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William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland

William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland

British politician
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro British politician
Countries Kingdom of Great Britain
Occupations Politician
Gender male
Birth April 14, 1738 (Nottinghamshire, East Midlands, England, United Kingdom)
Death October 30, 1809 (Buckinghamshire, South East England, England, United Kingdom)
Politics Whigs
Mother: Margaret BentinckDuchess of Portland
Father: William Bentinck2nd Duke of Portland
Children: William Frederick Cavendish-Bentick
Education Christ Church, Westminster School
The details

William Henry Cavendish Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland, KG, PC, FRS (14 April 1738 – 30 October 1809) was a British Whig and Tory statesman, Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Prime Minister of Great Britain, serving in 1783 and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1807 to 1809. The 24 years between his two terms as Prime Minister is the longest gap between terms of office of any Prime Minister. He was known before 1762 by the courtesy title Marquess of Titchfield. He held a title of every degree of British nobility—Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, and Baron. He is also a great-great-great-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II through her maternal grandmother.


Early life and education

Lord Titchfield was the eldest son of William Bentinck, 2nd Duke of Portland and Margaret Cavendish-Harley and inherited many lands from his mother and his maternal grandmother. He was educated at Westminster and Christ Church, Oxford.

Marriage and children

Lady Dorothy Cavendish, wife of William Cavendish Bentinck. (George Romney)

On 8 November 1766, Portland married Lady Dorothy Cavendish, a daughter of William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire and Charlotte Boyle. They were parents of six children:

  • William Bentinck, 4th Duke of Portland (24 June 1768 – 27 March 1854).
  • Lord William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck (14 September 1774 – 17 June 1839).
  • Lady Charlotte Cavendish-Bentinck (3 October 1775 – 28 July 1862). Married Charles Greville, and they had three sons: Charles Cavendish Fulke Greville, Algernon Greville, and Henry William Greville (1801–1872), and a daughter, Harriet (1803-1870) m. Francis Egerton, 1st Earl of Ellesmere.
  • Lady Mary Cavendish-Bentinck (13 March 1779 – 6 November 1843).
  • Lord Charles Bentinck (3 October 1780 – 28 April 1826). Paternal grandfather of Cecilia Bowes-Lyon, Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne; ancestor of the 6th and latest dukes of Portland, and of Lady Ottoline Morrell.
  • Lord Frederick Cavendish-Bentinck (2 November 1781 – 11 February 1828) married Lady Mary Lowther (d. 1863), daughter of William Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale, 16 September 1820; had issue: George Cavendish-Bentinck.
  • A stillborn baby, birthed at Burlington House on October 20, 1786.

Through his son Charles, Portland is a great-great-great-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II (see ancestry of Elizabeth II).

Political and public offices

Portland was elected to sit in the Parliament for Weobley in 1761 before entering the Lords when he succeeded his father as Duke of Portland the next year. He was associated with the aristocratic Whig party of Lord Rockingham and served as Lord Chamberlain of the Household in Rockingham's first Government (1765–1766)

Lord Lieutenant of Ireland

Portland served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in Rockingham's second ministry (April–August 1782). He faced strong demands for conciliatory measures following years of coercion and taxation brought about by the British government's engagement in the American War of Independence. Portland resolved to make concessions and, overcoming the resistance of Lord Shelburne, the Home Secretary to whom he reported, convinced Parliament to repeal the Declaratory Act and modify Poynings' Law. Following Rockingham's death, Portland resigned from Lord Shelburne's ministry along with other supporters of Charles James Fox.

First premiership

In April 1783, Portland was brought forward as titular head of a coalition government as Prime Minister, whose real leaders were Charles James Fox and Lord North. He served as First Lord of the Treasury in this ministry until its fall in December of the same year. During his tenure the Treaty of Paris was signed formally ending the American Revolutionary War. The government was brought down after losing a vote in the House of Lords on its proposed reform of the East India Company after George III had let it be known that any peer voting for this measure would be considered his personal enemy.

In 1789, Portland became one of several vice presidents of London's Foundling Hospital. This charity had become one of the most fashionable of the time, with several notables serving on its board. At its creation, fifty years earlier, Portland's father, William Bentinck, 2nd Duke of Portland, had been one of the founding governors, listed on the charity's royal charter granted by George II. The hospital's mission was to care for the abandoned children in London; and it achieved rapid fame through its poignant mission, its art collection donated from supporting artists, and popular benefit concerts put on by George Frideric Handel. In 1793, Portland took over the presidency of the charity from Lord North.

Home secretary

Along with many conservative Whigs such as Edmund Burke, Portland was deeply uncomfortable with the French Revolution and broke with Fox over this issue, joining Pitt's government as Home Secretary in 1794. In this role he oversaw the administration of patronage and financial inducements, often secret, to secure the passage of the 1800 Act of Union. He continued to serve in the cabinet until Pitt's death in 1806—from 1801 to 1805 as Lord President of the Council and then as a Minister without Portfolio.

Second premiership

In March 1807, after the collapse of the Ministry of all the Talents, Pitt's supporters returned to power; and Portland was, once again, an acceptable figurehead for a fractious group of ministers that included George Canning, Lord Castlereagh, Lord Hawkesbury, and Spencer Perceval.

