The Kingdom of Great Britain was governed by a caretaker government in April–June 1757—after the King's dismissal of William Pitt led to the collapse of the Pitt–Devonshire ministry amid the Seven Years' War. William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire, continued as the nominal head of government.


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In 1756, King George was reluctantly compelled to accept a ministry dominated by William Pitt as Secretary of State. The nominal head of this ministry, as First Lord of the Treasury, was the Duke of Devonshire.

On 6 April 1757,[1] following Pitt's opposition to the execution of Admiral John Byng, the King (who distrusted Pitt) dismissed him and his brother-in-law Lord Temple, who had been First Lord of the Admiralty. The result of these events was to demonstrate beyond doubt that the "Great Commoner" (as Pitt was familiarly known) was indispensable to the formation of a ministry strong enough to prosecute a major war.

Devonshire was left to lead a ministry that was manifestly far too weak to survive long—particularly in wartime. One of the major problems was that it included no figure capable of taking the lead in the House of Commons. The ministry also lacked the support of the most significant factions in the Commons.

Devonshire recognised that it was necessary to reconcile Pitt and his old political foe Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle, who led the strongest Whig faction in Parliament, but whose exclusion Pitt had insisted from the 1756–57 ministry.

The King (after discussions with Devonshire and Newcastle in May) authorised Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke, to be his emissary to negotiate for a new ministry. Hardwick pleaded with Pitt to work with Newcastle in heading "a complete, strong, and well-cemented" government, as opposed to "a mutilated, enfeebled, half-formed system".[2]

The needs of the country and the lack of an obvious alternative led to the reappointment of Pitt as Secretary of State (with Newcastle as First Lord of the Treasury) on 27 June,[3] forming the Pitt–Newcastle ministry. Devonshire resigned the office of First Lord to take up the less demanding responsibilities of Lord Chamberlain.

Leading members

Portfolio Minister Took office Left office
*1756 (1756)June 1757 (1757-06)
Lord Chancellor[5]
In commission
1757 (1757)1757 (1757)
Lord President of the Council[5]1751 (1751)1763 (1763)
Lord Privy Seal[6]1755 (1755)1757 (1757)
Leader of the House of Commons
Vacated by William Pitt
April 1757 (1757-04)June 1757 (1757-06)
First Lord of the Admiralty[7]1757 (1757)1757 (1757)
Secretary of State for the Northern Department[8]1754 (1754)1761 (1761)
Secretary of State for the Southern Department[8]
The Earl of Holderness[10]
1757 (1757)1757 (1757)
Chancellor of the Exchequer[7]1757 (1757)1757 (1757)

See also


  1. ^ Cook & Stevenson 1988, p. 44
  2. ^ Campbell 1849, p. 143
  3. ^ Cook & Stevenson 1988, p. 45
  4. ^ Cook & Stevenson 1988, p. 54
  5. ^ a b Cook & Stevenson 1988, p. 55
  6. ^ Cook & Stevenson 1988, p. 56
  7. ^ a b Cook & Stevenson 1988, p. 58
  8. ^ a b Cook & Stevenson 1988, p. 57
  9. ^ Cook & Stevenson 1988, pp. 56–57
  10. ^ Holderness took over from Pitt as Southern Secretary, serving as the sole Secretary of State.[9]
  11. ^ Cook & Stevenson 1988, p. 195; Haydn 1851, p. 167
  12. ^ As no Chancellor had been appointed, Mansfield held the post pro tempore by virtue of being Lord Chief Justice.[11]


  • Campbell, John (1849), Mary Scarlett Campbell (ed.), The Lives of the Lord Chancellors and Keepers of the Great Seal of England, vol. 8, J. Murray (published 1869)
  • Cook, Chris; Stevenson, John (1988), British Historical Facts: 1688–1760, Palgrave Macmillan UK, ISBN 978-1-349-02369-1
  • Foord, Archibald S. (1964), His Majesty's Opposition 1714–1830, Oxford University Press, hdl:2027/heb.00143, ISBN 978-0-19-821311-6
  • Haydn, Joseph (1851), The Book of Dignities, London: Longmans, Brown, Green, and Longmans
  • Peters, Marie (2009), "Pitt, William, first earl of Chatham [known as Pitt the elder] (1708–1778)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.), Oxford University Press (published 2004), doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/22337
  • Van Thal, Herbert, ed. (1974), The Prime Ministers: From Sir Robert Walpole to Edward Heath, New York: Stein and Day (published 1975), ISBN 978-0-8128-1738-6
Preceded byPitt–Devonshire ministry Government of Great Britain 6 April – 27 June 1757 (1757-04-06 – 1757-06-27) Succeeded byPitt–Newcastle ministry