1757 caretaker ministry
In 1756, King George II of Great Britain was reluctantly compelled to accept a ministry dominated by William Pitt the Elder as Secretary of State. The nominal head of this ministry, as First Lord of the Treasury, was William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire.
On 6 April 1757, 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 at the head of a government that was manifestly far too weak to survive long, particularly during a time of war. Horace Walpole in his Memoirs of the Reign of King George III called it "a mutilated, enfeebled, half-formed system".
One of the major problems of the caretaker ministry was that it included no figure capable of taking the lead in the House of Commons. It also lacked the support of the most significant factions in the House of 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 who Pitt had insisted be excluded from the 1756–57 ministry.
The King, after discussions with Devonshire and Newcastle in May 1757, authorised Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke to be his emissary to try to negotiate for a new ministry.
The needs of the country and the lack of an obvious alternative, led to the re-appointment of Pitt as Secretary of State for the Southern Department and preeminent minister on 29 June 1757, and the formation of the Second Newcastle Ministry in July 1757. Devonshire resigned the office of First Lord of the Treasury to take up the less demanding responsibilities of Lord Chamberlain.
Leading members of the ministry
- The office of Lord Chancellor was in commission during this ministry.
- Holdernesse continued to serve as Secretary of State for the Northern Department and also took over Pitt's former office of Secretary of State for the Southern Department in 1757.
- As no separate Chancellor of the Exchequer had been appointed, Mansfield held the post pro tempore by virtue of being Lord Chief Justice.
- The post of Leader of the House of Commons was vacant.
- Foord, Archibald S. (1964). His Majesty's Opposition 1714–1830. Oxford University Press.
- Herbert van Thal, ed. (1974). The Prime Ministers. vol. One: From Sir Robert Walpole to Sir Robert Peel. London: George Allen and Unwin.
- "William Pitt, Earl of Chatham". The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford. 2004.
| Succeeded by|
Second Newcastle ministry