Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury
Elizabeth [Bess] Talbot [née Hardwick], [called Bess of Hardwick], Countess of Shrewsbury (1527?-1608), noblewoman, was born to John Hardwick (c.1487-1528) of Hardwick, Derbyshire, and his wife, Elizabeth. When her father died in 1528, a significant portion of the 400 acres he had owned in and around Hardwick was seized by the crown, to be administered by the office of wards until his son and heir, James, came of age. Few details are known of Bess's life in these years beyond the fact that her mother married Ralph Leche of Chatsworth, Derbyshire, probably in 1529.
Bess married Robert Barlow (or Barley) of Barlow, Derbyshire. Although the precise date of the marriage is unknown, it seems to have taken place before-or perhaps on-28 May 1543. The marriage produced no children. Upon Barlow's death on 24 December 1544 Bess received a modest inheritance.
On 20 August 1547 Bess married the twice-widowed Sir William Cavendish (1508-1557). It has been suggested that she was, at the time of her marriage, a lady-in-waiting to Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset. The wedding took place in the Grey family chapel at Bradgate Manor, Leicestershire. Bess, as a result of her marriage to Cavendish, was now moving in aristocratic and royal circles.
Between 1548 and 1557 Bess gave birth to eight children, six of whom survived into adulthood. Their eldest son was Henry Cavendish. The Dukes of Devonshire are descended from Bess's second son, William Cavendish (1551-1626), and the Dukes of Newcastle (and, indirectly, the dukes of Portland) are descended from her youngest son, Charles.
In June 1549 Cavendish bought the estate of Chatsworth, which until 1547 had belonged to the Leches, to whom Bess was related by marriage. They almost immediately embarked on an ambitious project of rebuilding. In 1550 Bess and Sir William had purchased the manor of Ashford and 8,000 acres of land from the Earl of Westmorland; in 1553 they bought 250 acres in Chatsworth and Baslow; and in 1554 they purchased an additional 70 acres near Chatsworth, as well as part of Edensor, the village which immediately bordered upon Chatsworth. It is difficult not to see these purchases as reflecting a desire on the part of Bess to return to her native Derbyshire in triumph, flaunting her new-found status as Lady Cavendish.
All the Derbyshire properties were held jointly in the names of both Bess and Sir William for both of their lives-a shrewd, if unusual, move. Sir William died in 1557. Bess found herself in a precarious financial situation in the wake of her husband's death, for Sir William died owing £5237 to the crown. This turn of events led Bess to lobby Parliament in 1558 to protest against the proposed bill for the queen's debtors.
At some point after Cavendish's death, but before Elizabeth I's accession, Bess married Sir William St Loe (c.1520-1565?).Unlike Cavendish, St Loe hailed from an ancient and noble family. Bess and St Loe spent much of their married life apart: Bess resided largely at Chatsworth, while St Loe, owing to his duties at court, spent a great deal of his time in London. They had no children, and when St Loe died-probably in 1565-Bess, rather than St Loe's brother Edward, inherited the bulk of the estate.
If marriage to St Loe improved Bess's finances, it also brought her into Queen Elizabeth's inner circle. In 1559 Bess was appointed a gentlewoman of the Queen's Privy Chamber (and it is the fact that she is listed as 'Mrs St Loe' in privy chamber records that suggests that her third marriage must have taken place before Elizabeth I's accession). Bess and the Queen fell out spectacularly over Bess's alleged involvement in the illicit marriage of Katherine Grey and Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford; as a result Bess was dismissed from the Privy Chamber. In the late 1580s, when Bess's marriage to her fourth husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury, had broken down, the Queen intervened on Bess's behalf, asking Shrewsbury to permit his wife to see him.
On 1 November 1567 Bess married George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury (c. 1522-1590. At the time of their marriage Shrewsbury's property included the castles of Tutbury, Pontefract, and Sheffield, as well as a manor house at Sheffield and a lodge at Handsworth, hunting lodges at Tutbury and Worksop, and the converted monastic buildings at Rufford Abbey. Shrewsbury's union with Bess, which brought together two great fortunes, was cemented-at Bess's insistence-by the arranged marriages of four of their children: Gilbert Talbot, who became the 7th Earl, wed Bess's daughter Mary, and Bess's eldest son, Henry Cavendish, wed Shrewsbury's daughter Grace.
