Posts Tagged ‘Lord William Bentinck’

Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency (I include those who were born before 1811 and who died after 1795), today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Lieutenant-Colonel Lord William Charles Augustus Cavendish-Bentinck
3 October 1780 – 28 April 1826

Lieutenant-Colonel Lord William Charles Augustus Cavendish-Bentinck was the third son of British Prime Minister William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portlandand Lady Dorothy, daughter of Prime Minister William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire. William Bentinck, 4th Duke of Portland, and Lord William Bentinck were his elder brothers.

Bentinck was returned to Parliament for Ashburton in 1806, a seat he held until 1812. He served under the Earl of Liverpool as Treasurer of the Household between 1812 and 1826.

Bentinck married, firstly, Georgiana Augusta Frederica Seymour (baptized Elliott), daughter of the courtesan Mrs Grace Elliott on 21 September 1808; she was said to be a daughter of the Prince of Wales or of the 4th Earl of Cholmondeley, both men claiming her paternity. They had one daughter, who was raised after Georgiana’s death by Lord Cholmondeley, according to the entry on Grace Elliott. The marriage enabled Bentinck to become Treasurer of the Household in 1812, a position he held till death, despite his involvement in a notorious divorce suit and his subsequent remarriage.

In 1815 he eloped with his mistress, Lady Abdy, daughter of Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, and Hyacinthe Gabrielle Roland, and wife of Bentinck’s friend Sir William Abdy, 7th Baronet. Lady Anne was divorced by her husband, and she and Bentinck were married on 16 July 1816. They had four children:

  • Anne Cavendish-Bentinck (d. 7 June 1888)
  • Emily Cavendish-Bentinck (d. 6 June 1850), married Henry Hopwood.
  • Reverend Charles William Frederick Cavendish-Bentinck (1817–1865). He was a great-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II.
  • Lieutenant-General Arthur Cavendish-Bentinck (10 May 1819 – 11 December 1877). He married first Elizabeth Sophia Hawkins-Whitshed. They were parents of William Cavendish-Bentinck, 6th Duke of Portland. He married secondly Augusta Browne and they had a daughter, Lady Ottoline Morrell.

Anne and Lord Charles became lovers at some point during her first marriage. They eloped on 5 September 1815, following which Abdy brought a suit for criminal conversation (crim.con. in Regency parlance) for 30,000 pounds but won only 7,000 pounds in damages. (These damages were never paid by the impecunious Bentinck). During the discussion of the divorce bill, the customary provision against remarriage was struck out in the House of Lords. Lady Abdy (or rather, her husband Sir William Abdy) was granted a divorce on 25 June 1816. Anne and Lord William were married on 23 July 1816, enabling their first child (which she was expecting) to be born legitimate three weeks later.

Bentinck died on 28 April 1826 at age 45. His wife survived him by almost 50 years and died in March 1875.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Maitland
10 March 1760 – 17 January 1824


Thomas Maitland

Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Maitland was commissioned into the Edinburgh Light Horse, shortly after his birth, but did not take up his commission until he joined the 78th Foot as a Captain in 1778. He transferred to the 72nd Foot, and then to the 62nd Foot as a Major in 1790. He was promoted Lieutenant-Colonel in 1794 and Colonel and Brigadier-General in 1798.

While serving at St. Domingue, he proactively dealt with Toussaint to disengage Britain. Elkins and McKitrick write:
It was in fact Maitland and not the War Ministry who had determined that Britain’s only sensible choice, rather than try to maintain any kind of presence at Jérémie and Môle-Saint-Nicolas, was to deal directly with Toussaint and negotiate a total evacuation of the island. Accordingly he and the black general concluded a secret agreement on August 31, 1798. Great Britain would desist from any further attack on St. Domingue and any interference with its internal affairs; Toussaint made a similar promise with regard to Jamaica; and Maitland would see that provisions were allowed to reach the ports of St. Domingue without interference from British cruisers.

Maitland served as Governor of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) during 1805 to 1811.

