CAVENDISH BENTINCK (afterwards CAVENDISH SCOTT BENTINCK), William Henry, Mq. of Titchfield (1768-1854), of Welbeck Abbey, Notts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



29 Dec. 1790 - Apr. 1791
18 Apr. 1791 - 30 Oct. 1809

Family and Education

b. 24 June 1768, 1st s. of William Henry Cavendish Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland, and bro. of Lords Frederick Cavendish Bentinck*, William Charles Augustus Cavendish Bentinck*, and William Henry Cavendish Bentinck*. educ. by Dr Goodenough, Ealing 1774; Westminster 1783; Christ Church, Oxf. 1785. m. 4 Aug. 1795, Henrietta, da. and coh. of Maj.-Gen. John Scott of Balcomie, Fife, 4s. 5da.; took name of Scott by royal lic. 19 Sept. 1795; suc. fa. as 4th Duke of Portland 30 Oct. 1809.

Offices Held

Ld. of Treasury Mar.-Sept. 1807; PC 30 Apr. 1807; ld. privy seal Apr.-July 1827; ld. pres. of Council Aug. 1827-Jan. 1828; member of judicial cttee. of Privy Council 1833.

Ld. lt. Mdx. 1794-1842.

Capt. Welbeck vol. inf. 1803.


In 1786 Titchfield’s father, who had lavishly indulged him in his boyhood and youth, sent him to The Hague to gain experience by working with the British envoy, Sir James Harris, and in the hope that contact with Lady Harris would polish his manners. He returned via Paris in 17891 and later in the year Portland considered, but eventually rejected, a suggestion that he should stand for Middlesex at the next general election. In the event he unsuccessfully contested Rochester. In December 1790 possible openings in Buckinghamshire, where Portland had a residence at Bulstrode, and at Oxford were ignored and he was returned for Petersfield by Portland’s friend, William Jolliffe*. On the death of one of the county Members in April 1791, Titchfield was invited to stand by his father’s associates in the Buckinghamshire Independent Club, and after careful consideration Portland allowed him to accept. He was returned unopposed and held the seat until he succeeded to the dukedom.

Titchfield naturally acted at first with the Whig opposition, of which his father was the leader, and voted against government on the Oczakov question, 12 Apr. 1791 and 1 Mar. 1792. He voted for Fox’s motion of 11 May 1792 to repeal the laws penalizing religious dissenters, although Portland was hostile to the campaign for toleration;2 but he shared his father’s concern over the course of the French revolution and domestic unrest, and spoke in favour of the royal proclamation, 25 May 1792. As his father’s representative in the Commons, Titchfield was a figure of some importance to the leaders of the two wings of the Whig party who were vying for Portland’s allegiance during the later months of 1792. He apparently had little inclination to make political pronouncements on his own initiative, but both groups were ready to supply him with material which might advance their respective causes. Portland, habitually indecisive, failed to give Titchfield a clear lead and left him exposed to the devices of both sides. When Lord Malmesbury, Sir Gilbert Elliot and Windham pressed Portland on 24 Dec. 1792 to make a public disavowal of Fox’s recent proceedings and declare his support for government in the existing crisis, the duke promised to do so in the Lords on 26 Dec., and added an assurance ‘that Lord Titchfield would declare the same opinions in the House of Commons on the earliest opportunity’. Portland backed down, however, and neither he nor his son spoke. Forced to take the initiative, Elliot announced in the Commons on 28 Dec. that he had Portland’s express commission to make known his dissociation from Fox’s policies. When subsequently questioned by both Elliot and Fox, Portland contrived to send each man away satisfied. He later agreed that in the debate on the aliens bill on 31 Dec. Elliot should affirm Portland’s intention to support ministers in defence of the country and constitution, but explain that his previous reference to a separation from Fox was the expression only of his own individual convictions. On the morning before the debate Windham supplied Titchfield with a speech which ‘went to acquiesce in all Sir Gilbert had said, and was to say, and to express an intention to support government, though he did not think favourably of the individuals who composed the ministry’. The first part of Titchfield’s response to Elliot’s explanation perfectly met this brief, but he then destroyed the entire effect by concluding with an attack on government policy and an avowal that, in general terms, systematic opposition would continue. Portland had allowed Fox to add these remarks on a later visit to Burlington House and, typically, had not troubled to inform Elliot and Windham. Elliot was ‘exceedingly hurt’.3

