William Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville - Wikipedia Jump to content

William Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Lord Grenville
Portrait by John Hoppner, c. 1800
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
11 February 1806 – 25 March 1807
MonarchGeorge III
Preceded byWilliam Pitt the Younger
Succeeded byThe Duke of Portland
Speaker of the House of Commons
of Great Britain
In office
5 January 1789 – 5 June 1789
MonarchGeorge III
Prime MinisterWilliam Pitt
Preceded byCharles Wolfran Cornwall
Succeeded byHenry Addington
Ministerial offices
Foreign Secretary
In office
8 June 1791 – 20 February 1801
Prime MinisterWilliam Pitt the Younger
Preceded byThe Marquess of Carmarthen
Succeeded byThe Lord Hawkesbury
President of the Board of Control
In office
12 March 1790 – 28 June 1793
Prime MinisterWilliam Pitt the Younger
Preceded byThe Viscount Sydney
Succeeded byHenry Dundas
Home Secretary
In office
5 June 1789 – 8 June 1791
Prime MinisterWilliam Pitt the Younger
Preceded byThe Viscount Sydney
Succeeded byHenry Dundas
Vice-President of the Board of Trade
In office
23 August 1786 – 8 August 1789
Prime MinisterWilliam Pitt the Younger
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byThe Duke of Montrose
Paymaster of the Forces
In office
26 December 1783 – 4 September 1789
Prime MinisterWilliam Pitt the Younger
Preceded byEdmund Burke
Succeeded byThe Duke of Montrose
Chief Secretary for Ireland
In office
15 August 1782 – 2 May 1783
Prime MinisterThe Earl of Shelburne
Preceded byRichard FitzPatrick
Succeeded byWilliam Windham
Parliamentary offices
Member of Parliament
for Buckinghamshire
In office
Preceded byThe Earl Verney
Succeeded byJames Grenville
Member of Parliament
for Buckingham
In office
Preceded byRichard Aldworth-Neville
Succeeded byCharles Edmund Nugent
Personal details
William Wyndham Grenville

(1759-10-25)25 October 1759
Wotton Underwood, Buckinghamshire, England
Died12 January 1834(1834-01-12) (aged 74)
Burnham, Buckinghamshire, England
Resting placeSt Peter's Church, Burnham
Political party
(m. 1792)
Alma materChrist Church, Oxford
SignatureCursive signature in ink

William Wyndham Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville, PC, PC (Ire), FRS (25 October 1759 – 12 January 1834) was a British Pittite Tory politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1806 to 1807, but was a supporter of the Whigs for the duration of the Napoleonic Wars. As prime minister, his most significant achievement was the abolition of the slave trade in 1807. However, his government failed to either make peace with France or to accomplish Catholic emancipation and it was dismissed in the same year.


Grenville was the son of the Whig Prime Minister George Grenville. His mother, Elizabeth, was the daughter of the Tory statesman Sir William Wyndham, 3rd Baronet. He had two elder brothers: Thomas and George. He was thus uncle to the 1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos.

He was also related to the Pitt family by marriage since William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, had married his father's sister Hester. The younger Grenville was thus the first cousin of William Pitt the Younger.

Grenville was educated at Eton College; Christ Church, Oxford; and Lincoln's Inn.[1]

Grenville was the maternal great-grandson of Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset and therefore a descendant of Lady Katherine Grey, a great-granddaughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.

Political career[edit]

Grenville entered the House of Commons in February 1782 as member for the borough of Buckingham.[2] He soon became a close ally of the prime minister, his cousin William Pitt the Younger. In September, he became secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who was his brother George. He left the House the following year and served in the government as Paymaster of the Forces from 1784 to 1789. In 1789, he served briefly as Speaker of the House of Commons before he entered the cabinet as Home Secretary and resigned his other posts.[2] He became Leader of the House of Lords when he was raised to the peerage the next year as Baron Grenville, of Wotton under Bernewood in the County of Buckingham.[3]

Lord Grenville by Gainsborough Dupont, c. 1790

In 1791, he succeeded Francis Osborne, 5th Duke of Leeds as Foreign Secretary. Grenville's decade as Foreign Secretary was dramatic with the Wars of the French Revolution. During the war, Grenville was the leader of the party that focused on the fighting on Continental Europe as the key to victory and opposed the faction of Henry Dundas, which favoured war at sea and in the colonies.

