Tag Archives: Rye House Plot

The Cavendish Connection Part three – The first five Dukes of Devonshire.

The arbitrary number of Dukes reflects the course of the Eighteenth Century rather than an erroneous number of “lords a leaping.”

(c) National Trust, Hardwick Hall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) National Trust, Hardwick Hall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

I actually dealt with the First Duke of Devonshire in my previous post as he was also the fourth earl.  Having invited William and Mary to take the Crown in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 he conveniently died in 1707 having helped to negotiated the union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland.  Despite his reputation for brawling and womanising he clearly did evolve into a serious political figure.  This happened following his return from his Grand Tour when he entered the houses of Parliament principally because he was anti-Charles II and anti-Catholic. There was also the small matter of Colonel Culpepper as described in yesterday’s post. In addition to becoming a duke he was also made Lord High Steward by King William in grateful recognition of his services.

The First Duke was unusual in his family in that he was a Whig, i.e. he wanted parliamentary government rather than a government dominated by the monarchy.  Presumably his uncle the Duke of Newcastle and his father the Third Earl must have been spinning in their graves.  Roy Hattersley explains that the Whig attitude  was that men of birth were endowed with a duty to protect the interest of the nation (of course, it helped if they prospered at the same time.)  The basic caveat was that the men of birth should have land because the soil was the physical embodiment of their duties and responsibilities.  Johnson described the first Whig as being the Devil! This description came about because these powerful men not only believed that they had a duty to protect the nation but that they could do what they wanted when they wanted irrespective of the law – which may be a bit of a swinging statement  but you get the gist. Suffice it to say Horace Walpole described the first duke as “a patriot amongst the men and a gallant among the ladies – ” a stamens which had nothing to do with Cavendish’s manners.

2nd duke of devonshire.jpgOn which note let us proceed to the Second Duke – unsurprisingly called William.  William had gained the title Marquis of Hartington on his father’s elevation to a dukedom in 1594. This is the title by which the heir of the current duke is still known.  This William was not a chip off the old block.  He did not become involved in drunken brawls or debauchery.  His marriage, arranged by his father to show his political loyalties, was to Lady Rachael Russell the daughter of William Russell who was executed in 1683 after attempting to have the Catholic Duke of York excluded from the succession.  Charles responded by dissolving parliament thus removing the Whig voice.  Russell was ultimately implicated in the Rye House Plot to assassinate Charles II – He hadn’t actually been involved in the actual plot, it was enough that he was a leading Whig – at worst his crime was misprision of treason which wasn’t a capital offence, which basically means that he knew something treasonous was about to happen but he didn’t tell the authorities. The political union between William and Rachael evolved into a love match rather to the first duke’s irritation.

William’s education followed the pattern of his father and grandfather.  He was sent on a Grand Tour and then he entered into local politics and administration. He sat for Derbyshire but then lost his seat -again to his father’s irritation.  However, this proved to be to his advantage as he then gained  a seat in South Yorkshire.  His corresponding member was Robert Walpole. The pair became firm friends and, let’s face it, it’s always handy to know a prime minister. In 1707 William became the Second Duke of Devonshire.

His arch enemy in political terms in Derbyshire was the Tory, Henry Sacheverell. The rise of Henry reflected the rise of the Tories in national government and William found himself out of his job as a privy councillor. Instead of sulking he had an amendment added to the Act of Settlement identifying the Elector of Hanover’s eldest son as an additional heir to the Crown.  It reflected William’s protestantism as averse to the Tory High Church view of the world that came perilously close to Catholicism in William’s mind.  It should be noted that not only did William support the established church but spoke out for dissenters as well.  When Queen Anne died on August 1 1714 William rose once more with the role of Lord Steward of George I’s household.

There was an interlude whilst James III’s son, the so-called Old Pretender, made a bid for the throne getting so far as Preston before being beaten. Bills were passed against Catholics. Later he opposed the South Sea Bubble scheme which he argued would have horrible effects on the economy. He even managed to be friends with both George I and the Prince of Wales – a fairly unusual state of affairs.

