Colonel John and Lucy Hutchinson with children.
William Cavendish - Marquis of Newcastle. Welbeck and Bolsover.
On return to his estates he was shocked at the condition of both Welbeck and Bolsover. Much of the forest and the fences had gone and, of his 8 dear parks, his brother had managed to save only one.
He gave orders to replace the fences and new deer were obtained from various friends. Many of his farms had fallen into a greatly decayed state and would take years to rebuild. Much of his land had been confiscated or legally sold and recovery was a long and tedious business. The Duke of York helpfully relinquished part of his estates. Bothal was now the property of a London merchant and took years to recover but was never restored. Ogle was recovered from James Mosley in a much decrepit state but was restored and used as a home by William’s son Henry. The London house at Clerkenwell was recovered only after years of legal wrangling.
In spite of all this, when the site of the now demolished Nottingham Castle came on the market, William purchased land with a view to building a new Bolsover. When finance was available he set about the repairs to Bolsover and built new apartments and rooms at the south west corner of the courtyard and also constructed the impressive riding school which is there to this day. The school including forge and harness room runs the length of the south side of the court.
For a man of the ripe old age of 67 William showed considerable energy, riding and fencing daily. Margaret records he preferred 3 light meals a day with a small glass of beer at each. He was however happy to retire to a more supervisory role when it came to horse training. He laid long term plans for the renovation of his estates promoting drainage schemes and the planting of many oak trees and spent much time supervising this work. His love of horses was not overlooked and he acquired the a number of excellent mares to start breeding which had been neglected for many years since the wars. Although previously showing no interest in horse racing he established a 5 mile course near Welbeck and organised regular meetings much enjoyed by the gentry of the region. Margaret estimated his total financial losses during and after the first war as an incredible £941,303. It is thought to be a fair estimate. Even by today’s standards that is a substantial amount of money.
Margaret continued with her writing producing a considerable and varied body of work. William’s pre war comedy, the Country Captain, was revived by Killigrew in 1661 and performed at his Vere Street theatre for some weeks. Pepys attended this production as was not impressed. His patronage of the arts continued and many aspiring poets and writers were to benefit from his support. Indeed the American scholar Perry asserts that no patron was more influential than William during this period and, in doing so, he made a vital contribution in the shaping of English Literary History. Amongst his protégés were Thomas Shadwell and Richard Flecknoe.
As Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire William was called on to perform numerous official duties. In 1663 he was ordered by the Duke of Buckingham to arrest Colonel John Hutchinson on suspicion of conspiring against the King. Hutchinson, a devout Puritan, had led the defence of Nottingham Castle against the Royalists and had been totally committed to the Parliamentary cause. He was a signatory of the death warrant of King Charles I later greatly regretted this. Due to his repentance he had now been removed from the list of Regicides. He was a former opponent of William in the war and both men knew each other well and shared a mutual respect. William was convinced Hutchinson was himself retired, had given up the Cause and was now quite harmless. He was greatly troubled at having to implement these orders. In correspondence Buckingham admitted there was no evidence but that he hoped to implicate the unfortunate Hutchinson is some plot. In spite of William’s pleadings Hutchinson was arrested and taken to London for interrogation. Although never charged he sadly died in Sandgate prison in 1664. William’s thoughts on this episode are not recorded but can be imagined. Hutchinson’s wife Lucy, no mean author herself, was to write a formidable defence of her husband and account of his life to be published years later.
In 1663 Elizabeth, William’s eldest daughter died. Of his 10 children only Henry, Jane and Francis survived but he was blessed with 7 grandson’s and 10 granddaughters. Much to William’s sorrow his children never became close to their stepmother. Margaret tried but was never a very domesticated or social person and too much of an eccentric. “Mad Madge” as she became known was never really accepted by her step children although they would visit Welbeck from time to time with their own children.
William was still owed the huge amounts of money he lent to King Charles I in 1639 and also the outstanding pension entitlement as a Gentleman of the Bedchamber. William desired to leave a dukedom to his descendants and wrote to the King suggesting this. King Charles proved quite accommodating seeing this as a way to settle the debt. In 1665 William was elevated from Marquis to Duke of Newcastle and his son Henry made Earl of Ogle. William and Margaret travelled to London and were met by many old friends at Clerkenwell. He later visited the King at Whitehall to thank him in person.
