BENTINCK, Lord Edward Charles Cavendish (1744-1819).
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Family and Education
b. 3 Mar. 1744, 2nd s. of William, 2nd Duke of Portland by Lady Margaret Cavendish Harley, da. and h. of Edward Harley†, 2nd Earl of Oxford. educ. Westminster 1754; Christ Church, Oxf. 1761; Grand Tour 1764-6. m. 23 Dec. 1782, Elizabeth, da. of Richard Cumberland, dramatist, 2s. 2da.
As the only brother of the Whig leader, the 3rd Duke of Portland, who rescued him from his financial scrapes, Bentinck had to resign himself to a parliamentary career, but his heart was never in it. Until Portland’s sons were of age, he was the family Member for Nottinghamshire. He silently followed his brother’s line in opposition, pairing against Pitt’s Russian policy on 12 Apr. 1791 and voting against it on 1 Mar. 1792. Fox was not discouraged by his vote against the repeal of the Test Act, regarding it as ‘a compliance with a meeting in Nottinghamshire’, but on 13 Dec. 1792 he voted a last time with Fox, for sentimental reasons.1 Thereafter, like his brother, he ceased to act with opposition, being thought of as a potential ‘third party’ recruit and seceding from the Whig Club, which he had joined on 7 Mar. 1785. In 1794 his son obtained a West Indian sinecure. He was a defaulter from the House on 6 Mar. 1793 and 24 Nov. 1795.
There is some evidence that he was not happy with his new role. Portland informed his son, 2 Nov. 1795:
I received a very unpleasant letter yesterday from Lord E. informing me that he had not voted on Thursday, that he thinks both administration and opposition in the wrong, and that he must speak the truth and tell me that he should now feel more reluctance than ever in appearing on the same side of the House with Pitt and his associates. I have not yet returned him any answer.2
But Bentinck’s ordeal was not over. When his nephew succeeded him as county Member in 1796, he was found a seat for Clitheroe on the interest of a friend of his brother’s. The story was that £4,000 purchase money could not be found and that Thomas Lister obtained a peerage instead.3 He made no mark in his last Parliament. On 30 Nov. 1796 he took a month’s sick leave and he was a defaulter on 3 Apr. 1797 and again on 17 Mar. 1801, but present on 21 Mar. He retired in 1802 and spent his later years at Brussels, doubtless for economy’s sake. He died there, 8 Oct. 1819.4