CAVENDISH, Sir William I (c.1590-1628), of Chatsworth, Derbys. and Devonshire House, St. Botolph Bishopsgate, London

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

Constituency

Dates

24 Oct. 1610
1626 - 3 Mar. 1626

Family and Education

b. c.1590, 2nd but o. surv. s. of (Sir) William Cavendish† of Hardwick Hall, Derbys. and 1st w. Anne, da. and coh. of Henry Keighley of Keighley, Yorks.1 educ. privately (James Starkey) 1599-1602, (Thomas Oates) 1602-4, (Robert Bruen) 1604-8,2 (Thomas Hobbes) 1608-c.1615;3 G. Inn, entered 1602;4 travelled abroad (Italy) 1614-15.5 m. 10 Apr. 1608 (with £7,000), Christian (d. 16 Jan. 1675), da. of Edward, 1st Lord Bruce of Kinloss [S], of Ampthill, Beds. master of the Rolls 1603-11, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da. kntd. 7 Mar. 1609; styled Lord Cavendish 7 Aug. 1618; suc. fa. as 2nd earl of Devonshire 3 Mar. 1626. d. 20 June 1628.6

Offices Held

J.p. Beds. 1608-15, 1624-d.,7 Derbys. c.1609,8 by 1612-d.,9 Notts. 1618-d., Staffs. and Leics. 1626-d.;10 custos rot. Derbys. 1617-at least 1626;11 commr. musters, Derbys. 1618,12 oyer and terminer, Midland circ. 1618-at least 1626,13 Norf. circ. 1624-at least 1626;14 ld. lt. Derbys. (jt.) 1619-26, (sole) 1626-d.,15 commr. subsidy, Derbys. Derby, Notts. 1621-2, 1624,16 Forced Loan, Derbys. 1626-7, Beds. 1627, Leics. 1627, Notts. 1627, Staffs. 1627, Derby 1627,17 swans, Midland counties 1627,18 lead ore purchases, Derbys. 1627.19

Member Virg. Co. 1612, cttee. 1621-4, Somers Islands Co. member 1620, cttee. 1622, gov. 1622-4;20 member, E.I. Co. by 1626.21

Biography

Cavendish’s ancestors took their name from a Suffolk manor, where they were established in the fourteenth century, and first entered Parliament in 1377. Cavendish’s grandfather, a younger son, became treasurer of the chamber to Henry VIII, and transformed himself into a Derbyshire magnate by large grants of ex-monastic land, including Chatsworth, and by marriage to the formidable ‘Bess of Hardwick’.22 Cavendish’s father succeeded to the Derbyshire estates and bought a peerage in 1605. By the late 1620s the family lands totalled 100,000 acres, 45 per cent of which were in Derbyshire.23

Cavendish was brought up at Hardwick Hall, where his education was entrusted to a series of tutors. Robert Bruen, brother of the celebrated puritan squire, John Bruen of Cheshire,24 seems to have been more successful in forming his mind than his morals. While still under 14 he was reported to be ‘lying with’ his stepmother’s gentlewoman, Margaret Chatterton, ‘as he used to do with many others’, and with Bruen’s connivance to have contracted himself to her in marriage.25 Bruen was replaced by the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, and Cavendish was compelled to marry the 12-year-old daughter of a Scottish courtier.26 Despite its inauspicious start, the marriage proved successful. ‘God made them into one, and they were one in judgment and in will, and in affection and care’;27 and Hobbes became a life-long employee and friend.28 The Chattertons attempted blackmail, but were prosecuted in 1609 for conspiracy.29

