Document ReferencePw F 10081-10343
TitleLetters in French from Charlotte Sophie, Countess Bentinck, Emsbuttel, to her granddaughter Sophia Hawkins Whitshed [née Bentinck]; 1790-1799
Extent263 letters
Content DescriptionThese letters were presented to the Duke of Portland in 1935 by Mrs Aubrey Le Blond, Rosebank, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, a direct descendant of Sophia and Admiral Hawkins Whitshed.

Charlotte Sophie was the only daughter and heiress of Anton (Anthony), 2nd Count of Aldenburg. She married William, 1st Count Bentinck (1704-1774) in 1733, and had two children by him, Christian Frederick Anthony (1734-1768) and John Albert (1737-1775). The marriage was not a success and in 1739 Charlotte Sophie left her husband. Relations between them became increasingly embittered and she was not permitted to see either of her children again, despite several attempts. Disputes over property, in particular Charlotte Sophie's estate at Doorwerth, added to the bitterness and continued until her death. There are references within the correspondence to this ongoing dispute, which was taken up after the death of Count Bentinck by their grandson, 'Rhoon' (William Gustav Frederick Bentinck, eldest son of Christian Bentinck, 1762-1835).

It was not until 1789, after the death of both her sons, that Charlotte Sophie finally made the acquaintance of the first of her English grandchildren, Captain (later Vice-Admiral) William Bentinck (1764-1813), eldest son of John Albert. From this developed the correspondence with her granddaughter Sophia Henrietta Hawkins Whitshed (1765-1852), which is the subject of this collection. Although Charlotte Sophie eventually came to know all her grandchildren, it was with the children of her younger son, John Albert, that she developed the closest relationships.

The correspondence reveals Charlotte Sophie's increasing attachment to the members of her 'new' family, for several of whom she soon creates her own names. Sophia ('Sophie', as the letters are all written in French) becomes 'la petite chatte', and there are references to the 'tribu chatte' and the 'famille chatonne', as well as other feline references. Admiral Hawkins Whitshed, to whom Charlotte Sophie was particularly attached, is addressed alternatively as 'Hawkings', 'tête blanche', 'tête sage' and 'notre cher Roué'; on marrying Sophia, she asks permission to address him as the 'chaton'. William Bentinck is referred to as 'notre meilleur Grand Guillaume' or 'le grand garçon'.
Related MaterialPapers of the Bentinck family, Counts of the Holy Roman Empire (BK)
Digital copies of two journals of Captain William Bentinck [1764-1813]; 1790-1791 (MS 993)
Related RecordBK
Publication NoteMany of the letters in this collection are translated or partly translated in 'Charlotte Sophie, Countess Bentinck, her Life and Times' by Mrs Aubrey Le Blond (2 vols. Hutchinson, 1912). It should be noted that where letters appear as incomplete extracts, or where different letters are amalgamated, this is not generally indicated.

Click the links below to view related name indexes

CodePersonNameDates of existence
NA95Bentinck; Charlotte S. (1715-1800); Countess Bentinck; dau. of Anton II Count of Aldenburg; m. 1733 William 1st Count Bentinck1715-1800
NA1093Whitshed; Sophia H. Hawkins- (1765-1852); Lady Hawkins-Whitshed; née Countess Bentinck, dau of Captain John Albert Bentinck; m 1791 Admiral Sir James Hawkins Whitshed1765-1852
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