Grenville left office with Pitt in 1801 over the issue of George III's refusal to assent to Catholic emancipation.[4]

Grenville did part-time military service at home as Major in the Buckinghamshire Yeomanry cavalry in 1794 and as lieutenant-colonel in the South Buckinghamshire volunteer regiment in 1806.[5]

In his years out of office, Grenville became close to the opposition Whig leader Charles James Fox, and when Pitt returned to office in 1804, Grenville sided with Fox and did not take part.[4]

Prime minister[edit]

After Pitt's death in 1806, Grenville became the head of the "Ministry of All the Talents", a coalition between Grenville's supporters, the Foxite Whigs, and the supporters of former Prime Minister Lord Sidmouth, with Grenville as First Lord of the Treasury and Fox as Foreign Secretary as joint leaders. Grenville's cousin William Windham served as Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, and his younger brother, Thomas Grenville, served briefly as First Lord of the Admiralty.

The Ministry ultimately accomplished little and failed either to make peace with France or to accomplish Catholic emancipation, the later attempt resulting in the ministry's dismissal in March 1807. It had one significant achievement, however, in the abolition of the slave trade in 1807.[4]


Lord Grenville as Chancellor of Oxford, by William Owen, c. 1809-25

In the years after the fall of the ministry, Grenville continued in opposition by maintaining his alliance with Lord Grey and the Whigs, criticising the Peninsular War and, with Grey, refusing to join Lord Liverpool's government in 1812.

In the postwar years, Grenville gradually moved back closer to the Tories but never again returned to the cabinet. In 1815, he separated from his friend Charles Grey and supported the war policy of Lord Liverpool. In 1819, when the Marquess of Lansdowne brought forward his motion for an inquiry into the causes of the distress and discontent in the manufacturing districts, Grenville delivered a speech advocating repressive measures.[4] His political career was ended by a stroke in 1823.

Grenville also served as Chancellor of the University of Oxford from 1810 until his death in 1834.[1]


Historians find it hard to tell exactly which separate roles Pitt, Grenville and Dundas played in setting war policy toward France but agree that Grenville played a major role at all times until 1801. The consensus of scholars is that war with France presented an unexpected complex of problems. There was a conflict between secular ideologies, the conscription of huge armies, the new role of the Russian Empire as a continental power, and especially the sheer length and cost of the multiple coalitions.

Grenville energetically worked to build and hold together the Allied coalitions and paid suitable attention to smaller members such as Denmark and the Kingdom of Sardinia. He negotiated the complex alliance with Russia and the Austrian Empire. He hoped that with British financing, they would bear the brunt of the ground campaigns against the French.

Grenville's influence was at the maximum during the formation of the Second Coalition. His projections of easy success were greatly exaggerated, and the result was another round of disappointment. His resignation in 1801 was caused primarily by George III's refusal to allow Catholics to sit in Parliament.[6]

Dropmore House[edit]

A caricature of Saartjie Baartman, Lord Grenville, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan by William Heath

Dropmore House was built in the 1790s for Lord Grenville. The architects were Samuel Wyatt and Charles Tatham. Grenville knew the spot from rambles during his time at Eton College and prized its distant views of his old school and of Windsor Castle. On his first day in occupation, he planted two cedar trees. At least another 2,500 trees were planted. By the time he died, his pinetum contained the biggest collection of conifer species in Britain. Part of the post-millennium restoration is to use what survives as the basis for a collection of some 200 species.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Lord Grenville married Anne, daughter of Thomas Pitt, 1st Baron Camelford, in 1792. The marriage was childless and he produced no legitimate offspring during his lifetime. He died in January 1834, aged 74, when the barony became extinct.[8]

Ministry of All the Talents[edit]


  • September 1806 – On Fox's death, Lord Howick succeeds him as Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons. Thomas Grenville succeeds Howick at the Admiralty. Lord Fitzwilliam becomes Minister without Portfolio, and Lord Sidmouth succeeds him as Lord President. Lord Holland succeeds Sidmouth as Lord Privy Seal.



Coat of arms of William Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville
A Garb Vert
Quarterly, 1st and 4th, Vert on a Cross Argent five Torteaux Gules (Grenville); 2nd, Or an Eagle displayed Sable (Leofric, Earl of Mercia); 3rd, Argent two Bars Sable each charged with three Martlets Or (Temple)
On the dexter side a Lion per fess embattled Gules and Or and on the sinister side a Horse Argent semé of Eaglets Sable with both supporters collared Argent banded Vert charged with three Torteaux counterchanged
Repetens exempla suorum (Following the example set by our forebears)

Hereditary Peerage[edit]

  • He was given a Hereditary Peerage in 1790 allowing him to sit in the House of Lords. He sat with the Whig Party Benches. He took the title of 1st Baron Grenville. This title became extinct upon his death in 1834 as he had no surviving heir.

