Manuscripts and Special Collections

Biography of William Bentinck, 2nd Duke of Portland (1709-1762)

William was in his minority when he succeeded as 2nd Duke of Portland in 1726. His education had been completed largely at the hands of John Achard, a Swiss scholar who spent many years residing at the family seat of Bulstrode.

The 2nd Duke did not really play any part in public life. Unlike his son, the 3rd Duke, he was not engaged in politics, and the only positions or honours he held were those of Fellow of the Royal Society and Knight of the Garter. Instead, William focused on family life, creating a close circle centred on Bulstrode.

An engraved portrait of the 2nd Duke, by George Vertue, after Christian Friedrich Zincke, is available from the National Portrait Gallery.


In 1734 he married Lady Margaret Cavendish-Harley (1715-1785), daughter of the 2nd Earl of Oxford, through whom some of the former Cavendish Newcastle properties and papers passed into the Portland line of descent. They had six children:

  • William Henry Cavendish (1738-1809), later 3rd Duke of Portland
  • Edward Charles (1744-1819)
  • Elizabeth (1735-1825) m Thomas, 1st Marquess of Bath in 1759
  • Henrietta (1737-1827) m George, 5th Earl of Stamford in 1763
  • Margaret (1739-1756) died unmarried
  • Frances (1741-1743) died young

Archive Collections

  • The 2nd Duke's papers (Pw D) are part of the Portland (Welbeck) Collection held in Manuscripts and Special Collections at The University of Nottingham. They are limited in number and focus largely on estate matters
  • The papers of John Achard (Pw C), also part of the Portland (Welbeck) Collection reflect Achard's activities as personal tutor to the 2nd Duke
  • The Portland Estate Papers held at Nottinghamshire Archives also contain items relating to the 2nd Duke's properties
  • Details of collections held elsewhere are available through the National Register of Archives.

Published Sources

Though there are no published biographies exclusively dedicated to the 2nd Duke of Portland, his biographical details feature in the following:

  • Turberville, A.S., A History of Welbeck Abbey and its Owners, Volume 2 (London, 1938) [King’s Meadow Campus East Midlands Collection Not 468.D14 TUR]

Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

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