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Cavalier : A Tale of Chivalry, Passion, and Great Houses
From the Chief Curator of the Historic Royal Palaces in England, a vivid portrait of a seventeenth-century nobleman, his household, and the dramatic decades surrounding the English Civil War.
William Cavendish embodied the popular image of a cavalier. He was both courageous and cultured. His passions were architecture, horses, and women. And, along with the whole courtly world of King Charles I and his cavaliers, he was doomed to failure.
Cavendish was a master of manege (the art of teaching horses to dance) and obsessed with building beautiful houses in the latest style. He taught Charles I's son to ride, and was the general of the king's army in the north during the Civil War. Famously defeated at the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644, he went into a long continental exile before returning to England in triumph on the restoration of King Charles II to the throne in 1660.
This is the story of one remarkable man, but it is also a rich evocation of what sustained him--his extraordinary household. Lucy Worsley brings to life the complex and fascinating hierarchies among the inhabitants of the great houses of the seventeenth-century, painting a picture of conspiracy, sexual intrigue, clandestine marriage, and gossip. From Ben Jonson and Anthony Van Dyck to long-forgotten servants, Cavalier is a brilliant illumination of the stately home and its inhabitants. The household's cacophony and stink as well as its ceremony and splendor come to life.
Worsley, the chief curator of Britain's Historic Royal Palaces, closely examines the life of 17th-century English aristocrat William Cavendish, a champion of poetry, music, horses, women and architecture, with reference to numerous primary sources including a rich body of his estate papers, letters and poems. Every detail of Cavendish's universe comes to life, from architect John Smithson's designs for his exquisite home to the job descriptions and diets of the building site's laborers. Also vividly described is a nasty household plot against Cavendish's much younger second wife and a costly entertainment staged by Cavendish to curry favor with Charles I. It succeeded, and the King made William earl, marquis, his heir's tutor and a Civil War general, a commission beyond Cavendish's abilities. After a key battle of the war ended in disaster, Cavendish fled to the continent, lived in relative poverty and was branded a coward, but his fortunes rebounded under Charles II, who minted him duke of Newcastle. Although fascinating, this diligently documented account reveals its roots as a doctoral thesis. 16-page color insert, b&w illus. (Oct. 20)
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September 30, 2007
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