In early 1610 Cavendish was granted a licence to travel, presumably to round off his education, but there is no evidence that it was utilized.30 On 21 Oct. 1610 the earl of Northampton, his father’s patron, successfully recommended him for the vacant seat at Bishop’s Castle,31 but he left no trace on the sparse records of the final session of the first Stuart Parliament. Even before coming of age he contracted great debts, ‘having in himself a noble disdain to be limited to the expense of so many thousands only’,32 and in February 1614 he was arrested. ‘By mediation and means of friends’, he was returned for Derbyshire in the following month, and one of his creditors, Sir Baptist Hicks*, believed ‘that the said Sir William after his said arrest did use means to be elected knight of the said shire to the intent to free himself thereby of his said imprisonment’.33 His cousin Sir William Cavendish II* also sat in the Addled Parliament, but though they cannot be distinguished from each other it is probable that Cavendish was appointed to five committees. The first of these, established on 14 May, concerned the bill for the Court of Wards.34 As one of the few Members married to a Scotswoman, Cavendish delivered his maiden speech on a bill to naturalize three Scottish courtiers on 23 May. Objecting to the proposal of Sir Robert Phelips* to restrict eligibility for the Commons to the native-born, as a slur on ‘these gentlemen’, he had been either forewarned or anticipated Phelips’ proposal and had a prepared speech in a ‘table book’. Sir John Savile* reproved the Speaker for failure to rule him out of order for having ‘read ... what he should have spoken’, but Savile found no support, and Cavendish was named to the committee.35 He was also among those ordered to consider the constitutional position of the baronetage (23 May), to recommend action over Bishop Neile’s accusations of sedition (25 May) and to attend a conference with the Lords on the bill for better observance of the Sabbath (1 June).36

Cavendish obtained a pass overseas four days after the dissolution and fled abroad as soon as his privilege expired with Hobbes, who was one of his sureties. The creditors sued the under-sheriffs, and were themselves prosecuted at Cavendish’s instance for usury.37 The outcome of the case is unknown. Cavendish made use of his travels to become an accomplished linguist, and cultivated the art of ‘clear expression of himself in matters of difficulty and consequence’, both ‘in public and in private’.38 He returned to England by the end of the following year. In 1617 he helped his old constituency of Bishop’s Castle to obtain a new charter in return for the nomination of his kinsman Francis Nichols* at the next election.39 ‘A most able man for soundness of advice’, according to the family historian,40 he was several times employed by the Virginia Company, in which he was prominent, to negotiate with the government.41 Neither experience nor his father’s ‘frugal hand’ could curb his extravagance,42 and in 1620 he had to borrow his contribution for the recovery of the Palatinate.43

Cavendish was joined with his father in the lieutenancy of Derbyshire before the next election, and thereafter was elected to the senior county seat so long as he remained eligible. In the third Jacobean Parliament he was appointed to 23 committees and made three speeches. He was named to the committee for privileges on 5 Feb. 1621, and a week later was among those instructed to draft the petition for free speech.44 He seems to have been worried that Catholics had infiltrated the Commons, supporting Sir Thomas Roe’s motion on 9 Feb. to establish whether all Members had been sworn, pointing out the difficulty of distinguishing at the swearing of the House who truly took the oath.45 He was ordered to attend the conference with the Lords of 14 Feb. on recusancy, and was among those charged on 21 Feb. with recommending petitions to be presented to the House.46 His legislative appointments included duchy of Cornwall leases (28 Feb.), drunkenness (1 Mar.) and the militia (7 March).47 On 7 Mar. he acted as teller for a proviso to defer payment of the subsidy in Wales, and was named to the committee for the bill.48 He was appointed to attend the conference of 13 Mar. on monopolies, and on the following day witnessed the lord chancellor’s last feeble attempt to deny the evidence of corruption given by (Sir) George Hastings* and Sir Richard Yonge*.49 He took the chair for bills to naturalize two more Scottish courtiers, which he reported on 26 Mar., and was teller for the unsuccessful motion to ask the king for copies of his ‘inimitable’ speech on the adjournment for the Easter recess.50

When Parliament resumed, Cavendish opened the debate on tobacco (18 April). His motion to exempt the produce of Virginia and the Somers Islands from the ban on imports was accepted, and on 3 May he was appointed to the committee to restrain smoking.51 He was named to conferences with the Lords on informers on 19 Apr. and 1 Dec., and to drafting committees for the regulation of Chancery (25 Apr.) and the prevention of favouritism and other abuses in the law courts (27 April).52 On 26 May he carried up nine bills.53 He was appointed to the joint committee of both Houses on punishing Floyd (8 May) and was again named to help to manage a conference on the Lords’ Day (24 May).54 On 3 June he served on the deputation to inform the king that the Commons preferred an immediate adjournment to proceeding with legislative business.55 During the winter sitting Cavendish moved to resume discussion of the bill to standardize arms for the militia and legalize payments to the county muster-masters on 29 November.56 On 3 Dec. he was among those ordered to examine a petition against judge Hutton.57

