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William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne KG KB PC (6 December 1592 – 25 December 1676) was an Englishmarker polymath and aristocrat, having been a poet, equestrian, playwright, swordsman, politician, architect, diplomat and soldier. Born into the very wealthy Cavendish family at Handsworthmarker in the county of Yorkshiremarker, William's family had a good relationship with the ruling Stuart monarchy and began to gather prominence after he was invested as a Knight of the Bath and soon inherited his father's Northern England estates.

At first a courtier of James I of England, he would later strike up friendships with Charles I of England and his wife Henrietta Maria whom he hosted lavish banquets for. He was created Marquess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and entrusted with the education of the royal couple's son, the future Charles II of England. Cavendish was a staunch royalist helping to fund the king in his Bishops' Wars and then during the English Civil War he was made a general for the fight in the North of England against the roundheads. After the defeat at Marston Moormarker, Cavendish went into self-imposed exile, only returning with the English Restoration where he was made a duke.

Family and early life

Welbeck Abbey in the 17th century
A descendent of the famous Cavendish family, William Cavendish was born at Handsworth Manormarker in Yorkshiremarker to Sir Charles Cavendish and Catherine Ogle. On the paternal side of his family, the grandparents of William were Bess of Hardwick and courtier William Cavendish. Shortly after the birth of William, his brother Charles was born (it is not known exactly when). The brothers would maintain a close relationship throughout their lives. The family lived at Welbeck Abbeymarker.

Inheriting the Cavendish estates

He was the eldest surviving son of Sir Charles Cavendish and his wife Catherine (daughter of the 7th Baron Ogle), and the grandson of Sir William Cavendish and Bess of Hardwick. (The name was generally pronounced "Candish".) He was educated at St John's College, Cambridgemarker.

On the occasion of the creation of Prince Henry as Prince of Wales in 1610, Cavendish was made a Knight of the Bath, subsequently travelled with Sir Henry Wotton, then ambassador to the Duke of Savoy, and on his return married his first wife, Elizabeth (before 1602-c. 1643), daughter of William Basset of Bloremarker, Staffordshire, and widow of Henry Howard, third son of the 1st Earl of Suffolk. He possessed an immense fortune, and several times he entertained King James I and King Charles I with great magnificence at Welbeckmarker and Bolsovermarker.

Granted noble titles

On 3 November 1620 Cavendish became Viscount Mansfield and on 7 March 1628 Earl of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. In 1629 he inherited his mother's barony of Ogle, together with an estate of £3,000 per annum. In 1638 he became governor of Charles, Prince of Wales, and in 1639 a Privy Counsellor. When the Scottish war (1639–1640) broke out he assisted King Charles I with a loan of £10,000 and a troop of volunteer horse, consisting of 120 knights and gentlemen.

English Civil War

In 1641 Newcastle became implicated in the Army Plot, and in consequence withdrew for a time from the court. On 11 January 1642 King Charles sent him to seize Hullmarker, but the town refused him admittance. When the king declared open war, Newcastle received the command of the four northern counties, and had the power conferred on him of making knights. He maintained troops at his own expense, and having occupied Newcastle kept open communications with Queen consort Henrietta Maria of France, and despatched to the king his foreign supplies. In November 1642 he advanced into Yorkshiremarker, raised the siege of Yorkmarker, and compelled Lord Fairfax of Cameron to retire after attacking him at Tadcastermarker.

Subsequently his plans were checked by Fairfax's re-capture of Leedsmarker in January 1643, and he retired to York. He escorted the queen, who returned from abroad in February, to York, and subsequently captured Wakefieldmarker, Rotherhammarker and Sheffieldmarker, though failing at Leedsmarker, but his successes were once more ravished from him by Fairfax. In June he advanced again, defeated the Fairfaxes at Adwalton Moormarker on 30 June, and obtained possession of all Yorkshiremarker except Hull and Wressel Castle.

The Duke might now have joined the king against Lord Essex, but continued his campaign in the north, advancing into Lincolnshiremarker to attack the eastern association, and taking Gainsboroughmarker and Lincolnmarker. Thence he returned to besiege Hull, and in his absence the force which he had left in Lincolnshire was defeated at Wincebymarker by Oliver Cromwell on 11 October 1643, which caused the loss of the whole county. On 27 October 1643, he was created Marquess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

The next year Newcastle's position was further threatened by the advance of the Scotsmarker. Against larger numbers he could do little but harass and cut off supplies. He retreated to York, where the three armies of the Scots, as well as those of Lord Fairfax of Cameron and Lord Manchester, surrounded him. On 1 July 1644 Prince Rupert of the Rhine raised the siege, but on the next day threw away his success by engaging the three armies in battle, contrary to Newcastle's desire, at Marston Moormarker.

After leaving England

After this disaster, against the wishes of the king and of Rupert, Newcastle immediately announced his intention of abandoning the cause and of leaving England. He sailed from Scarboroughmarker accompanied by a considerable following, including his two sons and his brother, lived at Hamburgmarker from July 1644 to February 1645, and moved in April to Parismarker, where he lived for three years. There he met and married as his second wife Margaret, daughter of Sir Thomas Lucas of St John's, Colchestermarker; she was twenty-five years his junior. The new Marchioness was a dramatist and romancer, and had been maid of honour to Queen Henrietta Maria. Their marriage appears to have been a very happy one, and she later wrote a biography of him. His love and admiration for his wife is best expressed in the fine sonnet he wrote as an introduction to her masterpiece The Blazing World.