In 1568 the queen designated Shrewsbury the keeper of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the following year he and Bess received the Catholic queen at Tutbury. During the period of the Scottish queen's captivity, relations between the Earl and Countess steadily deteriorated. In 1584 Bess separated from her husband and retired to Chatsworth. At the time of their separation Shrewsbury attempted to claim Chatsworth as his under the terms of their marriage settlement. A legal battle ensued, which was finally resolved in 1587 when the courts awarded Bess both Chatsworth and a sizeable income from her husband. In 1584, at which time Chatsworth's fate had been uncertain, Bess had purchased from her brother the family manor house at Hardwick. In 1587, armed with the financial means to realize her plans, she embarked on an ambitious plan for rebuilding, much as she and Cavendish had done earlier at Chatsworth. The majority of the renovations at 'Hardwick Old Hall'-seem to have been completed by 1591.
As a result of her husband's death on 18 November 1590, Bess had inherited one third of the disposable lands that Talbot had owned at the time of their marriage. Almost immediately upon completing the building of Hardwick Old Hall, she turned her attention to building another Hardwick Hall. Owing to the survival of extensive building accounts, a considerable amount is known regarding the construction of Hardwick New Hall. The shell had been completed by the end of 1593, Bess took up residence on 4 October 1597, and the final building work was completed two years later. This extraordinary house became the focal point of-as well as the enduring monument to-Bess's dynastic ambitions.
The interior was, by all accounts, equally majestic and self-referential. An inventory of 1601 reveals that Bess filled Hardwick with a splendid collection of paintings, furniture, silver, tapestries, and embroidery.
In 1601 Bess made her will, in which she bequeathed the contents of the two Hardwicks and also of Oldcotes (another Derbyshire property whose construction she had overseen) to her second and favourite son, William. The contents of Chatsworth she left to her eldest son, Henry. Bess also made provision for her other children, as well as for her grandchildren, her servants, and the residents of the almshouse that she had founded in Derby. On 20 March 1603 she altered her will, disinheriting her granddaughter Arbella and her son Henry, with each of whom she had quarrelled bitterly for decades. Although she could not break the entail of Chatsworth itself on Henry, she left William the house's contents, and the year after her death he bought out his brother's interest in the house itself.
Bess died on 13 February 1608, and her body lay in state at Hardwick until her funeral, on or about 4 May 1608, in All Hallows (now All Saints' Cathedral), Derby. She was at the time of her death one of the richest people in England, and her tomb, designed by Robert Smythson, famously describes her as the 'aedificatrix' of Chatsworth, Hardwick, and Oldcotes. Bess is today viewed not only as the builder of perhaps the most magnificent of the Elizabethan 'prodigy houses', but also as the founder of a great dynasty.
[Primary source: Goldring, Elizabeth, 'Talbot [née Hardwick], Elizabeth [Bess] [called Bess of Hardwick], countess of Shrewsbury (1527?-1608)', (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/26925. By permission of Oxford University Press.]
Sir William Cavendish
Sir William Cavendish (1508-1557), administrator, was born on 1 May 1508, a younger son of Sir Thomas Cavendish (c.1480-1524) of Cavendish, Suffolk, and his wife, Alice, daughter of John Smith of Padbrook Hall, Cavendish. William followed in his father's footsteps, making his fortune as an auditor. By the early 1530s he was an accepted financial expert. He was one of Cromwell's principal agents in the dissolution of the monasteries, which gave him additional bargaining power at a time when he had recently set up house in Hertfordshire and was starting to acquire leases.
By 1534 Cavendish had married Margaret, daughter of Edward Bostock of Cheshire, with whom he had five children; only two daughters survived infancy. In February 1540 he bought the manor of Northaw, Hertfordshire, formerly leased by him from St Albans Abbey. On 9 June his wife died.
