Cavendish, Richard (DNB00)

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CAVENDISH, RICHARD (d. 1601?), politician and author, was the second son of Sir Richard Gernon, alias Cavendish, by his wife Beatrice, daughter of — Gould (Harleian MS. 1449, f. 96). He was a native of Suffolk, and was for some time a member of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (Masters, Hist. of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, pt. i. Append. p. 11). In 1568 and 1569 he was engaged in conveying to Mary Queen of Scots letters and tokens to further her marriage with the Duke of Norfolk (Lodge, Illustrations of British History, ed. 1838, i. 473, 475; Strype, Annals, i. 630, folio). The earls of Shrewsbury and Huntingdon in the latter year vainly endeavoured to apprehend Cavendish and his writings. He appeared as a witness against the Duke of Norfolk at his trial on 16 Jan. 1571–2, when the duke ‘gave him reproachful words of discredit’ (Jardine, Criminal Trials, i. 176–8). To the parliament which met 8 May 1572 he was returned for the borough of Denbigh, in opposition to the inclination and threats of the Earl of Leicester, a fact not without significance, as it has been surmised that he had been employed by that nobleman to entrap the Duke of Norfolk (Pennant, Tour in Wales, ed. 1784, ii. 46–8). He was created M.A. of the university of Cambridge on 15 Feb. 1572–3. The grace for his degree states that he had studied for twenty-eight years at Cambridge and Oxford (Cooper, Athenæ Cantab. ii. 302; Addit. MS. 5865, f. 47). He was a second time returned for the borough of Denbigh to the parliament which assembled on 23 Nov. 1585.

In 1587 a circumstance occurred of much constitutional importance (Hallam, Constitutional Hist. ed. 1855, i. 279). Cavendish had suggested to the queen that it was in her power to create a new office for making out all writs of supersedeas quia improvidè emanavit in the court of common pleas. Accordingly her majesty granted the office to him for a certain number of years, and the judges of the court received a verbal command by a queen's messenger to admit him. This they neglected or refused to do. Thereupon he procured a letter under the sign manual and signet to be directed to the judges, wherein her majesty commanded them to sequester the profits of the office which had become due since her grant, and which might thereafter become due until the controversy for the execution of the said office should be decided. The judges after a consultation decided that they could not lawfully obey these commands. The queen addressed to them another letter (21 April 1587), ordering them in imperative terms immediately to sequester the profits of the office, and to admit Cavendish. This letter was delivered in the presence of the lord chancellor and the Earl of Leicester, who had been commanded by the queen to hear the judges' answer. After deliberating for some time the judges replied that they could not obey without being perjured. The queen thereupon commanded the lord chancellor, the chief justice of the queen's bench, and the master of the rolls to hear the judges' reasons. The queen's serjeant argued for the queen's prerogative, but the judges refused to answer on the ground that, as the prothonotaries and exigenters of the court claimed a freehold during their lives in the profits of such writs, they, and not the judges, ought to be brought to answer. Thereupon the queen's letters were produced, and the judges charged with not having obeyed the commands therein contained. They confessed the fact, but alleged that the commands were against the law of the land. The lord chancellor reported the proceedings to the queen, who wisely avoided the threatened collision between the prerogative and the law by allowing the matter to drop (Anderson, Reports, i. 152; Petyt, Jus Parliamentarium, 203; Manning, Serviens ad Legem, 306–10).

Cavendish appears to have died in 1601, as in that year a monument to his memory ‘promised and made by Margaret, countess of Cumberland,’ with a quaint inscription in English, was erected to his memory in the south aisle of Hornsey Church, Middlesex (Addit. MSS. 5825 f. 223 b, 5836 f. 83, 5861 f. 195 b).

He was the author of: 1. A Translation of Euclid into English. 2. ‘The Image of Natvre and Grace, conteyning the whole course and condition of Mans Estate. Written by Richard Caundishe,’ London, John Day, n.d. and 1574, 8vo, dedicated to ‘those who, through simplicitie of conscience and lacke of true knowledge, embrace the doctrine of the papistes.’

A poem in the ‘Paradyse of Dayntie Devises,’ conjecturally ascribed to Thomas Cavendish [q. v.], the circumnavigator, was more probably by his uncle Richard.

[Authorities cited above.]

T. C.