William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire (1552-1626) was the second, and favourite, son of Bess of Hardwick, and became her heir. On her death in 1608, he inherited a vast fortune and several important properties. Although Chatsworth was inherited by her eldest son Henry, its contents were left to William, who bought out his brother's interest in the house itself in 1609.
He managed his estates carefully, purchased more land, and also invested in various overseas trading companies, such as the Virginia and Bermuda companies. He held positions as MP for Liverpool and Newport, High Sheriff of Derbyshire, and Justice of the Peace. In 1605, he was created Baron Cavendish of Hardwick, and in 1618 became Earl of Devonshire.
In 1581, William married Anne Keighley, daughter and co-heir of Henry Keighley, and together they had three sons and one daughter. After Anne’s death he had one further son with his second wife, Elizabeth, daughter and heir of Edward Boughton and widow of Sir Richard Wortley.
He died on 3 March 1626, and is buried at St Peter's Church in Edensor.
He was succeeded by his son, William Cavendish (1590-1628).