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Ancestral coat of arms of the noble Bentinck family
Coat of arms graphic by Otto Hupp in the Munich calendar from 1899

Bentinck is the name of a Dutch noble family from the Duchy of Geldern , which was first mentioned in a document with Wennemer Bentinck in 1304. The direct line of trunks begins with Johan Bentinck (mentioned 1361-1386), church ruler in Heerde , who was accepted into the knighthood of Geldern in 1377 .

A baronial line remained in the Netherlands and exists there to this day. Another line went to England in 1688 and rose to become Counts and Dukes of Portland , of which a younger branch of the family came into possession of direct imperial rule in the Westphalian Circle through marriage in 1733 , the house of Aldenburg-Bentinck , which therefore belonged to the German nobility ; After a dispute about succession, it sold the rulership in 1854, but inherited goods in Swabia and the Netherlands. These fell to a daughter in 1958 - after the Aldenburg-Bentinck had died out in the male line. The dukes of Portland also became extinct in 1990, but a side branch of the Westphalian Counts of Bentinck, which went back to England in the 19th century and to which the title Earl of Portland was transferred in 1990, still exists today .

coat of arms

The family coat of arms shows a silver anchor cross in blue . On the helmet with blue-silver blankets, two arms clad in blue, each holding a silver ostrich feather.

In addition, historical depictions of the crest also show swords instead of ostrich feathers.

The Dutch-Westphalian line from Leeuwenberg

The founders of this line are the couple Johann Bentinck († 1598) zu Leeuwenberg and Henrika van Averenk († 1600). The other lines described below come from the brother Willem Bentinck († 1576) from the house of 't Velde. In addition to Leeuwenberg (Wilp, Gelderland ), the Leeuwenberger line also established itself on the estates Breckelenkamp (Brecklenkamp, Overijssel ), Wolda ( Laar, Grafschaft Bentheim ) and Langewische ( Grafschaft Tecklenburg ). This branch remained Catholic, the sons were mainly officers in the army of the bishopric of Münster . The most prominent member of this branch was Gerard Adolph Bentinck, who was appointed in 1672 by the Münster bishop Christoph Bernhard von Galen as governor of Overijssel and Drost von Vollenhove. At the beginning of the 19th century this branch was extinct.

The Dutch line on Schoonheten

Hendrik Bentinck had inherited the Groot and Klein Wormer farms in Raalte in 1596 and had them declared a manor in 1633, and in 1639 he established the noble seat of Schoonheten there. The English and Westphalian lines descend from his son Johann Wilhelm Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland , the son Eusebius founded the Dutch line on Schoonheten. The banker Baron Rolf Bentinck van Schoonheten (1913–1990), the tenth generation master of Schoonheten, left the property to his four daughters. Another line temporarily owned the Nijenhuis Castle in Heino (Salland) and the Diepenheim House in Hof van Twente . The Barons Bentinck, who produced numerous Dutch statesmen, diplomats and officers, continue to flourish in the male line to this day.

The English Line (Portland)

Johann Wilhelm (Hans Willem) Bentinck , 1st Earl of Portland (1648–1709)

The English line was established by Johann Wilhelm von Bentinck (1648–1709) - the closest friend and confidante of the Dutch governor Wilhelm of Orange, later King Wilhelm III. of England - founded, who went to England with him in 1688 and received the title of Earl of Portland . The title Duke of Portland was given to his eldest son Henry Bentinck, 2nd Earl of Portland, in 1716. The family played an important political role in England in the 18th and 19th centuries: William Henry, 3rd Duke of Portland married the daughter of British Prime Minister William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire and became Prime Minister himself; he changed the family name to Cavendish-Bentinck . His younger son, Lord William Cavendish-Bentinck , became a general, and his grandson, Lord George Cavendish-Bentinck, became a parliamentarian. Duchess Winifred (* 1863; † 1954) played a social role and was involved in charities. Cecilia Nina Cavendish-Bentinck (* 1862, † 1938) was the mother of Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and thus the grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II.

