Bentinck, William (DNB00)
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BENTINCK, WILLIAM, first Earl of Portland (1649–1709), is generally stated to have been born in 1649, but the Dutch historian, Groen van Prinsterer, dates his birth four years earlier. He was of a noble family, the son of Henry Bentinck, of Diepenheim, in Overyssel, and the nephew of a general officer in the service of the States of Holland. After being attached to the household of William III, prince of Orange, as a page of honour, he was advanced to the post of gentleman of the prince's bedchamber. In this capacity he, in 1670, accompanied the prince on a visit to England, of which the main object was to secure the moneys due to William from King Charles II and his brother the Duke of York. On this occasion Bentinck obtained his earliest English honour, an Oxford degree of Doctor of Civil Laws (Wood ap. Collins). In 1672 the Anglo-French war with the United Provinces began, and they were still at war with France when, in 1675, the Prince of Orange fell ill of the small-pox at the Hague. Sir William Temple in his Memoirs from 1672 to 1679 relates, evidently at first hand, how Bentinck tended his master during the sixteen nights and days through which the illness lasted; how it was only when the prince was fairly on the road towards recovery that his faithful companion asked leave to go home, and how there Bentinck immediately fell sick of the same disease, and was in great extremity, recovering just soon enough to attend his master into the field, where he was ever next his person (Temple's Works, fol. 1750, i. 401). In June 1677, when the peace conferences were already open at Nymwegen and a defensive alliance had been offered by England to the United Provinces, William sent Bentinck on a confidential mission to Charles II's court, with a view to negotiating a marriage with the Princess Mary, the elder daughter of the Duke of York. The wedding was actually celebrated in November, and the peace was concluded in the next year. In 1683 Bentinck was again in England, to offer congratulations on the collapse of the Rye House plot; but he was less warmly received when early in the next reign, in 1685, he was once more sent across to offer the prince's assistance against the invasion of the Duke of Monmouth, of which Amsterdam had been the starting-point. Soon he was actively engaged in the operations preceding another invasion, which was to have a very different result. Among the precautionary measures taken by William of Orange in 1688 before finally resolving upon his English expedition, none were more skilfully and successfully accomplished than his negotiations with several of the princes of northern Germany, and more especially those with the heir presumptive of the possessions of the house of Orange, the young elector Frederick III of Brandenburg. Immediately on his accession, April 1688, the elector, having resolved upon continuing the policy of his great father, received Bentinck at Berlin and arrived at an understanding with him. In July Bentinck returned to Berlin, having previously paid visits with a similar purpose at Cassel, at Hanover (here in vain), and at Celle; and in interviews with the Brandenburg minister, Fuchs, and others, arrangements were made for effectively covering the lower and the middle Rhine when the time should come (Burnet; Ranke; the fullest details in Droysen, vol. iv. part i. 29 seqq.). As it drew nearer and the anxiety of the prince increased, he freely communicated his cares to Bentinck in letters, and a great share of the preparations of the last two months fell to the faithful friend, the serious illness of whose wife at the Hague furnished him, as Burnet says, with a very just excuse for his constant attendance there in the absence of the prince. Of course, when the expedition at last sailed, Bentinck was by his master's side; his wife (who is passed over by Collins) died shortly after he had quitted Holland (Clarendon's Diary, 4 Dec. 1688). It was Bentinck who at Burnet's request informed the prince, when at Windsor, of the untoward capture of King James, and advised him to give the necessary orders for insuring the personal safety of the prisoner (Burnet). In conversation with Clarendon Bentinck declared it the most wicked insinuation to assert that the prince was hankering after the crown; but when Halifax had proposed that William should be king and Mary queen consort only, it seemed to Burnet, who himself strongly objected to the scheme, that the suggestion was at heart approved by the prince's most intimate counsellor
