1757 caretaker ministry
The Kingdom of Great Britain was governed by a caretaker government between April and June 1757, after the dismissal of William Pitt led to the end of the Pitt–Devonshire ministry during the Seven Years' War. William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire, continued as the nominal head of government.
In 1756, King George II 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,[note 1] following Pitt's opposition to the execution of Admiral Byng, the King (who detested 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 sometimes 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 enemy 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 try 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".[note 2]
The needs of the country and the lack of an obvious alternative led to the re-appointment of Pitt as Secretary of State (with Newcastle as First Lord of the Treasury) on 29 June,[note 1] forming the Pitt–Newcastle ministry. Devonshire resigned the office of First Lord to take up the less demanding responsibilities of Lord Chamberlain.
|Portfolio||Minister||Took office||Left office|
|The Duke of Devonshire*||1756||June 1757|
|Lord Chancellor||In Commission||1757||1757|
|Lord President of the Council||The Earl Granville||1751||1763|
|Lord Privy Seal||The Earl Gower||1755||1757|
|Leader of the House of Commons||Vacated by William Pitt||April 1757||June 1757|
|First Lord of the Admiralty||The Earl of Winchilsea||1757||1757|
|Secretary of State for the Northern Department||The Earl of Holderness[note 3]||1754||1761|
|Secretary of State for the Southern Department||The Earl of Holderness[note 3]||1757||1757|
|Chancellor of the Exchequer[note 4]||The Earl of Mansfield||1757||1757|
- Blake, Robert (1975). The Office of Prime Minister. Oxford University Press for British Academy. ISBN 978-0-19-725724-1.
- Campbell, John (1849). The Lives of the Lord Chancellors and Keepers of the Great Seal of England. J. Murray.
- Foord, Archibald S. (1964). His Majesty's Opposition 1714–1830. Oxford University Press.
- Van Thal, Herbert, ed. (1974). The Prime Ministers. 1. London: George Allen and Unwin.
- "William Pitt, Earl of Chatham". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/22337.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
| Government of Great Britain