William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington

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William John Robert Cavendish
Personal details
Born (1917-12-10)10 December 1917
Died 10 September 1944(1944-09-10) (aged 26)[1]
Heppen, occupied Belgium 
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Kathleen Agnes Kennedy
(m. 1944; his death 1944)
Relations Andrew Robert Buxton Cavendish (brother)
Parents Edward Cavendish, 10th Duke of Devonshire
Mary Gascoyne-Cecil
Religion Anglican
Military service
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Rank Major
Unit Coldstream Guards, Guards Armoured Division

World War II

William John Robert "Billy" Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington (10 December 1917 – 10 September 1944), was an English politician and soldier.[2] He was the eldest son of Edward Cavendish, 10th Duke of Devonshire, and his wife, Lady Mary Gascoyne-Cecil. He was the husband of Kathleen Kennedy, sister of the future U.S. President John F. Kennedy.[3]


He was educated at Eton.[4]


Hartington was a member of the Conservative Party. He was selected as the official candidate of the Wartime Coalition for a by-election held on 18 February 1944 in the Derbyshire West constituency local to Chatsworth. The Independent candidate Charles Frederick White, Jr. had resigned from the Labour Party to mount a challenge and, then to defeat Hartington in contravention of the Wartime Coalition's ban on partisan campaigning.[5]


Hartington married socialite Kathleen Kennedy on 6 May 1944 at the Register Office in Chelsea Town Hall on King's Road in London, England.[6] Her brothers were John, Robert and Ted Kennedy.[7] Her mother Rose highly disapproved of the union - the Kennedy family were Roman Catholic and the Dukes of Devonshire were Anglican, and neither would be married in the other's faith.[8]


Four months later, on 10 September 1944, Hartington was killed in action[9] by a sniper in Belgium[10] while serving during World War II as a major in the Coldstream Guards.[11] His company was trying to capture the town of Heppen, which was being held by troops of the German Waffen-SS.[12]

In the weeks before he died, Hartington's battalion, the 5th, serving in the Guards Armoured Division, had engaged in heavy fighting in Northern France. In early September, they crossed the Somme and pushed east towards Brussels, where his unit was one of the first to liberate the city.

Of the townsfolk and villagers who turned out and cheered the Allies, and in some cases decorated their tanks, Hartington wrote to his wife of feeling "so unworthy of it all living as I have in reasonable safety and comfort during these years..... I have a permanent lump in my throat and long for you to be here as it is an experience which few can have and which I would love to share with you."[13]

His place in the order of succession was taken by his younger brother Andrew, who inherited the dukedom six years later.[14]



  1. ^ "Kathleen Kennedy". John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. Retrieved 6 August 2015. 
  2. ^ Find a grave
  3. ^ Spencer, Charles (January 2010). "Enemies of the Estate". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2013-05-20. 
  4. ^ thePeerage.com
  5. ^ "LIFE", 13 Mar 1944, pp 28-29.
  6. ^ POlitico
  7. ^ "The Cavendishes & the Kennedys". Time. 15 May 1944. Retrieved 10 August 2008. 
  8. ^ "Kathleen put love before religion". The Montreal Gazette. 4 August 1970. 
  9. ^ Obituary. The Marquess of Hartington The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Sep 19, 1944; pg. 4; Issue 49960
  10. ^ Cheshire Now
  11. ^ ‘HARTINGTON, Marquess of’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2015; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2014 ; online edn, April 2014 accessed 26 Aug 2015
  12. ^ "William John Robert Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington (1917 - 1944) - Genealogy". Geni. 
  13. ^ Bailey, C. (2007). Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty, p. 375. London: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-670-91542-2.
  14. ^ Duke Of Devonshire. The Times (London, England), Monday, Nov 27, 1950; pg. 8; Issue 51859