A few days before the coronation of William and Mary well-earned rewards were bestowed with no sparing hand upon Bentinck, who was created Baron Cirencester, Viscount Woodstock, and Earl of Portland. About the same time he was appointed groom of the stole, first gentleman of the bedchamber, and a privy councillor. With these offices he seems afterwards to have united that of superintendent of the king's gardens (Luttrell, iv. 514). Rather later in the year, in August, Luttrell (i. 568) records that Portland and Halifax, with three others, composed the king's cabinet council; but of course the term is here employed at the most in a half-technical sense. Portland soon obtained a regiment of horse, which did good service at the Boyne and elsewhere in Ireland, and in Flanders (Macaulay and Luttrell); he afterwards obtained the command of a regiment of Dutch guards, which he did not resign till 1700 (Luttrell, iv. 686); and he appears to have held the rank of lieutenant-general in the English army. But, though always ready to serve in the field, he was mostly, when not in attendance upon the king's person (he had a lodging in the palace at Kensington), engaged in the diplomatic business, for which he seems both by training and by character to have been pre-eminently fitted. William III was always loth to confide the secrets of his foreign policy to English hands, and to the end of his life Portland was in such matters his most trusted agent. Burnet says that the king's favour at first lay between Bentinck and Henry Sidney (afterwards Earl of Romney), but the latter lacked the application which distinguished the former. In the greatest achievement, however, of William's foreign policy, in the year 1689, the conclusion of the grand alliance treaty, not even Portland had a share. After he had in August inspected at Chester the army making ready for Ireland (Luttrell, i. 567), he was, in December, sent to Holland to take part in the conferences of the ministers of the allies. It was on this visit that when he presented himself to take his seat as a noble of Holland among the estates of the province, he was for a time hindered from doing so by a protest on the part of the city of Amsterdam, whose old jealousy of the stadtholder had revived. Thus it was attempted in his own country to place a stigma upon him as an English public servant and member of parliament, while in England his influence was already decried as that of an alien. The dispute, which was fomented by French intrigue, was amicably settled by March 1690 (Ranke; Van Kampen, Geschichte der Niederlande, ii. 321-2; Luttrell, ii. 19-20). About the same time Portland was engaged in further negotiations with Brandenburg, involving more assurances as to the Orange inheritance, and ending in the conclusion, by May, of what was in fact, though not in name, a subsidy-treaty (Droysen, iv. 1, 90-3; Klopp, v. 242-3). In these negotiations Portland had pointed out how much depended upon the success of the Irish campaign, on which he accompanied the king in June, taking the place in the royal travelling-carriage of which Prince George of Denmark was ambitious. While they were absent in Ireland Sir James Montgomery betrayed to the queen an abortive plot between the Jacobites and presbyterian zealots in Scotland, which, according to Burnet, had been formed to some extent in reliance upon the jealousies between Portland and some of the English whig leaders. In January 1691 the king and his faithful follower were on their way to Holland, whence they returned in October. On their way both to and fro they met with unpleasant adventures. The attempt of the king to land in Holland during a thick sea fog in an open boat involved him and his companions in serious danger (Macaulay; Luttrell, ii. 165; Klopp, v. 228 seqq., from the pilot's narrative, ap. Sylvius). On his return he had landed at Margate and was driving thence to Gravesend when the wretched conveyance broke down and the king had a rather precipitous fall, being thrown under Portland, but escaped with a slight injury to the arm (Newsletter in Lord Denbigh's MSS., Historical Manuscripts Commission, Seventh Report, 204a). The next year, 1692, was full of perils of a different nature for William III. When, in January, Marlborough was suddenly dismissed from his offices, his friends declared that he had fallen a victim to the machinations of Portland, whom he was known to dislike, and whom he had described as a wooden fellow (Macaulay). But the cause for William's anger or apprehension lay deeper. Rightly or wrongly, James II believed that a plot formed about this time to recall him by a parliamentary vote after dismissing all foreigners from council, army, and kingdom, was frustrated by the discovery of the scheme to Portland (Macpherson, Original Papers, i. 440; cf. Klopp, vi. 27). The king went to Holland in March, and early in May Portland and Essex arrived in England with a squadron of Dutch men-of-war. A cabinet council was immediately called to consider the situation and to take measures for meeting the threatened French invasion and for dealing with supposed treasonable designs at home. Portland's mission thus connects itself directly with the imprisonment of Marlborough, and with the victory of La Hogue. In 1693, though Portland as usual accompanied the king into the field, and was wounded ‘in several places but not mortal’ at the battle of Landen (19 July; see Luttrell, iii. 146), he was also much occupied with difficulties at home. We find him settling a delicate matter with the Spanish ambassador, who had opened a Roman catholic chapel in lodgings unexpectedly taken by him at Whitehall, and a personal difficulty about a claim of the Duchess of Grafton, which threatened to create a controversy between the two houses of parliament (Newsletter in Denbigh MSS., Hist. MSS. Rep. vii. 219, 220). It