Ferdinand was not in the direct Cavendish-Bentinck line of descent, but as the great-grandson of Lord Frederick Cavendish-Bentinck (4th son of the 3rd Duke of Portland) he was the surviving male heir of the 7th Duke of Portland and succeeded to the title on his death in 1977.
Like many members of his family the 8th Duke attended Eton before continuing his education at the Royal Military College. He went on to serve in the First World War which left him severely wounded. After the war, his main sphere of activity was in Africa where he served as Private Secretary to the Governor of Uganda (1925-1927). Other positions held by the 8th Duke included Chairman of the Agricultural Production and Settlement Board for Kenya (1939-1945), Timber Controller for East Africa (1940-1945) and Speaker of the Kenya Legislative Council (1955-1960).
In 1912 he married Wentworth Frances (d 1964), daughter of William James Hope-Johnston. They divorced in 1950 without issue.
In 1950 he married Gwyneth Ethel (d 1986), daughter of John Lesley Edwards and widow of Colonel David A.J. Bowie. Again, this marriage produced no issue.
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