CAVENDISH, Sir William II (1593-1676), of Welbeck Abbey, Notts. and Clerkenwell, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

bap. 16 Dec. 1593, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sir Charles Cavendish† of Welbeck and his 2nd w. Katherine, da. and coh. of Cuthbert, 7th Lord Ogle; bro. of Sir Charles*.1 educ. in household of Gilbert Talbot†, 7th earl of Shrewsbury; St. John’s, Camb., MA 1608; embassy, Savoy 1612.2 m. (1) by 24 Oct. 1618 (with £6-7,000), Elizabeth (d. 17 Apr. 1643), da. and h. of William Bassett of Blore, Staffs., wid. of Henry Howard* of Kirk Langley, Derbys., 6s. (5 d.v.p.) 4da. (2 d.v.p.); (2) c.Dec. 1645, Margaret (d. 15 Dec. 1673), da. of Thomas Lucas of St. John’s Abbey, Colchester, Essex, s.p. KB 2 June 1610; suc. fa. 1617; cr. Visct. Mansfield 29 Oct. 1620, earl of Newcastle-on-Tyne 7 Mar. 1628; suc. mother as 9th Lord Ogle 18 Apr. 1629; cr. mq. of Newcastle 27 Oct. 1643; KG 12 Jan. 1650; cr. duke of Newcastle 16 Mar. 1665. d. 25 Dec. 1676.3

Offices Held

Member, Guiana Co. 1619.4

Commr. sewers, Leics. and Notts. 1625, 1629, Yorks, Notts. Lincs. 1629, 1634-7, Notts. 1669;5 ld. lt. Notts. 1626-42, 1660-d., Derbys. 1628-38, Northumb. (jt.) 1670-d.;6 j.p. Notts. 1626-at least 1641, 1660-d., Derbys. and Staffs. 1626-at least 1641, 1660-d., Northumb. 1628-at least 1641, liberty of Southwell and Scroby, Notts. 1629-41, custos rot. Northumb. 1628-32, Derbys. and Notts. 1640-c.1642, 1660-d.;7 commr. oyer and terminer, Midlands and Oxf. circuits 1626-42, 1660-at least 1673, Northern circ. 1635-41, 1660-at least 1673, Surr. 1640, Wales and Marches 1640, Mdx. 1660-71, borders of Eng. and Scotland, 1663, 1667, Yorks. 1663;8 commr. Forced Loan, Derbys., Notts. and Staffs. 1626-7, Newark 1627,9 lead ore, Derbys. 1627,10 swans, Midland counties 1627, Eng. except West Country ?1629;11 commr. knighthood, Derbys., Notts. 1630-1,12 exacted fees, Notts. 1634;13 charitable uses, Derbys. 1635;14 constable and high steward, honour of Pontefract ?1636-40, jt. 1640-44;15 warden, Sherwood Forest 1641;16 commr. perambulation, Sherwood Forest 1641,17 array, co. Dur., Northumb. and Notts. 1642, Derbys. 1643.18

Gov. to Charles, prince of Wales 1638-41,19 gent. of the robes 1641-at least 1645;20 PC 1639-?, 1650-d.;21 gent. of the bedchamber 1660-d.;22 c. j. in eyre (north) 1661-d.23

Capt. horse 1639;24 gov. Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1642; col. of horse, ft. and drag. (roy,) 1642-4; capt.-gen. north of Trent (roy.) 1642-4.25


Cavendish needs to be distinguished from his first cousin and namesake, Sir William Cavendish I*, subsequently 2nd earl of Devonshire. His father, Sir Charles Cavendish, sat for Nottinghamshire in 1593 and 1601 and was the youngest son of Sir William Cavendish†, treasurer of the chamber under three Tudor monarchs, and ‘Bess of Hardwick’.26 After the death of her husband in 1557, Sir William’s widow married the 6th earl of Shrewsbury and her daughter Mary married the earl’s eldest son, Gilbert Talbot. In the 1590s Sir Charles acquired Welbeck Abbey, situated three-and-a-half miles south-west of Worksop, near the border between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, from his brother-in-law, by now the 7th earl of Shrewsbury. Cavendish and his younger brother, Sir Charles Cavendish*, were consequently sent to their aunt and uncle’s household to be educated.27