Cavendish enhanced his reputation by his performance as a commissioner in Ireland, where he arrived on 8 September 1540, appointed to investigate the administration of Lord Deputy Grey, along with the vice-treasurer's accounts and the surveys for the dissolution of the Irish monasteries. He won praise for: his painstaking journey and for being a man that 'little feareth the displeasure of any man', in the King's service.
Following his return to England he received licence on 26 October 1541 for a settlement of his estates before his marriage to Elizabeth Parys, widow, the daughter of Thomas Parker of Poslingford, Suffolk. They were married at the London Blackfriars on 3 November 1542, but their three daughters all died young, and Elizabeth was dead by 1547.
Cavendish paid £1,000 for the position of treasurer of the chamber, granted to him on 19 February 1546. A month later he was in trouble with the Privy Council for failing to bring the declaration of his accounts before the chancellor, but he was still knighted on 23 April. His marriage to Elizabeth Barley - 'Bess', née Hardwick (d. 1608), which took place secretly at 2 a.m. on 20 August 1547 seems to have been promoted both by the Greys and the Brandons. In 1547 he sat in Parliament for Thirsk, was a JP for Hertfordshire, and furnished great horses, light horses, and demi-lances for the wars, under an assessment of £100.
Cavendish had also been appointed Treasurer of the Court of General Surveyors, but he lost this position in 1547. The office of Treasurer of the Chamber was losing importance, moreover. In 1555 he also became deputy chamberlain of the exchequer. By 1557 his accounts were under examination. As always with unexpected audits, utter confusion was alleged but not really substantiated. The report on Cavendish's debts submitted to Lord Treasurer Winchester on 12 October 1557 shows an initial assessment of his debt as £5,237 0s. 0½d., but he put forward various counter-claims, including the dishonesty of his clerk Thomas Knot, who ran away leaving him £12,031 1s. 8d. in debt. Cavendish wrote a grovelling appeal for clemency, describing himself as 'a humble pore man standing without her highnes great mercy' (TNA: PRO, E101/424/10), and listing his resources as 500 marks in land and £440 in fees and life annuities. He died on 25 October 1557 and was buried on the 30th.
[Source: Jack, Sybil M., 'Cavendish, Sir William (1508-1557)', (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/4943. By permission of Oxford University Press.]
William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire
William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire (1551-1626), nobleman, was born on 27 December 1551, the second son of Sir William Cavendish (1508-1557) and Elizabeth Cavendish, ('Bess of Hardwick' later Elizabeth St Loe and then Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury). His godparents were Elizabeth Parr, Marchioness of Northampton, William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester, and William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke. His two brothers were Henry Cavendish (1550-1616), soldier and traveller, and Sir Charles Cavendish (1553-1617), of Welbeck Abbey, Nottinghamshire. However, William Cavendish was his mother's favourite, especially from the 1580s onwards when she was disillusioned with his elder brother.
William's stepfather, and his mother's third husband, William St Loe, had William and Henry Cavendish educated at Eton College from 21 November 1560. William Cavendish matriculated from Clare College, Cambridge, on 29 September 1567. In the marriage settlement for his mother and her fourth husband, George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, considerable sums were promised to William and Charles Cavendish when they reached the age of twenty-one.
When Cavendish turned twenty-one Shrewsbury, because of the cost of the guardianship of Mary, Queen of Scots, was not in a strong financial position. The Countess of Shrewsbury agreed to absolve her husband from what he had promised to pay her and her children if he would legally return the lands she had originally brought to the marriage and give them to William and Charles Cavendish, with a discretionary life interest in them for herself. On 22 April 1572 Shrewsbury signed the deed of gift, something he was to regret later. During the same year William Cavendish was admitted to study law at Gray's Inn. He was possibly knighted in 1580, but the evidence is ambiguous. On 21 March 1581 he married Anne (d. before 1619), daughter and coheir of Henry Keighley of Keighley, Yorkshire, and his wife, Mary. The couple had three sons, including William Cavendish, 2nd Earl of Devonshire (1590-1628), nobleman, and three daughters. By 1584 the Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury were in conflict, and he claimed the rents from his wife's tenants in Derbyshire and Somerset. He raided Chatsworth, Derbyshire, and Cavendish barred the great doors while his mother fled. Cavendish, armed and surrounded by his loyal servants, faced his stepfather as he prepared to fight for his family's honour and inheritance. Elizabeth I commanded that they call off their feud, and royal officials took Cavendish to London, where he was briefly imprisoned in the Fleet.