In early 1812, Arthur Wellesley, Earl of Wellington began the campaign that resulted in his victory at the Battle of Salamanca on 22 July. To prevent Marshal Louis Gabriel Suchet from sending French reinforcements from the east coast of Spain, Wellington requested that Lord William Bentinck launch a diversionary operation using the British garrison of Sicily. At first Bentinck agreed to send 10,000 of his soldiers, but in March he reversed himself. After much persuasion, he allowed the operation to go forward and on 7 June he put 8,000 men aboard naval transports under the command of Maitland. The fickle Bentinck changed his mind again on 9 June, stopping the expedition. At last on 28 June Maitland sailed for Minorca. The fleet first picked up 6,000 Spanish troops at Minorca and landed on 31 July at Palamós, 65 miles (105 km) northeast of Barcelona. He wisely decided that Barcelona was too strong to attack, but he also refused to try to capture weakly held Tarragona. Maitland soon received news that Joseph O’Donnell’s Army of Murcia had been routed at the Battle of Castalla on 21 July. Without the support of O’Donnell, Maitland decided he could not accomplish anything. He re-embarked his expeditionary force and sailed to Alicante instead, joining his troops with the garrison to form an army of 15,000 men. Because of the disaster at Salamanca, the French were forced to evacuate both Madrid in central Spain and Andalusia in the south. Their combined forces joined Suchet in the province of Valencia. In close proximity to 80,000 French soldiers, Maitland declined to move from Alicante. Maitland asked to be relieved in September 1812 due to illness.

While at Ceylon, Maitland was attracted to a place at “Galkissa” (Mount Lavinia) and decided to construct his palace there.

During this time, Maitland fell in love with a half-caste dancing-girl named Lovina, who had been born to Portuguese and Sinhalese parents. During the construction of the palace, Maitland gave instructions for the construction of a secret tunnel to Lovina’s house, which was located close to the governor’s palace. One end of the tunnel was inside the well of Lovina’s house and the other end was in a wine cellar inside the governor’s palace. When the governor came to reside there, he would often use the tunnel to meet Lovina.

The Sinhalese village that surrounded the Governor’s mansion developed into a modern city named “Galkissa”. Later the city was renamed “Mount Lavinia” in honour of Lovina. In 1920 the tunnel was sealed up.

The bicentenary celebration of the Mount Lavinia Hotel was held in 2005. Some of Sir Thomas Maitland’s relatives living in the UK attended the ceremony.

Maitland became Lieutenant-Governor of Portsmouth and General Officer Commanding South-West District in May 1813 and was then appointed as Governor of Malta on 23 July 1813, when the island became a crown colony instead of a protectorate. The plague had broken out in Malta in March 1813 and the disease began to spread especially in Valletta and the Grand Harbour area. When Maitland arrived, he enforced stricter quarantine measures. The plague spread to Gozo by the following January, but the islands were free of the disease by March 1814. Overall, 4486 people were killed which amounted to 4% of the total population. It is thought that the outbreak would have been worse without Maitland’s strict actions.

After the eradication of the plague, Maitland made several reforms. He removed British troops from Lampedusa on 25 September 1814, ending the dispute that had started in 1800. On Malta, he was autocratic and he refused to form an advisory council made up of Maltese representatives, and so he was informally known as “King Tom”. He formed the Malta Police Force in 1814, while the local Italian-speaking Università was dissolved in 1819. Various reforms were undertaken in taxation and the law courts as well. Maitland remained Governor until his death on 17 January 1824.

While he was Governor of Malta, Maitland also served as Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian islands during 1815 to 1823, while the islands were a British protectorate. The seat of administration was at Corfu.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

William John Cavendish Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck 5th Duke of Portland
17 September 1800 – 6 December 1879


William John Cavendish Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck

William John Cavendish Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck 5th Duke of Portland was born in London, the second son of William Bentinck, 4th Duke of Portland, and his wife Henrietta, daughter of General John Scott. He was baptised at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, on 30 September. One of nine children, he was known by his second Christian name, John, as all the male members of the family were named William. He was the brother of Charlotte Denison, future wife of John Evelyn Denison, 1st Viscount Ossington.

Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck was educated at home rather than at school. Known as Lord John Bentinck, he served in the army from 1818, entering as an Ensign in the Foot Guards and later transferred to the 7th Light Dragoon Guards in 1821, where he became a captain, then the 2nd Life Guards in 1823. He reportedly suffered from lethargy due to his “delicate health”.

In 1824, he became the Marquess of Titchfield following the death of his elder brother William Henry, and was elected Tory MP to succeed his brother in King’s Lynn, a seat traditionally held by a member of his family.

He remained an MP until 1826, when he surrendered his seat on grounds of ill-health to his uncle Lord William Bentinck.

From 1824 to 1834, he also held the rank of captain in the Royal West India Rangers, on half pay, a sinecure, since this regiment had been disbanded in 1819. After leaving the army, he spent some time in continental Europe, his health being occasionally poor, including short term memory loss and sciatica.

On 27 March 1854, he succeeded his father as 5th Duke of Portland. Although the title also gave him a seat in the House of Lords, it took him three years to take his seat, not taking the oaths until 5 June 1857. He showed little interest in taking an active role in politics, although he supported the Whigs and Robert Peel. From 1859 until his death he was also Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire.

The Duke’s major building operations and developments at his estate of Welbeck Abbey in which he took an active involvement appealed strongly to the popular imagination. They cost an enormous sum of money and employed thousands of men from the local area, both skilled and unskilled. While there were occasional labour disputes over wages and hours, the Duke was on very good terms with his many employees and earned the nickname “the workman’s friend”.

The Abbey’s kitchen gardens covered an area of 22 acres (8.9 ha), surrounded by high walls with recesses in which braziers could be placed to assist the ripening of fruit. One of the walls, a peach wall, measured over 1,000 ft (300 m) in length.

An immense riding house was constructed, 396 ft (121 m) long, 108 ft (33 m) wide, and 50 ft (15 m) high. It was lit by 4,000 gas jets. Like many other contemporary British aristocrats, the Duke was fond of horses — his stables held 100 horses but he never rode them in his riding house.

When roller skating became popular, the Duke had a rink installed near the lake for the benefit of his staff, whom he encouraged to use it.

The Duke had all the rooms of Welbeck Abbey stripped of furniture, including tapestries and portraits, which he had stored elsewhere. He occupied a suite of 4-5 rooms in the west wing of the mansion which were sparsely furnished. By 1879 the building was in a state of disrepair, with the Duke’s rooms the only habitable ones. All the rooms had been painted pink, with bare parquetry floors and no furniture apart from a commode in one corner.

The Duke’s father, believing there would be a shortage of oak, had hundreds of trees planted. His son used the wood to construct a complex of underground rooms and tunnels. The tunnels under the estate were reputed to have totalled 15 mi (24 km), connecting various underground chambers and above-ground buildings. They included a 1,000 yd (910 m) long tunnel between the house and the riding house, wide enough for several people to walk side by side. A more roughly constructed tunnel ran parallel to this for the use of his workmen. A 1.25 mi (2 km) long tunnel ran north-east from the coach house, to emerge at the South Lodge, which was supposedly wide enough for two carriages. It had domed skylights (readily visible on the surface) and by night was illuminated by gaslight.

The underground chambers – all of which were painted pink – included a great hall 160 ft (49 m) long and 63 ft (19 m) which was originally intended as a chapel, but which was instead used as a picture gallery and occasionally as a ballroom. The ballroom reportedly had a hydraulic lift that could carry 20 guests from the surface and a ceiling that was painted as a giant sunset. The Duke never organised any dances in the ballroom.

Other subterranean rooms included a 250 ft (76 m) long library, an observatory with a large glass roof, and a vast billiards room.

