The Prince of Wales later King Charles II.
William Cavendish - Marquis of Newcastle. Antwerp.
William stayed in Rotterdam for some weeks but was once again financially embarrassed and forced to borrow money. He paid off several servants and moved to Antwerp. Before he departed he visited the Prince of Wales to assure him of his continued support and volunteering his services if required. At Antwerp William took lodgings in a public house. Here he met his old friend Sir Endymion Porter who offered him better accommodation. William later found a suitable house belonging to the widow of the artist Peter Paul Rubens which is now the Rubens’ House Museum. Rubens’ widow had remarried and was delighted to let the house to such a distinguished visitor.
William, who may well have met Rubens when he visited London some years before, was delighted with his new home which was magnificently elegant and ornate impressing all who visited. In the courtyard was a large circular building which had been used as a studio. William converted this to a riding house for schooling of his horses which was soon to become famous and establish him as the foremost exponent of this art in Europe. William was able to secure a further loan from an agent of the Earl of Devonshire and was able to establish sufficient credit to live.
Now that they at last had a proper home William was anxious for the second family he had so long craved. Margaret, whilst apparently happy to co-operate in this procedure, was regrettably unable to conceive. The couple sought medical help from the best physicians available and Margaret undertook various treatments which seem to have consisted solely of a mixture of strong laxatives and profuse bleeding. Needless to say this produced no results. Margaret either overdid the treatment or took no notice at all. It was thought her depressed state following the deaths of her mother, brother and sister may have been a contributory factor. William wrote to his physician and long time friend Sir Theodore Mayerne who suggested mild laxatives and wholesome exercise. Margaret was not impressed. She was not an exercise person.
“Tennis is too violent a motion for wholesome exercise for those that play much impair their health and strength wasting their vital spirits through much sweating.”
She had given up dancing thinking it far too frivolous for married people. She considered swimming was of no value other than to prevent drowning and there was far more risk in learning than the advantage of possessing it. Margaret was happiest writing and walking slowly.
William encouraged her writing which helped raise her spirits and she continued enthusiastically drawing her inspiration mostly from William and his many and learned friends. They read together and developed a love from Shakespeare. Margaret was to write essays and articles on a variety of subjects including cosmetics, dressing, education, children and, perhaps not surprisingly, second marriages.
During their first year at Antwerp William published his plays The Country Captain and The Variety which had been performed in London before the war. These were also published in England but could not be performed as such entertainments were not permitted.
1649 brought much bad news from England. The trial and execution of King Charles I shocked William and the Royalist exiles on the continent. William, one of the Unpardonables, was himself sentenced to death in his absence. Any prospect of a return home was now looking extremely unlikely. The Prince of Wales became the focus of all Royalist attention and hopes. When he passed through Antwerp in June he was entertained as befitting his status and William took the opportunity of renewing a his long friendship with the heir to the throne.
In January 1650 William was appointed a Knight of the Garter and a Privy Councillor taking the oath at Breda. He found Council split between those like Buckingham and Lord Percy who favoured an alliance with the Scots, which William had proposed 2 years earlier, and the likes of the Hyde and Lord Cottingham who were strongly opposed. A deputation of the Scottish Covenanters, Earls Cassilis and Lothian with 3 ministers of the Kirk, arrived to discuss terms. In return for their support the Prince was forced to accept the terms of the Solemn League and Covenant on the religious affairs in England and Scotland. This his father had always rejected out of hand. It was a major concession by the prospective monarch. He was nonetheless permitted to retain his champions in Scotland and Ireland, Montrose and Ormonde. A charismatic and at times brilliant soldier James Graham, Marquis of Montrose, had won a series of breathtaking victories in Scotland for the Royalists against the Scots Covenanters. He was finally defeated by the Covenanters at Corbiesdale in April and executed by them in Edinburgh on the 21st May. It was a serious loss to the Royalist cause. He had proved a considerable asset to the Royalists north of the border and was a very brave man. His conduct at his execution is testament to that alone.
James Graham - Marquis of Montrose
William was anxious to accompany the Prince to Scotland but the canny Scots were having none of it fearing William’s opposition and influence. He had to content himself with appointment as an Ambassador to the King of Denmark.
Many Royalist exiles had given up the great cause and were now returning to England to repent to the Committee of Compounding swearing future allegiance to Parliament and agreeing to pay whatever forfeits or fines the Committee felt fit. This they did largely for the sake of their long suffering families. William refused point blank to consider this option.