On both occasions when Cavendish was returned to Parliament (for Liverpool in 1586 and for Newport in Monmouthshire in 1588), it was from boroughs remote from Derbyshire. Chatsworth was legally entailed to Henry Cavendish and reverted to him at Shrewsbury's death in 1590. He was not on speaking terms with his mother, and she bought lands for William Cavendish valued at £15,900 by 1584. William Cavendish had little interest in life at court, but from 1595 to 1596 he was Sheriff of Derbyshire, his local consequence being based on his status as a great landowner.
Cavendish became more prominent after the accession of James I in 1603. He was elevated to the peerage as Baron Cavendish of Hardwick on 4 May 1605. He inherited the bulk of his mother's land and property when she died on 13 February 1608 and bought Chatsworth from his elder brother in the following year. Cavendish managed his estates very carefully, promoted industrial enterprise, had a thorough understanding of finance, continued to purchase land, and was one of the first investors in Virginia and a co-grantee of the Bermuda Islands, with one of Bermuda's nine parishes named Devonshire after his most senior title. He also invested in the Russia Company, Somers Isles Company, and North-West Passage Company, and very heavily but successfully in the East India Company. His local importance grew. He was named Bailiff of Tutbury Castle, Staffordshire, Custos Rotulorum for Derbyshire in 1615, and, jointly with his heir, Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire from 1619. Cavendish succeeded his elder brother on 12 October 1616, acquiring more property, and was promoted Earl of Devonshire on 7 August 1618. This title was acquired after some unedifying petitioning of Arbella Stuart and cost Cavendish £10,900 in total. Devonshire married again by 1619, his second wife being Elizabeth (d. c.1642). They had one son. Devonshire died at Hardwick Hall on 3 March 1626 and was buried in the parish church at Edensor. Leaving his heir about 100,000 acres, he had consolidated his own inheritance and laid the foundation for one of the greatest estates of the seventeenth century.
[Source: Levin, Carole, 'Cavendish, William, first earl of Devonshire (1551-1626)', (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/4944. By permission of Oxford University Press.]
William Cavendish, 2nd Earl of Devonshire
William Cavendish, 2nd Earl of Devonshire (1590-1628), nobleman, was the second son of William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire (1551-1626), and his first wife, Anne Keighley. He was educated by Thomas Hobbes the philosopher, who resided at Hardwick as his private tutor for many years and accompanied him in a tour through France and Italy before his coming of age. Hobbes states that he was his pupil's friend for twenty years, and eulogizes his learning in the dedication of his translation of Thucydides. Cavendish was admitted to Gray's Inn on 14 May 1602, and it is asserted that he was created MA at Cambridge, incorporated at Oxford on 8 July 1608. He was knighted at Whitehall in 1609. He married, allegedly against his will, on 10 April 1608; his wife was Christian Bruce (1595-1675), daughter of Edward, Lord Bruce of Kinloss, and later a notable royalist. Cavendish was after this a leader of court society, and an intimate friend of James I. He was MP for Bishop's Castle in 1610 and for Derbyshire in 1614, 1621, 1624, 1625, and 1626, and Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire, jointly with his father in 1619 and alone after the latter's death. In April 1622 he introduced ambassadors from the emperor Ferdinand, Venice, and the United Provinces in an audience with the King.
