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William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle

William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle (1592 - December 25, 1676) was an English soldier, politician and writer.

He was the eldest surviving son of Sir Charles Cavendish and his wife Catherine (daughter of Cuthbert, Lord Ogle), and the grandson of Sir William Cavendish and "Bess of Hardwick". He was educated at St John's College, Cambridge.

On the occasion of the creation of Prince Henry as Prince of Wales in 1610 he 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, daughter of William Basset of Blore[?], Staffordshire, and widow of Henry Howard, third son of Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk[?]. He possessed an immense fortune, and ee several times entertained James I and Charles I with great magnificence at Welbeck[?] and Bolsover[?].

On November 3, 1620 Cavbendish became Viscount Mansfield and on March 7, 1628 Earl of Newcastle. In 1629 the barony of Ogle[?] was restored to his mother: this title, together with an estate of £3,000 per annum, descending to him. In 1638 he became governor of Charles, Prince of Wales, and in 1639 a privy councillor[?]. 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.

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 Hull, 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 Henrietta Maria, and despatched to the king his foreign supplies. In November 1642 he advanced into Yorkshire, raised the siege of York[?], and compelled Fairfax to retire after attacking him at Tadcaster[?].

Subsequently his plans were checked by Fairfax's re-capture of Leeds in January 1643, and he retired to York. He escorted the queen, who returned from abroad in February, to York, and subsequently captured Wakefield, Rotherham and Sheffield, though failing at Leeds, but his successes were once more ravished from him by Fairfax. In June he advanced again, defeated the Fairfaxes to Adwalton Moor[?] on June 30, and obtained possession of all Yorkshire except Hull and Wressel Castle[?].

The Earl of Newcastle might now have joined the king against Essex, but continued his campaign in the north, advancing into Lincolnshire to attack the eastern association, and taking Gainsborough[?] and Lincoln. Thence he returned to besiege Hull, and in his absence the force which he had left in Lincolnshire was defeated at Winceby by Cromwell on October 11, 1643, which caused the loss of the whole county. On October 27 1643, he was created a marquis.

Next year Newcastle's position was further threatened by the advance of the Scots. Against larger numbers he could do little but harass and cut off supplies. He retreated to York, where the three armies of the Scots, of Ferdinando Fairfax and of Manchester surrounded him. On July 1 [1644]] Rupert 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 Moor.

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 Scarborough accompanied by a considerable following, including his two sons and his brother, lived at Hamburg from July 1644 to February 1645, and moved in April to Paris, where he lived for three years. There he married as his second wife Margaret (see below), daughter of Sir Thomas Lucas[?] of St John's, Colchester. Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle[?] (circa 1625 - 1673), was a dramatist, and had been maid of honour[?] to Queen Henrietta Maria. Their marriage appears to have been a very happy one.

Newcastle left in 1648 for Rotterdam with the intention of joining the Prince of Wales in command of the rebellious navy, and finally took up his abode at Antwerp, where he remained till the Restoration. In April 1650 he was appointed a member of Charles II's privy council[?], and in opposition to Hyde advocated the agreement with the Scots. In Antwerp he established his famous riding-school, exercised "the art of manage", 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).

At the Restoration 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 March 16, 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.


  • A New Method and Extraordinary Invention to Dress Horses and Work them according to Nature ... (1667)


  • The Country Captain
  • The Varietie (1649)
  • The Humorous Lovers
  • The Triumphant Widow (1677)

With 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; and be was the patron of Jonson, Shirley, Davenant, Dryden, Shadwell[?] and Flecknoe, and of Hobbes, Gassendi and Descartes.

The Duke of Newcastle died on Christmas Day 1676, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. By his first wife he had ten children, of whom one son, Henry, survived him and became 2nd Duke of Newcastle, dying in 1691 without 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 in 1694.

As a commander in the field 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 concedes that he was "a very fine gentleman," which is perhaps the best summary of his character.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

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