In her biography of him, Cavendish’s second wife states that he ‘never showed a great inclination’ to scholarship and that his tutors at Cambridge ‘could not persuade him to read or study much, he taking more delight in sports, than in learning’. Nevertheless his aunt, the countess of Shrewsbury, was a benefactress of St. John’s, which presumably explains how Cavendish came to be awarded an MA in 1608. Although no scholar, Cavendish was devoted to music, and under his father’s guidance he also developed into one of the finest horsemen in the kingdom.28 Sir Henry Wotton*, whom he accompanied on the latter’s mission to Savoy in 1612, described him as ‘very nobly bred, and of great expectations’.29

Two years later, still under age, Cavendish was elected for East Retford, at the nomination of his uncle, the 7th earl of Shrewsbury, the high steward of the borough.30 The surviving parliamentary records do not distinguish between Cavendish and his cousin, who sat for Derbyshire. One or other received five committee appointments and made one recorded speech. The speech, delivered on 23 May, concerned a bill to naturalize certain Scottish courtiers, suggesting that the speaker was Sir William Cavendish I, who was married to a Scot. It was presumably the same Member who was appointed to the committee for the bill on the same day. The four other committees concerned the administration of the Court of Wards (14 May), the status of baronets (23 May), Bishop Neile’s speech accusing the Commons of sedition (25 May) and the conference with the Lords about the observance of the Sabbath (1 June). Although there is nothing specifically to tie any of those issues with either Member it is more likely that they refer to Cavendish’s cousin, who was older and had marginally more parliamentary experience, having already sat in 1610.31

Cavendish was described by the duchess of Newcastle as of a ‘sweet, gentle, and obliging nature’, who ‘to the meanest person he’ll put off his hat, and suffer everybody to speak to him’. She also wrote that he was ‘a great lover and admirer of the female sex’. He failed in his first courtship because the lady’s step-father, Sir Edward Coke*, insisted on marrying her to Buckingham’s brother. Shortly afterwards, however, he secured a much wealthier bride who brought him £2,400 a year in land, and over £6,000 in money.32

Cavendish was elevated to the peerage before the elections for the 1621 Parliament. Although no money seems to have changed hands he effectively purchased the title in return for surrendering his claims to part of the estate of the earl of Shrewsbury, who had died in 1616. Shrewsbury had appointed Cavendish one of his executors but the latter sued Shrewsbury’s three daughters and coheirs, the countesses of Pembroke and Arundel and Lady Grey, claiming a right to a significant portion of the lands. The peerage was granted at the request of the earl of Arundel and Cavendish promptly abandoned his suit.33

In July 1626 the Nottinghamshire lieutenancy was revived for Mansfield, probably as reward for his support for the duke of Buckingham, and he was also appointed to the bench.34 Described by Lucy Hutchinson, the daughter-in-law of the 1626 Nottinghamshire member Sir Thomas Hutchinson*, as of ‘great estate, liberal hospitality, and constant residence’, these factors, combined with considerable skill in public relations, enabled him to score a marked personal success over the Forced Loan in 1627, when he persuaded the Nottinghamshire subsidymen to consent to pay the levy.35 He was advanced to an earldom in 1628, taking his title from Newcastle-upon-Tyne in anticipation of the great estates in Northumberland that came to him from his mother in the following year. Angling for a place at Court, though eventually successful, cost him £40,000 and landed him in debt, despite a rental that may have come close to £14,000.36 He resigned his place as governor of the prince of Wales under suspicion of involvement in the First Army Plot of 1641, and commanded the royalist forces in the north with conspicuous courage until he was defeated at Marston Moor in 1644. In his 16 years of continental exile he wrote four comedies and a book on horsemanship. Returning at the Restoration, he lived to the age of 83. He enjoyed the unusual privilege, for an Englishman of his period, of reading his own biography, written by his duchess. On its publication in 1667 Samuel Pepys* commented that it showed the author ‘to be a mad, conceited, ridiculous woman, and he an ass to suffer her to write what she writes to him and of him’. He was buried in Westminster Abbey on 22 Jan. 1677, in accordance with his will, drawn up on 4 Oct. 1676. His elder son Charles sat for East Retford in the Long Parliament until disabled as a royalist, while his younger son, Henry, represented Derbyshire in the Convention and Northumberland in the Cavalier Parliament.37