Devonshire was a leading member of the Virginia and Somers Isles companies, frequently lobbying the crown on their behalf. His role in overseas adventure led, in 1623, to conflict with Robert Rich, Earl of Warwick; a duel was arranged, but prevented by the Privy Council. In 1625 he was present at Charles I's marriage with Henrietta Maria. Styled Lord Cavendish from 1616, early in 1626 he inherited his father's title and his seat in the House of Lords: there he resisted Buckingham's attempt to interpret a speech of Sir Dudley Digges as treasonous (13 May 1626). His lavish hospitality strained his ample resources in his last years, and in 1628 a private Act of Parliament enabled him to sell some of the entailed estates in discharge of his debts. Devonshire's London house was in Bishopsgate, on the site afterwards occupied by Devonshire Square. He died there (from excessive indulgence in good living, it is said) on 20 June 1628, and was buried on 11 July in All Saints' Church, Derby. He and his wife had three sons: William Cavendish, 3rd Earl of Devonshire, Charles Cavendish, army officer, and Henry, who died in youth. His daughter Anne, a well-known patroness of literature, married Robert, Lord Rich, heir of the earl of Warwick.
[Source: Lee, Sidney, revised by Stater, Victor, 'Cavendish, William, second earl of Devonshire', (1590-1628), (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/4945. By permission of Oxford University Press.]
Christian Cavendish, Countess of Devonshire
Christian [Christiana] Cavendish [née Bruce], Countess of Devonshire (1595-1675), royalist noblewoman, was born on 25 December 1595, the daughter of Edward Bruce, first Lord Bruce of Kinloss (1548/9-1611), master of the rolls, and his wife, Magdalen Clerk, daughter of Alexander Clerk of Balbirnie, Fife. Her birth on Christmas day inspired her name, and as Lord Bruce's only daughter she was destined for a superior match. Her marriage portion, £10,000-part of which was contributed by James VI and I-made her an attractive prospective daughter-in-law for William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire (1551-1626). Cavendish's son and heir, William Cavendish (1590-1628), was persuaded reluctantly to marry the twelve-year-old girl on 10 April 1608. He promptly departed on an extensive tour of Europe, accompanied by his tutor, Thomas Hobbes. Despite the ill-omened beginning of the marriage, Christian was devoted to him and together they had four children: William Cavendish (1617-1684), Charles Cavendish (1620-1643), Henry, and Anne. In 1626 William became 2nd Earl of Devonshire, but he died on 20 June 1628.
Her husband's death catapulted Lady Devonshire into a very different kind of life, as de facto head of her family. She took great care with her sons' education, keeping Hobbes as their tutor, and sending them on long European tours. More important for the family, however, was her stewardship of the Cavendish estates. The 2nd Earl died deeply indebted and Christian spent years fighting some thirty lawsuits filed by disgruntled creditors. She allegedly won all of them, provoking a wry comment from Charles I: 'Madam, you have all my judges at your disposal, as what courts would not be influenced by such commanding charms to do justice?' (Pomfret, 27-8). She personally lobbied members of parliament and won the passage of an estate bill allowing her to sell land and pay down her husband's debts. Her determination to protect her sons' interests was fierce.
A firm royalist during the civil wars, Lady Devonshire lost her younger son, Charles, killed in a Lincolnshire skirmish in 1643. About 1647 she moved to Ampthill, Bedfordshire, where she lived for three years with her brother, Thomas Bruce, 1st Earl of Elgin. Her home at Roehampton, Surrey, which she bought about 1650, became a centre of surreptitious activity on behalf of the exiled Charles II. She sent the King money, and narrowly avoided arrest by means of a well-placed bribe in the late 1650s.
The Cavendish family fortunes revived following the Restoration and Lady Devonshire presided over an elaborate establishment at Roehampton, welcoming wits, authors, and politicians to her home. John Evelyn was a particular favourite of hers, Edmund Waller dedicated his Epistles to her, and John Donne wrote in her praise. The Italian visitor Lorenzo Magalotti described her in 1667 as living 'in a magnificent house in the style of something more than a great princess' (Lorenzo Magalotti, 117). She died in Southampton Buildings, Middlesex, aged seventy-nine on 16 January 1675 and was buried in All Saints' Church, Derby.
