William Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, 7th Earl Fitzwilliam

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The 7th Earl Fitzwilliam

William ("Billy") Charles de Meuron Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, 7th Earl Fitzwilliam KCVO CBE DSO MP (25 July 1872 – 15 February 1943), styled Viscount Milton 1877–1902, was a British Army officer, nobleman, politician, and aristocrat.[1]


He was born in Pointe de Meuron, Ontario, Canada, and died at the family's seat, Wentworth Woodhouse. He sat in the House of Commons for Wakefield from 1895 until 1902, when he inherited the title Earl Fitzwilliam on the death of his grandfather William Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, 6th Earl Fitzwilliam. His father William Wentworth-FitzWilliam, Viscount Milton had pre-deceased him.

He served 1893–94 as Aide-de-camp to Lord Lansdowne, Viceroy of India. He was promoted to captain of the 4th (Militia) Battalion of the Oxfordshire Light Infantry on 11 April 1896. Following the outbreak of the Second Boer War in late 1899, he volunteered for service with the Imperial Yeomanry where he was commissioned lieutenant on 3 February 1900,[2][3] serving with the 40th (Oxfordshire) Company in the 10th Battalion. He left London the same day in the SS Montfort,[4] and arrived in South Africa the following month. Later that year he received a staff appointment, as captain on the headquarters staff in South Africa.

In May 1902, Lord Fitzwilliam was employed on the staff of the Duke of Connaught, who was in charge of military events during the Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. His main duties were in organizing the auxiliary forces during the celebrations.[5]

He was High Sheriff of Rutland for 1898–99.[6]


On 24 June 1896, at St Paul's Cathedral, he married Lady Maud Frederica Elizabeth Dundas (b. 9 July 1877 Upleatham d. 15 March 1967), the daughter of Lawrence Dundas, 1st Marquess of Zetland and Lady Lillian Selina Elizabeth Lumley . They had five children;

  • Lady Maud Lillian Elfreda Mary Wentworth-Fitzwilliam (19 August 1898 – 1979); married Archibald Ralph Montagu-Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie, 3rd Earl of Wharncliffe on 24 March 1918. They had 5 children:
    • Lady Ann Lavinia Maud Montagu-Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie (b. 25 January 1919):
    • Lady Mary Diana Montagu-Stuart-Wortley (b. 2 June 1920, d. 19 September 1997);
    • Lady Barbara Maureen Montagu-Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie (26 August 1921 – 13 December 2014);
    • Lady Mary Rosemary Marie-Gabrielle Montagu-Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie (b. 11 June 1930);
    • Alan James Montagu-Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie, 4th Earl of Wharncliffe (23 March 1935 – 1987)
  • Lady Marjorie Joan Mary Wentworth-Fitzwilliam (19 October 1900 – 11 September 2001,[7]); married on 4 October 1925 to Lt.-Col. Sir Grimond Picton Phillips (marriage dissolved 1949): married on 6 October 1949 to Lt.-Col William Wallace Smith Smith-Cuninghame. Lady Joan had one son:
    • Griffith William Grismond Phillips (b 19 May 1935).
  • Lady Donatia Faith Mary Wentworth-Fitzwilliam (14 March 1904 – 20 October 1943); married on 3 June 1925 to Lt.-Col. Burton William Ellis Gething.
  • Lady Helena Albreda Marie Gabrielle Wentworth-Fitzwilliam (25 May 1907 – 1970); married on 9 April 1938 to Chetwode Charles Hamilton Hilton-Green. She married, secondly, on 16 June 1966 to Edward Greenall, 2nd Baron Daresbury. Lady Helena had one daughter:
    • Julia Mary Hamilton Hilton-Green (b. 22 September 1938)
  • William Henry Lawrence Peter Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, 8th Earl Fitzwilliam (31 December 1910 – 13 May 1948)

On his succession to the Earldom, he became one of the richest men in Britain, inheriting an estate of significant land, industrial and mineral-right holdings worth £3.3 billion in 2007 terms.[8] His sister Lady Mabel Fitzwilliam criticised his lifestyle: "he had so much and everyone else had so little".[9]


The unusual circumstances of his birth in a remote part of Canada's frontier lands were later to cause major controversy within the family. The accusation was that he was a changeling: an unrelated baby inserted into the family line, to purge the bloodline of the epilepsy from which his ostensible forebears had suffered, and to provide that arm of the family with a male heir to inherit the Earldom.[10]


  1. ^ Venn, John (2011). Alumni Cantabrigienses: A Biographical List of All Known Students. Cambridge University Press. p. 424. Retrieved 15 February 2016. 
  2. ^ "No. 27160". The London Gazette. 2 February 1900. p. 692. 
  3. ^ "No. 27163". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 February 1900. p. 910. 
  4. ^ "The War - The Imperial Yeomanry". The Times (36056). London. 3 February 1900. p. 12. 
  5. ^ "The Coronation". The Times (36767). London. 14 May 1902. p. 12. 
  6. ^ "No. 26945". The London Gazette. 8 March 1898. p. 1414. 
  7. ^ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1364555/Lady-Joan-Cuninghame.html
  8. ^ Bailey, C (2007). Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty, London: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-670-91542-2
  9. ^ Bailey, C (2007). Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty, p399. London: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-670-91542-2
  10. ^ Bailey, C (2007). Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty, pp. 14–35. London: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-670-91542-2

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Albany Hawkes Charlesworth
Member of Parliament for Wakefield
Succeeded by
Edward Brotherton
Preceded by
Thomas Bartholomew Curran
Baby of the House
Succeeded by
Samuel Scott
Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by
William Wentworth-FitzWilliam
Earl Fitzwilliam
Succeeded by
Peter Wentworth-FitzWilliam