In the bitter dispute over the running of the Virginia Company, Cavendish sided with the 3rd earl of Southampton and Sir Edwin Sandys* against the 2nd earl of Warwick (Sir Robert Rich*). On 13 May 1623 he was placed under house arrest for libelling Warwick, but was released five days later on making his apology.58 The king forbade his re-election as governor of the Somers Islands Company, and his nomination as treasurer of the Virginia Company proved unsuccessful, although he pledged £100 for the immediate relief of the colonists.59 His truce with Warwick proved short-lived, and after a virulent quarrel in the boardroom they were reported on 17 July to be making for the Low Countries to fight a duel. Cavendish’s progress must have been leisurely, since he was detained eight days later at Shoreham.60

Re-elected in 1624, Cavendish was one of those deputed by the lord steward to administer the oaths of allegiance and supremacy to his fellow members.61 In addition, he was appointed to 16 committees and made six recorded speeches. He was among those appointed on 27 Feb. to vindicate Buckingham’s account of the mission to Spain, to manage a conference with the Lords on breaking off the marriage negotiations (3 Mar.) and to hear the prince’s appeal for practical support (11 March).62 In the Norfolk election case he acted as teller (24 Mar.) with Sir Thomas Edmondes for unseating Sir Thomas Holland and Sir John Corbet.63 Named to the recusancy conference of 3 Apr., he assured the Commons on 27 Apr. that no Catholic held public office in Derbyshire.64 In the debate on trade of 9 Apr. he supported the attack on lord treasurer Middlesex (Sir Lionel Cranfield*) over some recently introduced impositions. He observed that, whereas the preamble to the Book of Rates claimed that these new duties had been introduced with the ‘consent of the officers of the custom house’, the officers themselves denied it. He was among those appointed to ‘find out who advised the king and first projected ... this new imposition on wine, sugars, and grocery’.65 When Middlesex asked for more time to rebut charges of corruption on 10 Apr., Cavendish pointed out that other business in the Upper House had already been deferred to allow him to make his defence, and was named to the committee for the impeachment.66 In the debate on the report on 15 Apr. he adduced evidence that Middlesex had helped secure the dissolution of the previous Parliament, and also said:

It is proved that he was a projector in the business of the Court of Wards, for he got it put into the hands of the court, where he could rule, whereas before it was referred to ten of the Council. In raising the Benevolence, when some would give thus much, he set them down more, and committed them to pursuivants, and threatened etc.67

After the debate he was sent to the Lords to ask for a conference on the charges.68 He was appointed to the committees to examine the Merchant Adventurers’ patent (23 Apr.), to hear a petition from the Virginia Company (26 Apr.), to consider bills concerning the Feltmakers’ Company of London (30 Apr.) and for making Middlesex’s lands liable for his debts (19 May).69 He spoke in support of the petition of the Virginia Company when the committee met on 28 Apr. and on 4 May he attended one of the five recorded meetings of the Feltmakers’ committee.70 He reported two further naturalization bills on 1 May, for Sir Robert Kerr* and David Stanere,71 and took an interest in the rival bills promoted by the 18th earl of Oxford and Magdalene College, Cambridge, concerning a property in the London parish of St. Botolph without Aldgate. On 4 May he asked the House on the earl of Oxford’s behalf to defer debate until the next day, and to add to the committee counsel for the king and Prince Charles.72 On 9 Apr. he introduced the bill to free Derbyshire lead ore from tithe, in which like many of his constituents he had a financial interest. His name heads the committee list after the second reading on 17 Apr., but he did not attend the sole recorded meeting. On 12 May John Wylde reported that the ‘committee thought fit to have it no further proceeded in’, and consequently a motion for engrossment was lost.73 He was among those ordered on 28 May to attend the king with the grievances. On the same day he carried the pardon bill to the Upper House, returning (somewhat irregularly) with a request for a conference on the bill to restrict the use of the Exchequer by privileged creditors.74 After the prorogation he narrowly escaped imprisonment for alleging that William Jones* was a corrupt judge.75

