1st Earl of Portland (1689-1709)
Born c.1645 Died 1709
William Bentinck was born, according to the Dutch historian, Groen van Prinsterer, in 1645, although most of the other authorities give the date as 1649. The son of Henry Bentinck of Diepenheim, he was descended from an ancient and noble family of Gelderland. He became page of honour and then gentleman of the bedchamber to William, Prince of Orange. When, in 1675, the prince was attacked by smallpox, Bentinck nursed him assiduously, and this devotion secured for him the special and enduring friendship of William; henceforward, by his prudence and ability, he fully justified the confidence placed in him. In 1677 he was sent to England to solicit for the prince of Orange, the hand of Mary, daughter of James Duke of York, afterwards James II, and he was again in England in 1683 and in 1685. When, in 1688, William was preparing for his invasion Bentinck went to some of the German princes to secure their support, or at least their neutrality, and he was also a medium of communication between his master and his English friends. He superintended the arrangements for the expedition and sailed to England with the prince.
The revolution accomplished, Bentinck was made groom of the stole, first gentleman of the bedchamber, and a privy councillor; and in April 1689 he was created Baron Cirencester, Viscount Woodstock and Earl of Portland. He commanded some cavalry at the battle of the Boyne in 1690, and was present at the battle of Landen, where he was wounded, and at the siege of Namur. But his main work was of a diplomatic nature. Having thwarted the plot to murder the king in 1696, he helped to arrange the peace of Ryswick in 1697; in 1698 he was ambassador to Paris, where he opened negotiations with Louis XIV for a partition of the Spanish monarchy, and as William's representative, he signed the two partition treaties.
Portland had, however, become very jealous of the rising influence of Arnold van Keppel, Earl of Albemarle, and, in 1699, he resigned all his offices in the royal household. But he did not forfeit the esteem of the king, who continued to trust and employ him. Portland had been loaded with gifts, and this, together with the jealousy felt for him as a foreigner, made him very unpopular in England. He received 135,000 acres of land in Ireland, and only the strong opposition of a united House of Commons prevented him obtaining a large gift of crown lands in North Wales. For his share in drawing up the partition treaties he was impeached in 1701, but the case against him was not proceeded with. He was occasionally employed on public business under Anne until his death at his residence, Bulstrode in Buckinghamshire, on the 23rd of November 1709. Portland's eldest son Henry (1680-1724) succeeded as 2nd earl. He was created Marquess of Titchfield and Duke of Portland in 1716.
See G. Burnet, History of My Own Time (Oxford, 1833); Lord Macaulay, History of England (1854); L. von Ranke, Englische Geschichte (Eng. trans., Oxford, 1875); and especially Onno Klopp, Der Fall des Hauses Stuart (Vienna, 1875-1888). See also Dr A. W. Ward's article in vol. iv. of the Dictionary of National Biography.
Being the entry for PORTLAND, WILLIAM BENTINCK, EARL OF in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.