Lord William Bentinck: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Right Honourable
 Lord William Bentinck 

In office
4 July 1828 – 20 March 1835
Monarch George IV
William IV
Preceded by William Butterworth Bayley (acting)
Succeeded by Sir Charles Metcalfe, Bt (acting)

Born 14 September 1774 (1774-09-14)
Died 17 June 1839 (1839-06-18)
Paris, France
Nationality British
Political party Whig
Spouse(s) Lady Mary Acheson (d. 1843)

Lieutenant-General Lord William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck GCB, GCH, PC (14 September 1774 – 17 June 1839), known as Lord William Bentinck, was a British soldier and statesman. He served as Governor-General of India from 1828 to 1835.



Bentinck was the second son of Prime Minister William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland, and Lady Dorothy, daughter of William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire.[1]

Career until 1827

After service in the Peninsular War, Bentinck was appointed commander of British troops in Sicily. A Whig, Bentinck used this position to meddle in internal Sicilian affairs, effecting the King's withdrawal from government in favour of his son, the Crown Prince, the reactionary Queen's disgrace, and an attempt to devise a constitutional government for the troubled island, all of which ultimately ended in failure. In 1814, Bentinck landed with British and Sicilian troops at Genoa, and commenced to make liberal proclamations of a new order in Italy which embarrassed the British government (which intended to give much of Italy to Austria), and led, once again, to his recall in 1815.


Bentinck in Sicily

As conditions in Sicily began to deteriorate at the beginning of the 19th century, England began worrying about its interests in the Mediterranean. Internal dissensions in the Sicilian government and an ever increasing suspicion that Queen Maria Carolina was in correspondence with the French with the French Occupation of Sicily as its object led to the appointment of Lord William Bentinck as British representative to the Court of Palermo in July of 1811.[2] At the beginning of his time at the head of Sicilian affairs, politicians in London opposed the Bourbon rule and appealed for Sicilian annexation. Bentinck was sympathetic to the cause and plight of the Sicilians and "was quickly convinced of the need for Britain to intervene in Sicilian affairs, not so much for Britain’s sake as for the well-being of the Sicilians.” [3] He was also one of the first of the dreamers to see a vision of a unified Italy.[2] The English, however, were content to support the Bourbons if they were willing to give the Sicilians more governmental control and a greater respect of their rights. Bentinck saw this as the perfect opportunity to insert his ideas of a Sicilian constitution. Opposition to the establishment of a constitution continued to surface, Maria Carolina proving to be one of the toughest. Her relationship with Bentinck can be summed up in the nickname that she gave him: "La bestia feroce" or the ferocious beast.[3] Bentinck, however, was determined to see the establishment of a Sicilian Constitution and shortly thereafter exiled Maria Carolina from Palermo. On June 18, 1812 the Parliament assembled in Palermo and, about a month later, on July 20, 1812 the constitution was accepted and written on the basis of 15 articles. With the establishment of the constitution the Sicilians had now gained an autonomy they had never experienced before. The constitution set up the separation of the legislative and executive powers and abolished the feudalistic practices that had been established and recognized for the past 700 years. [2]

Bentinck's success in establishing a Sicilian constitution lasted only a few years. On December 8, 1816, A year after Ferdinand IV returned to the throne of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the constitution was abolished and Sicily was reunited with Naples. The constitutional experiment was deemed a failure although it can not be said to be his alone. [2] The Sicilian nobles were inexperienced and in the face of the difficulties of 1814 and 1815 could not sustain a constitution without outside British support that was pulled away in the wake of the end of the Napoleonic wars. The British no longer had an invested interest in the internal affairs of Sicily now that the threat of French invasion had been removed. The establishment of a Sicilian constitution that was facilitated by Bentinck was not to be soon forgotten. The ideas found therein and the small taste of freedom lingered in the memories of the Sicilians and had an influence on the desire for autonomy that was at the base of the Sicilian revolutions of 1820 and 1848. [3]

Governor-General of India

On his return to England, Bentinck served in the House of Commons for some years before being appointed Governor-General of Bengal in 1827. His principal concern was to turn around the loss-making Honourable East India Company, in order to ensure that its charter would be renewed by the British government.

Bentinck engaged in an extensive range of cost-cutting measures, earning the lasting enmity of many military men whose wages were cut. Although his financial management of India was quite impressive, his modernizing projects also included a policy of westernization, influenced by the Utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham and James Mill, which was more controversial. Reforming the court system, he made English, rather than Persian, the language of the higher courts and encouraged western-style education for Indians in order to provide more educated Indians for service in the British bureaucracy.