3rd duke of devonshire.jpgThe third duke is, completely unsurprisingly, also a William.  He became duke in 1729 following his Oxford education and stint in parliament representing various counties.    Dr Johnson who we have already seen was not keen on Whigs made an exception for the Third Duke of Devonshire.  He described him as “a man faithful to his word” – though not necessarily of “superior abilities.”  He was also described as a man of untidy dress, plain habits and noted on on account of the astonishing amount that he could drink.

catherine hoskyns.jpgIn 1718  William, then Marquis of Hartington, married Katherine Hoskins.  It was not a match arranged by the second duke.  The marquis had fallen in love with a merchant’s daughter – fortunately the merchant was wealthy.  Hugh Walpole described Katherine as “delightfully vulgar.”  The pair had seven children upon whom their father doted (I’m warming to this Cavendish).

In 1737 he became the Viceroy, General Governor and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, his mother after all was the daughter of the First Duke of Ormonde.  The Duke remained in post for the next seven years returning to England just in time for the next round of Jacobite plotting.

Arriving home in January 1745 the third duke became Lord Steward of the Royal Household – not that it stopped the Duke from spending his time in Derbyshire.  By September England was in uproar over the arrival of Bonnie Prince Charlie in Scotland.  On September 28th 1745 there was a meeting at the George Inn in Derby for the purpose of raising a militia.  I’ve posted recently about the inglorious activities of the Derbyshire Blues who headed in the direction of Nottingham as soon as they realised that Derby was the next stopping point for the Jacobite army.  The duke not known for his martial tendencies had expressed concern about his valuables. It was this duke and his wife who are the direct ancestors of both Prince Charles and Princess Diana. The third duke died in December 1755. His wife survived him by twenty-two years.

4th duke of devonshire.jpgWhich brings us to the Fourth Duke – yes his name is William.  He was born in 1720.  and like his forefathers became an MP and served in Government – briefly becoming Prime Minister. He married aristocratically to Elizabeth Boyle, the 6th Baroness Clifford which is why the Cavendishs own Bolton Abbey.  In addition to which she brought huge quantities of London property and other assets into the Cavendish fold.  All I really want to add about duke number four is that he arranged for Capability Brown to landscape Chatsworth and he was the chap who had the rather grand stable built.

william-cavendish-5th-duke-of-devonshire-1768-chatsworth-house-derbyshire-by-pompeo-batoni-1434193609_b.jpgFinally we arrive at the Fifth Duke of Devonshire and the nineteenth century.  Yes, his name was William Cavendish – there does seem to be a bit of a pattern emerging. Like his father the fifth duke was Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire handheld administrative posts in Ireland but unlike his father who must have held the office of Prime Ministers for one of the shortest periods of time ever he declined cabinet positions. The Fifth Duke is more famous for his marriages, firstly to Lady Diana Spencer and secondly to his long term mistress Lady Elizabeth Hervey but that’s a post for another time as is the development of Buxton as a fashionable eighteenth century spa town.

And that is as far as I propose to go down the line of Cavendish dukes. The Sixth duke (another William ) is known to history as “the Bachelor Duke” and when he died the title passed to the descendants of the third son of the fourth duke.

Hattersley, Roy. (2014) The Devonshires: The Story of a Family and a Nation. London:Vintage Books

Pearson, John. (1984) The Serpent and the Stag. New York: Holt Reinhart



Filed under Eighteenth Century, The Georgians, The Stuarts

Lady Henrietta Wentworth and the Duke of Monmouth – a love story.

henrieta wentworthLady Henrietta Wentworth’s mother was Philadelphia Carey. Her grandfather was Ferdinardo Carey and her great grand-father was Henry Carey Lord Hunsden. Which, of course means that her two times great grandmother was Mary Boleyn.  I must admit to a fascination with the Carey family courtesy of Lord Robert Carey, another of Hunsden’s son, who was a Warden of the Marches during the reign of Queen Elizabeth and, indeed, who rode with Elizabeth’s ring to Edinburgh upon her death as proof that James VI of Scotland was now James I of England.


