BENTINCK, Lord Edward Charles (1744-1819).
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Family and Education
b. 3 Mar. 1744, 2nd s. of William, 2nd Duke of Portland, and bro. of William Henry, Marquess of Titchfield. educ. Westminster 1754; Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1761; Grand Tour (France, Holland, and Germany) 1764-6. m. 28 Dec. 1782, Elizabeth, da. of Richard Cumberland, the dramatist, 2s. 2da.
Nicknamed ‘Jolly Heart’, Lord Edward Bentinck entered Parliament because he was the brother of a Duke, but had no liking for it. He was returned unopposed at Lewes on the Duke of Newcastle’s interest, as a compliment to his brother. Portland soon had reason to complain of his slack attendance. He wrote to Bentinck, 28 Feb. 1767:
In the midst of my joy last night on the question being carried for a reduction of the land tax, it was no small drawback upon me to recollect that your name was not among those who had deserved well of their country.
‘I have made the resolution’, replied Bentinck, 6 Mar., ‘of never accepting a seat or ever being in Parliament again.’ And he wrote to Beaumont Hotham, 16 Mar.:
You mistake ... if you think the attendance alone the great cause though it had some share of my saying I would not come into Parliament again. The real cause was of the trouble of coming in, the canvassing and the number of other disagreeable things one is obliged to do to gain admittance into that House.
In 1768 Bentinck fought a hot contest at Carlisle, part of the Portland-Lowther struggle, in which he had his fill of ‘disagreeable things’. In November 1768 he went to Paris, and spent most of the next three years there. The struggle with Lowther had left Portland deep in debt, and Bentinck added to the amount. ‘I should be infinitely obliged to you’, he wrote to Portland on 26 Apr. 1769, ‘if you could put me in the way of borrowing three or four thousand pounds, if it is five it will be the more agreeable provided I could have it soon.’ And on 15 May, after he had received the money: ‘Be assured that I shall live within bounds for the future.’ In November 1771 he was short of cash again, and was soon making new resolutions. ‘I mean to go to the very bottom of my affairs’, he wrote to Portland on 19 Feb. 1772, ‘and that if there only remains to me fifty pounds a year I will try to make it serve me.’ But in April 1773 he asked Portland for £760 to repay a debt to Sir Charles Bunbury, ‘who wants it for Newmarket’. In December 1775 George Selwyn reported that Portland had agreed to pay Bentinck’s debts, amounting to £27,000.1
The only votes Bentinck is known to have given in Parliament before 1774 were for the nullum tempus bill, 17 Feb. 1768, and against the Spanish convention, 13 Feb. 1771. He was defeated at Nottingham at the general election of 1774, but in 1775 was returned unopposed for the county. Between 1775 and 1780 he voted with Opposition in seven out of the ten divisions for which lists are available, and was absent for the others; and on 6 Apr. 1780, when presenting the Nottinghamshire petition, made his only recorded speech in Parliament. Following Portland, he voted against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, and for Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783.
A notice of Bentinck in the English Chronicle in 1780, inaccurate in fact and unfriendly in tone, concluded:
In speaking of this nobleman’s understanding, we cannot speak more justly, nor more emphatically, than in the words of the following quotation from a play; ‘That a little wit goes a great way with a Lord’.
His father-in-law, Richard Cumberland, described him as ‘one of the best and most amiable of men’, and wrote of his marriage:2
His choice was conspicuously disinterested; for if any thing like worldly wisdom could have found admittance to his generous heart, he might, and must, have sought fortunam ex aliis—neither could the lure of affluence and establishment be the motive that induced my child to share the fortunes of Lord Edward Bentinck.
Bentinck died at Brussels 8 Oct. 1819.