was natural enough that he should vote against the Place Bill, when in its first form it was just lost in the House of Lords in December 1692. The Triennial Bill having hereupon been brought in, Portland was sent to consult the oracle at Moor Park; but, notwithstanding Temple's decided advice to the contrary, the king refused his assent to the unwelcome act. After both measures had been reintroduced later in the year, and the Place Bill had been carried through both houses, the king's refusal, in January 1694, to assent to it, led to an all but unanimous resolution of the commons that those who had advised the crown on this occasion were public enemies. The representation addressed to the king, begging him not to pay heed to the secret speeches of private persons, was believed to point at Portland, for whom the House of Commons entertained a persistent dislike (Klopp, vi. 282-3, on the authority of the imperial resident Hoffmann). This dislike was manifested a second time, when it was hoped that among the disclosures as to illicit expenditure expected from Sir Thomas Cook, the chairman of the East India Company, to whom, in 1695, a conditional indemnity was granted for the purpose, would be found corrupt dealings with Portland. It only appeared, however, that 50,000l. had been offered to him by the company, and after being long pressed upon him was indignantly rejected (Macaulay). He seems to have borne himself coolly in the matter, deeming it disagreeable, however, ‘to be exposed to such an accusation here, where corruption is too general’ (Lexington Papers, 81). To legitimate gains he showed no aversion, and he had been liberally endowed with estates by the grateful friendship of the king. Dissatisfaction had already been felt at the alienation for the purpose of hereditary domains of the crown; and when, in 1695, the king sought to make over to Portland, at a nominal rent, the lordships of Denbigh, Bromfield, and Yales, which were valued at more than 100,000l., and formed part of the domains of the principality of Wales, protests arrived thence, and a unanimous address was, in January 1696, passed in the House of Commons against the grant. Portland hereupon begged the king to withdraw it, which he did in a dignified message (Macaulay; cf. Collins as to the estates included in the grant, and Luttrell, iii. 553, as to the protests, who has a notice six months earlier (iii. 472) of the grant to Portland by the king of the manor of Swaden, worth 2,000l. per annum, part of the Marquis of Powis's estate). Many and substantial as were the favours accumulated upon Portland by the king, it cannot be said that the tie between them was mainly one of interest. The warmth of Portland's attachment showed itself in his sympathy with the king on the occasion of the death of Queen Mary (see his letter in Lexington Papers, 48); and he again proved it on the discovery, in February 1696, of the assassination plot. After the plot had been revealed to him, he carried the news to the king, with much difficulty prevailed upon him to take the necessary precautions, and was present when, on 21 Feb., Pendergrass disclosed the names of the chief conspirators to their intended victim (Macaulay).
During all these years Portland had continued to take part in the king's campaigns, and to be of service to him as a confidential diplomatist. In the uneventful campaign of 1694 Portland with the Dutch military delegate, Dykvelt, was accused of having influenced William against giving battle; and in the same year this advice (if given) was justified by his receiving indirect information that Louis XIV was not disinclined to peace (Klopp, vi. 335-7, 359). He was privy to the negotiations on the subject with Vienna, of which the English ministers were, according to his wont, left uninformed by King William (ib. vii. 29 seqq.). The war, however, continued; in June 1695 Portland with Essex commanded in an action against a party of French who endeavoured to intercept an English convoy of provisions (Luttrell, iii. 502); and it was he who, in the August following, after Villeroy had abandoned the attempt to raise the siege of Namur, summoned Boufflers to surrender the fortress; and when the marshal marched out at the head of his troops, arrested him, with Dykvelt, by the king's orders—a strange prelude to their later more amicable intercourse (Macaulay; Luttrell; Auersperg's report ap. Klopp, vii. 105-7; Lexington Papers, 119-25). In July 1696 Portland was sent to England from Flanders to raise money for the war; and though the financial pressure was great (it was the time of the collapse of the Land Bank), the public spirit of the Bank of England supplied what was absolutely necessary. But there was much distress in the country, and Louis XIV, after having detached the Duke of Savoy from the grand alliance, was inclined for peace, and in a not unfavourable position for negotiating it. Peace was desired at Amsterdam as well as at Versailles, and if terms otherwise satisfactory could be obtained, including the recognition of King William by France, the secret article of the grand alliance as to the Austrian claims on the Spanish succession must, for the present at least, be allowed to go to the wall.
