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Cavalier: A Tale of Chivalry, Passion, and Great Houses
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Cavalier: A Tale of Chivalry, Passion, and Great Houses

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  154 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
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 wo
Hardcover, 324 pages
Published October 2nd 2007 by Bloomsbury USA (first published September 6th 2007)
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Lauren Albert
This is only superficially a biography (or family biography). Worsley, the chief curator of the Historic Royal Palaces, probably knows more about how lives were lived in these places than any one else. She uses the Cavendish family history, and particularly the life of William Cavendish, as a way of portraying how nobles, their courts and their servants lived. It can sometimes be dry as when we learn how bricks were made or when we get detailed tours of the houses as they are walked through by t ...more
Apr 28, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it
It took me a couple of chapters to get into this book -- fifteen pages of the journey of a chamber pot didn't help -- but once I did get into the book, it was an interesting read.

Cavalier tells the story of the William Cavendish during an incredibly unsettling time of English history. His life spanned Queen Elizabeth I, King James I, King Charles I, Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, and King Charles II; in other words, from Reformation to Civil War to Restoration. Cavalier picks out eight separat
Feb 29, 2008 Manda rated it did not like it
Too clinical, dry and fact regurgitative for my taste. There are a lot of random facts thrown in that could have probably been pared out, for example that a piece of glass stuck in the mortar in a floor would be found 300 years later by archaeologists working on the property. As someone with a degree in archaeology myself, I would normally find that fact interesting except that it just seemed irrelevant to the ongoing story. Little things like that were what kept this book from being as interest ...more
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 Margaret Sankey rated it really liked it
Worsley, Curator of the Historic Royal Palaces in Britain, uses the construction projects (particularly Chatsworth)of the Cavendish family to track their rise from the gentry to the Duchy of Devonshire, including the experience of exile in the Civil War and the excess of the Restoration. I am liking this trend of tying noble families to their literal family trees and seeing the money, influence and connections through material goods.
Jonathan Hyde
Jul 16, 2012 Jonathan Hyde rated it really liked it
Brilliant read. Initially had no real knowledge of the 17th Century but was keen to read more by Dr. Worsley after reading her other great piece "Courtiers" concerning the court life of Georgian Britain, which I thoroughly enjoyed. However, upon finishing this book I really felt I had an all encompassing view of all aspects of life during this century, but cleverly conveyed through the life of William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle. The author's enthusiasm is apparent at all times and one really g ...more
Jun 19, 2012 Jane rated it liked it
Lucy Worsley packs this lively biography of William Cavendish with delicious snippets of detail. She ranges from architectural wonders like the erotic fountain of Venus at Bolsover Castle to descriptions of elaborate feasts complete with cook's directions on how to fix any bird from a sparrow to a swan.
Along the way she gives you a well-rounded account of English history from Charles ! through the restoration. At the center of all this stands her hero, a pretty good poet, an enthusiastic builde
Guy Cranswick
This is unreadable for one reason: the book is largely written in the present tense, though a history and shifts, on occasions, to a standard past tense. This technique of writing in the 'now' is what silly historical TV documentaries do because the viewer is apparently unable to conceive of a time before their own lives. In a book published by Faber and by a recognized historian it is an unforgivable error of judgement.
Jun 02, 2014 Bettie☯ marked it as wish-list
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Jemidar
to hunt down a good deal
Karen Brooks
Feb 01, 2017 Karen Brooks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I read this wonderful book, Cavalier, by Lucy Worsley, I could hear her voice with all its lilting passion telling me the history of William Cavendish and his rise, downfall and rise again - the latter occurring along with the Restoration of Charles II. Poetic, often moving and with incredible detail about the social mores and hierarchy of the English aristocracy at the time (from old King James, his son Charles I, the Civil Wars and Cromwell, to Charles II), it's also a tale of sexual intrig ...more
Carla Hostetter
Aug 13, 2016 Carla Hostetter rated it really liked it
Worsley makes detailed nonfiction interesting by tracking the life of William Cavendish, the epitome of a British Cavalier, through the houses he builds or improves. Rather than follow his life year by year, we meet William at crucial points in his life: his father's death, before the battle of Marston Moor, after his return from exile. At one point, we follow his night soil woman through the house, examining each room she passes through to deposit her load in the bowels of her house. In another ...more
Mar 19, 2014 Amanda marked it as to-read
Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator of the Historic Royal Palaces, paints a stunningly descriptive and enlightening picture of privileged life in 17th century Britain through ten eventful and dramatic chapters of Sir William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle’s life.

