THE FARMER DUKE—WEDS THE RICH MISS SCOTT—HIS HIGH-SPIRITED SONS AND DAUGHTERS
Welbeck Abbey, c.1790.
The fourth Duke was known as the "Farmer Duke," from his love of agriculture and rural pursuits, though he was a D.C.L. and F.R.S. and possessed the feudal dignity of Lord Lieutenant of Middlesex. His father had been Prime Minister; but the son made no effort to shine in politics and contented himself with developing the resources of his estates and adding to the wealth of his patrimony.
He had the presience to choose an heiress for his Duchess and went to Scotland for the purpose.
Major-General John Scott of Balcomie, Fife, had three daughters, the eldest was known as "the rich Miss Scott," the second as "the witty Miss Scott," and the third as "the pretty Miss Scott." The Duke selected Henrietta, "the rich Miss Scott," who besides her wealth had coursing through her veins the blood of Balliol and Bruce, the chieftains of Highland chivalry.
Having secured the hand of the heiress, he assumed by royal licence in 1795, the additional surname of Scott.
Well might the Duke be willing to couple that simple syllable with the patrician accents of Cavendish-Bentinck, for by his marriage with the Fifeshire heiress there came into the family an unexpected windfall of 60,000l. Among the bride's possessions was an island in Scotland, and the Government of the day being desirous of improving the beacon-light, paid 60,000l. for the island and spent about half that sum in addition in erecting a new lighthouse.
Their domestic life was happiness itself, neither was brilliant, but both were honoured by those among whom they lived. The Duchess interested herself in her husband's vast estates, as well as in her own, and in the domestic welfare of their dependants. For a long period she was a fitting companion for the Duke and pre-deceased him ten years, in May, 1844.
Two of their sons developed some remarkable traits and two of the daughters became rich heiresses. The oldest son died young, which opened the way for Lord John to become Marquis of Titchfield and eventually fifth Duke of Portland of eccentric fame. The third was Lord George Bentinck, born on February 27th, 1802. Of the daughters, Lady Charlotte married Mr. Speaker Denison and became Viscountess Ossington and Lady Lucy married Lord Howard de Walden. Clipstone forms part of the Welbeck estate and with the Duke's practical knowledge of agriculture he ordered to be constructed an irrigation system by which he reclaimed thousands of acres of land, formerly rabbit-warrens and swamps, so that they became productive farms. The Duke's flood-dyke, and diversion of the little river Maun for the purposes of drainage, cost him £80,000. His weather-beaten coat and huge leather shoes, extending above the knees, were familiar to the labourers and were characteristic of the simple attire he wore when among them giving instructions as to the laying of his drainpipes.
Many of the oaks on the Welbeck estate were transplanted thither under the fourth Duke's direction, a mechanical appliance being used for the purpose.
One of the lodges in the park was occupied by a porter whose duty was to give beer, wine, bread and cake to any tramping man, woman or child who chose to call.
The Farmer Duke was a lover of horses and racing, though there was nothing mercenary in his connection with the Turf, for he never betted. He took pride in rearing thoroughbred horses at Welbeck and had some of them trained by R. Prince at Newmarket. In the course of his career he had the satisfaction of winning the Derby in 1819 with Tiresias. It was his custom to ride a cob led by a groom, and for the purpose of watching the racing at Newmarket he had a structure placed on wheels which could be moved from point to point, where he could gain a better view of the running through a telescope.
There is an anecdote of the Duke's agility when about eighty years old. He was about to undertake a long walk from Harcourt House; upon which the Ladies Charlotte and Lucy tried to persuade him to ride; but he declined and challenged them to a race. They went into the garden for the purpose and naturally Lady Charlotte won in high spirits.
His death took place at Welbeck on March 27th, 1854, at half-past four in the afternoon, at the age of eighty-five years, having been born in London on June 24th, 1768. His remains were laid to rest in the family vault in the school of St. Mary at Bolsover, the funeral being conducted without pomp, as the executors were limited to an expenditure of £100. The obsequies were not attended by the Marquis, who had not been on friendly terms with his father.
The venerable Duke was immensely rich, for not only had he the patrimony of the Bentincks; but by his marriage with Miss Scott, there was brought into the family another acquisition of wealth.
He left his London property, so that if his son, the Marquis, had no male heirs, it should pass into the female line, which it did, and the first to inherit was the Viscountess Ossington.
This London property was of fabulous value and included Portland-place, Cavendish-square, Wimpole-street, Harley-street, Wigmore-street, and other houses in the neighbourhood.
Lady Ossington died before her sister, so all this wealth came to the Dowager Lady Howard de Walden, furnishing her with the splendid income of 180,000l. per annum.
The stake in the Druce claim is not only the Dukedom of Portland and the entailed estates of the Bentincks in the male line; but in the female line too, including this dazzling dowry of 180,000l. a year.