British Empire honours[edit]

British Empire honours
Country Date Appointment Post-nominal letters
 Kingdom of Ireland 1782 – 12 January 1834 Member of the Privy Council of Ireland PC (Ire)
 United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland 1783 – 12 January 1834 Member of the Privy Council of Great Britain PC


Chancellor, visitor, governor, and fellowships
Location Date School Position
 England 1809 – 12 January 1834 University of Oxford Chancellor

Memberships and fellowships[edit]

Country Date Organisation Position
 United Kingdom 23 April 1818 – 12 January 1834 Royal Society Fellow (FRS)


  1. ^ a b Jupp, P. J. (21 May 2009) [2004]. "Grenville, William Wyndham, Baron Grenville (1759–1834), prime minister". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/11501. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ a b Chisholm 1911, p. 581.
  3. ^ "No. 13259". The London Gazette. 23 November 1790. p. 710.
  4. ^ a b c d Chisholm 1911, p. 582.
  5. ^ Fisher, David R. "GRENVILLE, William Wyndham (1759-1834), of Dropmore Lodge, Bucks". History of Parliament Trust.
  6. ^ Davis, Richard W. (1997). "Wellington and the "Open Question": The Issue of Catholic Emancipation, 1821–1829". Albion. 29 (1): 39–55. doi:10.2307/4051594. JSTOR 4051594.
  7. ^ "Abolitionist's house escapes ruin". BBC News. 1 April 2007. Retrieved 6 February 2009.
  8. ^ Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 107th edition, vol. 3, ed. Charles Mosley, Burke's Peerage Ltd, 2003, p. 3868

Further reading[edit]

  • Ehrman, John. The Younger Pitt: The Years of Acclaim (1969); The Reluctant Transition (1983); The Consuming Struggle (1996).
  • Furber, Holden. Henry Dundas: First Viscount Melville, 1741–1811, Political Manager of Scotland, Statesman, Administrator of British India (Oxford UP, 1931). online
  • Jupp, Peter. "Grenville, William Wyndham, Baron Grenville (1759–1834)" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2009) https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/11501
  • Jupp, P. (1985), Lord Grenville, Oxford University Press
  • Leonard, Dick. "William Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville—Not Quite 'All the Talents'." in Leonard, ed, Nineteenth-Century British Premiers (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008). 38-54.
  • McCahill, Michael W. "William, First Lord Grenville." (2003) 22#1 pp 29-42
  • Mori, Jennifer. Britain in the Age of the French Revolution: 1785-1820 (2014).
  • Negus, Samuel D. "'Further concessions cannot be attained': the Jay-Grenville treaty and the politics of Anglo-American relations, 1789–1807." (Texas Christian University, 2013. PhD thesis) online
  • Sack, James J. The Grenvillites, 1801–29: Party Politics and Factionalism in the Age of Pitt and Liverpool (U. of Illinois Press, 1979)
  • Sherwig, John M. "Lord Grenville's plan for a concert of Europe, 1797-99." Journal of Modern History 34.3 (1962): 284–293.
  • Temperley, Harold and L.M. Penson, eds. Foundations of British Foreign Policy: From Pitt (1792) to Salisbury (1902) (1938), primary sources online
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Grenville, William Wyndham Grenville, Baron". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 581–582.
  • Baynes, T. S., ed. (1875–1889). "William Wyndham Greenville, Lord Grenville" . Encyclopædia Britannica (9th ed.). New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  • Barker, George Fisher Russell (1890). "Grenville, William Wyndham" . In Stephen, Leslie; Lee, Sidney (eds.). Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 23. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Chief Secretary for Ireland
Succeeded by
Preceded by Paymaster of the Forces
Succeeded by
New office Vice-President of the Board of Trade
Succeeded by
Preceded by Speaker of the House of Commons of Great Britain
Succeeded by
Preceded by Home Secretary
Succeeded by
President of the Board of Control
Preceded by Leader of the House of Lords
Succeeded by
Foreign Secretary
Succeeded by
Preceded by Auditor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Preceded by Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
11 February 1806 – 25 March 1807
Succeeded by
Preceded by Leader of the House of Lords
Succeeded by
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Buckingham
With: James Grenville
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Buckinghamshire
With: Sir John Aubrey 1784–1790
The Earl Verney 1790
Succeeded by
Academic offices
Preceded by Chancellor of the University of Oxford
Succeeded by
Peerage of Great Britain
New creation Baron Grenville