Portland's second government saw the United Kingdom's complete isolation on the continent but also the beginning of recovery, with the start of the Peninsular War. In late 1809, with Portland's health poor and the ministry rocked by the scandalous duel between Canning and Castlereagh, Portland resigned, dying shortly thereafter.

He was Recorder of Nottingham until his death in 1809.

Death and burial

Memorial to the 3rd Duke of Portland at the family vault in St Marylebone Parish Church

The 3rd Duke of Portland died at Bulstrode Park, Buckinghamshire, after an operation to remove a kidney stone on 30 October 1809 and was buried in St Marylebone Parish Church, Marylebone, London.

He had lived expensively: with an income of £17,000 a year (worth £577,000 in 2005), he had debts at his death computed at £52,000 (£1.76 million in 2005), which were paid off by his succeeding son selling off some property including Bulstrode.

Along with Sir Robert Peel, Earl of Aberdeen, Benjamin Disraeli, William Ewart Gladstone, Marquess of Salisbury, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Bonar Law, and Neville Chamberlain, he is one of nine British Prime Ministers to die while his direct successor was in office, and the first to do so.


The Portland Vase of Roman glass was given its name due to its having been owned by Portland at his family residence at Bulstrode Park.

Portland parish in Jamaica was named after the 3rd Duke of Portland. The Titchfield School, founded in 1786, also in the parish is also named in his honor. The school's crest is derived from the Earl of Portland's personal crest.

North Bentinck Arm and South Bentinck Arm were named for the Bentinck family by George Vancouver in 1793, along with other names on the British Columbia Coast such as Portland Canal and Portland Channel.

The department of Manuscripts and Special Collections, The University of Nottingham holds a number of papers relating to the 3rd Duke: the 3rd Duke's personal and political papers (Pw F) are part of the Portland (Welbeck) Collection; and the Portland (London) Collection (Pl) contains correspondence and official papers of the 3rd Duke, especially in series Pl C.

The Portland Estate Papers held at Nottinghamshire Archives also contain items relating to the 3rd Duke's properties.

The Portland Collection of fine and decorative art includes pieces owned and commissioned by the 3rd Duke, including paintings by George Stubbs.

Titles and arms

The 3rd Duke of Portland.

Titles from birth

  • Marquess of Titchfield (1738–61)
  • Marquess of Titchfield MP (1761–62)
  • His Grace The Duke of Portland (1762–65)
  • His Grace The Duke of Portland, PC (1765–66)
  • His Grace The Duke of Portland, PC, FRS (1766–94)
  • His Grace The Duke of Portland, KG, PC, FRS (1794–1809)


Cabinets as Prime Minister

First Ministry, April – December 1783

  • The Duke of Portland — First Lord of the Treasury
  • Lord Stormont — Lord President of the Council
  • Lord Carlisle — Lord Privy Seal
  • Lord North — Secretary of State for the Home Department
  • Charles James Fox — Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
  • The Viscount Keppel — First Lord of the Admiralty
  • Lord John Cavendish — Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • The Viscount Townshend — Master-General of the Ordnance
  • Lord Northington — Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland
  • The Great Seal is in Commission

Second Ministry, March 1807 – October 1809

  • The Duke of Portland — First Lord of the Treasury
  • Lord Eldon — Lord Chancellor
  • Lord Camden — Lord President of the Council
  • Lord Westmorland — Lord Privy Seal
  • Lord Hawkesbury, after 1808, Lord Liverpool - Secretary of State for the Home Department
  • George Canning — Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
  • Lord Castlereagh — Secretary of State for War and the Colonies
  • Lord Mulgrave — First Lord of the Admiralty
  • Spencer Perceval — Chancellor of the Exchequer and of the Duchy of Lancaster
  • Lord Chatham — Master-General of the Ordnance
  • Lord Bathurst — President of the Board of Trade
  • July 1809 — Lord Harrowby, the President of the Board of Control, and Lord Granville Leveson-Gower, the Secretary at War, enter the Cabinet


Succession boxes

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
John Craster
George Venables-Vernon
Member of Parliament for Weobley
With: Hon. Henry Thynne
Succeeded by
William Lynch
Hon. Henry Thynne
Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl Gower
Lord Chamberlain
Succeeded by
The Earl of Hertford
Preceded by
The Earl of Carlisle
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
Succeeded by
The Earl Temple
Preceded by
The Earl of Shelburne
Prime Minister of Great Britain
2 April 1783 – 19 December 1783
Succeeded by
William Pitt the Younger
Preceded by
The Earl of Shelburne
Leader of the House of Lords
Succeeded by
The Earl Temple
Preceded by
Henry Dundas
Home Secretary
Succeeded by
Lord Pelham
Preceded by
The Earl of Chatham
Lord President of the Council
Succeeded by
The Viscount Sidmouth
New office Minister without Portfolio
Succeeded by
The Earl FitzWilliam
Preceded by
The Lord Grenville
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
31 March 1807 – 4 October 1809
Succeeded by
Spencer Perceval
Academic offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Guilford
Chancellor of the University of Oxford
Succeeded by
The Lord Grenville
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Lord North
President of the Foundling Hospital
Succeeded by
The Prince of Wales
later became King George IV
Preceded by
The 3rd Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne
Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire
Succeeded by
The 4th Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne
Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by
William Bentinck
Duke of Portland
Succeeded by
William Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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