In the first Caroline Parliament Cavendish was appointed to nine committees, including the committee for privileges (21 June), and frequently carried messages between the Houses.76 He attended the conference with the Lords on petitioning for a fast on 23 June 1625, and on the following day he was named to a committee to draft the heads of the petition on religion, subsequently being among those appointed on 8 July to present it to the king.77 He was named to the committee for a bill against bribery in judicial appointments (29 June).78 He also attended an undated meeting of the committee to consider the bill to confirm an agreement between the Crown and the tenants of the manor of Macclesfield.79 On 5 July he successfully acted as teller against allowing counsel to Sir Thomas Wentworth* over the Yorkshire election case.80 With the plague raging, on 8 July he was named to a conference with the Lords on adjourning Parliament and granting habeas corpus to prisoners in London. The following day he reported that the Lords fully concurred with the Commons desire for a speedy adjournment and would inform the king accordingly. They had received a petition for release from the prisoners in the Fleet and, while hesitating to intervene in a matter under discussion in the Lower House, they thought the case was urgent. The petition was read, and Cavendish moved a vote of thanks to the Lords for their ‘fair proceedings’.81 Two days later he was appointed to attend a conference at which it was announced that Parliament would meet again at Oxford at the beginning of the following month.82 He was sent to the Lords on 8 Aug. to request a conference on the pardoning of Jesuits and recusants, to which he was named.83

Disillusionment with Charles’s attitude to Parliament and his close friendship with Sir James Fullerton*, who had married Lord Bruce’s widow, drew Cavendish into the 3rd earl of Pembroke’s political circle, and in the second Caroline Parliament, according to (Sir) James Bagg II*, ‘whilst he was of that House [he] was the abettor of all that faction’.84 When Parliament met on 6 Feb. 1626 he was again among those deputed to swear in Members and three days latter he was named to the committee for privileges.85 On the same day he was teller for the minority against inviting Dean Bargrave as incumbent of St. Margaret’s to preach at the corporate communion, presumably preferring the alternative candidate, John Donne*.86 He was among those ordered to consider the bill to reform Charterhouse (11 Feb.) and to investigate the excommunication of Sir Robert Howard* (17 February).87 In the debate about the augmentation of clerical livings at the committee for religion on 13 Feb. Cavendish proposed that a bill introduced in the 1614 concerning appropriate benefices should be revived.88 When the merchants’ petition against imposition on wine was read at the committee for grievances on 15 Feb. Cavendish moved that consideration should be deferred until all the lawyers were present but when the detention of the St. Peter of Le Havre was debated on 22 Feb., Cavendish announced that he had been asked by three French merchants to acquaint the House with ‘the whole process of this business’ and produced a long letter from a factor at Rouen describing the injurious effect on English merchants trading there, and placing the blame squarely on Buckingham as lord admiral.89 The following day he argued that it was not necessary to petition the king about the St. Peter as Charles I had refused to seize the ship by ‘regia manu’ [by the hand of the king], and he asked ‘are the order, the decree, the stay against all those without all grounds? Refers it to the consideration of the House whether not fit to do something in it’. He was presumably seeking to shift the blame from the king to Buckingham. The Admiralty proceedings concerning the St. Peter were referred to the committee which had been appointed on 18 Feb. to investigate the seizure of the merchants goods in France, to which Cavendish was added. At the committee he questioned Marten whether he had advised that the goods should be seized ‘regia manu’.90

