When William of Orange took over the English throne during the 'Glorious Revolution' in 1689, his right hand man and most trusted advisor was my ancestor, Hans Willem Bentinck. He was a Count of the Holy Roman Empire and the effective ruler of a principality in what is now northern Germany called Kniphausen and Varel. We can trace the family back to a Wicherus Benting in 1233 and they lived principally in the northern parts of Germany and Holland.

There has always been a suspicion that the close relationship between the king and Hans Willem may have been more than mere friendship. Indeed the story goes that in an era when it was believed that catching a disease from someone would cure the one originally infected, Bentinck shared a bed with the king to cure him of cholera. Recent more intensive research refutes the idea of a homosexual relationship for the sublime reason that Bentinck was just far too dull to have been gay!

William made Bentinck the Earl of Portland, and his son was created Duke of Portland. The family married well over the years, to the Harleys, the Cavendishes and the Scotts, and ended up as one of the great Ducal families of England. The Dukedom died out in 1990.

That family, the Cavendish-Bentincks, was from Hans Willem's first marriage. I am descended from his second marriage, whose male line all carry the title of Count. Our side flitted from Holland to England and comprised small landowners, soldiers, sailors and churchmen.

We owned a castle in Holland called Middachten, which was taken from us when my god-fearing great grandfather Henry relinquished his entire inheritance to his younger brother William, who claimed that because Henry had married someone not noble enough for the Bentincks ( a Scottish aristocrat) he was going to take the lot. Which he did, and then married a Dutch commoner.

Was my father bitter? You bet. Also named Henry, he was the first to break from this orthodoxy, working as a BBC producer, Tasmanian farm hand, TV commercials producer, then organic smallholder and philosopher. As an actor, I have continued this departure from family tradition.

When I first wrote this site, in 1993, I found a program called Morph Studio that allowed me to see how Bentinck faces have changed over the years. It goes from Hans Willem down to my son Will, then sideways to my younger son Jasper - we're all a lot older now though, and I've lost the program that did it so I can't update it. It's still fun though!

1. Hans Willem Bentinck 1649-1709
2. William Bentinck 1704-1774
3. Christian Frederick Anthony Bentinck 1734-1768
4. Maj.-Gen. John Charles Bentinck 1763-1833
5. Lt.-Gen. Charles Anthony Ferdinand Bentinck 1792-1864
6. Lt.-Col. Henry Charles Adolphus Frederick William Bentinck 1846-1903
7. Capt. Robert Charles Bentinck 1875-1932
8. Henry Noel Bentinck 1919-1997
9. Timothy Charles Robert Noel Bentinck 1953-
10. William Jack Henry Bentinck 1984-
10. Jasper James Mellowes Bentinck 1988-