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Q U I C K   L I N K S

To learn more about the engraver of the 17th-century head-piece pictured to the left, see the IN BRIEF biography for Wenceslaus Hollar.

For an extract from Newcastle’s MS. Letter to Charles II asserting the royal prerogative to control the armed forces and to disarm the provinces (independent, regional militias), see the She-philosopher.​com study entitled “The Missing Historical Context: Anglo-American Gun Laws & the Original Intent of the Second Amendment.” Or you can click/tap here to directly access that Web page’s second-window aside giving the full text of Newcastle’s “For the Militia,” Section 1 of his Letter to Charles II.
   Newcastle here takes the side of “monarchical militarism” in the centuries-old struggle between a strong “military-imperial executive” and a “civilian-localist legislature” — a political struggle which roiled Anglo-America from its founding and is, I believe, a forgotten subtext for the original 18th-century version of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America (before being postmodernized during the 20th–21st century).

There are several quotes from this forthcoming digital edn. included with the editor’s Introduction for She-philosopher.​com’s e-publication of Thomas Hobbes’s A Briefe of the Art of Rhetorique, Lib. Cat. No. THOB1637.

Another quote from this forthcoming digital edn. — warning against the creeping corruption of the law, and the pressing need for legal reforms — is included with this website’s study of fake representation in California, as exemplified by California’s flawed Good Neighbor Fence Act of 2013 (Assembly Bill 1404).

And there are more quotes from Newcastle’s MS. Letter to Charles II — relating to his mercantilist philosophies and policy recommendations for a Caroline welfare state that would be both prosperous and secure — in the webessay, FYI: Conversations About a Wiser Use of Our Health Care Dollars & Resources, at the subdomain known as Roses.

In his MS. Letter to Charles II, Newcastle writes approvingly of “Queen Elizebeth whose Govermente Is the best Presedente for Englandes Govermente absolutlye.” Cf. his wife’s character of Elizabeth I (1533–1603), Queen of England and Ireland in the IN BRIEF section of She-philosopher.​com (includes more quotes from Newcastle’s “little Book” about Elizabethan power dressing and self-fashioning).

William Cavendish’s earlier Letter of Instructions to Prince Charles for his Studies, Conduct, and Behaviour, which first outlined several of the arguments dealt with more extensively here, is also available as an original She-philosopher.​com e-publication. See the digital edition, Lib. Cat. No. WC1638.

For the text of Charles’s official letter patent making William Cavendish a Knight Elect of the Order of the Garter in January 1650 — in which Charles recognizes Newcastle’s “Heroick Virtues, especially in Martial Actions,” his “Nobility, Courage, and Fidelity,” and “the great and extraordinary Services performed by you ... under our late Dear and Royal Father, King Charles of ever blessed and glorious Memory: And likewise considering your great Affection and Inclination to perform no less to Us” — see the second-window aside for She-philosopher.​com’s gallery exhibit, entitled “Richard Lovelace on Sir Peter Lely’s Talent for Psychological Portraiture, 1647.”

The Christ Church Hospital Mathematical-School for Boys was founded by Charles II (19 August 1673) to teach English youth astronomy & navigation in preparation for careers at sea. But the school was ill-fated from the start.... For more, see She-philosopher.​com’s IN BRIEF topic.

For more on Gerrard Winstanley and The Diggers’ radical republican program of social, legal, and religious reform, see She-philosopher.​com’s detailed study of California’s flawed Good Neighbor Fence Act of 2013 (Assembly Bill 1404 or AB 1404), and scroll down to the section with the link reading “Click/tap here to open a second-window aside with more about The Diggers’ mid-17th-century program of law reform.”

For full bibliographical descriptions of any works cited here, see:

• for pre-20th-century works, She-philosopher.​com’s selected list of Primary Sources

• for 20th-century and 21st-century works, She-philosopher.​com’s selected list of Secondary Sources

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First Published:  September 2012
Revised (substantive):  18 May 2023

Under Construction

S O R R Y,  but this e-publication page — with an HTML transcript of William Cavendish’s Letter to Charles II, written during the 1650s (scholars have dated it as early as 1651–early 1653, and as late as 1658–59 or 1660–61) — is still under construction.

