CAVENDISH SCOTT BENTINCK, William Henry Cavendish, mq. of Titchfield (1796-1824).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



27 Feb. 1819 - 29 Dec. 1821
9 Jan. 1822 - 5 Mar. 1824

Family and Education

b. 21 Aug. 1796, 1st s. of William Henry Cavendish Bentinck†, 4th duke of Portland (d. 1854), and Henrietta, da. and coh. of Maj.-Gen. John Scott† of Balcomie, Fife; bro. of Lord William George Frederick Cavendish Bentinck* and William John Cavendish Scott Bentinck, mq. of Titchfield.* educ. Dr. Goodenough’s sch. Ealing, Mdx.; Christ Church, Oxf. 1815. unm. d.v.p. 5 Mar. 1824.

Offices Held

Capt. Clumber yeoman cav. 1819.


Titchfield, a Whig by birth and inclination, was the politically ambitious son and heir of the 4th duke of Portland and a nephew by marriage of George Canning*. He set great store by his independence and, after refusing his Whig cousin the 6th duke of Devonshire’s offer of a seat in 1818, had been returned for Bletchingley the following year on the interest of Matthew Russell*.1 Their arrangement was revised shortly after the general election of 1820, when Titchfield, as candidate in waiting, assisted in the election for Nottinghamshire of his uncle Lord William Henry Cavendish Bentinck.2 The Portland estate bill confirming his parents’ marriage settlement, a casualty of the dissolution, was revived and received royal assent, 15 July 1820.3

Titchfield opposed the bill of pains and penalties against Queen Caroline from the outset ‘because I think it unconstitutional and unjust, and if it was without those objections because it is impolitic’.4 He was named as a defaulter, 22 June 1820, and his departure from the House that day without voting on Wilberforce’s compromise resolution was a source of embarrassment to Canning (president of the India board in Lord Liverpool’s ministry and a former paramour of the queen), who assumed that Titchfield ‘had taken a violent fancy into his head about the liturgy’, from which Caroline was excluded. He refrained from speaking on the queen’s case at Canning’s request, 2 July.5 He divided with the Whig opposition against the barrack agreement bill, 17 July, and moved successfully for the release from custody of Sir William Manners†, 18 July. Following Canning’s departure from office in December 1820, he divided with the queen’s partisans, 26 Jan., 6, 14 Feb., 1821, ‘upon motives’ which, according to Henry Labouchere*, would ‘in intricacy and ingenuity ... do honour to Aristotle himself, from whom they are chiefly derived’.6 He paired for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. He voted for inquiry into Peterloo, 16 May, and for economy and retrenchment, 27 June 1821, when in what the radical Whig Member Grey Bennet described as ‘the most extraordinary speech of the night’, he

arraigned the whole policy of the government. [He] spoke in the severest terms of reproach of their want of economy, scoffed at Bankes’s amendment, which he called spurious, and deprecated the extravagance and expense of the administration, which he said the country neither could nor ought to endure. He concluded by expressing a hope that it would not be thought necessary this year to spend the public money and disturb the public quiet to keep ministers in their places by the sacrifice of a royal victim, nor to continue [them] in office by persecuting an individual whose former wrongs and persecutions entitled her at least to the forbearance of her enemies, if they cared not to tarnish their own names and to tarnish the character of the country. Yet on the score of morals and security, he trusted they would not again exhibit to the world the dreadful scene of putting perjury to auction in the markets of Milan. He declared it to be his opinion that Parliament had by its conduct in that transaction irrecoverably lost the confidence of the nation, but he hoped some advance might be made towards the recovery of its character by showing it was not the absolute tool of persons who had it in their power to distribute places and pensions.7

Commenting afterwards on speculation of ministerial weakness and Canning’s possible return to office,8 Sir James Mackintosh* noted George Agar Ellis’s* ‘jealous’ comment, ‘a fool can make a good speech’, and observed:

I think Lord Titchfield a good but singular young man who spoke above his talents. His diction and delivery were excellent and part of his speech certainly sprang up at the moment. I believe the sentiments to be his own, as they are known to coincide with those of his father. But I will not venture to say that they would have been so boldly or even at all uttered if Canning had been in power or about to be so. I should doubt Canning’s direct interference.9

