Lord William Wyndham Grenville
1759-1834. A central figure figure in the Grenvillite political faction. Briefly Prime Minister.
Grenville built Dropmore Lodge at Burnham, Buckinghamshire
Numerous letters to William Wyndham Grenville are published in Fortescue.
Politician Lord Henry Brougham provided a pen sketch of Grenville in his memoirs:
Of Grenville’s public virtues it is enough to say that he voluntarily abandoned place and power for his principles […] His high character was supported by great capacity and ample acquirements. He had studied history with great diligence and mature reflection […] His oratory was of a masculine caste, avoiding all ornament, and was like all his talents, for use and practical use. […] His declamation was powerful, and his attacks hard to be borne. […] His opinions being adopted on full consideration, were adhered to with a decision which sometimes savoured of obstinacy, but his mind was ever open to conviction. He considered any reasons offered by intelligent and impartial persons with the greatest attention, and his candour was truly exemplary, in abandoning what he was satisfied had been a prejudice. […] (Brougham, pages 487–498)
The first Duke described him as in ill health in 1827:
His mind is unchanged and as strong as ever, but his form is sadly shrunk, and continues visibly to weaken. (1827/07/13;
Grenville was 46 when he was invited to form a government on the death of William Pitt in 1806. He did so reluctantly with a cross-party alliance of MPs, including followers of Fox and Addington. Grenville's ministry instituted reforms in the Treasury's accounting practices, reorganised the armed forces, and reformed the government of Scotland. Its most significant and lasting achievement, however, was the Abolition of Slavery Act of May 1807. The end of Grenville's ministry came as a result of a struggle with the George III over the perennial issue of catholic emancipation. The King rejected a limited measure of catholic relief and demanded that the subject never be raised again. Grenville tendered his resignation with relief, his administration having lasted just 1 year, 42 days
Leighton on William Wyndham Grenville
Charlotte’s youngest brother, was born in 1759. He entered Parliament for Buckingham in 1782, and was at once given office as Chief Secretary for Ireland, when his eldest brother, Lord Temple, became Viceroy. At the age of 34 he-was successively made Home Secretary and Speaker of the House of Commons; in 1790 he was raised to the Peerage, and led the House of Lords under his cousin the younger Pitt. The rich sinecure of Auditor of the Exchequer rewarded his labours in 1795. On the death of Mr. Pitt (1806) Lord Grenville became Prime Minister and formed a Coalition Government known as the Ministry of All the Talents, with Erskine as Lord Chancellor and Fox as Foreign Secretary. But Fox was in a critical state of health, though he succeeded in carrying through the House of Commons important measures bearing on the slave traffic in the British Colonies. He died in the September of this year, and the Cabinet was in consequence greatly weakened. Lord Grenville had placed himself in a position of personal unpopularity by passing through Parliament an Act enabling him to hold the sinecure already mentioned, together with the Premiership. His administration lasted only thirteen months, after which he took no very leading part in the affairs of State, but Auditor of the Exchequer he remained, until his death in 1839.
His wife, the Honourable Anne Pitt, who succeeded to the Drop more and Boconnoc estates on the death of her brother Lord Camel ford in a duel in 1804, survived him, and these properties passed on her death to the Honourable George Fortescue, second son of Lord Grenville’s third sister, Hester.
These three Grenville brothers are summed up by Lord Rosebery in his Life of Lord Chatham in an interesting, albeit unflattering light. He says that:
“Cobbett reckoned from returns furnished to the House of Commons that. Lord Buckingham and his brother Thomas, the sons of George Grenville, had in half a century drawn £700,000 of public money, and William, another brother, something like £200,000 more. These figures are open to dispute, but they indicate at least that the revenues from public money of this family of sinecurists must have been enormous. Of English; families the Grenvilles were in this particular line easily the first. Had all sinecurists, it may be said, in passing, spent their money like the younger, Thomas, who returned far more than he received by bequeathing his matchless library to the nation, the public conscience would have been much more tender towards them.”
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