WENTWORTH, the name of an English family distinguished in the parliamentary history of the 16th and 17th centuries. The Wentworths traced descent from William Wentworth (d. 1308) of Wentworth Woodhouse, in Yorkshire, who was the ancestor of no fewer than eight distinct lines of the family, two main branches of which were settled in the 14th century at Wentworth Woodhouse and North Elmshall respectively. From the elder, or Wentworth Woodhouse branch, were descended Thomas Wentworth the celebrated earl of Strafford (q.v.), and through him the Watson-Wentworths, marquesses of Rockingham in the 15th century, and the earls Fitz William of the present day. To the younger branch belonged Roger Wentworth (d. 1452), great-great-grandson of the above mentioned William. Roger, who was a son of John Wentworth (fl. 1413) of North Elmshall, Yorkshire, acquired the manor of Nettlestead in Suffolk in right of his wife, a grand-daughter of Robert, Baron Tibetot, in whose lands this manor had been included, and who died leaving an only daughter in 1372. Roger’s son Henry (d. 1482) was twice married; by his first wife he was the ancestor of the Wentworths of Gosfield, Essex, by his second of the Wentworths of Lillingstone Lovell, Buckinghamshire. Another of Roger Wentworth’s sons. Sir Philip Wentworth, was the grandfather of Margery, wife of Sir John Seymour, mother of the Protector Somerset and of Henry VlII.’s wife Jane Seymour, and grandmother of King Edward VI. Margery’s brother Sir Robert Wentworth (d. 1528) married a daughter of Sir James Tyrrell, the reputed murderer of Edward V. and his brother in the Tower; and Sir Robert’s son by this marriage, Thomas Wentworth (1501–1551), was summoned to parliament by writ in 1529 as Baron Wentworth of Nettlestead. He was one of the peers who signed the letter to the pope in favour of Henry VIII.’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, and was one of the judges of Anne Boleyn. He was lord chamberlain to Edward VI., and died in 1551 leaving sixteen children.
Thomas Wentworth, 2nd Baron Wentworth of Nettlestead (1525–1584), was the eldest son of the above-mentioned 1st baron. He served with distinction under his relative the Protector Somerset at the battle of Pinkie in 1547; but in 1551 he was one of the peers who condemned Somerset to death on a charge of felony. He was a trusted counsellor of Queen Mary, who appointed him deputy of Calais. Wentworth was the last Englishman to hold this post, for on the 7th of January 1558 he was compelled to surrender Calais to the French, his representations as to the defenceless condition of the fortress having been disregarded by the English Council some years earlier. Wentworth himself remained in France as a prisoner of war for more than a year, and on his return to England in 1559 he was sent to the Tower for having surrendered Calais; but he was acquitted of treason. He died on the 13th of January 1584. His eldest son William married a daughter of Lord Burghley, but predeceased his father, whose peerage consequently passed to his second son Henry (1558–1593), who was one of the judges of Mary, queen of Scots, at Fotheringay in 1586.
Thomas Wentworth, 1st earl of Cleveland (1591–1667), was the eldest son of Henry, whom he succeeded as 4th Baron Wentworth of Nettlestead in 1593. In 1614 he inherited from an aunt the estate of Toddington in Bedfordshire, tiU then the property of the Cheyney family, and here he made his principal residence. In 1626 he was created earl of Cleveland, and in the following year he served under Buckingham in the expedition to La Rochelle. Adhering to the king’s cause in the parliamentary troubles, he attended his kinsman Strafford at his execution, and afterwards was a general on the royalist side in the Civil War until he was taken prisoner at the second battle of Newbury. Cleveland commanded a cavalry regiment at Worcester in 1651, when he was again taken prisoner, and he remained in the Tower till 1656. He died on the 25th of March 1667. His early extravagance and the fortunes of war had greatly reduced his estates, and Nettlestead was sold in 1643. Cleveland was described by Clarendon as “a man of signal courage and an excellent officer”; his cavalry charge at Cropredy Bridge was one of the most brilliant incidents in the Civil War, and it was by his bravery and presence of mind that Charles II. was enabled to escape from Worcester. At his death the earldom of Cleveland became extinct. He outlived his son Thomas (1613–1645), who was called up to the House of Lords in his father’s lifetime as Baron Wentworth, and whose daughter Henrietta Maria became Baroness Wentworth in her own right on her grandfather’s death. This lady, who was the duke of Monmouth’s mistress, died unmarried in 16S6. The barony of Wentworth then reverted to Cleveland’s daughter Anne, who married the 2nd Lord Lovelace, from whom it passed to her grand-daughter Martha (d, 1745), wife of Sir Henry Johnson, and afterwards to a descendant of Anne’s daughter Margaret, Edward Noel, who was created Viscount Wentworth of Wellesborough in 1762. The viscountcy became extinct at his death, and the barony again passed through the female line in the person of Noel’s daughter Judith to the latter’s daughter Anne Isabella, who married Lord Byron the poet; and from her to Byron’s daughter Augusta Ada, whose husband was in 1838 created earl of Lovelace. The barony of Wentworth was thereafter held by the descendants of this nobleman in conjunction with the earldom of Lovelace.
