CAVENDISH, Sir Charles (in or aft.1594-1654), of Welbeck Abbey, Notts.; later of Wellingore, Lincs.
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Family and Education
b. in or aft. 1594, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Sir Charles Cavendish† (d.1617) of Welbeck and his 2nd w. Katherine, da. and coh. of Cuthbert, 7th Lord Ogle; bro. of Sir William II*. educ. household of Gilbert Talbot†, 7th earl of Shrewsbury; embassy, Savoy 1612; Oxf. 1613. unm.1 kntd. 10 Aug. 1619.2 d. 4 Feb. 1654.3
Freeman, Nottingham 1624.4
Born the younger son of a wealthy Nottinghamshire gentleman, Cavendish was described by John Aubrey as ‘a little, weak, crooked man’. Perhaps as a result his father did all he could to encourage his early inclinations to scholarship, in particular in mathematics. Although contemporary eulogies may have tended to exaggerate his intellectual achievements, quick to contrast the power of his mind and the weakness of his physique, he nevertheless played an important role as a patron of mathematicians and a promoter of scholarly links between England and the Continent.7
In 1624 Cavendish was among ten ‘suitors’ to the Nottingham corporation for election to Parliament and he presumably owed his success to the influence of his elder brother William, who had been ennobled as Viscount Mansfield in 1620. Cavendish was made free of the borough around the time of his election. On 30 Jan. the town council wrote to Cavendish and his colleague John Byron concerning the repair of one of the town bridges and the fees payable by the corporation in the Exchequer for passing the mayor’s accounts as the ex officio escheator of Nottingham, ‘in case occasion shall be offered this Parliament or otherwise’. However the only occasion when he was mentioned in the surviving parliamentary records was on taking the oaths of supremacy and allegiance on 12 February.8
Cavendish sought re-election at Nottingham in 1625, but was thwarted when the corporation determined to return townsmen instead. He was received more sympathetically when he again approached Nottingham corporation on rumours of a forthcoming Parliament in November 1627. The Council had agreed to revert to nominating candidates from the county gentry to saving paying their Members a salary, and by this stage Cavendish’s brother was Nottinghamshire’s lord lieutenant. Consequently, Cavendish was re-elected in February 1628. 9 He made no recorded speeches, and on 21 Apr. received his only committee appointment, for the bill to settle the estate of cousin the 2nd earl of Devonshire (Sir William Cavendish I*).10 He is not mentioned in the surviving records of the 1629 session.
During the 1630s Cavendish often resided in the household of his brother, now earl of Newcastle, at Welbeck, where they conducted experiments and corresponded about mathematics, optics and mechanics with English and European intellectuals.11 Re-elected for Nottingham to the Short Parliament, Cavendish was a committed royalist in the Civil War. After Marston Moor he went with his brother into exile, but returned in 1649, recovering his estates on payment of a fine amounting to £1,507 6s. 8d. When charged with having been overseas without leave and adhering to Charles II he replied that he had been abroad for his health. He was about to rejoin his brother at Antwerp in 1653 when he was ‘seized with an ague’ of which he died the following year. He was buried at Bolsover on 25 Feb. 1654. Having died intestate, administration was granted of his estate on 24 May following to his nephew Charles Cavendish†, Viscount Mansfield.12
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: George Yerby
- 1. M. Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, Life of William Cavendish Duke of Newcastle ed. C.H. Firth, 1; HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 565-6; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 339; Al. Ox.
- 2. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 173.
- 3. A.S. Turberville, Welbeck Abbey and its Owners, i. 135.
- 4. Notts. RO, Nottingham burgess lists, CA 4649, f. 10.
- 5. C181/3, f. 223; 181/4, f. 114; 181/5, f. 223.
- 6. Northants. RO, FH133.
- 7. J. Aubrey, Brief Lives ed. A. Clark, i. 153; Cavendish, 105, 166; D. Lloyd, Memoires of the Lives (1668), p. 672; Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion ed. W.D. Macray, iii. 375; Oxford DNB.
- 8. Recs. of Bor. of Nottingham ed. W.H. Stevenson, iv. 385, 387; ‘Hawarde 1624’, p. 143.
- 9. Recs. of Bor. of Nottingham ed. W.T. Baker, v. 102, 129; Notts. RO, CA3398, f. 55; CA3399, ff. 37, 60.
- 10. CD 1628, iii. 4.
- 11. Oxford DNB; HMC Portland, ii. 122, 124, 126, 128.
- 12. Lloyd, 672; CCC, 2021; Cavendish, 58, 115; Turbverville, i. 135; Oxford DNB; PROB 6/29, f. 98.