Such were roughly speaking, the instructions with which, in July 1697, Portland entered upon the informal negotiations with Marshal Boufflers: the terms of the peace were ceremoniously discussed at Ryswick. In the earlier part of the year new favours had descended upon Portland at home: in February he was appointed, and in March installed, a K.G.; in the latter month he took possession of the lodge and place of range of Windsor Park, worth 1,500l. a year; in April the Earl of Clancarty's forfeited estate was granted to him; and in June, when he was at Brussels indisposed, he was appointed one of the generals of the English horse (Lutrell, iv. 185, 193, 201, 215, 233). Through the enjoyment of some of these favours was not heightened by the knowledge that gifts and honours were at the same tie being bestowed upon one who he was soon to regard as a rival, yet Portland, when addressing himself to the most important diplomatic task of his life, was justly regarded as possessing the full confidence of his aster. To William III and not Portland belongs the responsibility for the peace of Ryswyk, which accomplished so small a part of the king's political programme, and, following the example set by the emperer himself in 1696, left him and the Austrian claims on the Spanish succes- sion in the lurch; but which at all events visibly arrested the progress of France, and obliged her to recognise the regal rights of her most resolute opponent. The real difficulty in the negotiations lay in bringing Louis XIV, notwithstanding his unwillingness to withdraw his protection from James II, to an engagement concerning him which would satisfy William III; and this difficulty was solved by means of the general clause as to the King of England's enemies upon which Portland and Boufflers agreed. Their first interview, held on 8 July 1697, at Brukom near Hal (in the vicinity of Brussels), with a lack of ceremoniousness forming a marked contrast to the proceedings at Ryswyk, was succeeded by five others; and when, in October, Portland returned to England, the ratifications of the treaties of peace had been exchanged. Before his return negotiations had been begun through him with the court of Vienna for a re-establishment of the grand alliance, but these overtures had been naturally received with coolness. (A more detailed account of the meetings of Portland with Boufflers, summarised by Ranke and Macaulay and repeatedly mentioned by Luttrell, is given by Klopp, vii. 389 seqq. See also the references in the summary of Stepney's correspondence in Lord Macclesfield's MSS., First Report of the Historical Manuscripts Commission, 35-6.)
In January 1698, only a few months after the accomplishment of his arduous task, Portland was sent as ambassador to France, the embassy thither of the Duke of St. Albans having been of a merely complimentary nature. Indisputably Portland was the most suitable person for the post, if only because no English statesman was fully cognisant like himself of the understanding upon which the recently concluded peace had been founded. When asked by Count Auersperg why he was sent, he explained that the king had in truth no one else to send (Klopp, viii. 2-3); but there can at the same time be little doubt that though affection was still strong on the one side and fidelity on the other, the relations between William and Portland had become uneasy, so that a temporary separation seemed expedient. Portland had of late grown uncontrollably jealous of the favours and preferments granted to Arnold van Keppel, now Earl of Albemarle, who since the year 1691 had been gradually acquiring the king's goodwill by qualities which were entirely foreign to Portland's harder and drier nature. ‘They were,’ says Burnet, ‘in all respects men not only of different, but of opposite characters; secrecy and fidelity were the only qualities in which it could be said they did in any sort agree.’ In the quarrels which ensued the fault seems to have always lain with Portland, who now showed sullenness in addition to his usual bluntness in his demeanour towards the king, and even hinted at his desire to retire from court. Thus the French embassy offered a suitable temporary solution of the difficulty; but Portland had hardly set out on his journey when he received a most affectionate letter from the king, expressing deep sorrow for his friend's departure, and assuring him that his feeling towards him was one which nothing but death could alter (Macaulay). Portland's departure was delayed by a fire at Whitehall, but he arrived incognito at Paris on 30 Jan. 1698, and soon afterwards held his formal entry. Much attention was attracted by the unprecedented magnificence of his embassy, to which Prior was attached as secretary, while Rapin the historian accompanied it as preceptor to the ambassador's son, Lord Woodstock, a lively