The seat of Welbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire , which has been in the family since the 18th century, and the neighboring Bothal Castle fell to his daughter Lady Anne after the death of William Cavendish-Bentinck, 7th Duke of Portland in 1977 and then to the son of her sister Lady Margaret , William Marchese Parente (* 1951). The Duke title passed to a cousin and expired in 1990 with the death of Victor Cavendish-Bentinck, 9th Duke of Portland. The title of Earl of Portland was passed on to descendants of the younger Westphalian branch, whose ancestors had gone back to England in the 19th century; Actor Tim Bentinck (* 1953) is currently the 12th Earl of Portland.

The Westphalian-Dutch line (Aldenburg-Bentinck)

Wilhelm Graf von Bentinck (painting by Jean-Étienne Liotard , 1750)
Coat of arms of the Aldenburg-Bentinck line

The Westphalian-Dutch line comes from Wilhelm von Bentinck (1704–1774), the second son of Johann Wilhelm (the 1st Earl of Portland). From his father he had inherited his - once purchased - Dutch possessions: the Rhoon domain near Rotterdam with Rhoon Castle and Pendrecht House, as well as the Catshuis in The Hague.

In 1732 Wilhelm was raised to the rank of Imperial Count and in 1733 married Charlotte Sophie , the heir to the last Count of Aldenburg, Anton II. The Count's Aldenburg Fideikommiss in the Westphalian Empire consisted of the rule In- and Kniphausen and the rule of Varel, which was under Danish sovereignty, together with goods in Oldenburg and Doorwerth Castle in Gelderland. Count Anton Günther zu Oldenburg and Delmenhorst († 1667) had left these possessions to his illegitimate son Anton , who had been legitimized by an imperial rescript and had received the title of Imperial Count of Aldenburg in 1653. His granddaughter Charlotte Sophie, Voltaire's friend and role model for the Kunigunde in his novel Candide , became the sole heir to the immediate imperial county of Aldenburg .

The older son of Wilhelm and Charlotte Sophie, Christian Friedrich Anton, continued the Westphalian-Dutch line; Since 1759 he had owned Knyphausen and Varel, which his brother Johann Albert Wilhelm contested in vain. On his death in 1768 he left behind five children, of whom the two eldest sons, Wilhelm Gustav Friedrich and Johann Karl (* 1768; † November 22, 1833 as British major general), divided the Westphalian line into an older and a younger branch.

The older Westphalian branch

The elder, Wilhelm Gustav Friedrich von Bentinck , the founder of the older Westphalian branch, received the Westphalian entails, including the Dutch possessions, after the death of his father. He had two daughters and a son, Wilhelm Anton († 1813), from his first marriage to the Freiin von Reede. Then from 1800 he lived with Sara Margarete Gerdes, the daughter of an Oldenburg farmer, in what is known as a marriage of conscience until 1816, when he was formally married to her. He had several children from her, including three sons:

  1. Wilhelm Friedrich (1801–1867), emigrated to America in 1833
  2. Gustav Adolf (* 1809), Hanover cavalry master
  3. Friedrich Anton (* 1812), kk lieutenant colonel

As early as 1827, the father ceded joint ownership of the Fideikommissherrschaft to the eldest, which during the French invasion had belonged to the Kingdom of Holland for a time and then as mere private property to the French Empire, but had come under Oldenburg sovereignty in 1818 and finally through the Berlin Agreement of 1825 when mediatized dominions with some special rights and privileges had been returned to Wilhelm Gustav Friedrich. However, when the eldest son renounced the succession in all paternal estates and settled in Missouri in 1833 , his brother Gustav Adolf was granted joint ownership of the Aldenburg Fideikommissherrschaft in 1814 by his father, who died on October 22, 1835.

The younger Westphalian branch

The younger Westphalian branch was donated by Wilhelm Gustav Friedrich's brother Johann Karl von Bentinck , British major general, who left three sons in 1833:

  1. Wilhelm Friedrich Christian (* 1787; † June 8, 1855);
  2. Carl Anton Ferdinand (* 1792, British Lieutenant General; † October 28, 1864) ⚭ 1846 Countess Mechthild von Waldeck-Limpurg
  3. Heinrich Johann Wilhelm (* 1796, British general, † September 29, 1878).

