William Cavendish (courtier)

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William Cavendish

William Cavendish c1547.jpg
Sir William Cavendish c. 1547
Bornc. 1505
Died25 October 1557
OccupationPolitician, Knight, Courtier
Spouse(s)Margaret Bostock (1st), Elizabeth Parker (2nd), Bess of Hardwick (3rd).
Children16 (including William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire, Thomas Cavendish, Elizabeth Stuart, Countess of Lennox, and Mary Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury)
Parent(s)Thomas Cavendish
Alice Smith
RelativesSir John Cavendish (great-grandfather)

Sir William Cavendish MP (c. 1505 – 25 October 1557) was an English politician, knight and courtier.[1] Cavendish held public office and accumulated a considerable fortune, and became one of Thomas Cromwell's "visitors of the monasteries" during the dissolution of the monasteries. He was MP for Thirsk in 1547.[2] In 1547 he married Bess of Hardwick, and the couple began the construction of Chatsworth House in 1552, a project which would not be completed until after his death. His second son William Cavendish (1552–1626) became the first Earl of Devonshire, purchasing his title from the impecunious King James I.

Early life[edit]

He was the younger son of Thomas Cavendish (1472–1524), who was a senior financial official, the "clerk of the pipe", in the Court of Exchequer, and his wife, Alice Smith of Padbrook Hall.[1] He was the great-great-great-grandson of Sir John Cavendish from whom the Dukes of Devonshire and the Dukes of Newcastle inherited the family name of Cavendish.[1]


Cavendish became one of Thomas Cromwell's "visitors of the monasteries" when King Henry VIII annexed the property of the Catholic Church at the end of the 1530s, in the dissolution of the monasteries.[1] This followed from his successful career as a financial expert holding public office in the Exchequer, which led to his wealth.[1] He was accused of accumulating extra riches unfairly during the dissolution. After Cromwell's fall, he was sent to Ireland to survey and value lands which had fallen to the English during the Fitzgerald Rebellion.[1][3]

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, begun by Cavendish

He was connected to the Seymour brothers Edward and Thomas, and via them to the family of Jane Grey, but he also took care to send tokens of goodwill to The Lady Mary. He was appointed Treasurer of the Chamber from 1546 to 1553 but, after an audit, was accused of embezzling a significant amount of money. Only his death saved the family from disgrace.

During the reign of Mary I, a favourable biography of Thomas Cardinal Wolsey was first published, written from the perspective of one of his closest aides, the one who had taken King Henry news of Wolsey's death. Although for centuries Sir William was said to be its author, historians now attribute it to his older brother George Cavendish (1494–1562).[1]


William Cavendish had a total of 16 children by three different wives. His first wife was Margaret Bostock; they had five children, but only three daughters survived:

  • Catherine, who married Thomas Brooke, son of Lord Cobham
  • Mary (died after 1547)
  • Ann who married Sir Henry Boynton in 1561.
  • Margaret, died in 1540.

In 1542 he was married to Elizabeth Parker; she had three children, none of whom survived. She died after giving birth to a stillborn daughter in 1546.

In 1547 he married Bess of Hardwick.[4] He sold his property in Suffolk and moved to Bess's native county of Derbyshire. He purchased the Chatsworth estate in 1549 and the couple began to build Chatsworth House in 1552.[5]

In the ten years before he died, they had eight children, six of whom survived infancy:


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Cavendish, William (1505?-1557)" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  2. ^ http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/cavendish-sir-william-1505-57
  3. ^ Lovell, Mary S. (2005). Bess of Hardwick, First Lady of Chatsworth. Little, Brown. p. 43.
  4. ^ Pearson, John, The Serpent and the Stag, (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1983), 6.
  5. ^ Pearson, 18.


  • Pearson, John, The Serpent and the Stag, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1983.
  • Brodhurst, F. (1907). "Sir William Cavendish 1557." Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, 29, pp. 81–102. Google Books
  • Cavendish, Sir William (c.1505-57), of Northaw, Herts. and Chatsworth, Derbys." HOP.
  • Cox, J.C. (1881). The Chronicles of the Collegiate Church Or Free Chapel of All Saints, Derby, pp. 130. Bemrose & Sons. Google Books
  • "Duke of Devonshire," (1790). The Peerage of England, Scotland and Ireland, I, pp. 51–52. London. Google Books
  • Lee, S. (1887). Cavendish, William (1505?-1557) (DNB00). WikiSource.org
  • Lewis, M. (n.d.). "Sir William Cavendish, Burgess of Thirsk, Treasurer of the Chamber of King Henry VIII #37832, b. circa 1505, d. 25 Oct 1557," citing Richardson; Cokayne; Burke. ORTNCA. Web.[30]

External links[edit]