Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wentworth, Thomas (1591-1667)
WENTWORTH, Sir THOMAS, fourth Baron Wentworth of Nettlestead and first Earl of Cleveland (1591–1667), born in 1591, was the elder son of Henry, third baron Wentworth (d. 16 Aug. 1593), by Anne (d. May 1625), daughter of Sir Owen Hopton, lieutenant of the Tower. Thomas Wentworth, second baron [q. v.], was his grandfather. In 1595 his mother married Sir William Pope (1573–1631) of Wroxton (afterwards first Earl of Downe), and Thomas, with his brother Henry (d. 1644), afterwards a major-general in the king's army, and his sister Jane, who married Sir John Finet [q. v.], were brought up there. The boys matriculated on 12 Nov. 1602 at Trinity College, Oxford, their stepfather being the nephew of the founder, Sir Thomas Pope [q. v.]; a room had been built for them over the college library in 1601 at a cost of 50l. (Comp. Burs. Coll. Trin.) On 27 Aug. 1605 they appeared before James I at Christ Church (Wake, Rex Platonicus, p. 35), and Thomas was created a knight of the Bath on 4 June 1610. In 1611 he married, and seems to have settled at Toddington, Bedfordshire, with his great-aunt Jane (Wentworth), lady Cheyney, on whose death on 16 April 1614 he added the estates there of the Cheyney family to the Wentworth property in Suffolk and Middlesex. In 1619 he became custos rotulorum for the county of Bedford. Lloyd (Memoires p. 570) says that he served under Prince Maurice in 1620 and Count Mansfeldt in 1624, but has probably confused him with his second wife's father, Sir John Wentworth of Gosfield (d. 1631), who took part in Vere's expedition of 1620. He took his seat in the House of Lords on 30 Jan. 1621, was made joint lord lieutenant of Bedfordshire on 5 May 1625, and was created Earl of Cleveland on 7 Feb. 1626. This promotion he seems to have owed to the favour of Buckingham, under whom he served in the expedition to La Rochelle in 1627; he was present when Buckingham was assassinated by Felton, and heard ‘the thump’ and the assassin's exclamation of ‘God have mercy on thy soul’ (Lloyd, l.c. and Forster, Eliot, ii. 355). His connection with the court had led him into great extravagance, and about 1630 he and his son began to raise loans chiefly from persons of rank; before 1638 they had heavily encumbered the lands in Bedfordshire and Middlesex, especially the manors of Stepney and Hackney, while they still owed 19,200l.
On 12 Feb. 1639 Cleveland wrote to say that he would join the king with ten men; and on 9 Oct. 1640 the garrison of Berwick was ‘very merry since the Earl of Cleveland came hither.’ He had long been on friendly terms with his namesake and distant kinsman, the Earl of Strafford (letters in the Strafford Letters, 24 Oct. 1632 and 31 Jan. 1633); and on 10 May 1641 was ordered by the lords to convey to Strafford the news of the royal assent to the bill of attainder; he also attended him to the scaffold. In 1642 he became colonel of a regiment of horse, was probably with Charles at Edgehill, and sat in the Oxford parliament from January 1644. During this year he was one of the most prominent royalist generals, being of a ‘plain and practical temper,’ and famous for ‘obliging the souldiery’ (Lloyd). With 150 horse he successfully surprised Abingdon by night on 29 May 1644, but was forced to retreat and lost his prisoners (Clarendon, viii. 45; Walker, Hist. Disc. p. 32). On 29 June he led a charge of cavalry ‘with great fury’ against Waller on the west bank of the Cherwell at Cropredy Bridge; and, after ‘making a stand under a great ash,’ charged a second time and drove Waller back over the bridge (Clarendon, viii. 44–6). His brigade was sent to Cornwall, and on 30 Aug. he attempted unsuccessfully to stop the flight of Essex's horse near Fowey; but on the next day pursued Sir William Balfour with five hundred men (Walker, pp. 71–4; Gardiner, Great Civil War, i. 466–7). He helped to relieve Portland Castle on 14 Oct. (Walker, p. 104), and on 27 Oct. he commanded the cavalry on the left wing at the second battle of Newbury; he ‘charged through and through’ the enemy (Lloyd), and saved the king's guard; but his horse fell (Walker, p. 113), and he was captured ‘by a lieutenant of Colonel Berkley's’ (Whitelocke, i. 323). An order for his exchange, 31 March 1645, did not take effect, and he remained a prisoner either in the Tower or on bail till 1648. He was permitted to stay at Bath with his son-in-law, Lord Lovelace, or elsewhere for long intervals; but it is difficult to understand how he came to be in Colchester during the siege in 1648; a proposal to exchange him ‘for one of the committee in Colchester’ on 19 Aug. (Whitelocke, ii. 384) seems to indicate that he was still on bail. He was allowed bail for three months in September 1648, and it is not known how his imprisonment terminated.