and promising child. (For details as to the embassy see Luttrell, vol. iv., and Macaulay; of young Lord Woodstock there is an amusing anecdote in a newsletter in the Denbigh MSS., given in the Seventh Report of the Historical Manuscripts Commission, 199 b.). The personal impression which he made in France was excellent, and contrasted strangely with his unpopularity in England; but there were not wanting observers who, like St. Simon, bitterly commented on the king's welcoming, ‘comme une espèce de divinité,’ the ambassador of a prince whom he had so long treated with every kind of personal hatred and contempt. Portland himself, after his first audience with Louis early in March, wrote that if the French king's bearing towards him was insincere, it was a comedy played with wonderful skill, and that he rather inclined to this view of it. His impression was further confirmed by the fact that, notwithstanding all the courtesies and distinctions lavished upon him by the king, he was never able to obtain the honour of an interview with Madame de Maintenon. On the other hand, he enjoyed the advantage of much friendly intercourse with that extremely independent personage, the Duchess Elizabeth Charlotte of Orleans. In the serious business of his embassy Portland at first made but slow progress. William III was not very well pleased to find that his ambassador had, as was perhaps inevitable, begun his diplomatic operations by discussing the continued presence of James II and his court at St. Germain. He had first protested with generous warmth against being exposed at Versailles to the presence of the Duke of Berwick, whom he was bound to regard as privy to the assassination plot against King William; and he then reminded Boufflers of their conversations in the previous year as to the exclusion of James from France. He boldly repeated both demands to the king himself, but without success, except that Louis requested the members of the court of St. Germain to abstain from coming to Versailles when the English ambassador was expected there. Portland had therefore to fall back upon the power of his government to refuse repayment of the jointure of James's queen. The negotiations which William had really at heart were those concerning the Spanish succession. This subject Portland approached in the first instance by an interview with a retired French diplomatist of the name of Gourville; after which Pomponne and Torcy were instructed by Louis to sound Portland as to William's views. The negotiations which ensued were carried on with the greatest secrecy, Heinsius alone, besides Portland, being entrusted by William with a knowledge of them, though they were soon also carried on between William and the French ambassador Tallard at Kensington. When, in June, Portland returned to England, after having been treated to the last with the utmost distinction by Louis, who had marked out a route home for him through the fortresses of French Flanders, and ordered every attention to be shown him there, the negotiations had already materially advanced. France had virtually ceased to insist upon the occupation of the Spanish throne by a Bourbon prince, and England was prepared to see France compensated by some portion of the Spanish dominions for consenting to the succession of the Electoral Prince of Bavaria. (See, besides Macaulay and Ranke, Klopp, whose fuller narrative is largely based on Grimblot, with Hippeau and the Mémoires of Gourville.)
Portland was well received at Kensington, and it was even rumoured that a crowning mark of the royal favour was about to be bestowed upon him by his being created Duke of Buckingham (Luttrell, iv. 400). But this title, which from its associations would have been singularly ill-chosen, was not bestowed upon him, though the king showed his old goodwill towards him, and was even said, in a difference between him and Albemarle, to have very strongly taken the part of his earlier friend and companion (ib. 453). The unwillingness of Portland to resume the old friendly relations, however, continued with his jealousy of a rival who by this time probably stood first in the king's affections. Once more he talked of retiring; but he well knew that his aid was indispensable in carrying to an issue the negotiations in which he had engaged. Thus he accompanied William to Holland in July, and on 4 Sept. signed at the Loo with Sir Joseph Williamson, the British minister at the Hague, what was afterwards known as the First Partition Treaty. It had been previously communicated by Portland to secretary Vernon, and by the king to the lord-chancellor Somers, but only when it was virtually an accomplished fact. Before it had long been actually such, in February 1699, the Electoral Prince of Bavaria, whose life was the pivot on which the treaty turned, died, and negotiations had to begin afresh.
