History and Tour

Lord Grenville

William Wyndam Grenville Born: 24 October 1759 in Wotton House, Buckinghamshire

First entered Parliament: 19 February 1782

Age he became PM: 46 years, 110 days

Maiden speech: 20 December 1782 on the Irish question

Total time as PM: One year, 42 days

Died: 12 January 1834 at Dropmore Lodge, Burnham, Buckinghamshire

Facts and figures

Nickname: “Bogey”

Education: Eton and Christ Church College, Oxford

Family: Grenville was the third son and the sixth of nine children. He was married to Anne Pitt

Interests: Landscaping, gardening, collecting china, prints and pictures

Biography

Freer of the slaves

William Wyndam Grenville was the son of George Grenville, an earlier prime minister.

Holding office for only a year, he shared his father’s poor public image, though he did achieve one notable achievement - the abolition of slavery.

Entering the Commons in 1782, Grenville became a close ally of Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger. He served in Pitt’s government as Home Secretary, Leader of the House of Lords as Baron Grenville, and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

Grenville became close to oppostion leader Charles James Fox As Foreign Secretary, Grenville oversaw the tumultuous Wars of the French Revolution, focusing on fighting on the continent as the key to victory, rather than war at sea and in the colonies.

In 1801 Grenville left office at the same time as Pitt, over the issue of Catholic Emancipation.

In his years out of office, Grenville became close to Opposition leader Charles James Fox, and when Pitt returned to office in 1804, Grenville did not take part.

Cross-party alliance

On Pitt’s death Grenville was invited to form a government, but did so reluctantly. He formed a cross-party alliance of MPs which became known as the “Ministry of all The Talents”.

It was a coalition between Grenville’s supporters, the Foxite Whigs, and the supporters of former Prime Minister Lord Sidmouth. Grenville, as First Lord of the Treasury, and Fox, as Foreign Secretary, were joint leaders.

Grenville’s ministry was mostly unsuccessful, failing to make peace with France or to accomplish Catholic emancipation. It did, though, result in one momentous achievement - the abolition of the slave trade in 1807.

The end of his term came soon after, however, as a result of struggle over the perennial issue of Catholic emancipation. He tendered his resignation with palpable relief.

In the following years, Grenville continued in opposition maintaining his alliance with the Whigs, criticizing the Peninsular War and refusing to join Lord Liverpool’s government in 1812.

In years after the Peninsular War, Grenville gradually moved back closer to the Tories, but his political career was ended by a stroke in 1823, the start of a long period of ill-health which led to his death a decade later.

Quote unquote

On his resignation: “The deed is done and I am again a free man, and to you I may express what it would seem like affection to say to others, the infinite pleasure I derive from emancipation.”

Did you know?

Grenville collected china, print and pictures and his private study was filled with classical and English literature

Wife

Anne Pitt Anne Pitt, a slight and attractive woman, was 19 when she married Grenville. Her father versed her in what he deemed to be ‘the great essentials of character, religion and virtue’.

He impressed upon her the importance of reading, history and languages. Anne was a devoted wife and they enjoyed a happy marriage with a number of mutual interests bonding them together, notably gardening.

They were an affectionate couple - letters to his wife always began with ‘My dear little woman’ and ended with ‘God bless you my dearest wife’. Her childless life may have contributed to her remarkable longevity for the time - she lived to the grand age of 91.

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