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George Montagu Bennet, 7th Earl of Tankerville (30 March 1852 – 9 July 1931), was a British peer,[1] cowpuncher, circus clown, and revival meeting singer.


Background and educationEdit

Bennet was born at Claridge's Hotel, Brook Street, London, the second son of Charles Bennet, 6th Earl of Tankerville and Olivia Montagu, daughter of George Montagu, 6th Duke of Manchester.[2] He entered the navy in 1865, was midshipman 1867 to 1869, and was educated at Radley from 1869 to 1870. He became a lieutenant in the Rifle Brigade in 1872, eventually serving as aide-de-camp to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland[3] from 1876 to 1880.[2]

His elder brother, Charles, Lord Ossulton, the heir apparent, died, unmarried, of cholera in India 29 June 1879, while serving with the Rifle Brigade.[3] George was styled Lord Bennet at the time he became heir apparent. As the only surviving son, George succeeded his father as Earl of Tankerville on the death of the latter on 18 December 1899.

He travelled in America in 1892, becoming friends with two revivalists, Ira D. Sankey and Dwight L. Moody, accompanying them in both America and Britain. He spent some time as a cowpuncher in the western states.[4]

Known as "The Singing Earl," he sang hymns during his revival work,[4] and took part in concerts in the north of England. (His voice is described, confusingly, both as a "rich bass-baritone" and a "fine tenor".) He studied voice with Giovanni Sbriglia.[4]

Lord Tankerville made American headlines in January 1912 when he placed his 14-year-old son (and eventual successor) in a Boston, Massachusetts school, saying he wanted him to be "educated in a world where every one worked".[4]


Lord Tankerville, who for a time was a clown in the circus, met his future wife when he turned a somersault over a sofa in a New York drawing-room, nearly falling into her lap. He married Leonora Sophia van Marter (– 15 February 1949), daughter of James Gilbert van Marter of New York, at Tacoma, Washington, on 23 October 1895.[2] Prior to their marriage she had been a music teacher.[4] They had four children:

  • Hon. Georgina Bennet (16 July 1896-17 July 1896)
  • Charles Bennet, 8th Earl of Tankerville (16 August 1897-1 December 1971) he married Roberta Mitchell (née Nolan) on 20 October 1920 and they were divorced in 1930. They have two sons. He remarried Violet Pallin on 1 July 1930. They have two children.
    • Charles Augustus Grey Bennet, 9th Earl of Tankerville (28 July 1921-27 April 1980) he married Virginia Diether on 15 May 1943 and they were divorced in 1950. They have one daughter. He remarried Georgiana Wilson on 22 June 1954. They have three children:
      • Corisande Elizabeth Bennet (21 March 1947)
      • Alexandra Katherine Bennet (5 May 1955)
      • Peter Grey Bennet, 10th Earl of Tankerville (18 October 1956)
      • Anne Therese Bennet (18 October 1956)
    • George Arthur Grey Bennet (12 March 1925-4 July 2001) he married Hazel Judson on 27 July 1957. They have two sons and one daughter.
      • Adrian George Bennet (5 July 1958) he is heir presumptive to the Earldom of Tankerville. He married Lucinda Bell in 1984 and they were divorced in 1991. He remarried Karel Wensby-Scott in 1991.
      • Neil Robert Bennet (23 March 1961)
      • Helen Jane Bennet (31 May 1964)
    • Ian Bennet (16 April 1935)
    • Corisande Bennet (10 April 1938) she married Lt Cdr Timothy Bain Smith on 6 April 1963. They have children.
  • Lady Ida Olivia Sophie Bennet (10 November 1898-May 1900) she died at the age of two years.
  • Hon. George William Bennet (21 November 1903-12 February 1981) he married Constance Clare Wace on 12 February 1929.

Lord Tankerville died at the family seat of Chillingham Castle, Northumberland, 9 July 1931, of the effects of a gastric hemorrhage, aged 79,[3] and was cremated and buried at Chillingham. After his death the Chillingham Estate was broken up.[2]. The Countess of Tankerville died 15 February 1949.


  1. ^ Mosley, Charles (2003), Burke's Peerage & Baronetage, I (107th ed.), Wilmington, Delaware: Burke's Peerage & Gentry LLC, ISBN 0-9711966-2-1
  2. ^ a b c d Cokayne, George Edward; White, Geoffrey H. (1953), The Complete Peerage, XII/1, London: The St Catherine Press, p. 636, ISBN 0-904387-82-8
  3. ^ a b c Lord Tankerville: Death of "The Singing Earl", Glasgow: The Glasgow Herald, 10 July 1931, p. 12, retrieved 21 March 2014
  4. ^ a b c d e Lord Tankerville, 'Singing Earl,' Dies, New York City: The New York Times, 10 July 1931, retrieved 21 March 2014

External linksEdit