Biographical Dictionary of British Prime Ministers by R. Eccleshall

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By R. Eccleshall

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Newcastle was continually irritated by Pelham’s campaign to reduce expenditure, always insisting that the upkeep of alliances must come first. Pelham went along with Newcastle’s scheme not least because of the King’s concern for the defence of Hanover. He proved correct in believing that the plan might result in Britain’s being drawn into a game, and by 1752 it had to be abandoned as the electoral princes increased their monetary demands and broke promises. There can be little doubt that Pelham’s resistance to the provision of subsidies on the scale required helped relegate ‘old system’ diplomacy and promote the establishment of ties with Europe’s newest and most vigorous power, Prussia.

Before 1754 Newcastle had been restrained to a considerable extent, first by Walpole and then by Henry Pelham. In 1754–6, however, he sought to surround himself by weaklings, a course already anticipated in 1751 when he had the independent John, fourth Duke of Bedford, replaced as Secretary of State for the Southern Department by the more pliant Robert, fourth Earl of Holdernesse. Yet Newcastle lacked both the personality and the position to sustain the political structure that his paranoia dictated: a concentration of decision-making and power on his own person.

Duke of Devonshire 35 With such modest goals in mind, Devonshire was not overtaxed in meeting them over his nine months in power. His past experience in service of the King and court rendered Devonshire the perfect foil to the intense political strife generated by the squabble between Pitt and Newcastle. Devonshire was an aristocrat of the old school. Portraits show him as imperious, smug and steelyeyed. His primary duty was to the House of Hanover which had done so much to forward the power of the Cavendish family.

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