Paul Wentworth (1533–1593). a prominent member of parliament in the reign of Elizabeth, was a member of the LiUingstone Lovell branch of the family (see above). His father Sir jSIicholas Wentworth (d. 1557) was chief porter of Calais. Paul Wentworth was of puritan sympathies, and he first came into notice by the freedom with which in 1566 he criticized Elizabeth’s prohibition of discussion in parliament on the question of her successor. Paul, who was probably the author of the famous puritan devotional book The Miscellanie, or Regestrie and Methodicall Directorie of Orisons (London, 1613), died in 1593. Pie became possessed of Burnham Abbey through his wife, to whose first husband, William Tyldesley, it had been granted at the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII.
Peter Wentworth (1530–1596) was the elder brother of the above-mentioned Paul, and like his brother was a prominent puritan leader in parliament, which he first entered as member for Barnstaple in 1571. He took a firm attitude in support of the liberties of parliament against encroachments of the royal prerogative, on which subject he delivered a memorable speech on the 8th of February 1576, for which after examination by the Star Chamber he was committed to the Tower. In February 1587 Sir Anthony Cope (1548–1614) presented to the Speaker a bill abrogating the existing ecclesiastical law, together with a puritan revision of the Prayer Book, and Wentworth supported him by bringing forward certain articles touching the liberties of the House of Commons; Cope and Wentworth were both committed to the Tower for interference with the queen’s ecclesiastical prerogative. In 1593 Wentworth again suffered imprisonment for presenting a petition on the subject of the succession to the Crown; and it is probable that he did not regain his freedom, for he died in the Tower on the 10th of November 1596. While in the Tower he wrote A Pithie Exhortation to her Majesty for establishing her Successor to the Crown, a famous treatise preserved in the British Museum. Peter Wentworth was twice married; his first wife, by whom he had no children, was a cousin of Catherine Parr, and his second a sister of Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s secretary of state. His third son, Thomas Wentworth (c. 1568–1623), was an ardent and sometimes a violent opponent of royal prerogative in parliament, of which he became a member in 1604, continuing to represent the city of Oxford from that year until his death. He was called to the bar in 1594 and became recorder of Oxford in 1607. Another son, Walter Wentworth, was also a member of parliament.
Sir Peter Wentworth (1592–1675) was a grandson of Peter Wentworth, being the son of Peter’s eldest son Nicholas, from whom he inherited the manor of Lillingstone Lovell. As sheriff of Oxfordshire in 1634 he was charged with the duty of collecting the levy of ship-money, in which he encountered popular opposition. He was member for Tamworth in the Long Parliament, but refused to act as a commissioner for the trial of Charles I. He was a member of the council of state during the Commonwealth; but was denounced for immorality by Cromwell in April 1653, and his speech in reply was interrupted by Cromwell’s forcible expulsion of the Commons. Sir Peter, who was a friend of Milton, died on the 1st of December 1675, having never been married. By his will he left a legacy to Milton, and considerable estates to his grand-nephew Fisher Dilke, who took the name of Wentworth; and this name was borne by his descendants until dropped in the 18th century by Wentworth Dilke Wentworth, great-grandfather of Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke (q.v.).
See W. L. Rutton, Three Branches of the Family of Wentworth of Nettlestead (London, 1891); Joseph Foster, Pedigrees of the County Families of Yorkshire (2 vols., London, 1874); Charles Wriothesley, Chronicle of England during the Reigns of the Tudors, edited by W. D. Hamilton (2 vols., London, 1875–1877): Bulstrode Whitelocke, Memorials of the English Affairs: Charles I. to the Restoration (London, 1732); John Strype, Annals of the Reformation (7 vols., Oxford, 1824); Mark Noble, Lives of the English Regicides (2 vols., London, 1798) containing a memoir of Sir Peter Wentworth; Lord Clarendon, History of the Rebellion (7 vols., Oxford, 1839), and Calendar of the Clarendon State Papers; S. R. Gardiner, History of England from the Accession of James I. to the Outbreak of the Civil War (10 vols., London, 1883–1884), and History of the Great Civil War, 1642–1649 (3 vols., London, 1886–1891; J. A . Froude, History of England (12 vols., London, 1856–1870); G. E. C., Complete Peerage, vol. viii. (London, 1898). See also articles “Wentworth” by A. F. Pollard, C. H. Firth and Sir C. W. Dilke, in Dict. Nat. Biog. (London, 1899). (R. J. M.)
- In the 16th century Lillingstone Lovell was in Oxfordshire, that portion of the county being surrounded by Buckinghamshire, with which it was afterwards incorporated.