Transcript for Cavendish 12

On 25th May 1660, there was a mass of lords and ladies and worthy citizens waiting anxiously at Dover for the first sight of King Charles II returning home. The diaries of Samuel Pepys start around this time and he was on the boat with the king so we get a nice description of the

Infinite the crowd of people and the horsemen, citizens, and noblemen of all sorts.

They were lead of course by England’s greatest betrayer, George Monck, whose boots would be royally filled with goodies as a result of his treachery, demonstrating that crime does indeed pay. Am I sounding bitter? Answers on a postcard… anyway, among the crowd was one Henry Cavendish, the youngest and only remaining son and heir of William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle, Privy Councillor and  ex Tutor of the king, who had spent over a million squid on Charles father. Surely such a loyal and important friend to the Stuarts at the king’s side, feted wined and dined, drunk with his moment of triumph, along with the gaggle of companions on the multiple ships stuffed to the gunwales with courtiers?

Well no, actually. Margaret and William had indeed been over joyed at Cromwell’s death, rubbed their hands with glee as the chaos of the revived republic, and looking forward to being re-instated alongside the king should he be re-established – William had his hopes pinned on the position of Master of Horse, a very important, honourable position in the king’s household – and as we know, William was fond of a bit of horseflesh, and they were keen on him too.

However, there was a bit of a problem. The problem was that William wasn’t in the sweetest of odours with the people around Charles. You know – the evil counsellors that sort of thing.

The Newcastles had thrown a big hooley in Antwerp in 1658, Rubens house stuffed with high society, including the Duchess of Lorraine who remarked on Margaret’s clothes. There was an evening of dance and entertainment, including, at one point, the Newcastle’s pageboy, who sang a song with words written by William. The pageboy was black, and according to Margaret

‘all dressed up in feathers’

Which might have been some sort of reference to American Indians. Black servants were very rare, so this child was a mark of the Newcastles’ status, wealth and nobility. Famously of course such black servants will appear occasionally in paintings through the 18th century, and their status is very unclear, and it is far from impossible that they were effectively slaves, or at least purchased.

Despite the presence of the movers and shakers at the party, there was one very notable absence, and he left a big hole – Edward Hyde was not there. After all these years in powerless exile Hyde’s boat was coming in and he would have a lot of little fishes on dishes made of the finest green, as the star of family he had served so well rose. Even at the time of the party in 1658, Edward Hyde did not trust William Cavendish, thought he was indiscrete, didn’t think much of his running away after Marston Moor and so excluded him from the centre of influence around Charles. Politics is a tough old business.

This infuriated Margaret as much as William, and possibly a little bit more. And in their fury they proceeded to demonstrate Hyde’s point. In 1658 they found out that they had been excluded from a plot which saw the Duke of Ormonde travelling to London, false wig and all, to plan rebellion. When they found out, they proceeded to tell everyone they could find that Ormonde’s plot was doomed without their help. One person reported of Margaret that she

Hath the vanity to swear the affair cannot, nor shall not, be effected without her husband

It might be that they were right – certainly Ormonde got nowhere. But it did them no favours whatsoever  – not with Hyde – and not with Charles, who was reported to be ‘much offended’. Nonetheless both the Cavendishes remained just as committed to the Stuart cause; when it began to clarify that Charles really did have a chance of regaining his throne, William wrote him a book of advice. A picture of a Democratic future it was not; it advised Charles to establish firm control of the army and banish religious toleration with the re-establishment of the Anglican church – because that would make the king

Not only an absolute king, but pope within your dominions

Charles, a good chip off his father’s block, would make some progress towards that in his reign. Everyone got rewards – Hyde was confirmed as Chancellor, Monck became the Earl of Albemarle, courtiers like Henry Jermyn Earl of St Albans. William got – zip. Rien. Nowt. And so rather than go with the royal flotilla, William hired his own ship, which turned out to be so leaky most of his household refused to go with him. And it was not til a week later then that Henry Cavendish was finally able to greet his Dad, not at Dover but at Greenwich.

