The Lord Grenville
1st Baron Grenville-cropped.jpg
Grenville by John Hoppner, c. 1800
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
Foreign Secretary
In office
8 June 1791 – 20 February 1801
Prime MinisterWilliam Pitt the Younger
Preceded byThe Marquess of Carmarthen
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
Speaker of the House of Commons of Great Britain
In office
5 January 1789 – 5 June 1789
Preceded byCharles Wolfran Cornwall
Succeeded byHenry Addington
Member of Parliament
for Buckinghamshire
In office
Preceded byThe Earl Verney
Succeeded byJames Grenville
Member of Parliament
for Buckingham
In office
Preceded byRichard Aldworth-Neville
Succeeded byCharles Edmund Nugent
Personal details
William Wyndham Grenville

(1759-10-25)25 October 1759
Wotton Underwood, Buckinghamshire, England
Died12 January 1834(1834-01-12) (aged 74)
Burnham, Buckinghamshire, England
Resting placeSt Peter's Church,
  Burnham, Buckinghamshire
Political party
(m. 1792)
Alma materChrist Church, Oxford
Cursive signature in ink

William Wyndham Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville, PC, PC (Ire), FRS (25 October 1759 – 12 January 1834) was a British Pittite Tory politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1806 to 1807, but was a supporter of the Whigs for the duration of the Napoleonic Wars. As prime minister, his most significant achievement was the abolition of the slave trade in 1807. However, his government failed to either make peace with France or to accomplish Catholic emancipation and it was dismissed in the same year.


Grenville was the son of the Whig Prime Minister George Grenville. His mother, Elizabeth, was the daughter of the Tory statesman Sir William Wyndham, 3rd Baronet. He had two elder brothers: Thomas and George. He was thus uncle to the 1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos.

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

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

Political career

Grenville entered the House of Commons in February 1782 as member for the borough of Buckingham.[2] He soon became a close ally of the prime minister, his cousin William Pitt the Younger. In September, he became secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who was his brother George. He left the House the following year 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 and resigned his other posts.[2] 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.[3]

In 1791, he succeeded the Duke of Leeds as Foreign Secretary. Grenville's decade as Foreign Secretary was dramatic with 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 and opposed 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 George III's refusal to assent to Catholic emancipation.[4]

Grenville 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.[5]

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 sided with Fox and did not take part.[4]

Prime minister

Further information: Ministry of All the Talents

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (July 2021)

After 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 and failed either to make peace with France or to accomplish Catholic emancipation, the later attempt resulting in the ministry's dismissal in March 1807. It had one significant achievement, however, in the abolition of the slave trade in 1807.[4]


In the years after the fall of the ministry, Grenville continued in opposition by 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 postwar years, Grenville gradually moved back closer to the Tories but never again returned to the cabinet. In 1815, he separated from his friend Charles Grey and supported the war policy of Lord Liverpool. In 1819, when the Marquess of Lansdowne brought forward his motion for an inquiry into the causes of the distress and discontent in the manufacturing districts, Grenville delivered a speech advocating repressive measures.[4] 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.[1]


Historians find it hard to tell exactly which separate roles Pitt, Grenville and Dundas played in setting war policy toward 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 a 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 and paid 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 the 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 caused primarily by the king's refusal to allow Catholics to sit in Parliament.[6][incomplete short citation]

Dropmore House

A caricature of Saartjie Baartman, Lord Grenville, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan by William Heath
A caricature of Saartjie Baartman, Lord Grenville, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan by William Heath

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 he 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.[7]

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.[8]

Ministry of All the Talents

Main article: Ministry of All the Talents



Hereditary Peerage

British Empire honours

British Empire honours
Country Date Appointment Post-nominal letters
 Kingdom of Ireland 1782 – 12 January 1834 Member of the Privy Council of Ireland PC (Ire)
 United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland 1783 – 12 January 1834 Member of the Privy Council of Great Britain PC
This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (November 2020)


Chancellor, visitor, governor, and fellowships
Location Date School Position
 England 1809 – 12 January 1834 University of Oxford Chancellor
This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (November 2020)

Memberships and fellowships

Country Date Organisation Position
 United Kingdom 23 April 1818 – 12 January 1834 Royal Society Fellow (FRS)
This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (November 2020)


  1. ^ a b Jupp, P. J. (21 May 2009) [2004]. "Grenville, William Wyndham, Baron Grenville (1759–1834), prime minister". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/11501. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ a b Chisholm 1911, p. 581.
  3. ^ "No. 13259". The London Gazette. 23 November 1790. p. 710.
  4. ^ a b c d Chisholm 1911, p. 582.
  5. ^ Fisher, David R. "GRENVILLE, William Wyndham (1759-1834), of Dropmore Lodge, Bucks". History of Parliament Trust.
  6. ^ Jupp, 2009.
  7. ^ "Abolitionist's house escapes ruin". BBC News. 1 April 2007. Retrieved 6 February 2009.
  8. ^ Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 107th edition, vol. 3, ed. Charles Mosley, Burke's Peerage Ltd, 2003, p. 3868

Further reading

Political offices Preceded byRichard FitzPatrick Chief Secretary for Ireland 1782–1783 Succeeded byWilliam Windham Preceded byEdmund Burke Paymaster of the Forces 1784–1789 Succeeded byThe Lord MulgraveThe Marquess of Graham New office Vice-President of the Board of Trade 1786–1789 Succeeded byThe Marquess of Graham Preceded byCharles Wolfran Cornwall Speaker of the House of Commons of Great Britain 1789 Succeeded byHenry Addington Preceded byThe Lord Sydney Home Secretary 1789–1791 Succeeded byHenry Dundas President of the Board of Control 1790–1793 Preceded byThe Duke of Leeds Leader of the House of Lords 1790–1801 Succeeded byLord Hobart Foreign Secretary 1791–1801 Succeeded byLord Hawkesbury Preceded byThe Duke of Newcastle Auditor of the Exchequer 1794–1834 Succeeded byThe Lord Auckland Preceded byWilliam Pitt the Younger Prime Minister of the United Kingdom 11 February 1806 – 25 March 1807 Succeeded byThe Duke of Portland Preceded byLord Hawkesbury Leader of the House of Lords 1806–1807 Succeeded byLord Hawkesbury Parliament of Great Britain Preceded byJames GrenvilleRichard Aldworth-Neville Member of Parliament for Buckingham 1782–1784 With: James Grenville Succeeded byJames GrenvilleCharles Edmund Nugent Preceded byThe Earl VerneyThomas Grenville Member of Parliament for Buckinghamshire 17841790 With: Sir John Aubrey 1784–1790The Earl Verney 1790 Succeeded byThe Earl VerneyJames Grenville Academic offices Preceded byThe Duke of Portland Chancellor of the University of Oxford 1809–1834 Succeeded byThe Duke of Wellington Peerage of Great Britain New creation Baron Grenville 1790–1834 Extinct