CAVENDISH, Sir Charles (1553-1617), of Welbeck Abbey, Notts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. Nov. 1553, 3rd s. of Sir William Cavendish by his 3rd w. Elizabeth, da. of John Hardwick, wid. of Robert Barley; bro. of Henry and William Cavendish II. educ. Clare, Camb. 1567. m. (1) 1581, Margaret, da. and coh. of Sir Thomas Kitson of Hengrave, Suff., s.p.; (2) 1592, Catherine, da. and coh. of Cuthbert, 7th Baron Ogle, 1 3s. Kntd. 1582.

Offices Held

J.p. Notts. from c.1593.


When Cavendish was four, his mother married as her fourth husband George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, a widower with seven children, and the families were brought up together. After his education at Cambridge almost nothing is known of him before 1582, when he succumbed to the charms of his stepfather’s prisoner Mary Stuart to the point of asking her to write a letter on his behalf. Perhaps he was acting for a friend; in any case Mary, though expressing sympathy, refused the request. It is even possible that Cavendish had Catholic sympathies: in 1592 Robert Bainbridge described him as a dangerous influence on the young 7th Earl of Shrewsbury—‘always at his elbow, politic and having great sway with him. [Cavendish’s] first wife was ... a papist by birth, and so continued, and his second wife is thought to be no better’. It is a fact that Charles Cavendish was a lifelong friend of the 7th Earl, whose wife, Cavendish’s sister, was a Catholic, as, in all probability, was another sister, Frances Pierrepont.2

Until the 1590s Cavendish spent much time at court, frequently sending his mother news and gossip, and accompanying her and his brother William on her last visit there in 1591-2. It is likely that Cavendish considered standing for Derbyshire in 1584 to protect her interests against his stepfather during the period of estrangement between Earl and Countess, but the 6th Earl was too great a power in the county, and he prevented Cavendish standing. However, Cavendish took a leading part in the 1593 Nottinghamshire election on the side of the 7th Earl against the Stanhopes. Already in 1592 he had challenged John Stanhope to a duel at Lambeth Bridge, but the Privy Council intervened, prevented the contest, and committed them both to prison. Immediately after their release, Stanhope was set upon in Fleet Street by Cavendish and his servants, and one of his men seriously injured. In the middle of this quarrel came the Nottinghamshire election, during which it was alleged against Cavendish that he had no main estate in the county, only, by his own account ‘two lordships there ... called Kirkby Hardwick, beside some freehold land of his own purchase, and there at Kirkby he is both assessed for the subsidy and hath kept servants and family a long time’. Cavendish’s main seat in the county, Welbeck Abbey, was given him by Shrewsbury soon after the election. He was no doubt the ‘Sir Charles Candish’ who was appointed to two committees in the 1593 Parliament, on recusancy (28 Feb.) and the subsidy (1 Mar.). As knight for Nottinghamshire, he may have attended committees considering the subsidy (26 Feb. 1593) and a legal matter (9 Mar.). In 1599, when he was engaged in building operations at Kirkby, partially financed by his mother, Cavendish was attacked by a party including John Stanhope, and injured ‘near the point of his buttock’ by two bullets. Stanhope was ‘foremost in running away’, but three of his men were killed. Cavendish again sat for Nottinghamshire in Elizabeth’s last Parliament, this time with his nephew Robert Pierrepont. He was appointed to committees dealing with the abbreviation of the Michaelmas term (11 Nov.) and monopolies (23 Nov.), and, as knight of the shire, to the main business committee of 3 Nov. 1601. Unlike his brother William he did not find favour with James I and soon retired to his estates. In December 1611 he was involved in a Star Chamber case against William, and four years later he suffered the confiscation of some lands in Sherwood Forest, following his refusal to answer a bill of complaint exhibited by one Otho Nicholson.3

He died on 4 Apr. 1617, and was buried at Bolsover, Derbyshire, leaving as heir his 22 year-old son, Sir William, who became the 1st Duke of Newcastle. The nuncupative will, proved in June the same year, left all his personal estate to his widow, the executrix, for life, after the deduction of legacies of £1,500 and 1,000 marks to his two surviving sons. Cavendish was a patron of the madrigalist George Wilbye.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: P. W. Hasler


  • 1. Glover, Derbys. ii(1), pp. 242-3; CSP Dom. 1591-4, p. 174.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 64; 1591-4, p. 174; D. N. Durant, Bess of Hardwick, 115, 216-17.
  • 3. Durant, 165, 191-2; HMC Shrewsbury and Talbot, ii. 130; Turberville, Welbeck Abbey, i. 14-17; Wood, Notts. 146-9; D’Ewes, 474, 477, 481, 486, 496, 624, 635, 649; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, pp. 222, 238; 1611-18, pp. 286, 314, 334.
  • 4. C142/393/166; PCC 62 Weldon; Durant, 115.