The Duke was highly introverted and well-known for his eccentricity; he did not want to meet people and never invited anyone to his home. He employed hundreds through his various construction projects, and though well paid, the employees were not allowed to speak to him or acknowledge him. The one worker who raised his hat to the duke was promptly dismissed. His tenants on his estates were aware of his wishes and knew they were required to ignore him if they passed by. His rooms had double letterboxes, one for ingoing and another for outgoing mail. His valet was the only person he permitted to see him in person in his quarters – he would not even let the doctor in, while his tenants and workmen received all their instructions in writing.

His business with his solicitors, agents, and the occasional politician was handled by post. The Duke maintained an extensive correspondence with a wide-ranging network of family and friends, including Benjamin Disraeli and Lord Palmerston. He is not known to have kept company with any ladies, and his shyness and introverted personality increased over time.

His reclusive lifestyle led to rumours that the Duke was disfigured, mad, or prone to wild orgies, but contemporary witnesses and surviving photographs present him as a normal-looking man.
He ventured outside mainly by night, when he was preceded by a lady servant carrying a lantern 40 yards (37 m) ahead of him. If he did walk out by day, the Duke wore two overcoats, an extremely tall hat, an extremely high collar, and carried a very large umbrella behind which he tried to hide if someone addressed him.

If the Duke had business in London, he would take his carriage to Worksop where he had it loaded onto a railway wagon. Upon his arrival at his London residence, Harcourt House in Cavendish Square, all the household staff were ordered to keep out of sight as he hurried into his study through the front hall.

He insisted on a chicken roasting at all hours of the day, and the servants brought him his food on heated trucks that ran on rails through the underground tunnels.

The Duke died on 6 December 1879 at his London residence, Harcourt House. He was buried in a simple grave in a large plot at Kensal Green Cemetery in north London. As his younger brother, Henry William, had died without male issue on 31 December 1870, the title of Duke of Portland devolved upon his cousin, William Cavendish-Bentinck.

The department of Manuscripts and Special Collections, The University of Nottingham holds a number of papers relating to the 5th Duke: the 5th Duke’s personal and political papers (Pw K) are part of the Portland (Welbeck) Collection; and the Portland (London) Collection (Pl) contains papers relating to the estate business of the 5th Duke, and to the “Druce Case”. The Harley Gallery shows exhibitions from the Portland Collection, in the museum which is situated in the converted site of the Fifth Duke’s Gas Works.

The Portland Estate Papers held at the Nottinghamshire Archives also contain items relating to the 5th Duke’s properties.

In 1897, a widow, Anna Maria Druce, claimed that the Duke had led a double life as her father-in-law, a London upholsterer by the name of Thomas Charles Druce, who had supposedly died in 1864. The widow claimed that the Duke had faked the death of his alter ego Druce to return to a secluded aristocratic life and that therefore her son was heir to the Portland estate. Her application to have Druce’s grave in Highgate Cemetery opened to show that the coffin buried in it was empty and weighted with lead was blocked by Druce’s executor. The case became the subject of continuing and unsuccessful legal proceedings.

When it was discovered that Druce’s children by a former wife were living in Australia, Anna Maria Druce’s claims were backgrounded, and she went into an asylum in 1903. The case was taken up by George Hollamby Druce from 1903 onwards, who set up companies to finance his legal proceedings in 1905, and in 1907 even instituted a charge of perjury against Herbert Druce, the elder son of Thomas Charles Druce by his second wife for having sworn that he had witnessed his father’s death in 1864. Herbert had been born before his parents’ marriage and thus was not eligible to claim the Portland title even if his father had been the Duke.

The photograph which illustrates this article is that produced by the prosecution as being of the Duke, but the defence denied this and said it was of Druce. Evidence of a fake burial was given by a witness named Robert C. Caldwell of New York and others, and it was eventually agreed that Druce’s grave should be opened. This was done on 30 December 1907 under the supervision of Inspector Walter Dew and Druce’s body was found present and successfully identified. Caldwell’s evidence was so unreliable that the prosecution disowned him during the trial, and it transpired that he had habitually appeared in court giving sensational, and false, testimony: he was found insane and died in an asylum in 1911. Several witnesses were in turn charged with perjury.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

William Henry Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck 4th Duke of Portland
24 June 1768 – 27 March 1854


William Henry Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck 4th Duke of Portland

William Henry Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck 4th Duke of Portland was the eldest son of Prime Minister William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland and Lady Dorothy, daughter of William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire and Charlotte Boyle, Baroness Clifford. He was the elder brother of Lord William Bentinck and Lord Charles Bentinck.