17th-century head-piece showing six boys with farm tools, by Wenceslaus Hollar

We apologize for the inconvenience, and hope that you will return to check on its progress another time.

If you have specific questions relating to’s ongoing research projects, contact the website editor.

B Y    W A Y    O F    I N T R O D U C T I O N

The marquess of Newcastle’s fascinating treatise on government, known as his Letter to Charles II, was described by his wife in 1667 as follows:

And here I cannot forbear to mention, that my Noble Lord, when he was in banishment, presumed out of his Duty and Love to his Gracious Master our now Soveraign King Charles the Second, to write and send him a little Book, or rather a Letter, wherein he delivered his Opinion concerning the Government of his Dominions, whensoever God should be pleased to restore him to his Throne, together with some other Notes and Observations of Foreign States and Kingdoms; but it being a private offer to His sacred Majesty, I dare not presume to publish it.

(Margaret Cavendish, The Life of ... William Cavendishe ..., 1667, 135)

Two manuscript copies of this document survive:

1.  Copy in the handwriting of the duke of Newcastle, addressed “for your most sacred Ma:tie,” preserved in the Portland archives, in the library at Welbeck, Case III, C2.

2.  “The fair copy of this treatise bound for presentation to the King is preserved in the Bodleian (Clarendon, 16195). It is thus described by Madan (Summary Catalogue): ‘In English on paper: written in 1660 or 1661: 12-3/4 x 8-1/8 inches, xiv + 104 pages: binding, limp white parchment, with fine gold tooling, and blue silk strings.’” (S. A. Strong, 54n1)

Copy No. 1 was transcribed and printed by S. Arthur Strong, librarian at Welbeck Abbey for the dukes of Portland, in 1903. And it is Strong’s printing which I digitize here.

Of note, Strong argues that Newcastle’s second speculum principis (prince’s handbook)

does not seem to have had any effect upon the policy of Charles II., with whom, by the way, the influence of Hyde [i.e., Edward Hyde (1609–1674), 1st earl of Clarendon, and Lord Chancellor from 1660 to 1667] had supplanted that of his old tutor. Moreover, the problem was perhaps too complicated for such a rough-and-ready application of common sense. But the conclusions are worth noting as those of a shrewd observer, with a truly English contempt for theory and acquainted with affairs in all their vicissitudes.

(S. A. Strong, A Catalogue of Letters and Other Historical Documents Exhibited in the Library at Welbeck, 1903, vii)

Henry Perry also believed that Newcastle’s influence on the Restoration court of Charles II was inconsiderable: “It is true that Charles carried out some of Newcastle’s precepts, especially in regard to amusements ... but the spirit of his reign was entirely opposed to the ‘Little Book.’” (H. T. E. Perry, The First Duchess of Newcastle and her Husband as Figures in Literary History, rpt. 1968, 134n1)

I disagree. Newcastle’s “little Book” advising Charles II on the principles of good government builds on themes originally articulated c.1638 in The Earl of Newcastle’s Letter of Instructions to Prince Charles for his Studies, Conduct, and Behaviour, while he was governor of the 8-year-old prince from 1638–41, and further developed in numerous proclamations, dispatches, and reports issued while conducting his military campaigns. I would argue that Newcastle’s political instructions, values, and policies held sway in and beyond Restoration court circles:

The letter depicts a resurgent attachment to tradition that pervaded the thoughts of most members of the Restoration Parliament, of elder Cavaliers like Newcastle and Clarendon, the aging political philosopher Thomas Hobbes, the king himself, and many who looked to the past for values and the security that politics lacked under the later Stuarts. One might reasonably argue that these men were largely out of step with their times, that the future belonged not to Hobbes and the Cavaliers, but to Harrington, Locke, and the Whigs.