Defeated in the Battle of Marston Moor, prominent royalist Cavendish was exiled from England for 16 years. In this time, he found love, married, and pursued one of his greatest passions: architecture--establishing numerous new residences and earni
Jan 29, 2016 Tina rated it liked it
I love Miss Lucy, and I live for her biographies. This book is essentially another PBS episode, so if you like her specials you will like this book. For some reason I thought this was a story about more than just one person, but that's a personal problem. The only reason why I'm not giving this book more stars is because I wasn't crazy about the Cavendish family (but like I said, I was under the impression that this would be about more than just one man). I am looking forward to reading her othe ...more
Nov 04, 2009 Sarah rated it liked it
I really enjoyed how this was written in the present tense, and the information given is fascinating. It uses a wide variety of primary source material on all kinds of topics, both gross and grand, to give a really full, panoramic treatment to a narrow subject. Which I love. And there are lots of awesome, lavishly-described country houses. Again, love. I would have really loved this book...had it been set a century or two later. The seventeenth century is just a little too early to be within my ...more
Betty Adams
Jul 13, 2016 Betty Adams rated it really liked it
As I have confessed, I skipped English History in college because I didn't like the professor - this from a history major. I am fascinated by the English Civil War; this book approached it not from a battle/linear history, but from a personal history drawn from contemporaneous sources and detailed research.
Renata Holder
Sep 08, 2014 Renata Holder rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I greatly enjoyed this. The author chooses a date, or sequence of a few days, and describes what is happening as though she was standing there watching. A very readable way of learning about the subject and the times in which he lived.
David Serxner
Mar 06, 2008 David Serxner marked it as to-read
I saw this on the shelf at Barney Ignoble and knew I had to read it. So I bought it. This is a fascinating period in English history--and he was related to Arbella Stuart, whose biography I read this past summer.
Lewis de Seife
Feb 26, 2008 Lewis de Seife rated it really liked it
Makes the 1500's come to life and narrates the transition from feudal to recognizably modern terms for everyday activity. I.e. To desert (clear) the table at the end of a meal to make way for sweets, becomes our dessert.
Apr 10, 2010 Converse rated it liked it
William Cavendish, 1st Duke of NewCastle, life is told through a chronological series of vignette where we see him entertaining Charles I, being on the losing royalist side of Maston Moor, in exile, building houses, and marrying.
Feb 11, 2013 Tom rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Cavalier was quite an interesting book. It covers the life and times of William Cavendish, and gives an insight into the thought processes and interactions of the time. Anyone who has an interest in the 17th century, England in particular, could find this quite interesting.
Jul 04, 2015 Ellen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not really as described on the cover. A meticulous description of the houses that William Cavendish lived in and how they were lived in. Bordered on tedious at times. But Lucy Worsley certainly knows her stuff so 2.5 rounded up to 3 from me.
Mar 22, 2012 Tracey rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This was really interesting. I especially liked the descriptions of how the Cavendish household worked.
Wendy rated it it was ok
Dec 11, 2016
Lisa Christian
Lisa Christian rated it liked it
Sep 14, 2011
Candice rated it liked it
Jun 21, 2014
Tinandra rated it it was amazing
Nov 20, 2015
Jean Fortini
Jean Fortini rated it it was amazing
Sep 05, 2015
Kirsty rated it it was ok
Jan 03, 2013
Amber Weinberg
Amber Weinberg rated it liked it
Jun 03, 2012
Lauren rated it really liked it
Mar 01, 2012
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I was born in Reading (not great, but it could have been Slough), studied Ancient and Modern History at New College, Oxford, and I've got a PhD in art history from the University of Sussex.

My first job after leaving college was at a crazy but wonderful historic house called Milton Manor in Oxfordshire. Here I would give guided tours, occasionally feed the llamas, and look for important pieces of p
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