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. CP, ix. 521.
  • 2. M. Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, Life of William Cavendish Duke of Newcastle ed. C.H. Firth, 1-2; Al. Cant.; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 339.
  • 3. Ibid. ii. 174; Cavendish, 72, 115-16; CP, ix. 521-6; Shaw, Knights of Eng. i. 34, 158.
  • 4. T.K. Rabb, Enterprise and Empire, 262.
  • 5. C181/3, f. 162; 181/4, ff. 16v, 23v, 174, 16v; 181/5, ff. 16v, 38v, 53, 86v; 181/7, f. 487.
  • 6. Sainty, Lords Lieutenants, 17, 29; List of Lord Lieutenants of Counties of Eng. and Wales comp. J.C. Sainty (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xii), 113.
  • 7. C231/4, ff. 205, 208, 261; 231/5, pp. 95, 384, 397; 231/7, pp. 21, 24; C66/2859; C181/3, f. 266v; 181/5, f. 216v.
  • 8. C181/3, ff. 205v, 207; 181/4, f. 197; 181/5, ff. 169, 184v, 203v, 218v, 219v; 181/7, ff. 2, 10, 14, 17, 194, 220, 392, 588, 637, 639, 641.
  • 9. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, pp. 144-5; C193/12/2, ff. 9, 43, 53v, 88v.
  • 10. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 307.
  • 11. C181/3, ff. 226v, 267.
  • 12. E178/7154, f. 326; 178/5227, ff. 4, 7; 178/5571, f. 5.
  • 13. C181/4, f. 159.
  • 14. Cal. of Docquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry ed. J. Broadway, R. Cust and S.K. Roberts (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xxxiv), 54.
  • 15. Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 506; CP, ix. 522-3; Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 149.
  • 16. Rymer, ix. pt. 3, p. 88.
  • 17. C181/5, f. 210.
  • 18. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 19. Strafforde Letters, ii. 166; CSP Dom. 1637-8, p. 434; 1641-3, p. 24.
  • 20. Rymer, ix. pt. 3, p. 41. CSP Dom. 1644-5, p. 260.
  • 21. CP, ix. 522, 524.
  • 22. CSP Dom. 1667-8, p. 570.
  • 23. CSP Dom. 1661-2, p. 35.
  • 24. HMC Portland, ii. 132.
  • 25. List of Officers Claiming (1663), p. 100; CSP Dom. 1641-3, p. 418; Cavendish, 13.
  • 26. HP Commons, 1509-58, i. 597-9.
  • 27. Oxford DNB.
  • 28. Cavendish, 104-5; Oxford DNB; Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion ed. W.D. Macray, iii. 281.
  • 29. Life and Letters of Sir Henry Wotton ed. L. Pearsall Smith, ii. 2.
  • 30. D. Marcombe, English Small Town Life, 75.
  • 31. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 235, 319, 320, 322, 327, 346, 405.
  • 32. Cavendish, 109-11; Chamberlain Letters, ii. 56.
  • 33. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 2; C.R. Mayes, ‘Sale of Peerages in Early Stuart Eng.’, JMH, xxix. 26-7.
  • 34. Oxford DNB.
  • 35. L. Hutchinson, Mems. of the Life of Col. Hutchinson ed. J. Hutchinson, 95; R. Cust, Forced Loan, 118-19; 198, 290.
  • 36. Strafforde Letters, i. 101; J.R. Dias, ‘Pols. and Admin. in Notts. and Derbys. 1590-1640’, (Oxf. Univ. D. Phil. thesis, 1973), p. 63.
  • 37. CSP Dom. 1641-3, p. 63; Clarendon, iii. 382; Pepys Diary, ed. R. Latham and W. Mathews, ix. 123; CP, ix. 526; PROB 11/353, f. 173.