(Thomas P. Slaughter, Ideology and Politics on the Eve of Restoration, 1984, xii–xiii)

The future may have been lost, but the present was still up for grabs. Hobbesian ideas were thought to have “corrupted half the gentry of the Nation” (T. P. Slaughter, xx) during the 1650s. In a polarized country, “At a time when virtually everyone felt insecure, there were many men who noted similarities to a Hobbesian type state of nature and who longed for a return to the England of Queen Elizabeth.” (T. P. Slaughter, xii) As such, Newcastle’s political and philosophic view of the world had broad cultural currency in the early years of the Restoration. Indeed, some of the notions expressed in Newcastle’s Letter to Charles II “were, in certain respects, just as compatible with those of Gerrard Winstanley, an exponent of the radical left wing of Puritanism.” (T. P. Slaughter, xvii) Nonetheless, Slaughter cautions against making too much of such ideological common cause.

Most of Newcastle’s advice lacks, however, the universality implied by such observations. The heart of his philosophy stands opposed to all theories, Winstanley’s included, that emphasized the reason and equality of men above the ruthless competitiveness of human nature and the necessity for established hierarchy to maintain order. Both Hobbes and Newcastle emphasized that the basis of regal authority was power, that the important consideration was not who the sovereign was but whether or not he could maintain order among his subjects and retain his throne.

(Thomas P. Slaughter, Ideology and Politics on the Eve of Restoration, 1984, xviii)

Without question, the adult Charles II — most notably as a man of action, sometimes displaying great personal courage (e.g., during his storied escape from Worcester in 1651, and when supervising the rescue efforts during the great fire of London in 1666), but also too great a lover of ease; witty, but not scholarly; courteous and affable; a notorious womanizer; skilled at dissimulation; more pragmatic than principled, except in his unwavering resolve concerning royal prerogative & the divine right of kings — was still affected by the long association with his former governor, so formative of lasting mind and character. During his Parisian exile (1645–48), it was William Cavendish who brought Hobbes and Charles together, securing Hobbes’s appointment as a tutor for Charles, and stimulating Charles’s “lively interest in science and technology” (ODNB entry for Charles II by Paul Seaward). As king, Charles would patronize scientific institutions such as the Royal Society of London for the Improving of Natural Knowledge and the Royal Mathematical School at Christ’s Hospital, and at least one scholar has speculated that Charles “may have died as the result of his own experiments with mercury.” (T. P. Slaughter, Ideology and Politics on the Eve of Restoration, 1984, xxvii) Beginning in 1650, Newcastle served on the Privy Council of Charles’s government in exile. And immediately after Charles’s restoration, Slaughter notes a “close correspondence between Newcastle’s advice and Charles’s actions as king,” including “the legislative actions of the first Restoration Parliament during 1661 and 1662,” such that the “political actions of 1660–1662 display the receptivity of the first Restoration Parliament to royalist attitudes espoused by Newcastle but effected largely on the initiative of Edward Hyde.” Thus, “in his relations with Parliament, London, municipal corporations throughout England, the lord lieutenancies and militias, the universities, and even the bishops of the Church of England, Charles acted as Newcastle advised.” (T. P. Slaughter, xxx–xxxiii)

In 1664, when a newly-restored Charles II issued Letters Patents (at the marquess of Newcastle’s request) creating William Cavendish a duke of the kingdom, Charles still referred to Newcastle in the Preamble as his “Counsellor,” further noting that “great Proofs of his Wisdom and Piety, are sufficiently known to Us from our younger Years, and we shall always retain a Sense of those good Principles he instilled into Us”:

