PORTLAND, 3rd duke of

William Henry Cavendish Bentinck

b. 14 Apr 1738
d. 30 Oct 1809, Bulstrode, Buckinghamshire

Ministerial offices: Lord Chamberlain of the Household (12 Jul 1765 - Dec 1766)
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (8 Apr 1782 - 15 Sep 1782)
First Lord Commissioner of the Treasury (2 Apr 1783 - 18 Dec 1783, 31 Mar 1807 - 4 Oct 1809)
Leader of the House of Lords (2 Apr 1783 - 18 Dec 1783)
Home Secretary (11 Jul 1794 - 30 Jul 1801)
Lord President of the Council (30 Jul 1801 - 14 Jan 1805)
Names/titles: 3rd Duke of Portland [from 1 May 1762]; Marquess of Titchfield, Earl of Portland, Viscount Woodstock, Baron Cirencester
Biography:

Educated at Westminster School and Christ Church College, Oxford, William Henry Cavendish was elected to the House of Commons in 1761, but ceased being an MP on 1 May 1762, when he succeeded his father as the 3rd Duke of Portland and went to the House of Lords. He briefly served as Lord Chamberlain (1765-1766) and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1782). In 1766 Portland married a daughter of the former prime minister, the Duke of Devonshire. With only limited ministerial experience Portland was appointed (2 Apr 1783) First Lord of the Treasury and became prime minister to act as a figurehead for the Fox-North coalition. He had the support of the King, but George III was awaiting a chance to appoint William Pitt the Younger prime minister. Portland showed independence in pulling together his Cabinet but his India Bill, seeking administrative reforms, while passed (9 Dec 1783) by the House of Commons, was defeated (17 Dec 1783) in the House of Lords at the instigation of the King. On 18 Dec 1783 Portland's ministry was dismissed by the King, who sent out messengers to collect the seals of office, rather than bothering with an audience.

After being out of office for eleven years Portland joined Pitt's administration as Home Secretary (1794-1801), and subsequently Henry Addington's and then again Pitt's administration as Lord President of the Council (1801-1805). In early 1807 he was appointed First Lord of the Treasury and made prime minister by the King to replace the unfavored William Grenville as prime minister. Again Portland became the nominal head of a tolerated but difficult and fractious Cabinet. The dispute between the Foreign Secretary, George Canning, and the Secretary for War and the Colonies, Viscount Castlereagh, culminating in a duel, was beyond the rather isolated Portland's power to control. In mid-August 1809 Portland suffered an apoplectic seizure and made only a partial recovery in the next few weeks. On 4 Oct 1809 he formally resigned the office and died within the next four weeks. Biography source: [1, pp. 69-74]


[1] "Facts About the British Prime Ministers: A Compilation of Biographical and Historical Information", ed. by Dermot Englefield, Janet Seaton, Isobel White (New York: H.W. Wilson Co., 1995).
Image: Duke of Portland, detail of an engraving by John Murphy after a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds.
Last updated on: 26 Jun 2009 04:21:54