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Biography of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle upon Tyne (c. 1623-1673)

Margaret Lucas was born at St John's Abbey, Essex and was the youngest child of Thomas and Elizabeth Lucas. Although her parents were wealthy, they were completely untitled. She was privately tutored and in 1642 was sent to live with her sister in Oxford, where the royal court was residing. Margaret became a maid of honour to Queen Henrietta Maria, and in 1644, accompanied her mistress into exile in Paris.

The move to Paris proved to be the pivotal point in Margaret's life, for it was here that she met her future husband, William Cavendish, Marquess [and later, Duke] of Newcastle upon Tyne. The two were married by the end of 1645. After moving to Rotterdam and then Antwerp, husband and wife returned to England at the Restoration and set about the process of restoring the Cavendish estates.

Margaret was viewed by her contemporaries as being rather eccentric. She was extravagent and flirtatious, accused of using speech full of 'oaths and obscenity', and was noted for her unusual sense of fashion. This reputation for eccentricity survives today, when Margaret is widely referred to as 'Mad Madge'.

Margaret's most notable achievement was undoubtedly literary. She was a prolific author, publishing poems, plays, literary critiques, volumes of 'observations' - even works on natural philosophy.

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Family

Margaret was the 1st Duke's second wife. Though the duke had a family by his first wife, Elizabeth Basset, he was sadly unable to have children with Margaret, despite attempts to treat her failure to conceive.

Archive Collections

The Cavendish inheritance descended in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries through the female line, passing first from Henry Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne (1630-1691) to his daughter, Margaret (1661-1716) who married John Holles, 4th Earl of Clare (1662-1711). Their daughter, Lady Henrietta Cavendish Holles (1694-1755), inherited the bulk of the Cavendish estates after litigation. She married Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford (1689-1741). Their daughter, Lady Margaret Cavendish Harley, was married in 1743 to William Bentinck, 2nd Duke of Portland (1709-1762). As a result of this union, a considerable quantity of the Newcastle/Cavendish papers passed into the Portland, rather than the Newcastle Collection.

  • The Cavendish Collection, part of the Portland (Welbeck) Collection held in Manuscripts and Special Collections at The University of Nottingham, includes some personal papers
  • The Portland Literary Collection, also part of the Portland (Welbeck) Collection, contains relevant literary papers
  • The Newcastle Collection held in Manuscripts and Special Collections at The University of Nottingham includes some estate papers from the time of the 1st Duke and Duchess
  • Details of collections held elsewhere are available through the National Register of Archives.

Published Works by Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle upon Tyne

[Available as eBooks to University of Nottingham Library members via the Library's online catalogue]

  • Cavendish, Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, Poems and Fancies (1653)
  • Cavendish, Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, The World's Olio (1655)
  • Cavendish, Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, Philosophical and Physical Opinions (1655)
  • Cavendish, Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, A True Relation of the birth, breeding and life of Margaret Cavendish (1656)
  • Cavendish, Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, Nature's Pictures (1656)
  • Cavendish, Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, Love's Adventures (1662)
  • Cavendish, Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, Plays (1662)
  • Cavendish, Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, Orations of divers sorts (1662)
  • Cavendish, Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, CCXI socialble Letters (1664)
  • Cavendish, Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, Philosphical Letters (1664)
  • Cavendish, Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, Observations on Experimental Philosophy (1666)
  • Cavendish, Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, Grounds of Natural Philosophy (1668)
  • Cavendish, Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, Plays Never before Printed (1668)
  • Cavendish, Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, The Life of William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle, ed. by C.H. Firth (London, 1906)
  • Cavendish, Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, Political Writings, ed. by Susan James (Cambridge, 2003)
  • Cavendish, Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, The blazing world and other writings, ed. by Kate Lilley (London, 1994)

Published Sources

  • Clucas, S. (ed.), A princely brave woman: essays on Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (Aldershot, 2003)
  • Goulding, Richard W., Margaret Lucas, Duchess of Newcastle (1925) [King's Meadow Campus East Midlands Collection Not468.V38.CAV]
  • Grant, Douglas, Margaret the First: A biography of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (1957)
  • Jones, Kathleen, A glorious fame: the life of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle 1623-1673 (London, 1988) [King's Meadow Campus East Midlands Collection Not 468.V38 CAV]
  • Longueville, T., The First Duke and Duchess of Newcastle upon Tyne (London, 1910) [King’s Meadow Campus East Midlands Collection Not 468.V38 CAV]
  • Perry, Henry T.E., The first duchess of Newcastle and her husband as figures in literary history, Harvard Studies in English, Vol. 4 (New York, 1968)
  • Rees, Emma L.E., Margaret Cavendish: gender, genre, exile (Manchester, 2003)
  • Whitaker, Katie, Mad Madge: Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, royalist, writer and romantic (London, 2003) [King's Meadow Campus East Midlands Collection Not 468.V38 NEW]
 

Manuscripts and Special Collections

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