GRANT, Francis William (1778-1853), of Castle Grant, Elgin.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1802 - 1806
1806 - 1807
1807 - 1832
1832 - Apr. 1840

Family and Education

b. 6 Mar. 1778, 4th but 2nd surv. s. of Sir James Grant, 8th Bt.*, by Jean, da. and h. of Alexander Duff of Hatton Castle, Aberdeen; bro. of Lewis Alexander Grant*. m. (1) 20 May 1811, Mary Anne (d. 27 Feb. 1840), da. of John Charles Dunn of Higham House, Suss. and St. Helena, 7s. 1da.; (2) 17 Aug. 1843, Louisa Emma, da. of Robert George Maunsell of Limerick, s.p. suc. bro. as 6th Earl of Seafield [S] 26 Oct. 1840.

Offices Held

Lt. 1 (Strathspey) fencibles 1793; capt. 97 Ft. 1794; maj. (perm. rank) Fraser’s fencibles 1795, lt.-col. 1796; lt.-col. (perm. rank) Argyll fencibles 1799, half-pay 1802-25; brevet col. 1809.

Col. Inverness militia 1803-13; ld. lt. Inverness 1809-d.

Rep. peer [S] 1841-d.


Grant, whose first two commissions were in regiments raised by his father, served in Ireland in 1798 and at Gibraltar in 1800-1. He anticipated going to Egypt with the Argyll fencibles, but they were ordered home and disbanded on the conclusion of peace. In 1803, Francis Nicoll, minister of Mains, wrote to Lady Grant of her son, who was quartered at Dundee with his militia regiment:

As a commanding officer I find he is respected much by the regiment. His natural mildness does not ... prevent him from keeping his proper place, and from repressing every attempt to encroach in the least upon his authority. To severity he is a stranger, but when discipline requires it, he is perfectly firm to his purpose ... In private life ... there is not a young man within the sphere of my acquaintance with less vice about him. His conversation and his ideas are uncommonly correct. I never heard him utter a curse or an improper sentiment, and I am fully satisfied that he never does so, tho’, as he himself says, he is often obliged to hear such. His manners, tho’ completely those of a gentleman, are not, perhaps, very showy—he is naturally shy, and it is not easy to get the better of natural shyness—but he is one of those who improve greatly on acquaintance, and, whom you like the more you know of them.

Much of his reserve evidently stayed with him, for in 1811 Charles Grant of Waternish commented on the ‘constitutional shyness in the family of which Colonel F[rancis] largely partakes’.1

At the general election of 1802 he was returned for Elgin Burghs by his cousin Lord Findlater, who operated a system of alternating nomination with Lord Kintore. Charles Innes, noting that his father’s office of cashier of excise was tenable during pleasure, placed him among Members ‘either independent altogether or in direct opposition to Mr Dundas’, but in a list of the same date in the Melville papers he was reckoned a partisan of Pitt and Dundas. In November 1803 he got into a minor scrape by failing to appear at a meeting of the Waterford election committee. He was discharged from further attendance, 25 Nov., but ordered to appear in the House on 7 Dec. to explain his conduct. He came up immediately from Dundee and pre-empted the order by explaining in his place, 6 Dec., that he had been under the false impression that election committees were dissolved by the prorogation of Parliament. He was excused, and returned to his militia duties forthwith. This was his only reported utterance in the House before 1820. He is not known to have voted against the Addington ministry and in April 1804 Pitt, discussing a muster of Scottish Members to join the assault on it, wrote to Lord Melville:

From the account you give of Sir James Grant’s situation, I cannot by any means bring myself to wish that his son should incur the risk of giving a vote, which in the event (improbable as it is) of the government standing its ground might lead to such serious consequences to his family.2

Grant was classed as a supporter of Pitt’s second ministry and voted against the censure of Melville, 8 Apr. 1805. When the ‘Talents’ came to power William Adam listed him under the ‘Dundas etc. interest’, but he is not known to have opposed the new ministry, who were courting his father’s electoral support in the summer of 1806. It was proposed that he should come in for Elginshire at the general election, provided the incumbent, James Brodie, could be bought off with a sinecure, and that Sir James should give the seat for Inverness Burghs, which he had set aside for Francis, to John Peter Grant* of Rothiemurchus, a rising barrister whom ministers were anxious to have returned. Complications arose in Elginshire to frustrate this scheme, but Adam suggested that if Rothiemurchus were returned for the burghs and Brodie for the county, the latter would hand over to Francis Grant as soon as he obtained an office or, if he failed to do so within a year, Rothiemurchus would step down in the burghs. In explanation Adam told Sir James Grant:

Be assured that ... I do not undervalue the qualifications of Colonel Grant, but his line has not been that of public business and speaking ... it is Lord Grenville’s anxious wish to gather round him and introduce into the House of Commons as many persons of experience and promise as he can.3

Grant felt unable to comply and his son was returned for the burghs, to be classed by Adam among ‘friends of govt. unconnected with Lord Melville’. He was also thought to be one of the ‘staunch friends’ of slave trade abolition.

In 1807 Grant, of whom Lord Fife wrote that he and his father would now ‘follow their great leader’ Melville, made a bid to come in again for Inverness Burghs, but his family had lost control of the constituency. His return for Elginshire was engineered by Melville in order to keep out Rothiemurchus and he held the seat thereafter for 33 years.4 He voted with the Portland ministry on the address, 23 Jan., the Scheldt inquiry, 26 Jan., 23 Feb., 5 and 30 Mar. 1810, when the Whigs classed him as ‘against the Opposition’, as well as on the Regency proposals, 1 Jan. 1811. He divided against the release of John Gale Jones, 16 Apr. 1810.

The mental derangement of Grant’s eldest brother and the death in 1804 of his surviving elder brother had made him heir for all practical purposes to his father and to Findlater. On the death of both in 1811, when Lewis Grant became nominal chief of the clan and Earl of Seafield, Francis, as his curator, became acting chief, responsible for management of the family’s estates and electoral interests. Although he was in London in February 1812, when he asked Perceval to request the Regent to confer on himself and his siblings the rank of earl’s children, which would have been theirs by right had his father outlived Findlater,5 he does not seem to have taken any active part in the House during that session. His only recorded votes in the following two Parliaments were against Catholic relief, 24 May 1813, 9 May 1817, and with government on the Duke of Clarence’s allowance, 15 Apr. 1818, and Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May 1819.

He evidently contemplated retiring in 1818, but was prevailed on by ministers not to do so, as the seat was considered vulnerable to an opponent. The lord advocate, informing the 2nd Lord Melville of his ‘very handsome’ conduct, observed that he ‘really deserves a letter of acknowledgement from your lordship, and as he is sore I find about some letters not being answered, I should think your writing very advisable’. Grant’s discontent stemmed from his having been passed over in the brevet promotion of 1812 because he had not made the necessary offer of his military services, and from Melville’s failure to press his case at the War Office. He sought to rectify the omission by volunteering his services on the renewal of war in 1815, but was bitterly disappointed to be passed over again in the promotion of August 1819. Shortly afterwards he took his wife to Europe for the sake of her health. His case was then taken up with Melville by Nicholl, now principal of St. Andrews University, who explained that ‘Colonel Grant is a very shy man and I know does not of late speak of his own personal matters to your lordship’. Although he obtained no satisfaction in this business, the rank of earl’s children was conferred on himself and his sisters in 1822 as compensation.6

Grant, who continued his father’s work of local improvement and was reputedly the greatest exponent of afforestation in Scotland in the 19th century, died 30 July 1853.7

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Sir W. Fraser, Chiefs of Grant, i. 473-4; ii. 512, 519, 523; St. Andrews Univ. Lib. Melville mss 4590; SRO GD23/6/745, C. to J. Grant, 17 July 1811.
  • 2. Stanhope, Pitt, iv. 145-6.
  • 3. Spencer mss, memo 16 July; Blair Adam mss, Adam to Sir J. Grant, 1 Nov., J. P. Grant to Adam, 5, 9 Nov. 1806.
  • 4. Blair Adam mss, Fife to Adam, 16 May; SRO GD23/6/364, J. to F. W. Grant, 4 May; NLS, Melville mss, Melville to Saunders Dundas, 1 May; Fortescue mss, Fife to Grenville, 10 June 1807.
  • 5. Add. 38247, ff. 78-79, 97.
  • 6. NLS mss 10, f. 72; Melville mss (St. Andrews) 4555, 4587, 4589-92.
  • 7. Fraser, i. 476-9.