Though Portland was once more the agent employed by the king, he otherwise showed no disposition to reciprocate the good-will which, in small things as well as in great, was displayed towards him. While his fortune continued to grow by the royal munificence¾he was stated to have, in January 1699, obtained a grant for the Little Park at Windsor (Luttrell, iv. 476)—he repelled the king's advances, and even refused to take his accustomed seat in the royal coach (Macaulay). At last the rumours that had long been bruited about came true, and early in May Portland resigned all his places in the royal household. The report spread soon afterwards that he had received back the key proved false; but William is found dining with him a few days after his resignation (Luttrell, iv. 515, 516), and no actual breach ever occurred between them. The king wrote to Heinsius that he had left nothing in reason untried to divert Portland from his intention, and that he had only with difficulty persuaded him to carry on the negotiations with Tallard (Klopp, viii. 343, from Grimblot). Portland, in his turn, professed to Count Auersperg his readiness to retire into country life, to which he had been brought up. ‘But during his talking and philosophising,’ wrote the Austrian, ‘he several times involuntarily sighed’ (ib. 344; and see an amusing passage about Portland's retirement in the correspondence of Elizabeth Charlotte, duchess of Orleans, extracted by Ranke, Französische Geschichte, v. 372). He followed the king into Holland about June, returning thence in October. The report which arose in the latter month, that he was going as ambassador-extraordinary to Denmark and Sweden to settle the differences about the rebuilding of the forts in Holstein, did not prove true (Luttrell, iv. 570). On the other hand, he is said by Burnet to have still taken an active part in the direction of Scotch affairs, so that the fury aroused in Scotland by the Darien collapse turned against him next to the king himself; it certainly seems that his interest in Scotch affairs had for some time been considerable (see the letters to him of Lord Polwarth, afterwards Earl of Marchmont, in Marchmont Papers, iii. 401-7).
Before the return from Holland of the king and Portland in October 1699 the Second Partition Treaty was in readiness, and after many difficulties it was at last signed in London and at the Hague in March 1700. Portland's brother-in-law, the Earl of Jersey, had been associated with him in the signature as being an Englishman and secretary of state. Even those who had concluded the compact knew that it was not a diplomatic masterpiece; for while it was repudiated by Austria, it even failed thoroughly to satisfy France; and yet it had been signed during the session of parliament without being communicated to that assembly. When it became known in England about June, voices were already heard charging Portland with the responsibility for its conclusion, and suggesting to him the expediency of keeping out of the way (Klopp, viii. 483, from a despatch by Auersperg). He had in May married his third wife, with whom he had soon afterwards embarked for Holland (Luttrell, iv. 641, 655); and he returned to England in a royal yacht in October, about the very time when the news must have arrived of the event which was to frustrate all his diplomatic efforts (ib. 686, 690)—the death of Charles II of Spain, who had left the whole of his monarchy to Philip of Anjou. France had accepted the will when, in February 1701, the new parliament met in England, and the debates about the Partition treaties commenced. After the first debate in the House of Lords, in which ‘their disapprobation of the treaty was wholly laid at the Earl of Portland's door,’ he obtained the king's leave to communicate the actual state of the case, and on 14 March mentioned several other peers who had been cognisant of the negotiations. They however, while acknowledging that they had seen the rough draft of the (second) treaty, stated that they had neither given nor refused their consent to it, because it had been drawn up by Portland in French, and never communicated to the Privy Council (ib. 1239). His impeachment was actually voted by the commons 1 April, and he was formally impeached on that day at the bar of the House of Lords by Sir John Leveson Gower. Other impeachments followed, and on 5 April the commons presented an address to the king, requesting him to remove the impeached lords from his council and presence for ever; but an address deprecating such a course was immediately presented by the lords (Parliamentary History, v. 1239-50). The king made no answer to either address; and when at last, at the instance of the lords themselves, the impeachments were proceeded with, no articles were framed against Portland, which, as Burnet informs us, was represented to the king as an expression of the respect towards him. While, therefore, Somers and Oxford were acquitted, the impeachment of Portland was dismissed by the lords on the last day of the session, 24 June (Parliamentary History, v. 1238, 1239-50, 1322; Burnet wrongly says that Portland and Halifax were ‘acquitted’). The truth was, that the commons by this time knew that the people were not at their back.
Whether or not these events had drawn the king and his faithful servant closer together once more—they were both in Holland in the autumn of 1701, at the critical time of the death of James II and the recognition of his son by Louis XIV they were not to be separated at the last. Burnet relates how William, ‘both before and after’ the accident which was to prove fatal to him, spoke confidentially about his hopeless condition to Portland; and how on the king's deathbed his last articulate words were an inquiry for Portland, who came, but too late to be able to do more than give his hand to his dying master and friend, who ‘carried it to his heart with great tenderness.’ In the king's will there were found devised "several lands and jewels to the earls of Portland and Albemarle" (Luttrell, v. 150).