On 4 Jan. 1793 Titchfield reiterated his support for the aliens bill, ‘merely because he thought it a necessary measure’, but again stressed his reservations on the question of placing general confidence in the government. He was included on Windham’s provisional list of potential recruits for the ‘third party’, but took no part in the venture. With most of the other Portland Whigs he divided against Fox’s resolutions of 18 Feb. 1793 laying blame for the war on the British government. He accompanied Portland to the meeting of the Whig Club on 5 Mar. when the resignation of 45 members was accepted, an action which Elliot construed as being ‘as adverse to us, and as decidedly a support and adoption of Fox, as possible’. By early May, Elliot had resumed social intercourse with Portland, but he remained uncharitable towards Titchfield, whom he described as ‘an absolute fool, and a fool of the most hopeless sort, for he is as obstinate as a mule, and stone deaf to everything but his own crotchet’. In January 1794 Lord Inchiquin observed that Portland’s following, on the separation from Fox, would have been more numerous ‘had the duke’s conduct last year been more decided. He could not but mark inconsistency when after the duke had voted in the House of Peers with administration, Lord Titchfield etc. voted against them in the House of Commons.’ While Titchfield, in common with the other Portland Whigs, had shown no disposition to speak on behalf of government policy against Foxite attacks and Malmesbury had found him, like his father, ‘determined to support the war’, but ‘silent on home politics’ in November, no evidence has been found to confirm that he had actively opposed government in 1793, apart from voting for the receipt of the Sheffield reform petition, 2 May 1793. Inchiquin’s comment gained some point, however, when Titchfield, ‘for the sake of humanity and consistence’, spoke and voted for Whitbread’s motion to suspend judgment on Thomas Fyshe Palmer, 24 Feb. 1794, an issue which attracted otherwise almost wholly Foxite support. There is no record of his having cast any further votes against Pitt’s first ministry, and Portland refused to allow James Adair to involve Titchfield in his opposition to the volunteer bill in April 1794. On his junction with government in July, Portland was offered the lord lieutenancy of Middlesex, but hinted to the King through Dundas his wish to decline it in favour of his son. George III welcomed the proposal as a ‘highly advantageous method of bringing a young man of quality into a line the most useful to himself as well as the public if he zealously turns his attention to the peace of the county and capital’.4

On 5 Jan. 1795 Titchfield unconvincingly denied allegations that his father had attended meetings to promote parliamentary reform during the time of Rockingham, but after his marriage to the wealthy heiress, Henrietta Scott, in August 1795 it became increasingly difficult to entice him from Welbeck. Three months later Dundas pressed Portland to persuade Titchfield to come to London, in his capacity as lord lieutenant, in order to supervise precautions against expected disorders; and when discussing with his father the possible sale of Bulstrode, Titchfield insisted that the sacrifice of his seat for Buckinghamshire, which must unavoidably follow such a measure, ought not to outweigh more serious financial considerations. He was present to vote for the assessed taxes augmentation bill, 4 Jan. 1798, but made little contribution to debate after his marriage. He opposed bills to equalize county rates, 26 Apr. and 3 May 1797, and in June 1799 secured the passage into law of a measure to amend the Middlesex and Surrey militia Acts, the aim of which was to improve the service and reduce expense. His opposition to Canning’s courtship of his wife’s sister, on the grounds of his lowly origins and penurious circumstances, had at least the virtue of being open and was readily dropped when Joan Scott’s own determination became clear. Canning felt that Titchfield had resisted the match ‘perhaps more so than was quite fair’, but was willing to ‘forgive all, in consideration of the frankness with which he has told me all’. The relationship slowly developed into friendship.5