As usual, Titchfield devoted the recess to rural pursuits, the Turf and family concerns; and he attended to the business of the University Club, of which he was a committee member.10 When, in December 1821, Lord William Bentinck was offered a vacant seat at King’s Lynn, where the corporation were anxious to secure Portland’s support against the Eau Brink commissioners, it was agreed at a family conference at Welbeck that Titchfield should become his locum there with a view to their exchanging seats at the next general election.11 He canvassed, 23-25 Dec., resigned on 29 Dec. 1821 from Bletchingley, where he waived his claim to name his successor and, assisted by Lord William, he overcame resistance from the supporters of his partisan Sir William John Henry Browne Ffolkes* to come in unopposed at an estimated personal cost of £400.12 On the hustings, he stated that he was ‘wholly unconnected with party’, criticized ministerialists as ‘a set of men ... loving power and place rather than their country’ and spoke highly of the ‘men of great talent’ in opposition, whom he otherwise condemned for their lack of ‘unanimity’, poorly defined objectives and inability, even if appointed to office, ‘to withstand their more powerful opponents’. He added that he had rejected conditional offers for two unnamed boroughs and would remain ‘under no restrictions whatsoever’ as Member for King’s Lynn.13 The Whig James Abercromby* thought the speech ‘more remarkable for the truths it contains, than for its prudence. It never answers to any person to take a part so entirely solitary and exclusive as he seems disposed to adopt’.14

Titchfield’s conduct was largely unaffected by his change of constituency or the provisional appointment of Canning as governor-general of India in January 1822. His votes with opposition for more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 11, 21 Feb., vexed rather than surprised Canning, and he now engaged in discussions with his lifelong friend Agar Ellis about establishing a ‘small independent party’.15 He presented his constituents’ petition and voted for remission of Henry Hunt’s* gaol sentence, 24 Apr., when, contributing to the opposition attack on the Grenvillite accession to the ministry, he deliberately compared Hunt’s case favourably with that of Sir Manasseh Masseh Lopes*, which their Commons leader, the president of the India board Charles Williams Wynn, had espoused in opposition in 1820.16 He voted for the reductions sought in diplomatic expenditure to embarrass ministers through the Williams Wynns, 15, 16 May, having declined to propose them himself, on Lord William’s advice.17 He voted for parliamentary reform, 25 Apr. 1822, and again 24 Apr, 2 June 1823, as well as to condemn the increased influence of the crown, 24 June 1822, and for information on Inverness burgh elections, 26 Mar. 1823. He voted to abolish one of the joint-postmasterships, 2 May 1822. He divided for inquiries into the currency, 12 June, and the lord advocate’s conduct towards the Scottish press, 25 June, and voted for repeal of the salt duties, 28 June. He presented petitions from King’s Lynn against the poor removal bill and the navigation bill, 31 May, and the beer retail bill, 18 July, and others against the Hawkers and Pedlars Act from Worksop, 19 June, and Mansfield, 20 June 1822.18 Whig fears in September that Canning’s appointment as foreign secretary and leader of the House would injure opposition by ‘at least neutralizing the Bentincks’ were largely unfounded.19 Titchfield held Canning ‘in high esteem’, but he declined to serve him, or to temper his views, and he said so in a widely publicized and unguarded speech at the corporation dinner at King’s Lynn, when he took his freedom, 29 Sept. 1822.20 An editorial in The Times, 3 Oct., commended the speech but criticized him for describing Canning as ‘virtually the first minister of the country’. Despite his bold words, his brother George’s appointment as Canning’s private secretary discomfited Titchfield and, to the Whig lawyer Henry Brougham’s* dismay, he declined to move the amendment to the 1823 address.21

His connections with Brougham and Canning, ‘amiable disposition’ and ‘easy conciliating manners’ made Titchfield a useful intermediary between government and opposition in February 1823.22 He divided with the latter for inquiry into the Irish church establishment, 4 Mar., against the national debt reduction bill, 6, 17 Mar., the Barbados four-and-a-half per cents, 17 Mar., and the military and naval pensions bill, 18 Apr., and was erroneously listed in the minority for repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr.23 He divided with government against inquiry into the legal proceedings against the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., but voted to condemn the conduct of the lord advocate in the Borthwick case, 3 June, and for inquiry into chancery administration, 5 June. On the 11th, in what Agar Ellis considered ‘a very good speech’, he seconded Western’s motion for inquiry into the currency. He cited examples of the hardships caused by the resumption of cash payments in 1819, and pointed to the limitations of political economy and how ‘improvident and indecorous it would be ... to be governed by the dictates of a theorist’.24 He defended his views, which the president of the board of trade Huskisson and the political economist Ricardo had criticized, and was a minority teller when the adjourned motion was defeated (by 27-6) the following day.25 He opposed the beer bill on his constituents’ behalf, but failed (by 36-26) to secure its recommittal, 13 June, and he could only protest at the ‘very unhandsome manner’ in which it was hurried through, 18 June.26 He voted to repeal the usury laws, 17 June, and for inquiry into the coronation costs, 19 June, and trial by jury in New South Wales, 7 July. On 23 June 1823 he and Lord William had agreed to ‘unite’ with Agar Ellis ‘next session, voting together, and supporting one another, and thereby forming a nucleus for a neutral or third party’, but it failed to come to fruition.27

