming that

it was said that a soldier forfeited none of the privileges of a citizen, and surely one of those was the right of defending himself when he was attacked. The conduct of the Life Guards had been marked throughout by the utmost forbearance, nor had they employed violent measures, until they were compelled to resort to them in self-defence.

He divided for parliamentary reform, 25 Apr. 1822, 24 Apr. 1823, 27 Apr. 1826, and alteration of the Scottish representative system, 2 June 1823.

With discontent growing at his poor parliamentary attendance, owing to his military duties, Devonshire’s agent observed to James Abercromby* in March 1823 that ‘apologies on these grounds will no longer be admitted’.6 Cavendish presented the Derby petition for equalizing the sugar duties, 5 May, and voted to abolish the death penalty for larceny, 21 May.7 He divided for inquiries into the legal proceedings against the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., and the state of Ireland, 12 May 1823. He voted for information on the government’s conduct towards France and Spain, 17 Feb., and Catholic office-holders, 19 Feb., Abercromby’s censure of the lord chancellor over an alleged breach of privilege, 1 Mar., and to condemn the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June 1824. That spring Lord George’s vexatious intervention over negotiations about the repayment of a £60,000 loan from Cavendish to Devonshire drove Abercromby to exasperation.8 However, his father apparently provided him with the house in Burlington Street which he occupied from the following year.9 He voted against the Irish unlawful societies bill, 15, 18, 25 Feb. 1825, and for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He divided against the duke of Cumberland’s grant, 30 May, 9 June 1825, pairing against it on 6 June 1825. He was in the minorities against the navy estimates, 21 Feb., and to condemn the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar. 1826. At the general election that summer he was again returned unopposed, when, claiming to be unused to public speaking, he declined to say more than that he would defend his electors’ interests in Parliament.10

He divided for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, and was (along with being in the list of the majority for repeal of the Test Acts on 26 Feb. 1828) again credited with such a vote on 12 May 1828. Although his attitude to the Canning ministry, which his father opposed, is uncertain, he was reported by Abercromby to have ‘voted right’, presumably meaning in favour of, the government’s bill to permit the temporary release of warehoused corn, 18 June 1827.11 That autumn he took his whole family abroad for a protracted tour of the continent, though he may have attended part of the ensuing session and divided against extending East Retford into the hundred of Bassetlaw, 21 Mar. 1828.12 Lady Cowper informed Lord Holland, 28 Jan. 1829, that Cavendish was among the ‘six [pro-]Catholic Members at Rome who are not coming over’, and from Florence, 24 Feb., Lord George William Russell* promised Holland that he would try to persuade him to return home immediately.13 However, Cavendish, who (unlike his more dutiful father and brother) missed the entire session in which Catholic emancipation was conceded by the Wellington administration, was only reported to be preparing to leave Florence in April and did not in fact depart until June 1829.14 That month Abercromby wrote to Devonshire that, among his constituents, Cavendish was ‘very unpopular ... and that they consider illness in his family as only meaning indifference and idleness’.15 He was reasonably constant in his attendance during the following session, when he joined in the renewed opposition campaign for economies and lower taxation. He voted for transferring East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., pairing in the same sense on 5 Mar., and to enfranchise Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. 1830. He divided to condemn British policy in Portugal, 10 Mar., to abolish the death penalty for forgery, 7 June, and to prevent the sale of beer for on-consumption, 1 July. As officer in command of the Life Guards at the accession of William IV, Cavendish requested to forego his right to a knighthood in exchange for a full colonelcy; when this was refused, he allowed his deputy to command the escort to the heralds, but, this officer falling ill, had to fulfil the duty without receiving any official recognition for it.16 He was again returned unopposed at the general election, when he briefly declared himself an opponent of colonial slavery.17

Cavendish was listed by ministers among their ‘foes’ and paired with the Irish solicitor-general John Doherty on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented the reform petition from the corporation of Derby, 19 Mar., and divided for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. Boasting that he had cast those votes ‘under a conviction that [the] measure ... would procure ... a just and ample representation in the Commons House of Parliament’, he was unchallenged at the ensuing general election.18 He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and regularly for its details. Indeed, in a letter printed in The Times, 1 Sept., he complained that his name ‘has frequently been omitted in the lists of voters in favour of the reform bill’. At the Derby reform meeting in September, when he complained that such omissions had ‘occurred so frequently as to become proverbial’, he claimed to have given ‘his best support to the measure in the House’ and to have been ‘present at all the divisions on the reform bill except one, and that was on a minor point’.19 He divided for the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and again for its details, and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He divided for Ebrington’s motion for an address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the bill unimpaired, 10 May, and paired against increasing the Scottish county representation, 1 June. He sided with ministers for the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16, 20 July. The previous autumn Abercromby had warned Devonshire that ‘neither Henry nor Charles will be fit to sustain your interest in a reformed Parliament’, and Cavendish, who survived a contest at the general election of 1832 to sit as a Liberal, retired from the representation of Derby at the dissolution two years later.20 Remembered for his largely decorative career in the army, he died, shortly after having married for the third time, in April 1873.21

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Simon Harratt / Stephen Farrell


  • 1. HP Commons, 1790-1820, iii. 418-19; Chatsworth mss 6DD 417.
  • 2. Chatsworth mss 417, Cavendish to Devonshire, 17 Jan., 4 Feb., Abercromby to same [2 Mar.]; Derby Mercury, 1, 8 Mar. 1820.
  • 3. Black Bk. (1823), 145; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 455.
  • 4. F.H.V. Cavendish, Society, Politics and Diplomacy, 1820-1864, pp. 16-17.
  • 5. Creevey Pprs. ii. 34.
  • 6. Chatsworth mss, Lockett to [Abercromby], 20 Mar. 1823.
  • 7. The Times, 6 May 1823.
  • 8. Chatsworth mss 969, 974.
  • 9. Cavendish, 19.
  • 10. Derby Mercury, 7, 14 June 1826.
  • 11. Chatsworth mss 1508.
  • 12. Cavendish, 22-24.
  • 13. Add. 51599B; 51676.
  • 14. Duke Univ. Lib. Fazakerley mss, Ord to Fazakerley [1829]; Add. 60288, f. 122; Cavendish, 24.
  • 15. Chatsworth mss 1769.
  • 16. Cavendish, 26.
  • 17. Derby Mercury, 7 July, 4 Aug. 1830.
  • 18. Ibid. 27 Apr., 4 May 1831.
  • 19. Ibid. 28 Sept. 1831.
  • 20. Chatsworth mss 2368.
  • 21. The Times, 7 Apr. 1873.