He was educated first in Ealing under the tutelage of Samuel Goodenough graduating in 1774, followed by Westminster School (1783). He attended Christ Church, Oxford for two years but did not take a degree. The third Duke, who spared no expense for his heir, sent him to The Hague in 1786 for experience working with the crown’s envoy, Sir James Harris. He returned in 1789.

He later received an honorary Doctor of Civil Law from Oxford in 1793. He also served as a Family Trustee of the British Museum; in 1810, he loaned the famed Portland Vase to the museum.


Portland was Member of Parliament for Petersfield between 1790 and 1791 and for Buckinghamshire between 1791 and 1809.

He served under his father as a Lord of the Treasury between March and September 1807. He remained out of office until April 1827 when he was appointed Lord Privy Seal by his brother-in-law George Canning. He was sworn of the Privy Council the same year. When Lord Goderich became Prime Minister in August 1827, Portland became Lord President of the Council, an office he retained until the government fell in January 1828. Over time the Duke became less of a staunch Conservative, softening to some of the more liberal stances of Canning.

Portland also held the honorary post of Lord Lieutenant of Middlesex between 1794 and 1841.

Portland married Henrietta, eldest daughter and heiress of Major-General John Scott of Fife and his wife Margaret (née Dundas), in London on 4 August 1795. At the time of his marriage he obtained Royal Licence to take the name and arms of Scott in addition to that of Cavendish-Bentinck. They were parents of nine children:

  • (William) Henry, Marquess of Titchfield (22 October 1796 – 5 March 1824)
  • Lady Margaret Harriet (21 April 1798 – 9 April 1882)
  • Lady Caroline (6 July 1799 – 23 January 1828)
  • (William) John, Marquess of Titchfield, later 5th Duke of Portland (12 September 1800 – 6 December 1879)
  • (William) George Frederick (27 February 1802 – 21 September 1848)
  • Lord Henry William Bentinck (9 June 1804 – 31 December 1870)
  • Lady Charlotte (14 Jan 1806 – 30 September 1889); married John Evelyn Denison, 1st Viscount Ossington
  • Lady Lucy Joan (27 August 1807 – 29 July 1899); married Charles Ellis, 6th Baron Howard de Walden
  • Lady Mary (8 July 1809 – 20 July 1874); married Sir William Topham

The Duchess of Portland died 24 April 1844. Nearly 10 years later, Portland died at the family seat of Welbeck Abbey, Nottinghamshire, in March 1854, aged 85. Two of their sons predeceased their parents; their eldest dying of a brain lesion and their third son dying of a heart attack.

The duke expressed a desire to be buried in the open churchyard in Bolsover, Derbyshire, near the other family seat at Bolsover Castle. However he was instead interred in the ancient Cavendish vault, that had previously been unopened for 138 years.

He was succeeded in the dukedom by his second but eldest surviving son, William.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Admiral Sir Augustus William James Clifford
26 May 1788 – 8 February 1877


Augustus William James Clifford

Admiral Sir Augustus William James Clifford was born in France in 1788, the illegitimate son of William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire (and 7th Baron Clifford), and Lady Elizabeth Foster, daughter of Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol. Not long after his birth, his mother brought him to England, to be wet-nursed by Louisa Augusta Marshall, wife of the Revd John Marshall, curate at Clewer, near Windsor, Berkshire. Clifford was educated at Harrow School, 1796-99. His parents married in 1809, their respective spouses having died.