While his brother Wilhelm Gustav Friedrich was still alive, Johann Karl challenged the above-mentioned transfer of joint ownership of the Fideikommissherrschaft to his eldest son Wilhelm Friedrich in court by denying the successor ability of his brother's sons, and so the Bentinck succession dispute arose that led to his Time caused a stir.

The Bentinck inheritance dispute (between the older and younger Westphalian branch)

Johann Karl claimed that the Fideikommissherrschaft were possessions in which only members of the high nobility could succed (that is, succeed); The children of Wilhelm Gustav Friedrich von Bentinck and Gerdes, a former serf, who were born out of wedlock and only subsequently legitimized, are therefore not entitled to success in this case. On the other hand, the latter asserted that the former Counts of Aldenburg did not belong to the high nobility and that therefore the principles on the right of inheritance of the high nobility were not applicable here, all the less since the founder of the Aldenburg line was concerned with their former possessions the matter was even an illegitimate child legitimized by an imperial rescript.

The legal dispute was brought before the Higher Appeal Court in Oldenburg in 1829. Well-known legal scholars such as Wilda, Mühlenbruch and Zachariä wrote for the plaintiff Johann Karl Bentinck and his sons , while Klüber, Dieck, Eckenberg, Michaelis and Wasserschleben stood up for the defendants. Pözl and Bluntschli held that the matter, as a matter of public law, could not be the subject of a civil dispute. In short: the Bentinck succession dispute soon had its special literature.

A judgment of the law faculty in Jena , to which the files had been sent, was in favor of the defendant. But the plaintiff appealed against it, and the law faculty in Giessen had to decide on this appeal . In the meantime, however, the plaintiffs had done everything possible to reach their goal by diplomatic channels; There was also no lack of violence.

In fact, on June 12, 1845, the German Bundestag declared that the Bentinck family could claim the rights of the high nobility within the meaning of the Federal Act (Article 14). Therefore, while the dispute was still pending, the plaintiff applied to the federal government to deny the defendant the ability to succeed in the possessions in question, and strangely enough the so-called provisional central authority for Germany, established in 1848, issued a corresponding order. However, this was not realized because Oldenburg also insisted on a court decision. The Oldenburg government finally proposed a settlement in 1854, which was accepted by the parties to the dispute without waiting for the final decision.

Thereafter, the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg bought the disputed possessions for the amount of about two million thalers and paid out this sum in installments to the parties in certain proportions. The funds required for this were made available from the payments made by Prussia for the sale of the Oldenburg jade region to Prussia as stipulated in the Jade Treaty . The judgment of the Jena Faculty of Law contains detailed information on the legal treatises relating to the process.

The inheritance of Waldeck-Limpurg and van Reede

Coat of arms of the Counts of Aldenburg-Bentinck as German noblemen

Count Carl Anton Ferdinand von Bentinck (1792–1864) from the younger Westphalian branch married Countess Mechthild von Waldeck-Limpurg in 1846, the heiress of the Swabian territorial lordship of Waldeck-Limpurg , based at Gaildorf Castle . They had four sons, the eldest of whom, Henry Charles, married a Scottish gentry woman and went to England; After the elimination of the older, ducal line Cavendish-Bentinck, the title Earl of Portland - albeit without the possession of the dukes - passed to his descendants in 1990, today Timothy Bentinck, 12th Earl of Portland .

The second son, Wilhelm Carl, inherited the rulership of Waldeck-Limpurg and Middachten Castle, after his older brother renounced it due to an improper marriage. however, he then married a Dutch baroness van Heeckeren van Wassenaer , who was also not of high aristocratic descent. His granddaughter Isabelle (1925–2013) married Count Aurel zu Ortenburg on Birkenfeld ; thereby the property in Gaildorf fell to their son Philipp Graf zu Ortenburg. The third son of Carl-Anton and Mechthild, Karl, and the fourth son, Godard, no longer have any living male descendants.