Bentinck also took steps to suppress sati, the death of a widow on her husband's funeral pyre, and other Indian customs which the British viewed as barbaric. Although his reforms met little resistance among native Indians at the time, it has been argued that they brought on dissatisfaction which ultimately led to the great Mutiny of 1857. His reputation for ruthless financial efficiency and disregard for Indian culture led to the much-repeated story that he had once planned to demolish the Taj Mahal and sell off the marble. According to Bentinck's biographer John Rosselli, the story arose from Bentinck's fund-raising sale of discarded marble from Agra Fort and of the metal from a famous but obsolete Agra cannon.[4]

Bentinck returned to the UK in 1835, refusing a peerage, and again entered the House of Commons as a Member for Glasgow.

Personal life

Lord William Bentinck.

Bentinck married Lady Mary, daughter of Arthur Acheson, 1st Earl of Gosford, in 1803. The marriage was childless. He died in Paris in June 1839, aged 64. Mary died in May 1843.[5] The department of Manuscripts and Special Collections, The University of Nottingham holds the personal papers and correspondence of Lord William Bentinck (Pw J), as part of the Portland (Welbeck) Collection.


  1. ^ thepeerage.com
  2. ^ a b c d Lackland, H.M.. “Lord William Bentinck in Sicily, 1811 – 12.” The English Historical Review 42.167 (1927): 371 – 396. JSTOR. 4 March 2009. <http://www.jstor.org/>.
  3. ^ a b c Hearder, Harry. Italy in the Age of the Risorgimento 1790 – 1870. New York: Longman Inc., 1983.
  4. ^ Rosselli, J., Lord William Bentinck: the making of a Liberal Imperialist, 1774-1839, London Chatto and Windus for Sussex University Press 1974, p.283
  5. ^ thepeerage.com

External links

  • [williamhenrycavendish-bentinck(1804-1870).aspx Biography of Lord William Bentinck, with links to online catalogues, from Manuscripts and Special Collections, The University of Nottingham]
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
James Macpherson
William Smith
Member of Parliament for Camelford
with William Smith

Succeeded by
William Joseph Denison
John Angerstein
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Lord Edward Cavendish-Bentinck
Charles Pierrepont
Member of Parliament for Nottinghamshire
with Lord Pierrepont 1796–1801
Lord Pierrepont 1801–1803

Succeeded by
Lord Pierrepont
Anthony Hardolph Eyre
Preceded by
Viscount Newark
Anthony Hardolph Eyre
Member of Parliament for Nottinghamshire
with Viscount Newark

Succeeded by
Viscount Newark
Frank Sotheron
Preceded by
Viscount Newark
Frank Sotheron
Member of Parliament for Nottinghamshire
with Frank Sotheron

Succeeded by
Frank Sotheron
John Lumley
Preceded by
John Walpole
Lord John Bentinck
Member of Parliament for King's Lynn
with John Walpole

Succeeded by
John Walpole
Lord George Bentinck
Preceded by
James Oswald
Colin Dunlop
Member of Parliament for Glasgow
with James Oswald 1836–1837
John Dennistoun 1837–1839

Succeeded by
John Dennistoun
James Oswald
Government offices
Preceded by
William Butterworth Bayley (acting)
Governor-General of India
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Metcalfe, Bt (acting)
Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Edward Barnes
Commander-in-Chief, India
Succeeded by
Sir James Watson

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LORD WILLIAM BENTINCK (1774-1839), governor-general of India, was the second son of the 3rd duke of Portland and was born on the 14th of September 1774. He entered the army, rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel and was present at Marengo. In 1803 he was nominated governor of Madras, where he quarrelled with the chief justice, Sir Henry Gwillim, and several members of his council. The sepoy mutiny at Vellore in 1807 led to his recall. His name was considered at this time for the post of governor-general, but Lord Minto was selected instead; and it was not until twenty years later that he succeeded Lord Amherst in that office. His governor-generalship (1827-1835) was notable for' many reforms, chief among which were the suppression of the Thugs, the abolition of suttee, and the making of the English language the basis of education in India. It was on this last subject that Lord Macaulay's famous minute was written. Lord William's administration was essentially peaceful, but progressive and successful. He died at Paris on the 17th of June 1839.

See Demetrius C. Boulger, Lord William Bentinck, in the "Rulers of India" series (1892).

<< Jeremy Bentham

Lord William George Frederick Bentinck >>


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address