Cavendish family

  (Redirected from House of Cavendish)

The Cavendish (or de Cavendish) family (/ˈkævəndɪʃ/) is a British noble family, of Anglo-Norman origins (though with an Anglo-Saxon name, originally a place name in Suffolk). They rose to their highest prominence as the dukes of Devonshire and Newcastle.

Noble house
Cavendish arms.svg
Arms: Sable, three buck's heads cabossed argent
CountryKingdom of England
Kingdom of Ireland
United Kingdom
Place of originNormandy
Foundedc. 1346
FounderSir John Cavendish
Current headPeregrine Cavendish, 12th Duke of Devonshire
MottoCavendo tutus ('Safe through caution')

Leading branches have held high offices in English then British politics, especially since the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the participation of William Cavendish, then-earl of Devonshire, in the Invitation to William, though the family appears to date to the Norman Conquest of England, with Cavendish being used (in one form or another) as a surname per se since the beginning of the 13th century. As a place-name, it is first recorded in 1086.[1]

Early historyEdit

As a place-name, it is first recorded as Kavandisc in 1086 in the Domesday Book,[1] and appears to have a meaning of 'Cafna's Pasture', from personal byname Cafa/Cafna (from caf 'bold, daring'), and edisc 'enclosed pasture'.[2][1] By 1201, it was in use as the surname de Cavendis (borne by one Simon de Cavendis in the Suffolk Records of Pleas before the King (specifically King John), recurring in 1242 as Cavenedis,[1] and again in 1302 as de Cavendish.[3] Various (sometimes disputed) early records of Anglo-Norman nobility suggest that the family was founded by a Robert Gernon or Guernon of Montfiquet, granted lands and titles in this area (among many others) for his service during the Conquest, and that the family is closely related to those that later used the surnames Gernon and de Montfichet. The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants (1875) summarizes the history (and the dispute) thus:[3]

The descent of the Cavendish family from Gernon has been disputed, but ... without reason. The Gernons were a branch of the Barons of Montfichet, Montfiquet, or Montfiket in Normandy, so named after their Scandinavian ancestor. The castle of Montfichet long remained, as well as the Church of St. Catherine in the castle, a foundation of this family.

About 1050 Robert, surnamed Guernon (moustache), Baron of Montfichet, witnessed a charter of Duke William (Gall. Christ. xi. Instr. 229). He had issue, 1, William de Montfichet, who d. s. p., when the barony devolved on William, the son of his brother; 2, Robert Guernon or Gernon, who held a great barony in Essex, &c., 1086. From his elder son William de Montfichet descended the Barons of that name, whose seats were at Stanstead Montfichet, Essex, and Montfichet Tower, London, of which city the Montfichets were hereditary standard-bearers or military chiefs in time of war.

The younger branches retained the name of Gernon. Alured Gernon, brother of William de Montfichet, had estates in Essex and Middlesex 1130 (Rot. Pip.). Matthew, his son, 1135 witnessed a charter of William Montfichet (Mon. i. 803). Ralph, his son, 1165, held a fief from Montfichet in Essex, and was granted Bakewell, Derbyshire, by Richard I. (Testa de Neville). He had Ralph G., founder of Lees Priory, Essex, father of William G., who had two sons: l, Ralph, ancestor of a line of Gernon frequently mentioned in Essex, Suffolk, and Derby, and which long continued; 2, Geoffry.

Geoffry, surnamed de Cavendish from his residence at Cavendish, Suffolk, appears in 1302 as bailsman with Walter de C., his son, for certain citizens of London ... (Palgr. Anc. Calendars, i. 295). Roger de C., another son of Geoffry, m. a dau. of Potton of Cavendish, by whom he acquired an estate there, and was father of Sir John Cavendish, chief justice t. Rich. II., and Roger Cavendish. The former, in 1359, purchased the Manor of Cavendish Overhall from De Odingselles, from which it has been too readily inferred that the statement that Cavendish [the place] had been acquired in the preceding generation by the heiress of Potton was unfounded (Archæologia, xi. 53). But the objector was not aware that at Cavendish there were five or six manors, as the records clearly show, belonging to the families of De Grey, Hastings, De Clare, to the Abbot of Dereham, and De Odingselles, so that the Cavendishes may well have possessed property there before they purchased Cavendish Overhall.

The identity of the family of Cavendish with that of Gernon in the eastern counties appears in all the old heralds' visitations, where the two names bear indiscriminately the same arms; and the account of the descent of this family by Collins, which has been disputed on the above grounds, appears to be perfectly authentic. The Dukes of Newcastle, Devonshire, and other great families of the name of Cavendish, descended from the Gernons and Montfichets.