Godard was accepted into the Dutch nobility in 1920, his nephew Wilhelm Friedrich in 1924 as Count van Aldenburg-Bentinck . The background was that the legacy of the family of Barone van Reede, Earls of Athlone , which died out in 1842 and from whom Carl Anton's mother came, had passed to the Bentinck family in 1878 - after long, complicated inheritance disputes. These included, in particular, Amerongen Castle in the province of Utrecht and Middachten Castle near Rheden in Gelderland. Amerongen, where Count Godard granted the abdicated Kaiser Wilhelm II a first exile from 1918-1919 , remained in the family until 1977 and is now a museum. Middachten fell to Isabelle Countess zu Ortenburg, née. Countess Bentinck, and is now inhabited by her son Franz Graf zu Ortenburg.

With the exception of the branch of the current Earls of Portland, which had returned to England, the Bentinck family line (and with it the entire Westphalian-Dutch house of Aldenburg-Bentinck) has since expired in the male line.

The younger English line

A younger English line was donated by Johann Albert Wilhelm (John Albert) Bentinck (* 1737), the above-mentioned second son Charlotte Sophiens; he went to England, served in the British Navy and died in 1775, leaving behind two sons: William (1764-1813), British Vice Admiral, and John. William's son George Bentinck (1803-1886) died unmarried as a parliamentarian. This line also took part in the protest against the ability of Wilhelm Gustav Friedrich's sons to succeed.


  • Gerhard Köbler : Historical lexicon of the German countries. The German territories and imperial immediate families from the Middle Ages to the present. 6th, completely revised edition. CH Beck, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-406-44333-8 , p. 52.
  • Hermann Lübbing:  Bentinck. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 2, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1955, ISBN 3-428-00183-4 , p. 56 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Genealogical manual of the nobility , Adelslexikon Volume I, page 314, Volume 53 of the complete series, CA Starke Verlag, Limburg (Lahn) 1972, ISSN  0435-2408
  • Robert-Dieter Klee: The end of a glory. Kniphausen and Oldenburg 150 years ago. In: Niedersächsisches Jahrbuch für Landesgeschichte , Vol. 77 (2005), pp. 187–226. (On Bentinck's succession dispute)
  • Antje Koolman: The Bentincks - A Dutch noble family in northwest Germany in the 18th century. Published in the series Oldenburger Forschungen , NF Volume 18. Oldenburg (Oldb.). 2003. ISBN 978-3-89598-936-0 (also: University of Göttingen, Phil. Diss. 2002).
  • Adolph Michaelis : Vote on the Countess Bentinck's succession dispute , 3 volumes, Laupp, Tübingen 1841–1845
urn : nbn: de: bvb: 12-bsb10397070-8 Digitized from volume 1, copy from the Bavarian State Library
urn : nbn: de: bvb: 12-bsb10397071-4 Digitized from volume 2, copy from the Bavarian State Library
urn : nbn: de: bvb: 12-bsb10397072-9 Digitized version of volume 3 (title here: About the current situation of Bentinck 's legal succession dispute . ), copy from the Bavarian State Library
  • Gerhard Groskopff : The reasons for the decision of the Jena Faculty of Law on their findings in the Countess Bentinck's successions controversy in excerpts with comments , 1843
  • Walter Ordemann: Glories - Historical profiles and processes of the Knyphauser, Aldenburger, Bentinck. Oldenburg (Oldb.). 1982.

Individual evidence

  1. Johann Siebmacher's Wappenbuch, extension volume Nuremberg 1701, plate 39 ; Heraldic pedigree (1889) of Friedrich Lothar Felix Baron Waldbott von Bassenheim – Bornheim , in the Teutonic Order Central Archive, on
  3. ( Memento of the original from September 24, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. M. Wanrooij: Een korte tijd van glorie. - Geschiedenis van het huis te Breckelenkamp en zijn bewoners. Hellendoorn publishing house, Bentheim. 2010 ( ).
  5. Who is Who, 2002, A&C. Black, London, Earl of Portland article
  6. ^ Soil: On the knowledge and characteristics of Germany in its political, ecclesiastical, literary and legal statuses during the last decades. 2nd edition, Frankfurt. 1856. Or. Wasserschleben: Legal Treatises. To water. 1856.
  7. ^ Website of Tim Bentinck, Earl of Portland