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CAVENDISH BENTINCK, Lord William Charles Augustus (1780-1826).
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Family and Education
b. May 1780, 3rd s. of William Henry Cavendish Bentinck†, 3rd Duke of Portland, and bro. of Lords Frederick Cavendish Bentick*, William Henry Cavendish Bentinck, Mq. of Titchfield.*, and William Henry Cavendish Bentinck*. educ. Westminster 1795. m. (1) 21 Sept. 1808, Georgiana Augusta Frederica Seymour (d. 10 Dec. 1813), illegit. da. of Grace Dalrymple Elliott (div. w. of Dr John Elliott, later 1st Bt., physician to Prince of Wales), 1da.; (2) 23 July 1816, Anne Wellesley, illegit. da. of Richard Colley Wellesley*, 1st Mq. Wellesley [I], div. w. of Sir William Abdy, 7th Bt.*, 2s. 2da.
Ensign 2 Ft. Gds. 1796; lt. 44 Ft. 1798; capt. 29 Ft. 1798; maj. 3 W.I. Regt. 1802; lt.-col. 38 Ft. 1802; capt. and lt.-col. 1 Ft. Gds. 1802, ret. 1811.
Treasurer of Household July 1812-d; PC 13 Aug. 1812.
Lord Charles Bentinck, as he was known, remains a shadowy figure, remembered only as one of the principals in the celebrated Abdy divorce case. He was elected a member of Brooks’s in March 1804. Returned for Ashburton on the Clinton interest in 1807, he presumably gave silent support to his father’s ministry. After Portland’s resignation and death in 1809 his successor opted out of politics, leaving his brothers to go their own ways. On 23 Feb. 1810 Canning, the 4th Duke’s brother-in-law, currently in political isolation, told his wife that he saw Lord Charles ‘in the House daily, but he makes no advances to commune with me, nor I, of course, with him’. In March the Whigs classed him as ‘doubtful’ and on the 20th Canning reported that he had been to see the Whig Lord George Cavendish*, a kinsman, ‘to ask how he should vote, for that his brother would take no charge of him’.1 In the event he divided with government in the crucial division on the Walcheren fiasco, 30 Mar.
Bentinck drew attention to himself by voting with the bulk of the Whig opposition on the mode of proceeding for a Regency, 20 Dec. 1810. William Wellesley Pole*, who thought the vote ‘most extraordinary’, concluded that ‘he was influenced by his wife, who chooses to fancy herself the Prince’s daughter’.2 The truth of this matter is not clear, but the Prince, who in 1799 had strongly implied in correspondence with Queen Charlotte that he was indeed the father of Georgiana Seymour, and the 4th Earl of Cholmondeley, another of Mrs Elliott’s many lovers, who raised the girl as his ward, seem the most likely candidates for her paternity.3 Bentinck subsequently divided against government on the Regency bill, 1 and 21 Jan. 1811, but his only other known vote was against Canning’s motion to consider Catholic relief, 22 June 1812.
In July 1812 he was appointed treasurer of the Household of which Cholmondeley, who had likewise attached himself to the Prince on his becoming Regent, had recently been made lord steward. He secured his re-election for Ashburton in August, but at the dissolution found himself without a seat. Cholmondeley had evidently considered financing him in a contest at Ashburton, but changed his mind and promised to return him for Castle Rising, only for the Prince to insist, against Cholmondeley’s wishes, on his bringing in Augustus Cavendish Bradshaw. Cholmondeley pressed Bentinck to go down to Ashburton but it was too late, and on 7 Oct. 1812 Lord Charles wrote in desperation to the Regent’s secretary:
My brother does not take any part in politics and will not bring anybody in. On an income of eighteen hundred a year it is impossible I can either buy a borough or contest an election. I must therefore lose my place unless his Royal Highness will ... allow me to come in for Castle Rising. The expense of my last election which was upwards of six hundred pounds has so involved me that added to other expenses I have incurred counting on my salary I must be ABSOLUTELY RUINED if I lose my situation in his Royal Highness’s family. I understand from Arbuthnot that I am supposed to have made a promise of bringing myself into Parliament; this never was the case—and had this promise been proposed to me as the alternative I must have given up all hope of the place from the first, knowing I could have no chance of keeping such a promise.4
He was not accommodated, but retained his Household post until his death.
In September 1815 Bentinck absconded with the wife of Sir William Abdy, herself the illegitimate daughter of Lord Wellesley. Abdy brought an action for crim. con. and secured damages of £7,000 (having set his sights on £30,000), which the impecunious Bentinck evidently never paid. The customary penalty clause in the subsequent divorce bill was struck out in committee in the Lords and Bentinck’s second marriage took place some three weeks before his wife gave birth to their first child. When the case was discussed in Farington’s presence in December 1815, Bentinck was dismissed as ‘a fool’.5 He died 28 Apr. 1826.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. Harewood mss.
- 2. Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 22 Dec. 1810; Prince of Wales Corresp. vii. 2790.
- 3. Prince of Wales Corresp. iv. 1432, 1434; Glenbervie Jnls. ii. 284; Horace Walpole Corresp. (Yale ed.), xi. 255; Raikes Jnl. iii. 83.
- 4. Geo. IV Letters, i. 171, 173.
- 5. Farington, viii. 49; H. Farmar, A Regency Elopement.