It was unlikely that, even had he been desirous of continuing a servant of the state, Portland would have gained the personal confidence of the new sovereign. His office of ranger of Windsor Park went the way of many other lucrative posts—into the hands of the Marlboroughs. He seems, however, to have been on friendly terms with the great man of the new era himself: on 30 Sept. 1703 he is noted as arriving from Holland with Marlborough, and with the (premature) information that the new king of Spain was on his way across; and in the year of his death he is found embarking for Holland in Marlborough's company (Luttrell, v. 355, vi. 436). His visits to his native land seem to have recurred with their usual regularity, and occasionally to have been combined with confidential business of a public nature. In July 1704 he was believed to have departed with a mission ‘to confer with the states-general about the affairs of Portugal and the likeliest method for sending succours to the Camisards;’ in October 1708 he was expected back in the company of the envoys of Denmark and Genoa (ib. v. 443, vi. 364). His sympathies were of course consistently with the policy of war; and in March 1706 he was among the subscribers to the loan to the emperor of 250,000l., negotiated at 8 per cent. upon the security of the province of Silesia (ib. vi. 24). He was not an old man when he was in November 1709 seized by an attack of pleurisy at his seat of Bulstrode (near Beaconsfield, in Buckinghamshire), and died there on the 23rd of the month. His domestic life had probably continued to be a happy one, as it had been in the days when his great friend had taken so warm an interest in the children of his family. They were numerous, and settled partly in England, partly in his native land. He had been thrice married; his second wife was a sister of the Earl of Jersey and of Lady Elizabeth Villiers, afterwards Lady Orkney, at one time the mistress of William III.
Portland is hardly to be reckoned among royal favourites; for patriotism as well as friendship and loyalty was prominent among the motives which prompted his services. He was wholly unskilled in flattery, and, according to Burnet, seemed to have the art of creating many enemies to himself, and not one friend. That, however, there was anything repulsive in his manner seems contradicted by his general success in diplomatic business, by his easy personal intercourse alike with Germans and Frenchmen, with Auersperg and with Boufflers, and more especially by the very favourable impression which he made in France. He was, moreover, a brave officer and a faithful companion; but he would not or could not acquire the kind of obsequiousness which the Prince of Orange had never demanded, but which the King of England learned to find agreeable when it showed itself in combination with the gayer and more cheerful manners of Keppel. William III's nature was cast in too generous a mould for him to dismiss an old friend in favour of a new; and when Portland showed himself not proof to the trial of jealousy, the king continued to trust in the loyalty which was certain to survive it. On the whole, allowing for human weakness on both sides, there was something worthy of both men, and characteristic of their nationality, in the relation between them. In England Portland was, during the whole of William's reign, probably the most unpopular man in the country. This was not only due to his being the Dutchman whom of all Dutchmen the king long best liked to honour and reward. Portland's love of money was strong, but not odious; ‘he took,’ says Macaulay, ‘without scruple whatever he thought he could honestly take, but he was incapable of stooping to an act of baseness.’ He was hated because he was the chief living illustration of the truth that in some of the most important affairs of state the king trusted nobody but his compatriots, and because so many English politicians had good reason for knowing that the king's mistrust of them was justified. The foreign policy of William III was his own; and while his foremost Dutch friend was its principal agent, no Englishman was admitted to more than a nominal share in its secret counsels. In requital of the unpopularity to which he was exposed, Portland's name will always be remembered as inseparable from the history of the most important political transactions of William III's reign.
[Burnet's History of his own Time, vols. ii.-iv.; Macaulay's and Ranke's Histories of England; Parliamentary History, vol. v.; Collins's Peerage, i. 432-6; Lexington Papers; C. van Noorden's Europäische Geschichte im 18. Jahrhundert, vol. i.; Droysen's Geschichte der preussischen Politik, vol. iv. part i.; and especially Onno Klopp, Der Fall des Hauses Stuart, vols. v.-viii., with his references to the despatches of Count Auersperg and others, and to the Correspondences published by Grimblot and Hippeau. Letters written by William III to Portland are preserved by his descendants: see Calendar of Portland MSS. in Hist. MSS. Comm. Rep. xiii, xiv. xv. Hist. MSS. Comm. Rep. i, notices letters in the Earl of Macclesfield's papers between the king and Portland, and between the latter and Secretary Vernon, of 1698. Hist. MSS. Comm. Rep. iii notices letters from Portland to Prior among the Marquis of Bath's manuscripts at Longleat.]