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9th Duke of Devonshire, Victor Christian William Cavendish

Victor Christian William Cavendish, the 9th Duke of Devonshire, was the father in law of my 5th cousin, Brigadier Honourable George Evan Michael Baillie (of Dochfour).

 

Victor was the eldest son of Lord Edward Cavendish (who was the son of the 7th Duke of Devonshire) and Emma Lascelles. Victor's uncle, His Grace the 8th Duke of Devonshire, was Spencer Cavendish.

 

Victor was educated at Eton College before being admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge in May, 1837. During his years at Cambridge, Victor served part time in the Derby Yeomanry and was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in 1890. In September, 1901, Victor was promoted to Major in the Yeomanry and retired from it in 1911. 

 

Victor married Lady Evelyn FitzMaurice, daughter of the Marquess of Lansdowne, Viceroy of India and Governor General of Canada, on July 30th, 1892. The couple's marriage was a fruitful one and they had 7 children: Edward, Marquess of Hartington; Lady Maud Lousia Emma; Lady Blanche Katharine; Lady Dorothy; Lady Rachel; Lord Charles Arthur Francis and Lady Anne.

 

Lady Maud Lousia Emma married my 5th cousin, Brigadier Honourable George Evan Michael Baillie.

 

In May, 1891, Victor's father, who sat as a member of parliament for West Derbyshire, died. Victor entered the race for his father's seat and won, becoming the youngest member of the British House of Commons at the time.

 

Victor held various political positions within the British government for 17 years until he inherited his uncle's dukedom on March 24th, 1908. Upon becoming the 9th Duke of Devonshire, Victor was disqualified from being a member of parliament and entered the British House of Lords. Upon the death of his uncle, Victor also inherited Chatsworth House in Derby, a well known landmark which stands to this day.

 

On August 8th, 1916, King George appointed Victor as the Govenor General Of Canada based on a recommendation made to him by then British Prime Minister, H.H. Asquith. The appointment of Victor as Governor General was done without consultation with then Canadian Prime Minister Robert Borden, breaking tradition and leaving Borden fealing personally insulted at the appointment. This immediately brought about tension between the Governor General and the Prime Minister of Canada.

 

In 1916 there was a lot of social upheaval in Canada which Victor walked into: the Women's Suffrage Movement, political unrest from the Prarie provinces and, of course, The Great War was well in progress. Canada had been supplying men and supplies for the Allied war effort and shortly after his installation as Governor General, Victor, acting upon a request by Prime Minister Borden, introduced conscription (the draft).

 

Conscription was a polarizing move in Canada at the time. English speaking Canada embraced conscription while French speaking Canada strongly opposed it. This sparked the Canadian Conscription Crisis of 1917. On a personal note I find it confusing that the French Canadians opposed conscription to go fight a war for their former home land while so many English Canadians did not oppose it.

 

On December 6th, 1916, the Halifax Explosion (the largest man made explosion to occur before the atomic bomb) happened, devastating Halifax in the process. Victor visited Halifax to see the devastation for himself, met with survivors and addressed the ladies of the Voluntary Aid Detachment.

 

The decisive Canadian victory at Vimy Ridge in 1917 fueled a strong sense of Canadian nationalism, allowing Victor to take advantage of the situation and encourage reconciliation between the English and French speaking Canadians. It is noted that at all times Victor was careful to consult with both his Canadian and British Prime Ministers as well as the opposition leaders on all matters concerning conscription.

 

By the end of his term as Governor General of Canada, both Prime Ministers Borden and Meighen came to trust and respect him, overcoming their initial suspicions of his appointment. They also came to view Victor as a personal friend of theirs, as well as a friend of Canada. 

 

When he returned to England, Victor sat on the League of Nations from 1922 to 1924 as Secretary of State for the Colonies as well as held a seat in the British Cabinet under Prime Ministers Andrew Bonar Law and Stanley Baldwin. While there, Victor strongly opposed the views of Lord Delemere, the leading white settler in Kenya, and his views for white self-government. Victor supported protecting the interests of the Africans.

 

Victor died at Chatsworth House in May, 1938, having left his mark on the British Empire.