In September 1823, when Titchfield was severely injured after his chaise overturned near Welbeck, Lady Holland informed Mackintosh in jest that the accident arose from ‘his unwillingness to add to the resources of government by paying direct taxes, so he will not keep his own carriage. This is pushing financial principles too far’.28 He returned to London for the 1824 session, but his recovery was not sustained and he died in March, highly esteemed and greatly mourned, of an abscess on the brain.29 Newspapers erroneously attributed his death to ‘venturing out on horseback too soon after he had recovered from the effects of a typhus fever’.30 Sir Francis Vincent* wrote to Lord George:

The more I remember every trait of his character, the more I have to admire and lament him and I may truly say that there never existed a better heart or a better head. Where others with equally good intentions would have failed, his judgement seconded his heart and carried him through not as well but brilliantly ... His career though short was a brilliant one.31

Administration of Titchfield’s estate was granted to his father at an undisclosed sum, 15 June 1824, and passed in November 1885 to the executors of his next younger brother Lord John (the 5th duke of Portland).32

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. HP Commons, 1790-1820, iii. 429-30.
  • 2. Nottingham Univ. Lib. Ossington mss OsC7, J. to J.E. Denison, 17 Mar. 1820; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland mss PwH 336-8; Durham CRO, Brancepeth mss D/Br/F 294; Lincs. AO, Tennyson d’Eynecourt mss H1/17-20.
  • 3. Portland mss PwH 1235-60; CJ, lxxv. 456.
  • 4. Portland mss PwH 339.
  • 5. Harewood mss WYL 250/8/26, Canning to wife, 23 June, 2 July 1820.
  • 6. Harrowby mss, Labouchere to Sandon, 12 Feb. 1821.
  • 7. HLRO, Hist. Coll. 379, Grey Bennet diary, 107-8.
  • 8. NLW ms 2793 D, C. to H. Williams Wynn, 29 June; Add. 51579, Morpeth to Holland, 30 June; 51654, Lady Holland to Mackintosh, 9 July 1821.
  • 9. Add. 51654, Mackintosh to Lady Holland, 15 July 1821.
  • 10. Portland mss PwH 340-5.
  • 11. Ibid. PwH 270.
  • 12. TNA E197/1, p. 288; Tennyson d’Eyncourt mss H88/29, 34; Portland mss PwH 346; PwJe 1074.
  • 13. The Times, 7, 14 Jan. 1822.
  • 14. Chatsworth mss, Abercromby to Devonshire, 17 Jan. 1822.
  • 15. Add. 38743, f. 136; Northants. RO, Agar Ellis diary, 19, 21 Feb. 1822.
  • 16. The Times, 25 Apr. 1822.
  • 17. Agar Ellis diary, 8 May; Add. 75937, Lady to Lord Spencer, 13 May 1822.
  • 18. The Times, 1, 20, 21 June, 19 July 1822.
  • 19. Bessborough mss, Brougham to Duncannon, 13 Sept. 1822.
  • 20. Add. 41319, f. 57; 40351, f. 84; Portland mss PwH 441-8; The Times, 3 Oct. 1822.
  • 21. Add. 51574, Abercromby to Holland, 29 Dec. 1822; Bessborough mss, Brougham to Duncannon [23 Jan. 1823].
  • 22. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 217; R.M. Bacon, Mem. Baron Suffield, 194.
  • 23. The Times, 25 Apr. 1823.
  • 24. Agar Ellis diary, 11 June 1823.
  • 25. The Times, 13 June 1823.
  • 26. Ibid. 19 June 1823.
  • 27. Agar Ellis diary, 23 June 1823.
  • 28. Add. 51654, Lady Holland to Mackintosh, 22 Sept. 1823.
  • 29. Agar Ellis diary, 3, 4, 11, 12; Gent. Mag. (1824), i. 457; Greville Mems. i. 152-3; Williams Wynn Corresp. 307; Ann. Biog. (1825), 122.
  • 30. The Times, 8 Mar.; Norfolk Chron. 20 Mar. 1824.
  • 31. Portland mss PwL 253.
  • 32. PROB 6/200/257.