Friend William III of England, buried together
Bulstrode Park, Gerrard’s Cross, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire SL9 8SZ, UK
Westminster Abbey, 20 Deans Yd, Westminster, London SW1P 3PA, Regno Unito
Hans William Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland, Baron Bentinck of Diepenheim and Schoonheten, KG, PC (20 July 1649, Diepenheim, Overijssel – 23 November 1709, Bulstrode Park, Buckinghamshire) was a Dutch and English nobleman who became in an early stage the favourite of William, Prince of Orange, Stadtholder in the Netherlands, and future King of England. He was reportedly steady, sensible, modest and usually moderate. The friendship and cooperation stopped in 1699.
In 1691 the Society for the Reformation of Manners began its activities, some of them designed to put an end to the ‘scourge’ of sodomy that was said to have polluted the streets of London. The references to same-sex love among males may have been heated by rumours about the new king, William III of England, who had been given the crown in 1689. William himself had been attached to William Bentinck, ennobled as the Earl of Portland, and the gossip about the two men reached the public in satires and ballads. The king was accused of buggering Bentinck and the favourite was called a ‘catamite who rules alone the state’ or, more unusually, a ‘bardash’ or the equivalent of the French ‘bardache’, meaning man-woman or passive male prostitute. One satire put it this way: In love to his minions he partial and rash is, Makes statesmen of blockheads and earls of bardashes. When the king seems to have transferred his affections to another Dutchman, Arnold Joost van Keppel, Bentinck threw up all his public offices in a fit of pique. William remonstrated with him, and Bentinck replied that ‘the kindness which your majesty shows to a young man and the manner in which you appear to authorize his liberties and impertinencies make the world say things I am ashamed to hear’.
An anonymous writer posing as a procuress and brothel-keeper, ‘Jenny Cromwell’, composed a pamphlet entitled Jenny Cromwell’s Complaint Against Sodomy (1692) which associated the London court with its queer inhabitants. Among the elite circle of the sodomites she mentioned ‘Bardash’ or Bentinck and the king; another candidate for inclusion was the Earl of Scarsdale who was wont ‘to skulk about the alleys / And is content with Bettys, Nans and Mollys’. ‘Jenny Cromwell’ rose to a final condemnation against William III: ‘Till you came in and with your Reformation / Turn’d all things Arsy Versey in the Nation.’
Westminster Abbey, London
Hans Willem was the son of Bernard, Baron Bentinck of Diepenheim and descended from an ancient and noble family of Guelders and Overijssel. He was appointed first page of honour and chamberlain. When, in 1675, Prince William was attacked by smallpox, Bentinck nursed him assiduously, and this devotion secured for him the special and enduring friendship of William. From that point on, Bentinck had the Prince's confidence, and in their correspondence William was very open.
In 1677 he was sent to England to solicit for Prince William the hand of Mary, daughter of James, Duke of York and future King of England. He was again in England on William's behalf in 1683 and in 1685. Later, in 1688, when William was preparing to assist in the overthrow of (now King) James including an invasion by Dutch troops, Bentinck went to some of the German princes to secure their support, or at least their neutrality. He had also been, since 1687, a medium of communication between his master and his English friends. Bentinck superintended the arrangements for the invasion, including raising money, hiring an enormous transport fleet, organising a propaganda offensive, and preparing the possible landing sites, and also sailed to England with Prince William.
The revolution accomplished, William (now King of England) made Bentinck Groom of the Stole, first gentleman of the bedchamber, and a Privy Counsellor. In April 1689 he was created Baron Cirencester, Viscount Woodstock and, in its second creation, Earl of Portland. (The first creation of the earldom had been made for Richard Weston in 1633, but it became extinct in 1688.) 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 in 1695.
Bentinck's main work was of a diplomatic nature. In 1690 he was sent to The Hague to help solve the problem between William and the burgomasters of Amsterdam. He was caught up in the corruption scandal concerning the East India Company in 1695; the board was losing its monopoly under pressure from a New Company and was engaging profusely in bribery in an attempt to renew its charter. He was however cleared in the matter. Having thwarted the Jacobite plot to murder the King in 1696, he helped to arrange the peace of Ryswick in 1697. In 1698 he was ambassador to Paris for six months. While there, he opened negotiations with Louis XIV for a partition of the Spanish monarchy, and as William's representative, signed the two partition treaties (Treaty of The Hague (1698)).
William Bentinck had, however, become very jealous of the rising influence of another Dutchman, Arnold van Keppel, and, in 1699, he resigned all his offices in the royal household. 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 (546 km²) 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 did not proceed. He was occasionally employed on public business under Queen Anne until his death at his residence, Bulstrode Park in Buckinghamshire. Portland's eldest son Henry succeeded him as earl, and was granted the titles of Marquess of Titchfield and Duke of Portland in 1716.
While living in Holland, Bentinck maintained a garden boasting many botanical rarities. Illustrations of these plants were collected under the name Codex Bentingiana. This work has since disappeared from the botanical scene.
Lord Portland was married twice. On 1 February 1678, he married his first wife, Anne Villiers (died 30 November 1688), daughter of Sir Edward Villiers and his wife Lady Frances Howard, daughter of the 2nd Earl of Suffolk. They had seven children:
He married on 12 May 1700, his second wife, Jane Martha Temple (1672 – 26 May 1751), daughter of Sir John Temple, and widow of John Berkeley, 3rd Baron Berkeley of Stratton. They had the following children:
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