William Cavendish (1593 – 1676) was the grandson of Bess of Hardwick. He is best known for his passion for horsemanship and was regarded as the finest horseman in Europe, particularly in manège, which was the art of training horses to a high level of obedience. Cavendish wrote two books on this subject, which are still considered the work of a true master. He also built a famous riding school in Antwerp while in exile.
William embodies the popular image of a cavalier. He was both courageous and cultured. His passions were architecture, horses and women.
Cavendish was also closely connected to the Royal Court of King Charles I and remained a staunch royalist during the Civil War. He became general of the King’s forces in the North, leading 8000 men. Following his part in the Royalist’s humiliating defeat at the Battle of Marston Moor, Cavendish fled to the continent. Although not held personally responsible for the rout by the King he was a proud man and could not bear the thought of being the laughing stock of the court.
Returning to England after the Restoration of the King he retired from public life. He occupied himself with his estate and with his favourite pursuit of training horses, establishing a five-mile racecourse near Welbeck. Cavendish also focused on building Nottingham Castle; he cleared the remains of the medieval castle (destroyed during the Civil War) and made way for an Italian, palazzo-styled building which was completed by his son Henry.