Several times a week I cross Cavendish Square on my way to Weymouth Street. Sometimes I go round it and sometimes through, and sometimes I take a small detour down Bentinck Street to nod at the shade of Edward Gibbon, who wrote The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in a ‘convenient well-furnished house’ there, attended by some half a dozen servants and blessed with a regular supply of the ‘decent luxuries’ of life.
Bentinck Street was named for Hans Willem Bentinck, a Dutchman who came to England with William of Orange in 1688. He was the king’s favourite, ‘confidant’, right-hand man, chief diplomat and fixer, and the king loaded him with lands and honours, giving him the title Earl of Portland in 1689. All this made him deeply unpopular with the populace. ‘Mynheer Benting now rules over us,’ it was said.
Bentinck produced a large family and his children married into the English aristocracy. His grandson William hit the jackpot, marrying Lady Margaret Cavendish-Holles-Harley, one of the richest heiresses in England, with massive estates coming to her from both her father and her mother, Henrietta Holles.
Bentinck Street symbolises the beginnings of