The de Montfichet line of Essex, Middlesex, and London appears to have become extinct in 1258 with the death without heirs of Magna Carta witness Richard de Montfichet, though the name survived in place names. Gernon survives as a surname in England, Ireland, and abroad (sometimes spelled Garnon or Garnons); it dates in England with the Gernon spelling to at least Ranulf de Gernon, 4th Earl of Chester (1099–1153), a descendant of Robert de Guernon, the baron from Mountfiquet who as a companions-at-arms of William the Conqueror received more than 50 manor houses, baronies, and other domains in England, including apparently Cavendish. As a noble family, they were landed in Essex, Suffolk, and Derby. Guernon survives as a French surname, including with noble connections to at least the 19th century in the same Calvados region of Normandy, especially Ranville, Ouistreham (Oystreham), and the eponymous Fauguernon. It is claimed ultimately to be derived from Rollon, the French name of the Viking who effectively became the first Duke of Normandy; if true, this would make the overall family one of the oldest Norman lineages.[4]

The philosopher Thomas Hobbes was employed as a tutor by the Cavendish family and educated various members of the family.

From the Glorious Revolution onwardEdit

After missing nation-leading and internationally definitive largesse and empire-building in Charles II's five-peer acronym of the Cabal ministry, William Cavendish, Earl of Devonshire, was the first of the name to rise to duke, at age 27. He co-wrote the 1688 Invitation to William to exclude Catholics from the monarchy, which set in motion the Glorious Revolution in that year (and which also ultimately had the result of shifting more power to Parliament). The Invitation's authors were later known as "the Immortal Seven". This pre-dated the Spencer-Churchills' centrality under campaigns (most of all the Battle of Culloden) against the Catholic pretenders to the throne.

High appointments were often won by senior title holders and some juniors among the Cavendishes, from 1688 until about 1887, and marked the family's ascendancy, along with the Marquesses of Salisbury and the Earls of Derby. The notable lines descend from Sir John of Cavendish in the county of Suffolk (c. 1346–1381). Other peerages included the Dukedom of Newcastle; Barony of Waterpark (County Cork, Ireland); the Barony of Chesham (in Buckinghamshire); and through a daughter marrying into the Bentinck family (leading to combined surnames), the Dukedom of Portland (a title which ceased in 1990, and most of the wealth of which is in the Howard de Walden Estate, which has kept minor, overarching interests in and reviews changes across most of central Marylebone, London).

Concessions to populists of post-imperial meritocracy movements shifted power to industrialism and to the House of Commons. The 1911, 1958, 1963, and 1999 transformations of the House of Lords permanently ended key influence by Cavendish and many other British noble families. Under primogeniture, the senior branches of these families still dominate in inter-family (relative) wealth and titles.

The head of the modern family is Peregrine Cavendish, 12th Duke of Devonshire, whose Georgian mansion, Chatsworth House, in the Peak District attracts many visitors with its gardens, iconic high-jet fountain, Capability Brown grounds, and fine-art collection. Among its past urban assets with lasting influence, this branch of the family had a large house in London, on which many grand apartments and houses now stand, including Devonshire Square.

Notable membersEdit

The explorer Thomas Cavendish "the Navigator" (1555–1592) was descended from Roger Cavendish, Sir John Cavendish's brother.

The 3rd to 9th Dukes of Portland were descended from the Cavendish family through the female line, and took the surname Cavendish-Bentinck or a variant thereof. Their principal seat, Welbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire, came to them through the Cavendish connection.


  1. ^ a b c d "Last name: Cavendish". The Internet Surname Database. Name Origin Research. 2017. Archived from the original on 10 April 2019. Retrieved 19 March 2020.  This tertiary source reuses information from other sources but does not name them.
  2. ^ Hanks, Patrick, ed. (2013). "Cavendish". Dictionary of American Family Names. Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 20 March 2020. Retrieved 19 March 2020 – via
  3. ^ a b "Cavendish". The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States of America. London: Henry S. King & Co. 1875. pp. 191–193 – via Google Books. Additional related information is found on pp. 165, 187, 341.   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. ^ The seniority of this family is attested in the various researches on the French nobility made in 1463–1465 by Monfaut, in 1599 by Roissy, and in 1666 by Chamillard.
  • Charles Roger Dod, Peerage, Baronetage, and Knightage, Volume 15 (S. Low, Marston & Company, 1855), 544.
  • William Courthope, Debrett's Complete Peerage of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (J. G. & F. Rivington, 1838), 18.
  • Sir Egerton Brydges, A Biographical Peerage of the Empire of Great Britain (J. Johnson, 1808), 86.