Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Murderous duel of Cavendish servants

About the year 1570, Henry Cavendish (1550-1616), the eldest son of Bess of Hardwick (1527-1608), wrote to his mother and stepfather George Talbot (1528-90) concerning an incident which had occurred between two members of his household. 
Henry Cavendish had married in 1568 to Grace Talbot (b.1560), the daughter of his stepfather George Talbot, and as the heir to his father William Cavendish who died when Henry was only seven years old, at this time Henry had his own household and was residing at Tutbury Castle.

The incident that took place, was a duel between two of Henry Cavendish's servants which resulted in the death of one at the hand of the other. It appears that the two servants involved had been with the family for a long time, as Henry had a strong affection for them as well as Bess herself knowing their characters well. The two servants were named Swenerton and Langeford; it was Swenerton who won the duel and killed Langeford. There was a family called Swynnerton from the town of the same name in Staffordshire, and a Langford family in Derbyshire. Therefore it would seem that they were locals to the area surrounding Tutbury Castle who went to work there.

Henry Cavendish wrote a letter to his mother Bess of Hardwick the day after the duel had happened between his servants. Bess then forwarded the letter to her husband George Talbot, with the instruction that it be returned to her. The fact that Henry waited an entire day before writing to his mother about the matter, which could have caused a scandal against the family, is surprising. As Swenerton, despite being pursued, was not yet caught and had indeed been permitted to flee in the first place, along with the blatant affection that Henry Cavendish felt for him, it is entirely possible that Henry Cavendish was perhaps trying to help Swenerton to escape the law, or at least delay it.

To my Lady.
To my lorde of some affecte
to my Lady
Maye yt please your Honor, I thought yt good to let your Ladyship vnderstande of a mysfortune that happened in my howse. On thursday at nyght last at supper ij of my men fell owt abowte some tryflynge woordes and to all theyr felloes iudgementes that harde theyr iangelynge, wear made good ffrendes agayne, and went and Laye togeether that nyghte, for they had byn bedfelloes of longe before, and loved one thother very well as every boddye tooke yt in the howse. On ffryday mornynge very early, by breake of daye they wente forthe, by name Swenerton, and Langeford with ij swordes a peece, as the sequele after showed, and in the fyeldes foughte together, and in fyghte, Swenerton shlewe Langeford, to my great greyfe booth for the sodeyne deathe of the one, and for the vtter dystructyon of the tother whom I loved very well. Good Madam let yt not trowble you in any thynge, we are mortall, and borne to many and strange adventures, and thearfore must temper owr myndes to bear shuche burthens as shall be by God layd on owr shoulders. My greattest greyffe, and so I iudge yt wyll be some trowble to your Ladyship that yt shoulde happen in my howse alas madam what coulde I dooe with yt, altogether not once suspectynge any thynge betwyxte them. I haue byn ryghte sorofull full for yt, and yt hath trowbled and vexed me, more then in reason yt should haue donne a wyese man. I would to God I could forget that theyr never had byn any shuch matter. Vpon the facte donne I sent for Master Adderley, and vsed hys counsell in all thynges. Swenerton ffledde presently, and ys pursued but not yet harde of. Thus humbly cravynge your Ladyship's dayly blessynge I end, more then sadde to trowble your Ladyship thus longe with thys sorrofull matter. Tutbury thys present Saturday.
Your Ladyship's most bounden humble and obedyent sonne:
Henry Cavendyshe.

retarne thys

my Iuwell thys saterday at nyght I resauyed thys later meche to my greffe for the myshape yett was euer lyke that swenertone shulde comete some great fayte he was a vane lewe felow. fare well my deare harth your faythefoull wyffe


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