He next appears in April 1650 in attendance on Charles at Beauvais, where he threatened to cane any one who called him a presbyterian (Cal. Clarendon State Papers, ii. 54). He went with Charles to Scotland on 12 June 1650, and he and his son were required on 17 Oct. ‘to depart Scotland for refusing to take the covenant’ (Whitelocke, iii. 250). He commanded a regiment of cavalry at the battle of Worcester on 3 Sept. 1651, and by a charge in the street gave the prince time to escape; he himself was captured on 13 Sept. at Woodcote, Shropshire, and committed to the Tower, with Hamilton, Derby, and Lauderdale. An order was made on 17 Sept. that he should be tried with them on 29 Oct., but he escaped the death sentence by some accident. Lloyd says that one of the judges having left the room for a few minutes, Lord Mordaunt, influenced by the prayers of Lady Lovelace, gave a casting vote in his favour. The parliament (6 Nov.) refused to try him again; he was, however, kept a close prisoner in the Tower till about the middle of 1656. When released he may have retired to Lord Lovelace's house at Water Eaton, near Oxford. Nettlestead had been sold in 1643; his encumbered estates had been sequestrated at the commencement of the war, and his fine assessed at 2000l. He and his son were said to owe 100,000l., and the adjustment of the claims of the encumbrancers by the county committees of Bedfordshire and Middlesex was not completed till 1655, when practically the whole of his landed property was leased or sold to his creditors (see Cal. State Papers, Committee for Advance of Money i. 153, Committee for Compounding iii. 2156–68).
At the Restoration he reappeared, and on 29 May 1660 led a band of three hundred noblemen ‘in his plain gray suit’ (Lloyd, l.c.). He was made captain of the gentlemen pensioners on 20 June, and received the command of a troop of horse on 1 Sept. 1662. Evelyn writes that at a review of four thousand guards in Hyde Park on 4 July 1663 ‘the old Earl of Cleveland trail'd a pike, and led the right-hand file in a foote company commanded by the Lord Wentworth his son, a worthy spectacle and example, being both of them old and valiant souldiers.’ An act to enable him to sell settled land for the benefit of his creditors was passed in 1660, and another granting extension of time on 18 Jan. 1667; these were revised in 1690, though his daughter-in-law had paid off large sums by careful management at Toddington. Cleveland died on 25 March 1667, and was buried at Toddington. Lloyd says that he attributed his strength of constitution to his habit of smoking a hundred pipes a day, ‘which he learnt in Leagures’ (i.e. camps). Clarendon describes him as ‘a man of signal courage and an excellent officer upon any bold enterprise;’ and Sir Philip Warwick (Memoirs, p. 270), with reference to his success at Abingdon and Cropredy in 1644, calls him ‘a nobleman of daring courage, full of industry and activity, as well as firm loyalty, and usually successful in what he attempted.’ He is also praised by Bulstrode, who had a poor opinion of his son; and Sir E. Nicholas (1 May 1653) calls him ‘a very intelligent person.’
There is a fine full-length portrait of Cleveland, by Van Dyck, in the possession of the Earl of Verulam (exhibited at South Kensington in 1866), and a head in Lord North's collection at Wroxton, where there is also a larger picture of Cleveland as a boy with his mother and sister, painted by Van Somer in 1596. The head is engraved in Doyle's ‘Baronage.’
By his first wife, Anne (d. 1638), daughter of Sir John Crofts of Saxham Parva, Suffolk, Cleveland had six children—Sir Thomas (1613–1665) [q. v.], Anne, Maria, William, and Charles, who died as children, and Anne (1623–1697), who married John Lovelace, second baron Lovelace of Hurley, and inherited the barony of Wentworth in 1686 from her niece [see under Lovelace, John, third Baron; Wentworth, Henrietta Maria, Baroness Wentworth]. The barony passed from her, first to her granddaughter, Martha Lovelace, lady Johnson, then to the Noel family, and after some abeyance to the second Earl of Lovelace (1839–1906) in right of his mother, the first countess, Augusta Ada, only child of Lord Byron by Anne Isabella Milbanke, Lady Byron, who never assumed the title of Baroness Wentworth, although she became entitled to it in 1856. By his second wife, Lucy (d. 1651), daughter of Sir John Wentworth, bart., of Gosfield, Essex, Cleveland had an only daughter, Catherine, who married William Spencer of Cople, Bedfordshire, and died without issue in 1670 (Rutton, Wentworth Barony Papers, House of Lords).
[There are excellent sketches of Cleveland and his son in Rutton's Three Branches of the Family of Wentworth of Nettlestead (1891), pp. 61–102. A few facts are gleaned from Evelyn, the Lords' Journals, Symonds's Diary, Collins's Peerage (vi. 206–8), Doyle's Official Baronage, Warburton's Cavaliers, and G. E. C[okayne's] Complete Peerage, viii. 97–9; and see the authorities cited.]