Let us return today to the Royalist summer of victories in 1643. It was really only in the east of the country that events did not go all Charles I’s way. On 20 July 1643, Lord Willoughby captured Gainsborough in Lincolnshire for Parliament. This meant that the Earl of Newcastle could not now communicate so easily with the royalists at Newark and he could not simply march south expanding royalist territory. The Committee of Safety scratched their various heads and then sent Oliver Cromwell and Sir John Meldrum from the Eastern Association Army to back up Lord Willoughby as he was being threatened by the Royalist military commander – Colonel Charles Cavendish – who was the nephew of the Earl of Newcastle.
Charles, born in 1620, was the younger brother of William Cavendish the third Earl of Chatsworth and the epitome of a Hollywood cavalier unlike his brother who appears to have been much more retiring. Apparently Charles had travelled as far as Greece and Cairo in happier times as well as the more usual Italy and France. As you might expect of a nephew of the Earl of Newcastle he was ferociously Royalist. He had gone to York in 1642 to offer his services to the king; been part of Prince Rupert’s cavalry charge at the Battle of Edgehill on the 23 October 1642 and had then been offered command of the Duke of York’s troop (a sudden vacancy had arisen). From there he persuaded his family to raise sufficient funds for him to form his own body of men making him a colonel and the royalist military commander for Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. It was Charles Cavendish who took Grantham for the king on 23 March 1643 and sent the Parliamentarians packing at Ancaster the following month. In the space of a year he had changed from being a volunteer guards officer to a Colonel in charge of an entire region. Possibly, the gift of £1000 into the king’s war chest may have expedited matters.
Anyway, the Parliamentarians came across Cavendish’s dragoons south of Gainsborough on the morning of 28th July 1643. The Royalists had the advantage of high ground which they lost during a Parliamentarian cavalry charge. The Royalists ultimately fled on account of the fact that the Parliamentarians were learning a thing or three about tactics but Charles had kept his own men in reserve and was very sensibly planning to nip around the back of the Parliamentarians to attack their rear. Unfortunately a certain Colonel Cromwell spotted the manoevre and attacked the Royalist rear instead. Cavendish fell from his horse during the fighting and was killed by Captain Berry with a sword in the small ribs. Ultimately the Parliamentarians, who definitely won the battle, were unable to hold out against Newcastle.
Years later when Charles’ mother, Christian Bruce, was buried in All Saints Church, Derby on 16 February 1675 the bones of her long dead son were interred with her as she had asked. The funeral sermon by William Nailor described Charles as a “princely person,” “the soldiers’ favourite and his majesty’s darling.” It also described Charles as being like Abner and related to the Stuarts through the Bruce connection. The full text can be found in the snappily entitled A commemoration sermon preached at Darby, Feb. 18, 1674, for the Honourable Colonel Charles Cavendish, slain in the service of King Charles the First, before Gainsborough in the year 1643.
The picture at the start of the post is by Van Dyck and is at Chatsworth whilst the picture above is at Hardwick Hall (I think).
Bickley, F. (1911) The Cavendish family https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/The_Cavendish_Family.html?id=1G8Al5RutVAC&redir_esc=y
Dick, Oliver Lawson (ed) (1987) Aubrey’s Brief Lives. London:Penguin