Rex &c. Salutem.
     Whereas Our most beloved and faithful Cousin and Counsellor, William Earl and Marquess of Newcastle upon Tyne, &c. worthy by his famous Name, Blood and Office, of large Honours, has been eminent in so many, and so great Services performed to Us and Our Father (of ever blessed memory) that his Merits are still producing new effects, We have decreed likewise to add more Honour to his former. And though these his such eminent Actions, which he hath faithfully and valiantly performed to Us, Our Father, and Our Kingdom, speak loud enough in themselves; yet since the valiant Services of a good Subject are always pleasant to remember, We have thought fit to have them in part related for a good Example and Encouragement to Virtue.
     The great Proofs of his Wisdom and Piety are sufficiently known to Us from Our younger years, and We shall alwayes retain a sense of those good Principles he instilled into Us; the Care of Our Youth which he happily undertook for Our good, he as faithfully and well discharged. Our years growing up amidst bad Times, and the harsh Necessities of Warr, a new Charge and Care of Loyaltie, the Kingdom and Religion call’d him off to make use of his further Diligence and Valour. Rebellion spread abroad, he levied Loyal Forces in great numbers, opposed the Enemy, won so many and so great Victories in the Field, took in so many Towns, Castles and Garisons, as well in Our Northern parts, as elsewhere; and behaved himself with so great Courage and Valour in the defending also what he had got, especially at the Siege of York, which he maintain’d against three Potent Armies of Scots and English, closely beleaguering, and with emulation assaulting it for three Months (till Relief was brought) to the wonder and envy of the Enemy; that, if Loyal and Humane Force could have prevailed, he had soon restored Fidelity, Peace and his KING to the Nation, which was then hurrying to Ruine by an unhappy Fate; So that Rebellion getting the upper hand, and no place being left for him to act further valiantly in, for his King and Countrey, he still retain’d the same Loyalty and Valour in suffering, being an inseparable Follower of Our Exile; during which sad Catastrophe, his whole Estate was sequestred and sold from him, and his Person alwayes one of the first of those few who were excepted both for Life and Estate (which was offer’d to all others.) Besides, his Virtues are accompanied with a Noble Blood, being of a Family by each Stock, equally adorn’d and endow’d with great Honours and Riches. For which Reasons We have resolv’d to grace the said Marquess with a new Mark of our Favour, he being every way deserving of it, as one who lov’d vertue equal to his Noble Birth, and possess’d Patrimonies suitable to both, as long as loyalty had any place to shew it self in our Realm; which possessions he so well employ’d, and at last for Us and Our Fathers service lost, till he was with Us restor’d. Know therefore, &c.

(Preamble to Letters Patents, dated “the 16th Day of March, 1664, 16 Car. II.”; Eng. trans. as printed in Margaret Cavendish, The Life of ... William Cavendishe ..., 1667, 128–30)

Even in the later years of his reign, when “Charles threw off the shackles of ministerial rule and asserted his own prerogatives as king” (T. P. Slaughter, xxxii) we see the lasting influence of Newcastle’s specula, as Charles honed his personal brand of absolute monarchy, in line with Newcastle’s thinking on the relationships among self-governance, power, and rulership, imparted over the decades, from 1638–1660.

Newcastle’s second speculum principis (which, like Slaughter, I, too, believe was probably written c.1658–59) begins with discussion of the “Militia,” and progresses through “The Navye & Shipping of England,” “the Church,” “the Lawe,” “the Civill Lawe,” Trade, “the Countery,” “Seremoney & Order,” “The Errors off State & their Remedies,” “the Courte Tables,” “Your Majesties Devertisementes,” “The Devertisementes for the People,” “Country Recreations,” “Governmente of Scotland,” “Governmente off Irelande,” “Governmente In Generall,” and “Forayne States,” ending with comments on “France & Spayne.” Newcastle’s spelling, grammar, and punctuation are idiosyncratic and typical for the time, especially from a man who disdains pedantry and book-learning.

The contents of Newcastle’s “little Book, or rather a Letter” have been nicely summarized by A. S. Turberville, in his two-volume work responding to a request from the Duke of Portland for a text covering the owners of Welbeck Abbey (from its dissolution as a religious institution in 1538, on).

