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Margaret Cavendish (née Lucas), Duchess of Newcastle upon Tyne

3 of 20 portraits of Margaret Cavendish (née Lucas), Duchess of Newcastle upon Tyne

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Margaret Cavendish (née Lucas), Duchess of Newcastle upon Tyne

by Pieter Louis van Schuppen, after Abraham Diepenbeeck
line engraving, circa 1655-1658
14 5/8 in. x 8 3/4 in. (371 mm x 222 mm) paper size
Purchased with help from the Friends of the National Libraries and the Pilgrim Trust, 1966
Reference Collection
NPG D11111

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This print appeared in the frontispiece to Plays, Never before Printed, written by the Duchess and published in 1668.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Pioneering Women, p. 28 Read entry

    Margaret Cavendish (1623?-74) was a prominent aristocrat and an attendant of Queen Henrietta Maria. A poet, philosopher, essayist and playwright, she published under her own name, and her work addressed a wide range of subjects, including gender and sex, power, science and philosophy. In 1667, she became the first woman to attend a Royal Society demonstration, and engaged with, and wrote critiques of, the writings of René Descartes and Thomas Hobbes, among others. In 1666, and again in 1668, she published The Description of a New World, called the Blazing-World, considered by critics today to be an early pre-cursor to science fiction. Cavendish was regarded by her contemporaries as a character, with an eccentric sense of style and speech full of ‘oaths and obscenity’.

  • Macleod, Catharine; Alexander, Julia Marciari, Painted Ladies: Women at the Court of Charles II, 2001 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 11 October 2001 to 6 January 2002), p. 109

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Events of 1655back to top

Current affairs

Secretary of State, John Thurloe, implements a highly efficient intelligence service and thwarts plans for a series of royalist uprisings which produced only Penruddock's revolt.
Following ineffectual royalist riots, Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, appoints nineteen Major-generals to manage regional government and prevent future challenges to the protectorate.

Art and science

Publication of the controversial work De corpore, by philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, prompts mathematician, John Wallis to scornfully refute the work in Elenchus geometriae Hobbianae, starting a bitter, long-running polemical dispute between the two men.


General Robert Venables and Admiral William Penn lead an expedition to the Caribbean to threaten Spanish trade routes and weaken Catholic influence in the New World. An integral part of Cromwell's foreign policy to curb Spanish power, the campaign, Cromwell's 'western design', fails leading to war in Europe.

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