William Cavendish, The Marquess of Newcastle

We thought it was about time to introduce you to the man at the top, William Cavendish, Marquess of Newcastle and take a look at the life and career of the man who’s regiment we make up.

Scholar, writer, politician, and patron of the arts: these are all ways William Cavendish would have been considered in his time. But at the outbreak of war in 1642, his primary role became that of the King’s general in the north, with command over all the northern counties and their armies. From this position he would meet with great success in capturing northern towns and beating back Parliamentary forces, building up a strong military rivalry with a strong rivalry with Ferndinado, Lord Fairfax and his son Sir Thomas who were the leaders of the Parliamentarian cause in. They would continue to batter away at one another for a year, with castles and towns changing hands regularly, before Cavendish was awarded the title of Marquess of Newcastle for his efforts. However, in 1644 the Scots came in to support Parliament’s cause and Newcastle, along with his ally Prince Rupert of the Rhine, was decisively defeated at the battle of Marston Moor, a battle that holds a special place in the hearts of our regiment.

 

As a young man, Cavendish had a keen interest in horses and dropped out of Cambridge University to take up riding at the Royal Mews in London. Cavendish was made a knight of the Order of the Bath and set off with his mentor, Sir Henry Wotton, travelling around France and Italy. It was out here that Cavendish kindled a love of music, architecture and theatre. On his return, Cavendish moved up the ranks of society due to his friendship with the royal family, becoming a Member of Parliament, getting married, receiving the title of Viscount of Mansfield, Earl of Newcastle and Baron of Bolsover. While he was a strong supporter of the King, he didn’t care much for the processes and government going on in London and would only reluctantly attend parliament. As the religious turmoil that was to envelop England and Scotland grew under Charles, the Earl also proved he cared little for the different denominations of Christianity that were at each other’s throats. Instead he focussed his efforts on ingratiating himself with the Royal family, befriending the Queen, entertaining the King and eventually being appointed to educate Prince Charles.

Cavendish’s personal life up to this point was difficult. His first wife, Elizabeth Basset, was a wealthy, intelligent woman who appreciated the cultured Cavendish, despite her attempted courtship by other men. Cavendish had many children with Elizabeth, but only one son who survived into adulthood: Henry Cavendish, who would become the Second Duke of Newcastle. Most of his children died as infants. When Elizabeth died in 1643, Cavendish remarried a woman named Margaret Lucas. William was initially attracted to Margaret because of her “bashfulness”, but behind her shyness Margaret was a very intelligent woman who published more than twelve different books. These include subjects on science, gender, politics, and social class, and Margaret became the first woman to attend a meeting at the Royal Society of London. Her bashfulness, however, got more severe through her life and she was unable to talk about her work in person, hated travelling around with her husband and sought cures for her “melancholy”. She and William had no children together.

Margaret Cavendish

War came to the country in 1639 when conflicts between the Scots and Charles I over religious reform reached breaking point. Here the Earl of Newcastle proved himself once more as a friend of his King by providing Charles with £10,000 and a troop of horsemen to fight his enemies.

As the King’s conflicts with Parliament came to a head in 1642 Cavendish was given command of the armies of the north. By the admission of his wife Margaret, who wrote a memoir of Cavendish’s life, the Earl was not a military genius nor a greatly inspiring orator. He was humble and courageous, and made an efficient and adequate general who won battles, lost battles and was eventually defeated by a numerically superior enemy.

After Marston Moor, the Earl fled to Paris where he met and married Margaret, and the two had a happy life together. They travelled around Europe, to Rotterdam and to Antwerp, where he met up with Charles II and advised him until his Restoration in 1660.

After returning to England the Marquess of Newcastle retired from public duty and focussed his efforts on regaining his land and bringing it out of debt. He was given the title of Duke of Newcastle, and spent his later years training horses on his estates.

Margaret’s death had a big impact on the Duke, who suffered until his death on Christmas Day, 1676 at the old age of 84. His son Henry took up the role of Duke of Newcastle but within a generation the male line had died out and the titles of the Marquess of Newcastle disappeared. William Cavendish and Margaret were buried next to one another in Westminster Abbey and the Duke passed away “a very fine gentleman”.

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