[Source: Stater, Victor, 'Cavendish [née Bruce], Christian [Christiana], countess of Devonshire (1595-1675)', (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/4929. By permission of Oxford University Press.]
William Cavendish, 3rd Earl of Devonshire
William Cavendish, 3rd Earl of Devonshire (1617-1684), politician, was born on 10 October 1617, either at Chatsworth, Derbyshire, or Devonshire House, London, the eldest son of Sir William Cavendish, later 2nd Earl of Devonshire (1590-1628), and Christian Cavendish (1595-1675). Like his father before him and his own sons in later years, William's education was directed by Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes described William as 'the image of your father', whom he praised for his learning and ability (Hobbes's Thucydides, 3-4). He conducted the young earl upon a tour of Europe from 1634 to 1637, in the course of which, at Florence, Devonshire met Galileo. Having inherited his title in June 1628 William returned from the continent to assume his father's social and political position. Charles I named him Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire upon his coming of age in 1638, an appointment he held to 1642 and again from the Restoration until his death. He married, on 4 March 1639, Elizabeth Cecil (1620-1689), second daughter of William Cecil, 2nd Earl of Salisbury.
In the House of Lords, Devonshire showed himself a friend of the court from early on. In the summer of 1642 he was named to Leicestershire's commission of array, and withdrew from London to the court at York, promising to raise 100 horses for the King's army. In July Parliament expelled him from the Lords and ordered his imprisonment. Although his younger brother Charles Cavendish, a royalist officer, was killed in a skirmish in Lincolnshire, Devonshire did not bear arms for the King, but withdrew to Europe. His estates were sequestrated and he remained on the continent until 1645, when he returned to England and compounded with Parliament, paying a £5,000 fine. On 13 October 1645 Charles stayed overnight with him at his house at Latimers, Buckinghamshire, although the visit seems to have done little to bestir the 3rd Earl on the King's behalf. He spent most of the Interregnum living in retirement with his mother, Christian, the Dowager Countess, to whom he remained very close.
Although he supported the exiled court financially Devonshire seems to have avoided active conspiracy during the Interregnum, claiming in 1659 to be a 'perfect lover of sports' (Bickley, 59) rather than politics. He also cultivated relationships with some of the period's most formidable intellects; he remained Hobbes' patron until the old man died aged 92 at Hardwick in 1679. He befriended John Evelyn and was an original member of the Royal Society.
Following the Restoration, Devonshire returned to his Derbyshire lieutenancy and added the stewardships of Tutbury (1660) and the High Peak (1661) to his responsibilities. But apart from a brief term as a commissioner of trade from 5 March 1668 to 1669, the 3rd Earl was not politically active. He attended the Lords irregularly, preferring to remain in the country, husbanding his estates and entertaining gentlemen such as Sir John Reresby.. He was, for example, absent from the house when it voted on exclusion in 1680. The Earl's apparent political indifference was probably a further source of friction with his heir, William Cavendish, who, in addition to being 'the most dissolute man in London' (Lorenzo Magalotti, 117), was also a strong Whig. Father and son clashed more frequently, however, on financial matters. In 1680 the King encouraged Devonshire to pay his son's debts and allow him a larger income in hopes of returning Lord Cavendish 'to his duty … to the King as well as to his father' (CSP dom., 1680-81, 37). Despite these difficulties, however, when the Earl died aged 67 at Roehampton, Surrey, on 23 November 1684, he left his son an ample income to support his title. He was buried at Edensor, Derbyshire.
[Source: Stater, Victor, 'Cavendish, William, third earl of Devonshire (1617-1684)', (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/4947. By permission of Oxford University Press.]
William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Devonshire
William Cavendish, 1s Duke of Devonshire (1641-1707), politician, was born on 25 January 1641. He was styled Lord Cavendish until the death of his father, also William Cavendish, 3rd Earl of Devonshire (1617-1684). His father was a royalist supporter but personally reclusive; his mother was Lady Elizabeth Cecil (1620-1689).
