The Devonshires : The Story of a Family and a Nation
William Cavendish, the father of the first Earl, dissolved monasteries for Henry VIII. Bess, his second wife, was gaoler-companion to Mary Queen of Scots during her long imprisonment in England. Arbella Stuart, their granddaughter, was a heartbeat away from the throne of England and their grandson, Lord General of the North, fought to save the crown for Charles I.
Fifty years later, the First Duke of Devonshire conspired to depose James II, and make William of Orange king. For the next two centuries the Devonshires were at the heart of fashionable society and the centre of political power. The Fourth Duke became prime minister and Georgiana, wife of the Fifth, scandalised even the Regency.
Spencer Compton, the last of the great Devonshires, was three times offered the preimership, and three times refused it. Even the Devonshire servants made history. Joseph Paxton was their gardner and Thomas Hobbes was the family tutor.
With the help of previously unpublished material from the Chatsworth archives, The Devonshires reveals how the dynasty made and lost fortunes, fought and fornicated, built great houses, patronised the arts and pioneered the railways, made great scientific discoveries, and, in the end, came to terms with changing times. It is popular history at its very best.