The Royalist alliance with the Scots continued for over a year before ending in a final ignominious defeat at Worcester. The Prince of Wales was indeed fortunate to escape to the continent being on the run and at great peril for some weeks. During this period William was greatly concerned and showed much strain. Margaret comments that
“I verily believed it would have endanger his life.”
It was 6 weeks before news came that the Prince was safe at St Germain with his mother.
That year William also produced a short treatise on swordsmanship entitled The Truth off the Sword. This was written for his sons but the intention was clearly to have the book published at some point. The text is full of fascinating material offering a rare glimpse into swordplay of the mid 1600s and particularly an English nobleman’s opinion of the earlier Spanish school. In the book he warns them against using their skill in private duelling. He wanted them to study the art of fencing as
“if not the only yet I dare say the highest & fittest profession for a Gentleman”.
Sadly the work was never completed finishing abruptly at Chapter 8. Nevertheless aficionados of the fencing art consider it an important document written by a master practitioner and well worth serious study.
The Cavendish finances were once again in a distressing state. William’s brother Charles had been permitted to return to England to sit before the Committee of Compounding but had not yet done so. The only chance to recover any of the family estates was for him to return and reclaim whatever portion was to be legally recognised. Charles was at first reluctant to go but, after some persuasion, agreed for the sake of the family. He took Margaret with him so she could also claim the wife’s allowance from William’s confiscated estates. They sailed in November 1651 with very little money. On arrival in London Charles had to pawn his watch so they could pay for their lodgings. Margaret appeared before the Committee but was refused any consideration because she had married William after his offences against the state had been committed. Margaret stayed on in London and was able to enjoy a reunion with her surviving brothers and sisters after so long apart.
Back in Antwerp William was compelled to have another of his recurrent meetings with his many creditors. Once again he was granted a stay of execution making full use of his charm and persuasive powers to win them over. Charles and Margaret were able, with some difficulty, to scrape together £200 which was forwarded to William. All now depended on brother Charles and the Committee and he was not found wanting. The case was settled. Charles was fined £5,000 and paid off his personal debts by selling some of his land, albeit at below the true price. Although his estate was much reduced he was still comfortably off and was able to set about the task of saving William’s homes at Bolsover and Welbeck. Bolsover had been ordered for demolition and was in a sorry state with much of the lead already removed from the gallery roof and some of the domestic offices pulled down. Charles was able to buy back the property in 1652.
William was now nearing 60. His daughters, Jane and Frances, were still unmarried but his 2 sons were now wed although they were also in dire financial straights. His daughter Elizabeth was now Countess of Bridgwater and had an 8 year old son whom William had, of course, never seen. During this period Margaret spent much time with her sisters and brothers. Increasingly she spent her time writing verse and stories in preference to the London social round. At this time she arranged for the printing of 2 books of her poems entitled Poems and Fancies and Philosophical Fancies and she became the first Englishwoman to write for publication as well as her own enjoyment. In 1653 William fell ill and Margaret returned to Antwerp, his financial problems still unresolved. Copies of Margaret’s books arrived in Antwerp and received with varied comment. William’s own opinions are not recorded.
Brother Charles died in Feb. 1654 which was a sad loss indeed to both William and Margaret and family as a whole. Charles had willed his estates to his nephew so he could hold them for his exiled father until he was able to return. A sum of money was also sent to William and he was now assured of a steady income although this was never enough to meet his lavish lifestyle.
The couple remained childless but happy during the following years in Antwerp. Margaret left the control of day to day matters to a housekeeper and remained content to continue with her obsession with writing. William took her to fairs and carnivals which entertained her and they often rode in a coach through the city along with many of the other prominent exiles. Margaret however continued to avoid the Antwerp social scene although did enjoy musical evenings with the Portuguese Duartes family where she sang English songs and ballads of the time. Her output of verse and prose continued encouraged by William and she also wrote her first play, The Matrimonial Trouble followed by Love’s Adventure’s. In another, The Lady in Contemplation, William contributed several scenes.
William’s love for horses had not abated and, in spite of his financial difficulties, he was still determined to indulge his passion. The 2 animals he had brought from Paris had died and he was able to acquire a number of others during this period. One in particular, a grey leaping horse, he describes as
“ the most beautiful animal I ever saw.”