Despite this difficult start to the return from exile, William was delighted to be home; and we know this from the biography Margaret wrote on her husband, and she recorded his memory that on seeing the shores of his homeland William wrote

Surely I have been sixteen years asleep and am not thoroughly awake yet

These were not first hand memories from Margaret; because she had been left behind when William sailed. Not from choice; their creditors insisted she stay until all the debts were paid.

So Margaret was back in Antwerp for six months. Fortunately she had people to help sort out her affairs; namely the ever loyal Elizabeth Topp, her long serving maid who had been with her since the days of HM’s court. Her husband Francis Topp was a merchant with Dutch connections who was able to put financing in place, and who would become a trusted business manager for the Cavendishes when back in England.

William and his son Henry seem to have had a slightly difficult relationship; but both were in positions of influence in England. Henry was able to get himself elected as an MP, though only by using a trick with a faulty writ and by deploying the army to break up riots by religious dissidents. William was able to take up his position in the restored House of Lords. The Restoration settlement did not simply restore lands to the status quo ante. So William was forced to introduce a private members bill to reclaim as many of his lands as possible. He was largely successful in reclaiming the lands that were help by the state rather than having been sold on, and so by August 1660 many of his estates were restored to him. With his new found wealth, Margaret was at last able to leave Antwerp and return home.

She was no fool, and wrote that

‘Princes forget to reward when they have power, though they never forget to promise rewards when they have no power

She was still angry when she was re-united with her husband – and found him not in his grand residence at Clerkenwell in London, but in lodgings which were ‘not fit for a person of his rank and quality’. And she found that William remained excluded from any positions of real political influence and power. Margaret wanted out, she wanted to leave London and get out to their estates, despite the revival of the attractions of London life she had liked so well. Theatres were starting up again after the puritan winter, the coaches of the rich and gilded were once more touring Hyde park, there was a king again on whom the nobility could fawn. William would soon come to agree with her that London was no place for them any more – but needed to set his affairs in order first.

Margaret now at last got to meet William’s children by his earlier marriage. Jane was married with kids, Frances was single, and Elizabeth would have nine children; Henry was married. Margaret’s writing is full of praise for the Children. But there were some frictions; it seems Jane and Frances probably disapproved of their step mother’s publishing; they were authors themselves, but kept to the convention of circulating manuscripts privately.

But it is with Henry that the main problem seems have been, and would continue to be. He and Charles’ elder brother had been made the owners of their father’s estates while he was in exile, to keep them out of the hands of the state as much as possible, and both brothers had accommodated themselves with the Protectorate. Charles seems to have been the easier  and more trusting son; but sadly he died in 1658, and Henry was much less accommodating. He suspected that his father on his return would effectively short change him. And he laid the blame on Margaret. So in the  correspondence between henry and William,  Margaret’s name comes up frequently, such as when Williams pleads to his son that:

“I protest that is all the design my wife and I have in that business, for believe me she is as kind to you as she was to your brother, and so good a wife as she all for my family”.

However, Henry’s suspicions would remain as Margaret began to assume a proper role in estate management, now that she would be living there. From all 4 children, there is a flavour of the evil step mother, not helped by the fact that step daughter Jane was actually older than her.

For the moment though, it was time to shake the dust of London from their feet. William was finally given some reward for his loyalty, being made a Gentleman of the royal bedchamber; which was little more than an honorific. He was given though a smidge of real power in being made Lord Lieutenant of Nottingham, though a very localised kind of power. In October 1660, then William asked the king for permission to leave. His letter included the lines

I am so joyed at your Majesty’s happy restoration, that I cannot be sad or troubled for any concern to my own particulars

As Francesca Peacock notes, the line is a tacit admission that he was indeed mightily troubled and saddened, and it is unlikely Charles missed the point. But he duly gave permission, and off the Cavendishs went to the midlands, to take possession once more of their estates.






