In past times, titles conferred social status in a way that mere wealth could not. Bess of Hardwick, born into a gentry family, became a wealthy owner of great landed estates through her second and third marriages. Her triumphant fourth marriage in 1568 to the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury established her family as a dynasty within the Tudor aristocracy.
Proudly, she had become a Countess. To confirm her Cavendish children’s place at this powerful level of society, she arranged the marriage of her eldest son, Henry Cavendish, to her new husband’s daughter, Lady Grace Talbot, and her daughter, Mary, to her husband’s eldest son, Gilbert, the next Earl. She did not stop there: her youngest son, Sir Charles Cavendish, Gilbert’s great friend, was married to Catherine Ogle, an heiress from an ancient, aristocratic Northumberland family, while Catherine’s older sister Jane married Gilbert’s brother Edward Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury’s youngest son who, through a twist of fate, became the 8th Earl of Shrewsbury, with Jane Ogle his Countess. The sisters’ father, a great landowner and holder of a medieval barony, could trace his ancestral line in Northumberland to pre-Conquest times.
There being no male descendant to inherit his properties, Lord Ogle’s two daughters were his joint heirs. On his death, they duly inherited his northern lands, to their husbands’ benefit, but the title went ‘into abeyance’, for even when a title could, exceptionally, be inherited by a daughter, if there was more than one, it could go to neither.
First, Jane Ogle fought against this ruling without success, but following her death, her sister Catherine fought even harder and in 1628, by then a widow, she was granted the title, becoming a baroness in her own right. With interests beyond such matters, the sisters were patrons of the poet and playwright Ben Jonson. Lady Catherine surely encouraged her eldest son William Cavendish, the Loyal Duke of Newcastle, a poet and playwright himself, in his patronage and support of Jonson.
Driven by ambition for a position at court, he commissioned Jonson’s The King’s Entertainment at Welbeck, a masque performed for Charles I during his progress to Scotland in 1633. This pleased the king so much that he requested another entertainment. Jonson’s Love’s Welcome at Bolsover was given the following year at the Little Castle before Charles and Queen Henrietta Maria. The cost of mounting these lavish masques was estimated to be about £18,000, now equivalent to around £3 million. Despite such expenditure, William Cavendish had to wait another four years before receiving his post in court.
Derek Adlam - Curator Emeritus
Derek Adlam and a colleague were the first craftspeople to take up a Harley Foundation studio at Welbeck in 1982. Trained as a classical pianist, Derek had turned to the restoration, making and playing clavichords, harpsichords and other early keyboard instruments. Over time, he became involved with the administration of the Foundation, the building of the Harley Gallery and new craft studios. Having mounted a number of Gallery displays of the Portland family’s works of art, he was invited to be the curator of that great collection. Now long retired, he continues his research into Welbeck’s rich history.