William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland

William Henry Cavendish Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland, KG, PC, FRS (14 April 1738 – 30 October 1809) was a British Whig and Tory politician during the late Georgian era. He served as Chancellor of the University of Oxford (1792–1809) and twice as British prime minister, of Great Britain (1783) and then of the United Kingdom (1807–09). The twenty-four years between his two terms as Prime Minister is the longest gap between terms of office of any British prime minister.

Portland 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 Elizabeth II through her maternal grandmother.

The Duke of Portland

01-Bentinck William Henry Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Portland c 1774
Portrait by Matthew Pratt
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
31 March 1807 – 4 October 1809
MonarchGeorge III
Preceded byThe Lord Grenville
Succeeded bySpencer Perceval
Prime Minister of Great Britain
In office
2 April 1783 – 18 December 1783
MonarchGeorge III
Preceded byThe Earl of Shelburne
Succeeded byWilliam Pitt the Younger
Lord President of the Council
In office
30 July 1801 – 14 January 1805
MonarchGeorge III
Prime MinisterHenry Addington
William Pitt the Younger
Preceded byThe Earl of Chatham
Succeeded byViscount Sidmouth
Home Secretary
In office
11 July 1794 – 30 July 1801
MonarchGeorge III
Prime MinisterWilliam Pitt the Younger
Preceded byHenry Dundas
Succeeded byLord Pelham
Personal details
Born14 April 1738
Nottinghamshire, England
Died30 October 1809 (aged 71)
Bulstrode Park, Buckinghamshire, England
Resting placeSt Marylebone Parish Church
Lady Dorothy Cavendish
(m. 1766; died 1794)
Children6, including William, 4th Duke; Lord William and Lord Charles
Alma materChrist Church, Oxford
William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland's signature


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.[1][2][3] He was educated at Westminster and Christ Church, Oxford.

Marriage and children

Dorothy Cavendish, wife of William Cavendish Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland (1738-1809) by George Romney
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:

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.[6] 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.[7] Following Rockingham's death, Portland resigned from Lord Shelburne's ministry along with other supporters of Charles James Fox.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11]

He had lived expensively: with an income of £17,000 a year (worth £577,000 in 2005),[12] he had debts at his death computed at £52,000 (£1.76 million in 2005),[12] which were paid off by his succeeding son selling off some property including Bulstrode.[13]

Along with Sir Robert Peel, Benjamin Disraeli, Marquess of Salisbury, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Bonar Law, and Neville Chamberlain, he is one of seven 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 honour. 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

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)


Coat of arms of William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland
Coat of Arms of the Duke of Portland
The title Duke of Portland was created by George I in 1716.
A Coronet of a Duke
Out of a ducal coronet proper two arms counter-embowed vested Gules, on the hands gloves Or, each holding an ostrich feather Argent (Bentinck); A snake nowed proper (Cavendish)
Quarterly: 1st and 4th, Azure a cross moline Argent (Bentinck); 2nd and 3rd, Sable three stags' heads cabossed Argent attired Or, a crescent for difference (Cavendish)
Two lions double queued, the dexter Or and the sinister sable
Craignez Honte (Fear Dishonour)

Cabinets as Prime Minister

First Ministry, April – December 1783

Second Ministry, March 1807 – October 1809



  1. ^ "Line of descent of the Earls and Dukes of Portland" (PDF). University of Nottingham. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  2. ^ Settlements, mortgages, litigation, Acts of Parliament etc. relating to the 'maternal' estates of the Dukes of Portland; 1583–1790 Archived 6 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine., The University of Nottingham, UK.
  3. ^ Series of manorial papers in the Newcastle (Clumber) Collection (1st Deposit); 1357–1867 Archived 6 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine., The University of Nottingham, UK.
  4. ^ "Harriet Catherine Greville".
  5. ^ Caledonian Mercury 28 October 1786 Page 2
  6. ^ Wilkinson, David (2003). The Duke of Portland – Politics and Party in the Age of George III. Basingstoke, UK and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 35–8. ISBN 0333963857.
  7. ^ Wilkinson pp 38–41
  8. ^  Stephens, Henry Morse (1885). "Bentinck, William Henry Cavendish". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography. 4. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  9. ^ Wilkinson p 56
  10. ^ Wilkinson p150-7
  11. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 5. Oxford University Press. 2004. p. 268. ISBN 0-19-861355-5.
  12. ^ a b [1] National Archives currency converter.
  13. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 5. pp. 268–269.

External links


Ancestors of William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland
16. Bernard Bentinck, Baron Bentinck, Heer van Diepenheim en Schoonheten
8. William Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland
17. Anna van Bloemendaal
4. Henry Bentinck, 1st Duke of Portland
18. Sir Edward Villiers
9. Anne Villiers
19. Lady Frances Howard
2. William Bentinck, 2nd Duke of Portland
20. Edward Noel, 1st Earl of Gainsborough
10. Wriothesley Noel, 2nd Earl of Gainsborough
21. Lady Elizabeth Wriothesley
5. Lady Elizabeth Noel
22. Fulke Greville, 5th Baron Brooke
11. The Hon. Catherine Greville
23. Sarah Dashwood
1. William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland
24. Sir Edward Harley
12. Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer
25. Abigail Stephens
6. Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer
26. Thomas Foley
13. Elizabeth Foley
27. Elizabeth Ashe
3. Lady Margaret Cavendish Harley
28. Gilbert Holles, 3rd Earl of Clare
14. John Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle
29. Grace Pierrepont
7. Lady Henrietta Cavendish Holles
30. Henry Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Newcastle
15. Lady Margaret Cavendish
31. Frances Pierrepont

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 – 18 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

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