History and Tour

George Grenville

George Grenville Born: 14 October 1712 in Westminster, London

First entered Parliament: 4 May 1741

Age he became PM: 50 years, 184 days

Maiden speech: 21 January 1742 in the debate criticising Walpole’s conduct of the war with Spain

Total time as PM: Two years, 85 days

Died: 13 November 1770 in Bolton St., London

Facts and figures

Nickname: “Gentle Shepherd” arising from his speech on the cider tax in 1763 in which he repeatedly asked where else a tax could be laid. Opposition MPs began to sing the hymn, “Gentle Shepherd, Tell Me Where”

Education: Eton and Christ Church, Oxford

Family: Grenville was the second son of seven children. He was married to Elizabeth Wyndham, and had four sons and five daughters


Political pedigree

George Grenville had a perfect PM pedigree, being descended from a political family.

Despite his background, though, Grenville was not a success, since he was disliked by King George III. He had to govern under the widespread perception that the King was still listening more to the advice of Grenville’s predecessor, the Earl of Bute.

He was also handicapped at first by the difficulty of having George III intervene in Parliamentary affairs. Eventually he delivered the King an ultimatum which secured him greater independence in his role.

His premiership was full of problems. His prosecution of MP John Wilkes for seditious libel against the King and Bute made him unpopular - Grenville was seen as a threat to the liberty of the people and the press.

He attempted to regain favour by lowering domestic taxes at the expense of the colonies, introducing the Stamp Act in 1765. The laws gave rise to widespread protests in America that eventually boiled over into the War for Independence.

Riotous times

There was also a riot by English weavers protesting against imported silk, for which George III blamed Grenvillle.

Grenville’s fate was sealed when he fell out with King George III over the matter of who should rule for the King in the event of a deterioration of his mental health - Grenville tried to remove Queen Caroline, the King’s mother, from the list because of her friendship with Bute.

It led to the King sacking him - a rare event in British history. He died of a blood disorder in 1770.

Quote unquote

“A wise government knows how to enforce with temper, or to conciliate with dignity.”

Did you know?

His sister married the Earl of Chatham, a later prime minister, and his son William also became premier as Lord Grenville.


Elizabeth Wyndham was a devoted wife, delivering nine children for the PM - two of whom died in infancy. Smallpox had scarred her face and she had a slight stammer but was still regarded as ‘the first prize in the marriage lottery’ of the time.

She was especially good at looking after the family estates while her husband ran the country.

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