Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wentworth, Peter (1592-1675)

WENTWORTH, Sir PETER (1592–1675), politician, son of Nicholas Wentworth of Lillingstone Lovell, Buckinghamshire, by Susanna, daughter of Roger Wigston of Wolston, Warwickshire (Le Neve, Pedigrees of Knights, p. 36), was grandson of Peter Wentworth [q. v.] He was born in 1592, and matriculated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, on 16 June 1610, aged 17, became a student of Lincoln's Inn in 1613, and was made a knight of the Bath at the coronation of Charles I. In 1634 he was sheriff of Oxfordshire, and found the task of collecting ship-money extremely difficult (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1635 pp. 475, 505, 519, 1635–6 p. 224). On 18 Dec. 1641 he was elected to the Long parliament as member for Tamworth (Official Return, i. 494). He took no conspicuous share in its proceedings, but succeeded in obtaining a grant of part of the estate of a royalist delinquent, George Warner of Wolston, Warwickshire, a transaction which is severely commented on by Denzil Holles (Memoirs, p. 135; cf. Commons' Journals, v. 453; Cal. of Committee for Compounding, p. 1454). Wentworth was appointed one of the commissioners for the king's trial, but refused to act (Nalson, Trial of Charles I). He was elected a member of the second, fourth, and fifth councils of state of the Commonwealth (Commons' Journals, vi. 369, vii. 42, 220). Foreign affairs engaged the attention of many committees of the council on which he served, and he was thus brought into contact with Milton, whose friend he became. By his will Wentworth bequeathed 100l. ‘to my worthy and very learned friend Mr. John Milton, who writ against Salmasius.’ On 20 April 1653, when Cromwell dissolved the Long parliament, he classed Wentworth and Harry Marten together as members whose immorality was a disgrace to the house (Whitelocke, Memorials, iv. 5). Wentworth rose to answer him, and complained of ‘the unbecoming language given to the parliament by Cromwell,’ but was cut short by the entry of Cromwell's musketeers (Ludlow, Memoirs, ed. 1894, i. 353). In August 1655 Wentworth opposed a tax levied by the Protector, and caused a collector to be arrested; but when summoned before the council he submitted, excusing himself to Ludlow for his retractation by saying that he was sixty-three, ‘when the blood does not run with the same vigour as in younger men’ (ib. i. 414; cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1655, pp. 296, 300, 596). On the fall of the house of Cromwell, Wentworth returned to his place in the Long parliament (cf. Ludlow, ii. 139), and on 10 Jan. 1659–60 lodgings were assigned to him in Whitehall by the council of state.

He died unmarried, in the eighty-fourth year of his age, on 1 Dec. 1675, and was buried in the church of Lillingstone Lovell (Le Neve, Knights, p. 36). By his will he left property in Warwickshire to his grand-nephew Fisher Dilke, on condition that he and his descendants should take the name of Wentworth. The name was so taken for a time, but abandoned in the eighteenth century after the property had been alienated. A portrait of Sir Peter is in the possession of Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke, bart., M.P., whose great-great-grandfather, Wentworth Dilke Wentworth, was the last of Fisher Dilke's descendants to use the stipulated surname.

[W. L. Rutton's Three Branches of the Wentworth Family, 1891. A life of Wentworth is given in Noble's Lives of the Regicides, ii. 323; letters of Wentworth are among the Domestic State Papers for 1635–6, and in Cary's Memorials of the Civil War, ii. 122.]

C. H. F.