Lord Frederick Charles Cavendish PC (30 November 1836 – 6 May 1882) was an English Liberal politician and protégé of the Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone.
Cavendish was appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland in May 1882 but was murdered only hours after his arrival in Dublin, a victim of the politically motivated Phoenix Park murders.
Born at Compton Place, Eastbourne, Sussex, Cavendish was the second son of William Cavendish, 7th Duke of Devonshire, by his wife Lady Blanche Howard, fourth daughter of George Howard, 6th Earl of Carlisle, and the brother of Spencer Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire, who had also been Chief Secretary.
Cavendish, after being educated at home, matriculated in 1855 at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1858, and then served as a cornet with the Duke of Lancaster’s Own Yeomanry cavalry.
From 1859 to 1864 Cavendish was private secretary to Lord Granville. He travelled in the United States during 1859 and 1860, and in Spain in 1860. He was elected to parliament as a Liberal for the Northern Division of the West Riding of Yorkshire, 15 July 1865, and retained that office until his death.
After serving as private secretary to the prime minister, William Ewart Gladstone, from July 1872 to August 1873 he became a junior Lord of the Treasury, and held office until the resignation of the ministry.
He was Financial Secretary to the Treasury from April 1880 to May 1882, when soon after the resignation of William Edward Forster, Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, he was appointed to succeed him.
In company with the Earl Spencer, Lord-Lieutenant, he proceeded to Dublin, and took the oath as chief secretary at Dublin Castle, on 6 May 1882; but on the afternoon of the same day, while walking in Phoenix Park in company with Thomas Henry Burke, the Permanent Under-Secretary, he was attacked from behind by several men from an extreme Irish nationalist group known as the Irish National Invincibles, who with knives murdered Burke and him.
The event was known as the Phoenix Park Murders.
His body being brought to England, was buried in Edensor churchyard, near Chatsworth, on 11 May, where 300 members of the House of Commons and 30,000 other persons followed the remains to the grave.
The trial of the murderers in 1883 (see James Carey) made it evident that the death of Cavendish was not premeditated, and that he was not recognised by the assassins; the plot was against Burke, and Cavendish was murdered because he happened to be in the company of Burke.
Cavendish married, on 7 June 1864, Lucy Caroline Lyttelton, second daughter of George Lyttelton, 4th Baron Lyttelton, granddaughter of Sir Stephen Glynne and niece of William Ewart Gladstone’s wife Catherine. She was maid of honour to the Queen.
A statue of Cavendish can be found in the plaza behind the town hall of Barrow-in-Furness, where his father invested heavily in local industries.
A window in memory of Cavendish was placed in St Margaret’s Church, Westminster, at the cost of the members of the House of Commons.
His imposing white Carrara marble tomb can be seen in Cartmel Priory, Cumbria. There is also a memorial fountain to him at Bolton Abbey.