William Cavendish, Marquis of Newcastle, 1593-1676.
A remarkable man in an age of remarkable men. His long and colourful life ran from Elizabethan days to beyond the Restoration.
An immensely wealthy man, at least before the war William was northern aristocrat of the old school. He had large and lavish homes at Welbeck Abbey and Bolsover Castle where he would entertain in great splendour.
A poet, playwright, outstanding swordsman, expert horseman, amateur architect, most loyal of the Royalists, and an exile during Cromwell's Protectorate. Cavendish knew almost everyone and often took a major role in the events of that time.
Grandson of the legendary Bess of Hardwick, Cavendish inherited a huge fortune. A courtier under James I, he later earned the friendship of King Charles I and the Queen, Henrietta Maria, who entrusted him with the future Charles II's education. He led the northern campaigns for the Royalists in the Civil War and invested huge amounts of his own money in the cause.
As a general he was an efficient organiser and a capable but not outstanding soldier although his personal courage was never questioned. He was led a merry dance by Lord Fairfax and his son, Sir Thomas and was never able to totally overcome this energetic pair of Roundheads, although he came close until finally being overwhelmed.
Cavendish was overruled by Prince Rupert at Marston Moor where the Royalists were heavily defeated which all but ended the Royalists as a fighting force in Yorkshire and the North East of England. Although not held personally responsible for the rout by the King he was a proud man and could not bear the thought of being the laughing stock of the court. He fled abroad with his family and retinue where he lived in exile until the Restoration.
He was a close associate of the philosophers Hobbes and Descartes, and with painters such as Van Dyck and a patron and a friend to Ben Jonson. He knew Davenant and, later Dryden well.
Regarded as the finest horseman in Europe, Cavendish wrote a major book on the subject which is still regarded as the work of a true master. He also wrote a fine work, unfinished, on swordsmanship which is also considered a classic. He was a Restoration playwright of the second rank known for his comic, earthy characters, and he wrote endless but not always polished poetry.
Cavendish outlived two wives, both of whom he loved dearly. The second, Margaret Lucas known as “Mad Madge of Newcastle”, was the first English woman to attain recognition as a writer.
David William Fell