On 24 Feb. the discussion turned to the king’s revenue, whereupon Cavendish gave a long narrative of political events from 1621, in which he argued that the advice of Commons, which was at first neglected, had ‘afterwards proved the best’. He stated that the Commons had been ‘ever faithful’, and instanced their willingness to vote supply in 1621 ‘before any laws passed’ and their making ‘the bravest protestation that ever Parliament made’ in support of the Palatinate. Instead of receiving thanks for these actions, he complained, the 3rd earl of Southampton and Sir Edwin Sandys had been imprisoned ‘for their forwardness in the queen of Bohemia’s cause’. Moreover, the 1621 Parliament had been dissolved because its Members were ‘thought too busy in things above’, and those ‘that spoke their consciences’ were imprisoned. Two years later Prince Charles had gone to Spain, ‘to the amazement of the world and the terror of all honest men’. When Parliament met again in 1624, ‘counsel which before rejected was now followed’. The improved atmosphere had turned sour in 1625, however, for after having voted two subsidies the Crown had encouraged Members to return home only to make a new motion for supply ‘in an empty House’. After the Parliament was adjourned to Oxford the Commons made ‘as large offer to help the king’, but its best endeavours were thwarted by the Crown’s own ministers, who ‘dared not encourage this fleet’. After this lengthy and somewhat inaccurate rehearsal of recent events, Cavendish moved that the Commons should ‘give the king notice of the counsels of former Parliaments that prospered and then desire him to take the counsel of this Parliament’, implicitly making this a condition of supply.91

Cavendish spoke twice in grand committee concerning the defence of the kingdom on 25 Feb., first to propose that they start with consideration of the defence of the coast and then to argue that Sir Robert Mansell* should give inform to a ‘private committee’ about the Navy.92 Two days latter he moved that discussion of (Sir) John Finch I’s report concerning the election of Sir Edward Coke* should be deferred so that the House could again go into committee to debate the king’s estate and the state of the kingdom.93 His succession as earl of Devonshire on 3 Mar. ended his Commons career.

Devonshire paid his Forced Loan assessment of £600 in November 1626 and was subsequently active in implementing the Loan in Derbyshire. However, when he received a Privy Seal demanding a further £600 in January 1628 he refused to pay.94 He increased his indebtedness ‘by the magnificence of his living both in town and country, his house appearing rather like a prince’s court that a subject’s’.95 A bill introduced in the third Caroline Parliament, enabling him to sell land to pay debts of £20,000, finally passed the Commons on 10 June 1628.96 He made his will seven days later. It was witnessed by the Scottish divine Walter Balcanquall, Thomas Hobbes and Samuel Turner*, and constituted his ‘loving wife’ as sole executrix, who was commended as the fittest guardian of his infant children. She subsequently justified his confidence by restoring the prosperity of the estate. He gave £50 each to Philip Mainwaring*, Thomas Bond* and Dr. John Craig, the last of whom had testified during the impeachment proceedings against Buckingham in 1626 concerning the application of the plaster to James I.97 He died three days later at his London house ‘from indulgence in good living’.98 His bowels were buried the following night at St. Botolph Bishopsgate and the rest of his body on 11 July 1628 in All Saints, Derby where a monument was erected.99 His grandson sat for Derbyshire in the Cavalier Parliament and later as an Exclusionist, and after the Glorious Revolution attained the highest rank in the peerage.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Virginia C.D. Moseley