He married, on 20 October 1813, Lady Elizabeth Frances Townshend (2 August 1789–10 April 1862 Nice), sister of John Townshend, 4th Marquess Townshend. Each of his sons, Capt William RN, Robert and Charles succeeded their father in turn as the second, third and fourth (and final) baronets.
Clifford was a patron of the arts, and formed a unique collection of paintings, sculpture, etchings, engravings, and bijouterie. He died at his residence in the House of Lords in 1877.

Clifford entered the Royal Navy as a midshipman in May 1800, and was promoted to a lieutenancy in 1806. He served at the reduction of Ste. Lucie and Tobago in 1803, and throughout the operations in Egypt during 1807. He was at the capture of a convoy in the Bay of Rosas in 1809 (for which he received a medal) and in the operations on the coast of Italy 1811–12.

After this, as captain, he was for many years actively employed in naval duties, being several times mentioned in the London Gazette for his courage in cutting-out expeditions and on other occasions. For some time he was engaged in attendance on the Lord High Admiral, the Duke of Clarence, afterwards William IV, and in 1828 he took Lord William Bentinck out to India as governor-general. This was his last service afloat, and he was not actively employed after 1831.

He reached the rank of rear-admiral 23 March 1848, vice-admiral 27 September 1855, Admiral of the Blue 7 November 1860, and Admiral of the Red 1864, becoming retired admiral 31 March 1866.

He was Member of Parliament for Bandon 1818–20; for Dungarvan, 1820–2; and again for Bandon from 23 July 1831 to 3 Dec. 1832. He was nominated a Commander of the Order of the Bath on 8 December 1815, knighted on 4 August 1830, and created a baronet on 4 August 1838. His half-brother, the 6th Duke of Devonshire (then Lord Chamberlain), appointed him on 25 July 1832 Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, which office he held, much to his satisfaction, until his death. On various occasions between 1843 and 1866 he acted as deputy lord great chamberlain of England, in the absence of Lord Willoughby d’Eresby.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Lord William Bentinck
14 September 1774 – 17 June 1839


William Bentinck

Lord William Bentinck was the second son of Prime Minister William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland, and Lady Dorothy, daughter of William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire.

Bentinck joined the Coldstream Guards in 1791, rising to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. In 1803 he was, to some surprise, appointed Governor of Madras. Although his tenure was moderately successful, it was brought to an end by a mutiny at Vellore in 1806, prompted by Bentinck’s order that the native troops be forbidden to wear their traditional attire. Only after serious violence was order restored and the offending policy rescinded, and Bentinck was recalled in 1807.
After service in the Peninsular War, Bentinck was appointed commander of British troops in Sicily. A Whig, Bentinck used this position to meddle in internal Sicilian affairs, effecting the withdrawal from government of Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies in favour of his son, Francis I of the Two Sicilies, the reactionary Queen’s disgrace, and an attempt to devise a constitutional government for the troubled island, all of which ultimately ended in failure. In 1814, Bentinck landed with British and Sicilian troops at Genoa, and commenced to make liberal proclamations of a new order in Italy which embarrassed the British government (which intended to give much of Italy to Austria), and led, once again, to his recall in 1815.

As conditions in Sicily began to deteriorate at the beginning of the 19th century, England began worrying about its interests in the Mediterranean. Internal dissensions in the Sicilian government and an ever increasing suspicion that Queen Maria Carolina was in correspondence with the French Occupation of Sicily as its object led to the appointment of Bentinck as British representative to the Court of Palermo in July 1811. At the beginning of his time at the head of Sicilian affairs, politicians in London opposed the Bourbon rule and appealed for Sicilian annexation. Bentinck was sympathetic to the cause and plight of the Sicilians and “was quickly convinced of the need for Britain to intervene in Sicilian affairs, not so much for Britain’s sake as for the well-being of the Sicilians.” He was also one of the first of the dreamers to see a vision of a unified Italy. The English, however, were content to support the Bourbons if they were willing to give the Sicilians more governmental control and a greater respect of their rights. Bentinck saw this as the perfect opportunity to insert his ideas of a Sicilian constitution. Opposition to the establishment of a constitution continued to surface, Maria Carolina proving to be one of the toughest. Her relationship with Bentinck can be summed up in the nickname that she gave him: “La bestia feroce” or the ferocious beast. Bentinck, however, was determined to see the establishment of a Sicilian Constitution and shortly thereafter exiled Maria Carolina from Palermo. On 18 June 1812 the Parliament assembled in Palermo and, about a month later, on 20 July 1812 the constitution was accepted and written on the basis of 15 articles. With the establishment of the constitution the Sicilians had now gained an autonomy they had never experienced before. The constitution set up the separation of the legislative and executive powers and abolished the feudalistic practices that had been established and recognized for the past 700 years.

