GRENVILLE, Richard (1711-79), of Wotton, Bucks.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. 26 Sept. 1711, 1st s. of Richard Grenville of Wotton and bro. of George, James and Thomas Grenville. educ. Eton 1725-9; Grand Tour (Switzerland, Italy and France) 1729-33. m. 9 May 1737, Anne, da. and coh. of Thomas Chambers of Hanworth, Mdx. by Lady Mary Berkeley, da. of Charles Berkeley, M.P., 2nd Earl of Berkeley, 1da. suc. fa. 1727; styled Lord Cobham from 1749 till 6 Oct. 1752 when he suc. his mother as Earl Temple and assumed add. name of Temple.
P.C. 19 Nov. 1756; 1st ld. of Admiralty Nov. 1756-Apr. 1757; ld. privy seal June 1757-61; ld. lt. Bucks. 1758-63; K.G. 4 Feb. 1760.
When Richard Grenville returned from his grand tour, he found that his wealthy uncle, Lord Cobham, who had married the heiress of Edmund Halsey, considered that he too should marry, in view of the distressed state of his affairs. ‘To enable him to do so to the highest advantage, Lord Cobham publicly declared that he would settle his whole estate upon him.’ On his marriage to a great heiress, whose sister married Lord Vere Beauclerk, Cobham settled his estate on his sister, Grenville’s mother, and her male issue, on whom his honours were already entailed.1 He was brought into Parliament by Cobham, under whose direction he, his first cousin George Lyttelton, and their friend William Pitt, went into opposition, forming the nucleus of a political group, variously nicknamed ‘the cousinhood’, ‘the nepotism’, ‘Cobham’s Cubs’ or ‘the boy patriots’. All three made their maiden speeches on the same day, in support of a place bill, 22 Apr. 1735; signalized the marriage of the Prince of Wales by getting up one after the other to make such disrespectful references to the King that Pitt was cashiered, 29 Apr. 1736; were regarded as the chief stimulators of the Prince’s application to Parliament for an increased allowance from the King in 1737; and are described as ‘young gentlemen who took great personal liberties’ in the debate on the Spanish convention in 1739.2
After Walpole’s fall the group, reinforced by Richard’s brothers, George and James, remained for a time in opposition, Richard himself speaking against the Hanoverians in 1742 and 1744. They came to terms with the Government at the end of 1744, when Lyttelton and George Grenville obtained places, but resumed hostilities a year later owing to Pelham’s failure to provide for the other members of the group. On the reconstruction of the Government after the collective resignations in February 1746, Pitt and James Grenville were admitted to office, Richard giving up ‘his pretensions to the Treasury’. In the following April, classed as New Allies, ‘this ominous band’, as Horace Walpole calls them, all voted for the Hanoverians, ‘though the eldest Grenville, two years ago had declared in the House that he would seal it with his blood that he never would give his vote for a Hanoverian’. In the next Parliament they were classed as government supporters.
As soon as Cobham died in 1749, Richard Grenville applied successfully for his mother to be made a countess, he himself becoming Lord Cobham. Shortly after this, at a reception given by his wife, he spat for a bet into the hat of one of the guests, who made Lord Gob’em, as he was now called, write him a formal apology, couched in the most humiliating terms.3 ‘The only one of the cousinhood who could not be turned out, having no place’ to forfeit, he took an independent line in Parliament, speaking against the Government on the regency bill in 1751. His last speech in the Commons was against the subsidy treaty with Saxony in 1752. Before the next session his mother’s death raised him to the Lords, reputedly the richest man in England. Horace Walpole described him at this time as ‘the absolute creature of Pitt; vehement in whatever faction he was engaged, and as mischievous as his understanding would let him be.’ In 1766 he wrote of him:
This malignant man worked in the mines of successive factions for nearly thirty years together. To relate them is writing his life.4
He died 12 Sept. 1779.