Duke of Devonshire

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Duke of Devonshire is a title in the Peerage of England held by members of the Cavendish family. This branch of the Cavendish family has been one of the richest and most influential aristocratic families in England since the 16th century, and have been rivalled in political influence perhaps only by the Earls of Derby and the Marquesses of Salisbury.



Although in modern usage the county of Devon is now rarely called 'Devonshire', the title remained 'Duke of Devonshire'. Despite the title of the dukedom and the subsidiary title, the earldom of Devonshire, the family estates are centred in Derbyshire. It is sometimes speculated that Derbyshire rather than Devonshire was intended on the original letters patent for the earldom.

Cavendish knights, and the 1st Earl of Devonshire

The Cavendish family descends from Sir John Cavendish, who took his name from the village of Cavendish, Suffolk, where he held an estate in the 14th century. He served as Chief Justice of the King's Bench from 1372 to 1381, and was killed in the Peasants' Revolt. Two of his great-grandsons were George Cavendish, Thomas Cardinal Wolsey's biographer, and George's younger brother Sir William Cavendish. Sir William gained great wealth from his position in the Exchequer and also, as it was alleged, from unfairly taking advantage of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. He married as his third wife the famous Bess of Hardwick, with whom he had eight children. One of their sons, Sir Charles Cavendish (1553–1617), was the father of William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (see the Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne for more information on this branch of the family), while another son, Henry Cavendish, was the ancestor of the Barons Waterpark. Yet another son, William Cavendish, was a politician and a supporter of the colonialization of Virginia. In 1605 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Cavendish, of Hardwicke in the County of Derby, and in 1618 he was further honoured when he was made Earl of Devonshire. Both titles are in the Peerage of England.

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