Bentinck’s success in establishing a Sicilian constitution lasted only a few years. On 8 December 1816, a year after Ferdinand IV returned to the throne of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the constitution was abolished and Sicily was reunited with Naples. The constitutional experiment was deemed a failure although it cannot be said to be his alone. The Sicilian nobles were inexperienced and in the face of the difficulties of 1814 and 1815 could not sustain a constitution without British support, which was withdrawn in the wake of the end of the Napoleonic wars. The British no longer had an invested interest in the internal affairs of Sicily now that the threat of French invasion had been removed. The establishment of a Sicilian constitution that was facilitated by Bentinck was not to be soon forgotten. The ideas found therein and the small taste of freedom lingered in the memories of the Sicilians and had an influence on the desire for autonomy that was at the base of the Sicilian revolutions of 1820 and 1848.

On his return to England, Bentinck served in the House of Commons for some years before being appointed Governor-General of Bengal in 1828. His principal concern was to turn around the loss-making Honourable East India Company, in order to ensure that its charter would be renewed by the British government.

Bentinck engaged in an extensive range of cost-cutting measures, earning the lasting enmity of many military men whose wages were cut. Although his financial management of India was quite impressive, his modernizing projects also included a policy of westernization, influenced by the Utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham and James Mill, which was more controversial. Reforming the court system, he made English, rather than Persian, the language of the higher courts and encouraged western-style education for Indians in order to provide more educated Indians for service in the British bureaucracy.

Bentinck also took steps to suppress suttee, the death of a widow on her husband’s funeral pyre, and other cruel social customs prevalent in the society during that time, with the help of Raja Ram Mohan Roy who was not only a social reformer but also known as “Maker of Modern India” or “Father of Modern India”. The “superstitious practices” Rammohan Roy objected included suttee’ caste rigidity, polygamy and child marriages and Lord Bentinck helped him to enforce the law. Although his reforms met little resistance among native Indians at the time, it has been argued that they brought on dissatisfaction which ultimately led to the great mutiny of 1857. His reputation for ruthless financial efficiency and disregard for Indian culture led to the much-repeated story that he had once planned to demolish the Taj Mahal and sell off the marble. According to Bentinck’s biographer John Rosselli, the story arose from Bentinck’s fund-raising sale of discarded marble from Agra Fort and of the metal from the Great Agra Gun, the largest cannon ever cast, a historical artifact which dated to the reign of Akbar the Great.

Bentinck returned to the UK in 1835, refusing a peerage, and again entered the House of Commons as a Member for Glasgow.


Lady William Cavendish-Bentinck

Bentinck married Lady Mary, daughter of Arthur Acheson, 1st Earl of Gosford, in 1803. The marriage was childless. He died in Paris on 17 June 1839, aged 64. Mary died in May 1843. The department of Manuscripts and Special Collections, The University of Nottingham holds the personal papers and correspondence of Lord William Bentinck (Pw J), as part of the Portland (Welbeck) Collection.

The Charter Act of 1833 was passed during the time of Lord William Bentinck. Accordingly monopoly of the company was abolished. Governor-General in Bengal became the governor-general of India. This Act added a law member to the executive council of the governor-general.The Bishops of Bombay.Madras and Calcutta were to be appointed for the benefit of the Christians in India.

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