Notes

  • 1. CP, iv. 340-1.
  • 2. L. Hulse, ‘Hardwick mss 29: A New Source for Jacobean Lutenists’, Lute, xxvi. 63.
  • 3. Oxford DNB sub Hobbes, Thomas.
  • 4. GI Admiss.
  • 5. Oxford DNB sub Hobbes, Thomas.
  • 6. CP, iv. 340-1; Oxford DNB; Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 247.
  • 7. SP14/33, f. 5; C66/2047; 66/2449; C231/4, f. 166.
  • 8. C66/1822.
  • 9. C66/1898; E163/18/12, f. 14v.
  • 10. C231/4, ff. 58, 203; C66/2449.
  • 11. C231/4, f. 43; E163/18/12, f. 14v.
  • 12. APC, 1618-19, p. 116.
  • 13. C181/1, f. 307; 181/3, f. 205v.
  • 14. C181/3, ff. 116, 204v.
  • 15. Sainty, Lords Lieutenants, 17.
  • 16. C212/22/20-1, 23.
  • 17. E179/93/355, f. 1; C193/12/2, ff. 1, 9, 28, 42v, 53v, 81v.
  • 18. C181/3, f. 226.
  • 19. SP16/35/40; CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 307.
  • 20. Recs. Virg. Co. ed. S.M. Kingsbury, iii. 534, 603, 651; T.K. Rabb, Enterprise and Empire, 262.
  • 21. PROB 11/152, f. 97v.
  • 22. Collins, Peerage, i. 303-5, 312, 316.
  • 23. William Senior’s Survey of Estates of First and Second Earls of Devonshire ed. D.V. Fowkes and G.R. Potter (Derbs. Rec. Soc. xiii), p. xviii.
  • 24. Vis. Cheshire (Harl. Soc. lix), 48; Oxford DNB sub Bruen, John.
  • 25. STAC 8/13/8.
  • 26. Illustrations of Brit. Hist. ed. E. Lodge, iii. 233; HMC Bath, v. 134.
  • 27. W. Pomfret, Lady Devonshire, 21.
  • 28. Oxford DNB sub Hobbes, Thomas.
  • 29. STAC 8/13/8.
  • 30. SO3/4, unfol. Feb. 1610.
  • 31. HMC 10th Rep. IV, 406; L. Peck, Northampton, 36-7.
  • 32. Pomfret, 24.
  • 33. C2/Jas.I/C9/64.
  • 34. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 235.
  • 35. Ibid. 319, 320, 327.
  • 36. Ibid. 322, 346, 405.
  • 37. SO3/6, June 1614; C2.Jas.I/C9/64.
  • 38. Carleton to Chamberlain ed. M. Lee, 6; W. Kennet, Mems. of Cavendish Fam. 6.
  • 39. HMC 10th Rep. IV, 402; H.T. Weyman, ‘Members of Parl. for Bishops Castle’ Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 2), x. 41.
  • 40. Kennet, 6.
  • 41. Recs. Virg. Co. i. 275, 398; ii. 31, 34; iii. 81.
  • 42. CD 1628, iv. 227; Pomfret, 24.
  • 43. CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 192.
  • 44. CJ, i. 507b, 518a.
  • 45. Ibid. 514b.
  • 46. Ibid. 522b; CD 1621, vi. 258.
  • 47. CJ, i. 531b, 532b, 543a.
  • 48. Ibid. 544a
  • 49. Ibid. 551a; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 172.
  • 50. CJ, i. 575b, 577b.
  • 51. Ibid. 581a, 605b; CD 1621, iii. 12; v. 333.
  • 52. CJ, i. 582b, 591a, 595a, 654b.
  • 53. CD 1621, v. 386.
  • 54. CJ, i. 614b, 626a.
  • 55. Ibid. 637b.
  • 56. CD 1621, ii. 469.
  • 57. CJ, i. 655a.
  • 58. Recs. Virg. Co. ii. 171; iv. 192; APC, 1621-3, pp. 491, 498.
  • 59. Recs. Virg. Co. ii. 420; iv. 198, 247.
  • 60. APC, 1623-5, p. 59; CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 28.
  • 61. Ferrar 1624, p. 11; CJ, i. 670.
  • 62. CJ, i. 722a, 676b, 683a.
  • 63. Ibid. 749b.
  • 64. Ibid. 754a, 776a.
  • 65. ‘Earle 1624’, f. 127; CJ, i. 760a, 760b.
  • 66. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 138v; CJ, i. 764a.
  • 67. ‘Earle 1624’, f. 142; Holles 1624, p. 82.
  • 68. ‘Holland 1624’, ii. f. 29v.
  • 69. CJ, i. 691a, 695a, 705b, 774a.
  • 70. Ferrar 1624, pp. 83-8; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 202.
  • 71. CJ, i. 781b.
  • 72. Ibid. 783a.
  • 73. ‘Hawarde 1624’, p. 241; J.R. Dias, ‘Lead, Soc. and Pols. in Derbys. before the Civil War’, Midland Hist. vi. 46; CJ, i. 769a, 787b; Kyle, 214.