Henrietta was only eight when her father, Thomas Wentworth, 5th Baron Wentworth died. She became heir to Toddington Manor in Bedfordshire as well as the title.


As was proper to a lady of her station she made her debut at court.  Charles II had been restored to the throne in the same year that she was born – 1660.   She appeared in a masque alongside Princesses Mary and Anne.   Also present was James Scott, Duke of Monmouth. Jemmy Crofts, as he was also known, the illegitimate child of Charles II and Lucy Walter had been married to Anne Scott, Duchess of Buccleugh when he was fourteen and she was just twelve. He took her name and title. They’d had a family but by this time were estranged.


The existence of a wife did not stop Monmouth from pursuing seventeen-year-old Henrietta and she was just as smitten by him – even though she was supposed to be marrying Richard Tufton, the fifth Earl of Thanet.  There was a scandal.


Philadelphia dragged her daughter back to Toddington with Monmouth right behind them. He came to know Toddington very well because it was at Toddinton where the lovers made their home.  It was here that he came after the Rye House Plot of 1683 which sought to assassinate Charles II and James who was then the Duke of York. Monmouth was implicated in the murder. Monmouth, like his father before him, is supposed to have hidden in an oak tree.


Monmouth eventually fled to Brussels. Henrietta joined him. The Nineteenth century historian Macaulay paints a picture of domestic bliss. “He retired to Brussels accompanied by Henrietta Wentworth, Baroness Wentworth of Nettlestede, a damsel of high rank and ample fortune, who loved him passionately, who had sacrificed for his sake her maiden honour and the hope of a splendid alliance, who had followed him into exile, and whom he believed to be his wife in the sight of heaven. Under the soothing influence of female friendship, his lacerated mind healed fast. He seemed to have found happiness in obscurity and repose, and to have forgotten that he had been the ornament of a splendid court and the head of a great party, that he had commanded armies, and that he had aspired to a throne.”


Sadly when Charles II died in 1685 thought so the throne once more drifted through Jemmy Croft’s head and it was Henrietta who funded James’ dream by mortgaging her home and pawning her jewels.  Monmouth’s Rebellion was ill-thought and though it had the popular support of the commons in the west country it did not bring the support of the gentry.  Even worse, his troops cam dup against one John Churchill – a man history recalls as the Duke of Blenheim.


Monmouth sentenced to death after his capture is alleged to have said that he came to the scaffold to die rather than to talk. He also asserted that he had been married, ‘when but a child’, and he had never cared for his duchess; so that therefore his relationship with Henrietta was blameless in the eyes of God not least because he’d reformed him from his rakish and decidedly dodgy life of whoring, drinking and gambling. He told the assembled crowd that Henrietta was ‘a lady of virtue and honour, a very virtuous and godly woman.’


‘Had that poor man nothing to think of but me?’ Henrietta exclaimed when she was told.  It was probably just as well that James was thinking of Henrietta.  His death was not an easy one – the axe was blunt.


Henrietta came back to England in July 1685 with a broken bank balance as well as a broken heart. She died the following year on 23rd April. She was twenty-five. The letters of Henry Saville suggest that it was due to mercury poisoning, “My Lady Henrietta Wentworth is dead, having sacrificed her life to her beauty by painting so beyond measure that mercury got into her veins and killed her.” However we don’t know how or why Henrietta died – there were plenty of deadly diseases in the seventeenth century.


Let me finish with Macaulay who paints a tragic picture of Henrietta’s end.  “Yet a few months, and the quiet village of Toddington, in Bedfordshire, witnessed a still sadder funeral. Near that village stood an ancient and stately hall, the seat of the Wentworths. The transept of the parish church had long been their burial place. To that burial place, in the spring which followed the death of Monmouth, was borne the coffin of the young Baroness Wentworth of Nettlestede. Her family reared a sumptuous mausoleum over her remains: but a less costly memorial of her was long contemplated with far deeper interest. Her name, carved by the hand of him whom she loved too well, was, a few years ago, still discernible on a tree in the adjoining park.”



Leave a comment

Filed under Seventeenth Century