Newcastle left in 1648 for Rotterdammarker with the intention of joining the Prince of Wales in command of the rebellious navy, and finally took up his abode at Antwerpmarker, where he remained till the Restoration. In April 1650 he was appointed a member of Charles II's privy council, and in opposition to Edward Hyde advocated the agreement with the Scots. In Antwerpmarker he lived in the Rubenshuismarker (the house where the painter Peter Paul Rubens had lived from 1610 till his death in 1640) and established his famous riding-school, exercised "the art of manège" (High School riding), and published his first work on horsemanship, Méthode et invention nouvelle de dresser les chevaux (1658, 2nd edition, 1747; translated as A General System of Horsemanship, 1743). This work had an influence on one of the greatest French riding masters, Francois Robichon de la Gueriniere, as well as a more controversial figure in dressage, Baucher. He is also said to be the inventor of draw reins.

At the Restoration (1660) Newcastle returned to England, and succeeded in regaining the greater part of his estates, though burdened with debts, his wife estimating his total losses in the war at the enormous sum of £941,303. He was reinstated in the offices he had filled under Charles I; was invested in 1661 with the Order of the Garter which had been bestowed upon him in 1650, and was advanced to a dukedom on 16 March 1665. He retired, however, from public life and occupied himself with his estate and with his favourite pursuit of training horses. He established a racecourse near Welbeck. In his later years, he suffered from Parkinson's Disease, and the sudden death of his second wife was a blow from which he never recovered.

The Duke died at Welbeck Abbeymarker on Christmas Day 1676, and was buried in Westminster Abbeymarker. By his first wife he had ten children, of whom one son, Henry, survived him and became 2nd Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, dying in 1691 without surviving male issue; the title then became extinct and the estates passed to his third daughter Margaret, wife of John Holles, Earl of Clare, created Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1694. The 1st Duke's daughters included Lady Elizabeth Cavendish (c. 1627-14 June 1663), who married the 2nd Earl of Bridgwater and had issue, and Lady Frances Cavendish (before 1641-15 August 1678), who married the 2nd Earl of Bolingboke.

With John Dryden's assistance he translated Molière's L'Etourdi as Sir Martin Mar-All (1688). He contributed scenes to his wife's plays, and poems of his composition are to be found among her works.

Cavendish was the patron of, among others, Jonson, Shirley, Davenant, Dryden, Shadwell and Flecknoe, and of Hobbes, Gassendi and Descartes.

During their stay in Antwerpmarker, the Cavendishes had a music chapel of 5 musicians. They were acquainted with several of the contemporary English composers, and Newcastle's library contained a substantial collection of music of these composers.

As a commander in the field Lord Clarendon spoke contemptuously of Newcastle as "a very lamentable man, and as fit to be a general as a bishop". It can hardly be denied, however, that his achievements in the north were of great military value to the king's cause. For politics he had no taste, and adhered to the king's cause merely from motives of personal loyalty, from hatred of "whatsoever was like to disturb the public peace," and because the monarchy "was the foundation and support of his own greatness". Even Clarendon conceded that he was "a very fine gentleman".

The department of Manuscripts and Special Collections, The University of Nottingham holds a number of papers relating to the 1st Duke: the Cavendish Papers (Pw 1), part of the Portland (Welbeck) Collection, includes some of his personal papers; the Portland Literary Collection (Pw V), also part of the Portland (Welbeck) Collection, contains many of his literary papers; and the Newcastle (Clumber) Collection (Ne) includes some estate papers from the time of the 1st Duke, for example, relating to his purchase of Nottingham Castle.

Works authored by William Cavendish

  • Méthode et invention nouvelle de dresser les chevaux (1658)
  • A New Method and Extraordinary Invention to Dress Horses and Work them according to Nature... (1667)

  • The Country Captain, or Captain Underwit (printed 1649)
  • The Varietie (printed 1649)
  • The Humorous Lovers (performed 1667, printed 1677)
  • The Triumphant Widow (performed 1674, printed 1677)

Titles and styles

  • Mr. William Cavendish (1592/1593-1610)
  • Sir William Cavendish, KB (1610-1620)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Viscount Mansfield, KB (1620-1628)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, KB (1628-1639)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, KB, PC (1639-1643)
  • The Most Hon. The Marquess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, KB, PC (1643-1650)
  • The Most Hon. The Marquess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, KG, KB, PC (1650-1665)
  • His Grace The Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, KG, KB, PC (1665-1676)


  1. Vorstelijke vluchtelingen William en Margaret Cavendish, 1648-1660 ("Noble fugitives William en Margaret Cavendish, 1648-1660"), announcement of a 2006 exposition in the agenda of the Rubenshuis museum. Exposition catalogue: Royalist Refugees: William and Margaret Cavendish in the Rubenshuis (1648-1660), ISBN 90-8586-014-8, October 2006.
  2. Amorous in Music: William Cavendish in Antwerp (1648-1660), Klara CD No. 34, KTC 4019 (2006)

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