Their experience must have been typical of many returning royalist aristocrats. Many had been forced to compound with the republic for their lands; many had lost control of part of their estates, or seen the income of their estates used for the public good; or in some cases for the good of private land speculators.

The Cavendishes were still enormously, outrageously wealthy, though William lamented and worried if there would be anything ‘left for himself’. Their main residence was Welbeck Abbey in the north of Nottinghamshire, and his second house Bolsover Castle which had been slighted by the parliamentarian forces. Both were a bit of a mess, however hard Jane Cavendish had laboured to preserve them. Welbeck had been stripped of much of it’s furnishing and trappings – to the tune of £3,800, for which the government had paid only £1,100. The estates had been ruthlessly exploited in their absence – woodlands cut down, their eight hunting parks unmaintained, the fences gone and deer fled. I cannot stop myself asking why anyone needs eight hunting parks, but hey they were understandably gutted at the destruction and decay they saw around them. William would spend a substantial portion of the rest of his life in legal action to recover as much of his old lands as possible, and rebuilding the estates to their former glory.

Margaret never went back to her family home; and her brother John had almost as much work to do to recover the Lucas family estates. But Margaret and the family made sure they installed the body of their brother Charles Lucas in the family mausoleum; it’s unlikely Margaret was there when it happened though.

Margaret rewarded Elizabeth Topp’s loyalty handsomely; as Francis Topp managed the Cavendish’s West Country estates, Elizabeth was put in charge of re-establishing the household under Margaret’s instruction. At Welbeck, Margaret installed a new housekeeper, one Mistress Perkins, and by 1661-2 the household was fully employed and staffed and pretty much back to normal. None of this helped The relationship with Henry though. It’s a bit like a new football manager arriving at a Premier league club – they bring all their favourite coaches with them, and the old lot get kicked out. The manager Henry had been accustomed to using and relying on, Andrew Claypole. Claypole was immediately pushed sideways to make way for the two Topps. I should think it’s a good job there were only two – the Four Topps would have really caused mayhem.

Enough of the weak jokes. Jane Cavendish clearly distrusted both Margaret and the Topps also, and railed against them to her father. But William showed tireless energy in putting his shattered estate back together; and it was an enormous task because his wealth was vast. And another task was to establish Margaret’s jointure, her estate should his death proceed hers. It was also enormous – three manors, Bolsover Castle as her Dower House, 7 more estates in Northumberland of about 16,000 acres, 16,000 acres would you believe.

All of this absolutely rattled and shook all of Henry Cavendish’s worst fears that Margaret was driving his father’s affairs, she was behind all of this, and would disinherit his own children. He wrote continually complaining to his father; in 1666 he would even try to get his Dad to sign a document swearing he would sell no more of his land. In 1670, outrageously, Henry’s Manager probably in collusion with Henry himself, decided

“to give her grace a dead blow and to divert his graces affections from her”.

So they wrote an anonymous letter, telling William that  his wife’s behaviour was the cause of diminishing respect among his peers. Even more outrageously they claimed that Margaret was cheating on William, and with none other than – Sir Francis Topp. I mean – this is pretty vicious stuff and must have been deeply hurtful to Margaret. What a little tick Henry sounds like.

William believed not one word of it, for not one moment as far as we can see, and simply declared

Someone had abused Peg

And the pair of them sailed on.

Margaret had resolved to become the kind of formidable estate manager that was typical of aristocratic women, and

Resolved to employ all my thoughts and industry in good housewifery

It’s not clear she did though, despite Henry Cavendish’s nasty fears that she had her finger on the financial pulse. But Margaret hated inaction and idleness, so she was not idle. But as she turned her thoughts back to her first love, writing, she apologised to William that

My scribbling takes away the most part of my time. I cannot for my life be so good a housewife as to quit writing. The truth is I have somewhat erred from good housewifery to write

And sure enough, the drought was over. From 1662 the creative floodgates would open again.

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