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.

Leading membersEdit

Portfolio Minister Took office Left office
The Duke of Devonshire*1756 (1756)June 1757 (1757-06)
Lord ChancellorIn Commission1757 (1757)1757 (1757)
Lord President of the CouncilThe Earl Granville1751 (1751)1763 (1763)
Lord Privy SealThe Earl Gower1755 (1755)1757 (1757)
Leader of the House of CommonsVacated by William PittApril 1757 (1757-04)June 1757 (1757-06)
First Lord of the AdmiraltyThe Earl of Winchilsea1757 (1757)1757 (1757)
Secretary of State for the Northern DepartmentThe Earl of Holderness[note 3]1754 (1754)1761 (1761)
Secretary of State for the Southern DepartmentThe Earl of Holderness[note 3]1757 (1757)1757 (1757)
Chancellor of the Exchequer[note 4]The Earl of Mansfield1757 (1757)1757 (1757)


  1. ^ a b Blake 1975, p. 70
  2. ^ Campbell 1849, p. 186
  3. ^ a b Holderness continued to serve at the Northern Department and also took over Pitt's former office at the Southern Department in 1757.
  4. ^ As no separate Chancellor had been appointed, Mansfield held the post pro tempore by virtue of being Lord Chief Justice.


  • Blake, Robert (1975). The Office of Prime Minister. Oxford University Press for British Academy. ISBN 978-0-19-725724-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Campbell, John (1849). The Lives of the Lord Chancellors and Keepers of the Great Seal of England. J. Murray. p. 143.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Foord, Archibald S. (1964). His Majesty's Opposition 1714–1830. Oxford University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Van Thal, Herbert, ed. (1974). The Prime Ministers. 1. London: George Allen and Unwin.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • "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.)
Preceded by
Pitt–Devonshire ministry
Government of Great Britain
Succeeded by
Pitt–Newcastle ministry