William Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville

William Wyndham Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville, PC, PC (Ire), FRS (25 October 1759 – 12 January 1834) was a British Pittite Tory and politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1806 to 1807, though he was a supporter of the British Whig Party for the duration of the Napoleonic Wars.

The Lord Grenville

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
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
In office
8 June 1791  20 February 1801
Prime MinisterWilliam Pitt the Younger
Preceded byMarquess of Camarthen
Succeeded byThe Lord Hawkesbury
Home Secretary
In office
5 June 1789  8 June 1791
Prime MinisterWilliam Pitt the Younger
Preceded byThe Lord Sydney
Succeeded byHenry Dundas
Personal details
Born(1759-10-25)25 October 1759
Wotton Underwood, Buckinghamshire, England
Died12 January 1834(1834-01-12) (aged 74)
Burnham, Buckinghamshire, England
Resting placeSt Peter Churchyard, Burnham, Buckinghamshire
Political partyPittite Tory (before 1801, after 1816)
Whig (from c.1803-15)
Anne Pitt (m. 1792)
ParentsGeorge Grenville
Elizabeth Wyndham
Alma materChrist Church, Oxford


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

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

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

Political career

Grenville entered the House of Commons in 1782. He soon became a close ally of the Prime Minister, his cousin William Pitt the Younger, 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. 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.[2] The next year, in 1791, he succeeded the Duke of Leeds as Foreign Secretary. Grenville's decade as Foreign Secretary was a dramatic one, seeing the Wars of the French Revolution. During the war, Grenville was the leader of the party that focused on the fighting on the continent as the key to victory, opposing 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 Catholic Emancipation. He 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.[3]

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 did not take part. Following 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, failing either to make peace with France or to accomplish Catholic emancipation (the later attempt resulting in the ministry's dismissal in March, 1807). It did have one significant achievement, however, in the abolition of the slave trade in 1807.

In the years after the fall of the ministry, Grenville continued in opposition, 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 post-war years, Grenville gradually moved back closer to the Tories, but never again returned to the cabinet. 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.


Historians find it hard to tell exactly what separate roles Pitt, Grenville, and Dundas played in setting war policy with 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 conflict between secular ideologies, the conscription of huge armies, the new role of Russia 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, paying suitable attention to smaller members such as Denmark and Sardinia. He negotiated the complex alliance with Russia and Austria. He hoped that with British financing they would bear the brunt of 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 due primarily to the king's refusal to allow Catholics to sit in Parliament.[4]

Dropmore House

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 Grenville 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.[5]

Personal life

Lord Grenville married the Honourable Anne, daughter of Thomas Pitt, 1st Baron Camelford, in 1792. The marriage was childless. He died in January 1834, aged 74, when the barony became extinct. Lady Grenville died in June 1863.[1]

Ministry of All the Talents


  • 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.


  1. Lundy, Darryl (2 December 2008). "William Wyndham Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville". thepeerage.com. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
  2. "No. 13259". The London Gazette. 23 November 1790. p. 710.
  3. Fisher, David R. "GRENVILLE, William Wyndham (1759-1834), of Dropmore Lodge, Bucks". History of Parliament Trust.
  4. Jupp, 2009.
  5. "Abolitionist's house escapes ruin". BBC News. 1 April 2007. Retrieved 6 February 2009.

Further reading

  • 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.
  • Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Grenville, William Wyndham Grenville, Baron" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  •  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. 23. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
Political offices
Preceded by
Hon. Richard FitzPatrick
Chief Secretary for Ireland
Succeeded by
William Windham
Preceded by
Edmund Burke
Paymaster of the Forces
Succeeded by
The Lord Mulgrave
The Marquess of Graham
New office Vice-President of the Board of Trade
Succeeded by
The Marquess of Graham
Preceded by
Charles Wolfran Cornwall
Speaker of the House of Commons
Succeeded by
Henry Addington
Preceded by
The Lord Sydney
Home Secretary
Succeeded by
Henry Dundas
President of the Board of Control
Preceded by
The Duke of Leeds
Leader of the House of Lords
Succeeded by
Lord Hobart
Foreign Secretary
Succeeded by
Lord Hawkesbury
Preceded by
The Duke of Newcastle
Auditor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
The Lord Auckland
Preceded by
Hon. William Pitt the Younger
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
11 February 1806 – 25 March 1807
Succeeded by
The Duke of Portland
Preceded by
Lord Hawkesbury
Leader of the House of Lords
Succeeded by
Lord Hawkesbury
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
James Grenville
Richard Aldworth-Neville
Member of Parliament for Buckingham
With: James Grenville
Succeeded by
James Grenville
Charles Edmund Nugent
Preceded by
The Earl Verney
Thomas Grenville
Member of Parliament for Buckinghamshire
With: Sir John Aubrey 1784–1790
The Earl Verney 1790
Succeeded by
The Earl Verney
James Grenville
Academic offices
Preceded by
The Duke of Portland
Chancellor of the University of Oxford
Succeeded by
The Duke of Wellington
Peerage of Great Britain
New creation Baron Grenville
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