Despite significant family sacrifices on behalf of the royalist cause Cavendish himself grew up in an environment largely protected from the upheavals of the English civil wars and the Interregnum. His father, who made his peace with Parliament in 1645, took an active interest in his son's education and first turned for advice to Thomas Hobbes, once his own tutor and still a family retainer. Writing from St Germain in 1648 Hobbes recommended a curriculum focused on the 'latine tonge and the Mathematiques'. The study of men and manners, the nature of government, and history and the poets would then follow. Over the next several years a succession of tutors passed through the household, including Dr Henry Killigrew, Henry Oldenberg and François du Prat, who was engaged to accompany Cavendish on the grand tour. In May 1657 they left for Paris, returning to England in 1661. Cavendish and his tutor were said by the latter to have visited most of Europe. Always regarded by his contemporaries as a person of taste and sophistication, the subsequent rebuilding of Chatsworth alone suggests how important this experience was in terms of shaping Cavendish's appreciation of architecture and the visual arts.
At a ceremony presided over by Charles II, Cavendish and Mary (1646-1710), the second daughter of James Butler, 1st Duke of of Ormond, were betrothed on 5 March 1661. Because of her youth they did not marry until 26 October 1662, at Kilkenny Castle, Ireland. There were five children born to the marriage but two died before their parents: Charles, the first-born son, in 1670 and Henry in 1700. The surviving children included two sons-William [later 2nd Duke of Devonshire] and James-and a daughter, Elizabeth. Cavendish also had other children with his long-term mistress, the actress Mrs Heneage, as well as a daughter born to Anne Campion, an aspiring thespian.
On 23 April 1661 Cavendish served as one of four aristocratic scions chosen to carry the train of Charles II at his coronation, and that same year he was first elected to a seat in the Commons as a member for Derbyshire.
In 1684, on the death of his father he became the 4th Earl of Devonshire, and in 1694 he was made Duke of Devonshire as a mark of his role in bringing about the Revolution of 1688.
By virtue of wealth and class he was almost predetermined to figure prominently in the annals of the period, although he did not emerge as a talent of the first order and indeed lacked the ambition to take on a sustained leadership role. Some contemporary observers, with modern echoes, voiced criticisms of his lifestyle. It is certainly true that he gambled substantial sums on the races and on cockfights at Newmarket. He also had a litigious nature and a quick temper that led to several duels. None the less, the pattern of behaviour is not exceptional for the period, including a habit of extravagance limited only by the caution of his creditors and the strictures of the trust that his father had created to protect the Cavendish estates. What is more to the point, however, is the fact that Devonshire made two truly significant contributions to the development of English civilization. The first was his transformation of Chatsworth into an architectural masterpiece and its furnishing with some superb works of art. Between 1687 and 1706 it was totally reconstructed in several different phases. During the process Devonshire called on the services of architects William Talman (whom he sacked in 1696) and, later, Thomas Archer, while employing leading artists such as the decorative painters Antonio Verrio and Louis Laguerre, and the sculptor Caius Gabriel Cibber, but the vision and energy behind the overall project were his. Defoe makes the point nicely: "The House had indeed received Additions as it did every Year and perhaps would to this Day, had the Duke liv'd, who had a Genius for such Things beyond the reach of the most perfect Masters and was not only capable to design, but to finish."
Devonshire's second and perhaps better known contribution was the part that he played in both bringing about and determining the outcome of the Revolution of 1688. Convinced of the necessity of what he was doing, the Duke was among the handful of aristocratic leaders whose efforts enabled the success of William of Orange. In the epitaph that he composed Devonshire describes himself as a faithful subject to good sovereigns, inimical and hateful to tyrants. It is a turn of phrase that speaks to an age and a conception of state that, in fact, his actions unwittingly helped to end.
[Primary source: Hosford, David, 'Cavendish, William, first duke of Devonshire (1641-1707)', (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/4948. By permission of the Oxford University Press.]