1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Portland, William Henry Cavendish Bentinck, 3rd Duke of

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PORTLAND, WILLIAM HENRY CAVENDISH BENTINCK, 3rd DUKE or (1738-1809), prime minister of England, son of William, 2nd duke (1709-1762), and grandson of the 1st duke. His mother, Margaret, granddaughter and heiress of John Holles, duke of Newcastle, brought to her husband Welbeck Abbey and other estates in Nottinghamshire. He was born on the 14th of April 1738, and was educated at Oxford, where he graduated M.A. in 1757. In 1761, as marquess of Titchfield, he became M.P. for the borough of Weobly (Hereford), but in May 1762 he was called to the upper houseon the death of his father. Under the marquess of Rockingham he Was, from July 1765 to December 1766, lord Chamberlain, and on the return of Rockingham to power in April 1782 he was made lord-lieutenant of Ireland. After the short ministry of Shelburne, succeeding the death of Rockingham, the duke of Portland was selected by Fox and 'North as a “ convenient cipher ” to become the head of the coalition ministry, to the formation of which the king was with great reluctance compelled to give his assent. The duke held the premiership from the 5th of April 1783 until the defeat of the bill for “ the just and efficient government of British India ” caused his dismissal from office on the 1 7th of December following. Under Pitt he was, from 1794 to 1801, secretary of state for the home department, after which he was, from 1801 to ISGS, president of the council. In ISO7 he was appointed a second time prime minister and first lord of the treasury. Ill health caused him to resign in October 1809, and he died on the 30th of that month. He owed his political influence chiefly to his rank, his mild disposition, and his personal integrity, for his talents were in no sense brilliant, and he was deficient in practical energy as well as in intellectual grasp.

He married in 1766 Lady Dorothy Cavendish (17 50-1794), daughter of the 4th duke of Devonshire, and was succeeded as 4th duke by his son William Henry (1768-1854), who married a daughter of the famous gambler, General John Scott, and was brother-in-law to Canning. His son, the 5th duke, William John Cavendish Bentinck-Scott (1800-1879) died unmarried. He is notable for having constructed the underground halls at Welbeck Abbey, and for his retiring habits of life, which gave occasion for some singular stories.[1] He was succeeded by his cousin William John Arthur Charles James Cavendish-Bentinck (b. 1857) as 6th duke.

  1. 1 Public interest centred for some years round the allegation that he lived a double life and was identical with Mr T. C. Druce, an upholsterer of Baker Street, London, who, in 1851, married Annie May. The “Druce case," involving a claim to the title and estates, by Mrs Druce (widow of W. T. Druce, son of T. C. Druce by Annie May) on behalf of her son, aroused much attention from 1 897 to 1908. The duke of Portland was undoubtedly buried in Kensal Green cemetery in 1879. “Druce,” on the other hand, was supposed to have died in 1864 and been interred in Highgate cemetery, his will bequeathing over £70,000 in personal estate. Mrs Druce's claims had two aspects, both as involving the revocation of probate of T. C. Druce's will, and also as identifying Druce with the duke of Portland. But her application to have the grave in Highgate opened (with the object of showing that the cofiin there was empty), though granted by Dr Tristram, chancellor of the diocese of London, was thwarted by a caveat being entered on the part of the executor of T. C. Druce's will; and the case became the subject of constant proceedings in the law-courts without result. Meanwhile it was discovered that children of T. C. Druce by a former wife were living in Australia, and Mrs Druce's claims fell into the background, the case being taken up independently by Mr G. H. Druce as the representative of this family, from 1903 onwards. A company to finance his case was formed in 1905, and in the autumn of 1907 he instituted a charge of perjury against Mr Herbert Druce, T. C. Druce's younger son and executor, for having sworn that he had seen his father die in 1864. Sensational evidence of a mock burial was given by an American witness named Caldwell, and others; but eventually it was agreed that the grave at Highgate should be opened. This was done on December the 30th, and the body of Mr T. C. Druce was then found in the coffin. The charge of perjury at once collapsed and was withdrawn on January 6th, the opening of the grave definitely putting an end to the story of an identity between the two men.