The Duke’s plays and fugitive verses were not much more than the amusements of his idle moments; but his literary works ... were conceived in a more serious spirit and with a more serious purpose.... Of all Newcastle’s literary works that which retains the strongest interest for posterity is one that was never intended for publication. Newcastle had written a brief political guide for the future Charles II when he was a boy under his charge [i.e., Letter of Instructions to Prince Charles for his Studies, Conduct, and Behaviour]; he wrote a more substantial treatise for him when he was a king in exile in case “God should be pleased to restore him to his throne”, in which his views on statecraft are much more fully and more maturely developed than in the earlier essay.
     The final issue which had precipitated the Civil War in 1640 was the control of the armed forces of the Crown, and it is therefore not surprising that the Duke begins his little book with a discussion of this subject. It was essential that the King should control the military, “for without an Armeye in your owne Handes you are butt a Kinge Uppon the Courtesye of others”. Likewise, he must hold all stores of arms and ammunition, but they should be hidden as far as possible, “for people love not the cudgel”. In the third place, it was essential for him to be master of London, where in time of peace citizens were wont to practise arms in Finsbury Fields, to enable them to make rebellious war upon their own sovereign. In order to be sure of dominating the capital it was recommended that two forts should be built on either side of the river below Greenwich, and that strong garrisons should be installed there. Similar precautions ought to be taken at all ports: it was only natural that Newcastle, with the object lesson of Hull in his mind, should feel strongly upon this point. Incidentally, the shipping of the country would be better defended, and shipping constitutes “the Brason Walls of Englande”. Trade, and especially export trade, ought to be stimulated to the utmost — for “it is the merchante thatt only bringes Honye to the Hive”. In accordance with the economic thought of the time, Newcastle was a mercantilist; it was necessary that the merchant should “carrye oute more Comodeties than he bringes in”. For the furtherance of trade the author advocated the abolition of monopolies, a reduction in the standard rate of interest, and the adoption of an excise system as being the best method of taxation.
     Newcastle next discusses ecclesiastical questions, for the cleavage of the Civil War had been determined at least as much by religious as by political controversies. Popery and Protestant Dissent had both proved inimical to the interests of the English monarchy. Though they looked in opposite directions with their heads, they were tied together by their tails, “carienge the same fierbrandes off Covetousness and Ambition, to putt all into a Combustion whersoever they comme, that will not Submit to them”. Indeed, Presbytery was even more dangerous to monarchy than Popery was. The Duke held as firmly as James I had done that Presbyterianism was destructive of monarchy. This was proved, he considered, by the fact that nowhere did they co-exist. Moreover, it was less ignominious for a king to be vassal to a foreign prince, such as the Pope, than to his own subjects. Presbyterianism was lacking in respect for authority, and was even “a little to Sauseye to Gode Almighty”.
     The preservation of the Church of England was, therefore, essential to the interests of the King of England, and the government of that Church ought to be one of his chief concerns. The selection of the bishops was a matter of much moment, because they were the most effective guards against the dissemination of wrong opinions among the people. It was not surprising that one of the first aims of the rebellious party had been to drive the bishops out of the House of Lords, and to undermine their authority. In his Letter of Instructions to Prince Charles, Newcastle had shown how apprehensive he was of the effects of a too widely disseminated knowledge of the Bible, and of too frequent discussion of it. He still felt the same. “The Bible in Englishe under everye wevers and chambermayde’s arme hath done us much hurte.” As we have seen, one of his first precautions, when he became commander of the King’s forces north of Trent in the Civil War, had been to institute a censorship of sermons. He was now more convinced than ever, as the result of his experience, of the dangers resulting from much preaching. There should be one sermon delivered in each parish every Sunday and Holy Day, but one only. Moreover, the clergy ought not to compose their own discourses, but should use a selection which had the approval of the bishops and had been printed and circulated to the parishes. Their subject matter should be confined to the preaching of Christ as our salvation, the need of living a godly life, and the instruction of the people in “their obedience to their superiors and governours, with all the respecte that maye bee”.