Titchfield was presumably well disposed, initially at least, towards Addington’s administration, in which his father took office, but Farington, who six years earlier had perceived his lack of energy, wrote in June 1803 that he lived at Welbeck ‘almost constantly, and is of a disposition to prefer living in a retired manner seeing little company. His great pleasure is farming to which he devotes most of his time.’ By neglecting ‘the customary attendance and attentions’ in his constituency, he raised momentary doubts about the security of his seat in 1802. Canning thought it was far from certain that government would ‘have Ld. T. up to vote against’ Patten’s motion of censure, 3 June 1803; and if this conjecture turned mainly on Titchfield’s unwillingness ‘to risk coming for nothing’, in view of the uncertainty over the date of the motion, it may reflect also a wish, produced by his increasing intimacy with Canning, and shared by his father, to see Pitt back in power, especially after the resumption of hostilities. While he evidently did not join actively in the general attack on Addington’s ministry in March and April 1804—he and Lord Chancellor Eldon’s son conspicuously avoided the division of 6 Mar. on an amendment moved by Pitt to the volunteer consolidation bill—in a minor discussion of the same measure, 10 Mar., he said that he ‘approved entirely of the ideas of Mr Pitt upon this subject’. He led the opposition to the Aylesbury election bill in April and May 1804, arguing that it infringed the rights of a majority of the electorate for the sake of punishing a guilty minority.6

Titchfield supported Pitt’s second ministry, in which his father served until January 1805, and voted against the motion of censure on Melville, 8 Apr. 1805, but his active support could not be taken for granted. When he received Pitt’s request to attend for Whitbread’s motion to appoint a select committee to inquire further into the tenth report of the naval commissioners, 25 Apr. 1805, he had gone to Welbeck and expressed reluctance to return to London. On Pitt’s death he volunteered to second the motion proposing funeral honours, and did so, 27 Jan. 1806, with a speech composed for him by Canning. In March Lord Grenville asked Portland whether Titchfield might wish to be called to the Lords. Portland, recalling his son’s earlier indifference to a proposal for an application to determine the abeyance of the barony of Ogle in their favour, ‘an object of ten times the importance of the other’, thought it unlikely, but sounded Titchfield on both ideas. He admitted that ‘nothing could be more agreeable to me than to have a handsome excuse for leaving the House of Commons’, but declined to do so by either of the specified methods, on the ground that acceptance of a peerage would bind him ‘in honour’ to support a government with which he was likely to find himself at odds on important issues, including the aboliton of the slave trade. Canning thought the refusal ‘very good of him, for to get creditably out of the House of Commons is I suppose the thing that of all others he would like best’.7

For the first six months of the life of the ‘Talents’, Titchfield featured prominently in Canning’s calculations and speculations. Eager to keep together Pitt’s friends in opposition, Canning not only saw continued and improved contact with Titchfield as a useful link with Portland, but believed that his active participation in politics would set an influential example. On 15 Feb., reporting a conversation with Portland, he told Titchfield

how naturally your name slipped into our conversation: and how cordially we agreed in our opinion as to the duty which you owe to the country, and the great opportunity which you have presented to you of discharging it. All which I am afraid will have no more effect on you than a deaf adder. But it is fit you should know it.

Perceiving in March that Portland shied from ‘a too early, and too decided attack’ on government and, like other associates of Pitt, envisaged an eventual junction with Grenville if he would rid himself of the Foxites and Sidmouth, Canning advised his wife to exercise restraint in her communications to Welbeck:

Just in the present state of things ... I would not ... bring Ld. T. up to town ... it will be as well perhaps to soften down a little the exhortation from constant and active attendance, to occasional, which I think may be enough for this year. And I on my part will take care to see the d[uke] frequently ... and try to prepare him beforehand to send a summons to Ld. T. for the particular occasion, when it arises ... L[ad]y T.’s description of his present taste makes me afraid of hurrying him too fast, especially as the d[uke] appears so slow a goer.