William and Margaret were uncomfortable in the new court which was certainly not the ordered and polite institution which William knew under Charles I. Many of William’s close associates from the old days were either dead or in retirement and those that were left were now under the influence of the younger up and coming men like the reptilian Buckingham. Margaret had always been uncomfortable with the insincerity and tittle-tattle of the court and had become the subject of gossip and ridicule for her writing and unusual dress sense. The pair did not find the ambience and company to their liking, paid their respects to the King and left for home. They were well out of it. That year and the next London was subjected to the Great Fire and an outbreak of plague. A judgement from heaven perhaps.
Margaret continued with her writing, notably William’s biography which inspired many other women writers notably Lucy Hutchinson. In this book , The Life of William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle, she set about describing his life and achievements and vindicating his record which had been ridiculed by many. For all its faults and inaccuracies it is a fine book giving much fascinating background into life at that time. Subsequently this book was criticised by Samuel Pepys as
"the ridiculous history of my Lord Newcastle writ by his wife, which shows her to be a mad, conceited, ridiculous woman, and he an ass to suffer her to write what she writes to him and of him,"
On the other hand the volume was eulogised by Charles Lamb as a work for which
"no casket is rich enough, no case sufficiently durable to honour and keep soft such a jewel."
The book was published in 1667 with the full title running to 12 lines !
William also renewed his literary labours and published another classic work on horsemanship, A New Method and Extraordinary Invention to Dress Horses and Work them according to Nature, in 1667. Also that year William’s comedy the Humorous Lovers was produced by Davenant and the Duke of York’s Men in London. The third scene included a Masque which was now considered rather old fashioned. Pepys was again less than enthusiastic about the creative endeavours of the Cavendish family describing it as
“The most silly thing that ever came on the stage.”
In April Margaret journeyed to London to pay her respects to the Queen at court. William stayed home. She was now quite a celebrity and the visit attracting much interest. Pepys, who had never seen her in person, observed her at this time and was impressed.
“ She seemed to me a very comely woman - I hope to see more of her come May Day.”
Margaret cultivated the friendship of John Evelyn who was an old friend of the family from their days in exile and was a prominent member of the Royal Society. On a later visit to London they entertained Evelyn at a dinner party. Although it was an all male establishment Margaret was most anxious to attend a meeting of the Society to witness the scientific experiments and listen to the discussions. In spite of some opposition a visit was arranged and Margaret was guest of honour seated next to the President. Pepys was able to observe her more closely this time. He describes Margaret, who was now 40 :-
“She had been a good comely woman but her dress was so antic and her deportment so unordinary that I do not like her at all.”
William was instrumental in inspiring Dryden to translate Moliére's Étourdi as Sir Martin Mar-All which opened in August at the Duke’s Playhouse. A revival of his own work The Country Captain also opened that month at the King’s Playhouse. He also contributed scenes to the plays of several of his protégés and to some of his wife's plays, and poems of his composition are to be found among her works.
Now approaching 75 years of age William left the day to day running of the estate to his manager, Francis Topp, a former merchant who was had married Margaret’s maid Elizabeth in Antwerp. Topp was a capable business man and administrator but not popular with either tenants, staff or indeed the Cavendish children. William arranged a baronetcy for Topp without him having to pay the usual fee. Eventually the children managed to engineer Topp’s removal and he left the household much to their relief. Margaret however started to take more interest in the running of the estates at this time which renewed family concern.
In October William’s daughter Jane died aged 47. He was particularly close to Jane as they shared the same literary interests. This was another sad loss. He had now outlived all but 2 of his children, Henry and Francis.
In November William received an extraordinary anonymous letter saying that recently his former popularity amongst his tenants had waned due to the actions of his wife and alleging that she had been involved in a relationship with Francis Topp. William was astounded but did not believe a word. He showed the letter to Margaret. Both considered the allegations ridiculous.
William suspected a plot by
“That acute rascal, the parson of Mansfield.” and threatened to “ have his ears.”
Margaret suspected Andrew Clayton, William’s steward with whom she had several disagreements or one of the other staff, Gilbert Eagle, or a conspiracy of both. Eventually one of the servants, John Booth confessed to William that he had been involved in the conspiracy along with Clayton and a tenant by the name of Francis Liddell. Clayton had been the main schemer and brains behind this half backed scheme and was dismissed although no legal action was taken.
Of late Margaret’s relationship with her stepson Henry became more affable which must have pleased William in his old age. He was approaching 80 years and in the twilight of his life but quite unexpectedly it was Margaret who suddenly predeceased him.