     Another source of recent troubles had been the too extensive dissemination of education. If the number of scholars at the Universities were cut down by half, they would be better fed and just as well taught. “But that which hath dun most hurte is the Abundance of grammar Scholes and Ins of Courtes.” Too many were being prepared for the professions of the Church and of the Law, and in consequence the plough and the cart were being neglected, and too few were able to use a musket. The number of those available for the feeding and for the defence of the nation was proportionally too small. Another ill effect of education had been unduly to encourage discussion and controversy. Disputations ought to be confined to the schools, and books on controversial topics ought to be written only in Latin, so as to prevent ordinary people from being heated by altercation, “for Controversye Is a Civill warr with the Pen which pulls out the sorde soone afterwards”.
     The lawyers were much at fault. There were too many of them, and, as it was in their selfish interest to spin out proceedings as long as possible, they were the cause of a great deal of popular discontent — notably in the Court of Chancery. Newcastle speaks most bitterly of its already notorious delays and of its proclivity for bringing all kinds of causes within its ambit. He greatly bemoans the defunct Star Chamber, which had brought such tranquillity to the kingdom.
     The author has much to say on the need of ceremony. “Seremonye though Itt is nothing In Itt selfe yet Itt doth everye thing.” The appropriate state and formalities for every degree of nobility, and for all officers of state should be precisely laid down, and no one should be allowed to maintain a dignity above his station. For example, no one below the rank of baroness ought to be permitted to have a carpet under her bed, whereas nowadays every wife of a Turkey merchant had her floor completely covered with rugs. There had of late been too indiscriminate a bestowal of peerages. The result was that the House of Lords had become factious — even more so than the other Chamber. New members of the peerage, puffed up by their new dignity, had imagined themselves capable of the highest office, and, being disappointed of their hopes, had started to create parties, “So the fewer Lordes the Less faction”.
     Finally, Newcastle attaches a great deal of importance to entertainment. He enumerates the amusements proper to royalty; but the most important of all is royal progresses through the countryside, because they foster loyalty among the people. Puritan asceticism and the proscription of jollity had bred rebellion. Let the maypole, the hobby-horse, the morris dance, the bagpipes, cakes and ale, and the festivities appropriate to Christmas, Shrovetide, and other holidays make their reappearance,
     “and all the olde Holedayes, with their Mirth, and rightes sett up agen; Feastinge daylonge will be in Merrye Englande, for Englande Is so plentifull off all provitions, that iff wee doe not eate them theye will Eate Use, so wee feaste in our Defense”.
     The point of view in this political testament is clearly Hobbesian, and it might be suggested that Newcastle derived his political philosophy from Hobbes himself: but the Duke had learnt his doctrines from personal experience, and particularly from the Civil War. His point of view is essentially that of the grandee, believing in the principles of discipline and authority, and in the virtues of a ruling class. All the essentials of his political doctrine are either expressly or by implication to be found in the earlier brief treatise. His faith has been strengthened because he is profoundly convinced that recent experience has only too emphatically proved its truth. How entirely sincere and spontaneous were the opinions expressed in this little book may be appreciated by comparing them with the Duchess’s records of remarks which she had heard her husband make in the course of conversation. In the book he has done little more than systematise his own table talk. The Duke’s teachings may be regarded as ultra-royalist, but, if so, there is no sentiment about them, no hint of the conception of the divine right of kings. In the directness of its method, its economy of words, its absence of embroidery, and its occasional piquancy of phrase, the pamphlet bears some resemblance to those of Halifax. There is none of the wit and originality which make the latter among the most brilliant and most stimulating in our language, but there is the same straightforwardness, the same complete honesty. There is no sham or sophistication; if the author’s vision be severely restricted, it is absolutely clear and unblinking.

(A. S. Turberville, A History of Welbeck Abbey and Its Owners, 2 vols., 1938, 1.171-176)

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