The strong pressure which Canning exerted on Titchfield to come up and oppose Windham’s militia proposals in April was unavailing. As Titchfield evidently gave his father’s aversion to forthright opposition as the reason for his refusal, Canning was puzzled and annoyed when Portland voted by proxy against the repeal of the Additional Force Act in May:

How is one to reconcile this with what Ld. T. said of his father’s wish, as to his (Ld. T’s) conduct? ... Either Ld. T. did not collect his father’s meaning, or the D. has since altered his opinion ... I hardly know what I am to answer to people who now ask me why Ld. T. did not vote, and still less whether to write to him or not for the next division.

When Portland agreed in June to consolidate ‘the party of Mr Pitt’s friends’ and make it available to George III as an alternative government, Malmesbury, according to Canning, suggested ‘the infinite use that Ld. T. could be of to him, if he were put in some office that gave him constant communication with him, and so enabled him to take part of the burden of representation off his shoulders’. Portland, who ‘thought he had seen a degree of intent and eagerness about public subjects in Ld. T.’, remarked that such an arrangement ‘would be indeed the greatest happiness and comfort of which he should be capable’, but ‘knowing Ly. T.’s dislike of London, he should not like to press Ld. T. upon the subject’. Canning himself saw the problem as one of a failure of communication between father and son and concluded that they ‘will never come to a right understanding, unless Ld. T. of his own mere motion asks the D. whether he wishes him to come up to town, and offers to do so next winter’.8 Titchfield presented the Oxford University petition against the Roman Catholic army service bill, 17 Mar. 1807, but there is no other evidence that he was active in the House in the 1806 Parliament.

When his father formed a ministry, he was appointed to the Treasury board, but his re-election was fixed for 9 Apr., which prevented his voting with government against Brand’s motion condemning the ministerial pledge. He defended Portland in the debate on Lord Cullen’s pension, 2 July, and raised financial objections to Whitbread’s parochial schools bill, 13 July 1807, but his official career was short-lived. Before the end of July he expressed a wish to resign, and although, as Lord FitzHarris reported, Portland initially did ‘not allow his complaint to be well founded, of a want of confidence’, Titchfield had his way in September. He made only one further tangible contribution to politics before leaving the House, by being instrumental in persuading his father to retire in October 1809.9

On succeeding to the dukedom, he abandoned the family interest in Buckinghamshire, sold Bulstrode and declined the lord lieutenancy of Nottinghamshire. He had little interest in politics, but his friendship with Canning grew closer and he took cabinet office under him and then under Lord Goderich, in 1827. He died 27 Mar. 1854.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. A. S. Turberville, Welbeck, ii. 157-8, 325; Burke Corresp. v. 277-8; Portland mss PwF1293-1300; Minto, i. 334.
  • 2. Add. 47565, f. 165.
  • 3. Malmesbury Diaries, ii. 487, 494-5; Minto, ii. 90, 95, 100; Add. 47561, f. 136; 47570, f. 201.
  • 4. Geo. III Corresp. i. 819; ii. 838, 1097; Add. 34448, f. 238; Minto, ii. 122; NLS mss 11048, f. 262; Farington, i. 37; Malmesbury Diaries, ii. 508; Add. 50829, Adair to Portland and reply 3 Apr. 1794.
  • 5. Portland mss PwF3497; PwH325; Harewood mss, Canning to Rev. Leigh, 10 May, to Mrs Leigh, 12 May 1800; Canning and his Friends, i. 166.
  • 6. Farington, i 212; ii. 109; Bucks. RO, Grenville mss D54/13; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 26 Apr. 1803; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lowther, 8 Mar. 1804.
  • 7. PRO 30/8/183, f. 227; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 26, 28 Jan., 26 Mar. 1806; Portland mss PwH332, 333.
  • 8. Portland mss PwH415-17; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 10 Mar., 21 May, 11 June, 24 July 1806.
  • 9. Grey mss, Temple to Howick, 1 Apr.,; Malmesbury mss, FitzHarris to Malmesbury, 25, 29 July 1807; HMC Fortescue, ix. 332; HMC Bathurst, 116.