William’s riding school in Antwerp was now famous throughout Europe and attracted many visitors and admirers. How he financed this establishment is not clear but perhaps there were fees for horse training and/or advice on the subject and donations from various wealthy patrons. His reputation as an equestrian was unsurpassed. Visitors became increasingly frequent and numerous. One morning 17 carriages arrived with the entire entourage of the Spanish viceroy who had requested a display. Another distinguished Spanish diplomat begged William to give a private exhibition of his skills. William could hardly refuse even though he had been ill for sometime. That morning he rode two mounts one of which was a brown bay called Le Gentry. The horse pirouetted so rapidly that the audience was astonished repeatedly shouting “Miracolo” and crossing themselves in their amazement at such a masterly exhibition. As the Spanish were themselves masters of the equestrian art this was praise indeed.
William had investigated all the French and Italian techniques, refining them and incorporating his own ideas. He used the cavesson nose band but the reins were not tied to a pillar. He fastened them to the pommel of his saddle keeping them in his hand so as not to discomfort the animal. William was considerate of his horses not wishing to hurt them and showed respect for the intelligence and personality of his subjects. The outstanding results he was able to achieve bear testimony to his expertise and established his reputation as a great equestrian master, probably the greatest horseman in Europe at the time.
During his years in Antwerp William wrote a book detailing his horse training methods which was translated into French. It was lavishly illustrated by 43 engravings by Abraham van Diepenbeke and was an expensive project costing £1,300 which was financed by his friends Sir H Cartwright and Mr. Loving. The book was entitled La Methode Nouvelle et Invention Extraordinaire de Dresser Les Chevaux and published in 1658. Many still consider it a classic and the last word on the subject, even after all these years.
In February of that year William was to entertain the Prince, his brothers, the future James II and Henry Duke of Gloucester and also their sister Mary, Princess of Orange. In spite of his continuing financial problems the banquet and entertainments were lavish and on a scale similar to those seem at Bolsover before the war.
England was still firmly under the Protectorate with Cromwell firmly entrenched looking more secure than ever. This was soon to change. Within 6 months Cromwell was dead and, for the Royalist émigrés, their days of exile would soon be over. With the end now in sight William submitted a report to the future King detailing his own thoughts and recommendations about future policy.
In it he sets out various policy guidelines. Briefly these are :-
1/ Army. The King must have control of the army and have reliable garrisons at all the major ports and arsenals. The county militias must be retained but under reliable officers. The London militias must be reduced and not be allowed to recover their former power and influence.
2/ Finances. The Crown must never again be in a position where it is persistently short of funds. Income should be raised from customs duties on successful and expanding business. This should be even-handed and proficiently collected. New industries and trade should be introduced from abroad to enhance and rebuild the economy. Interest rates should be kept low. Exports abroad should be encouraged to improve the trade balance.
3/ Religion and Education. William proposed strong and controversial action. At the time and in the context of the previous 20 years it was perhaps not unreasonable however. Only the Church of England should be permitted as Roman Catholicism and Presbyterianism
“carried the same firebrands of covetousness and ambition to put all into combustion.”
There should be strict press and religious censorship and ministers should be restricted to preaching sermons from authorised printed texts. Theological argument should be conducted in Latin to be read only by the educated for
“Controversy is a civil war with the pen which pulls out the sword soon after.”
Another telling comment on this theme.
“ The bible in English under every weaver’s and chambermaid’s arm hath done us much hurt.”
He recommended that bishops supervise all the schools and see that no weavers spread revolutionary heresies. This is a clear reference to the people of the West Riding cloth manufacturing towns in Yorkshire who had proved such resolute and determined opponents to his northern campaign and had been a source of much of his troubles.
4/ Entertainments. To please the common people he also advised that the former holidays should be reintroduced and entertainments and pleasures like sports, feasting, fairs and the like be restored. Wise counsel. Much of this has been forbidden under Cromwell and led to his increasing unpopularity amongst the populace at large.
Cromwell’s son Richard, “Tumbledown Dick,” had now succeeded his father and the mood in the nation was clearly now moving in favour of the restoration of the Monarchy.
William’s continued his interest in drama during his final years on the continent writing several plays including A Pleasant and Merry Humour of a Rogue and The Triumphant Widow , or the Medley of Humours. He was clearly a better horseman than a dramatist but his writing must have given him great pleasure.
England was descending into a state of political instability and by January 1659 many of the aristocracy had left for Paris. During this period of uncertainty William corresponded with many of the many leading figures on possible developments. April 1660 brought the election of a new Parliament which was now in favour of restoration of the Monarchy under any terms. At this time the Prince issued his Declaration of Breda setting out his terms. This was read in Parliament on the 1st May and accepted. A week later Charles was declared King of England and in 4 days the fleet sailed for Holland.