The Lord Grenville
Portrait 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
Speaker of the House of Commons of Great Britain
In office
5 January 1789 – 5 June 1789
Preceded byCharles Wolfran Cornwall
Succeeded byHenry Addington
Ministerial offices
Foreign Secretary
In office
8 June 1791 – 20 February 1801
Prime MinisterWilliam Pitt the Younger
Preceded byThe Marquess of Carmarthen
Succeeded byThe Lord Hawkesbury
President of the Board of Control
In office
12 March 1790 – 28 June 1793
Prime MinisterWilliam Pitt the Younger
Preceded byThe Viscount Sydney
Succeeded byHenry Dundas
Home Secretary
In office
5 June 1789 – 8 June 1791
Prime MinisterWilliam Pitt the Younger
Preceded byThe Viscount Sydney
Succeeded byHenry Dundas
Vice-President of the Board of Trade
In office
23 August 1786 – 8 August 1789
Prime MinisterWilliam Pitt the Younger
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byThe Duke of Montrose
Paymaster of the Forces
In office
26 December 1783 – 4 September 1789
Prime MinisterWilliam Pitt the Younger
Preceded byEdmund Burke
Succeeded byThe Duke of Montrose
Chief Secretary for Ireland
In office
15 August 1782 – 2 May 1783
Prime MinisterThe Earl of Shelburne
Preceded byRichard FitzPatrick
Succeeded byWilliam Windham
Parliamentary offices
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
Political party
(m. 1792)
Alma materChrist Church, Oxford
SignatureCursive 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 either to 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]Latin verse in 1779. Grenville, who was academically very gifted and had a keen interest in and extensive knowledge of classical literature, edited the correspondence of his uncle, Lord Chatham. He trained for the Bar but was never called since he entered parliament in 1782 as MP for the family's borough of Buckingham. He continued to represent the constituency until he was elevated to the peerage in 1790.

Member of Parliament

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 of Lord Shelburne appointed him chief secretary in Ireland in 1782. Though there as chief secretary, he took on the plight of the Catholics in Ireland, which would later influence directly his policies later on.

In Cabinet

Paymaster of the Forces

In 1783 Pitt appointed him he as Paymaster of the Forces, an office he held together with membership of the India Board of Control and of the Board of Trade after 1784. A diligent administrator, he contributed to the major financial and economic achievements of Pitt's peacetime ministry. In 1787 he was sent on diplomatic missions to The Hague and Versailles and sounded out the possibilities of an agreement with the French to end the African slave trade, a cause which remained close to his heart until he was able as prime minister in 1807 to accomplish it.

Speakership and Home Secretary

In January 1789, Grenville agreed to become Speaker of the House of Commons in order to help Pitt in the midst of the Regency crisis and to pass the bill in favour of the government and the King to avoid the Whig-supporting Prince of Wales from becoming king. This fortunately turned in Pitt and the government’s favour and the bill did not pass in Parliament.

Despite serving as Speaker, he mostly craved and wanted a senior cabinet post and when the crisis was over he was appointed Home Secretary, serving for only brief period as Speaker. As Home Secretary, he resigned from all other posts. By this time he was recognized as Pitt's ‘second in command’ and in 1790 was elevated to the Lords to oversee the government's business there. 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]

Lord Grenville by Gainsborough Dupont, c. 1790

Foreign Secretary

Appointment and early issues

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.

As the French Revolution became a continental issue, to which many monarchies of Europe were opposed and sought to distinguish it, war began in early 1792 and came to be known as the War of the First Coalition, when Austria, Prussia, Russia and Britain all joined forces to defeat the French revolutionaries. The British government under Pitt send vast amounts of money and war effort into the cause of defeating the French and began rearming and raising British troops to make up for a formidable force on the continent.

During the war, Grenville was the leader of the party that focused on the fighting on the continent as the key to victory; for the allies to defeat the French in Europe would be a knockout blow, and extinguish the revolutionary forces. Another, opposing faction was that of Henry Dundas, which favoured war at sea and in the colonies.


After a rebellion occurred in Ireland in 1798, Pitt’s government decided, in order to prevent further insurrections, to pursue a policy of union with the Irish subjects. Thus, in 1800 Acts of Union were passed and Great Britain and Ireland became the United Kingdom. Also, in order to have friendly relations with the Irish, Pitt suggested that the Catholic Irish be equalised and should be exempt from injustice and be the same given rights as the Protestants. However, King George III refused to assent to this, and Grenville left office with Pitt in 1801 over this issue of King George refusing 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. 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 succeeded him as the new prime minister and became the head of the new government. Pitt enjoyed a stable major in Parliament throughout his two terms prime minister, but Grenville lacked that kind of distinction and ability. His government did not received the substantial support it needed to form a strong majority in Parliament and so was forced to call on an uneasy alliance with the opposition.

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. However, Fox died in September 1806, which meant that the ministry had to be reconstructed.

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]


Lord Grenville as Chancellor of Oxford, by William Owen, c. 1809-25

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 its 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

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 Anne, daughter of Thomas Pitt, 1st Baron Camelford, in 1792. The marriage was childless. He died in January 1834, aged 74, whereupon the barony became extinct.[8]

Ministry of All the Talents

Main article: Ministry of All the Talents




Coat of arms of William Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville
A Garb Vert
Quarterly, 1st and 4th, Vert on a Cross Argent five Torteaux Gules (Grenville); 2nd, Or an Eagle displayed Sable (Leofric, Earl of Mercia); 3rd, Argent two Bars Sable each charged with three Martlets Or (Temple)
On the dexter side a Lion per fess embattled Gules and Or and on the sinister side a Horse Argent semé of Eaglets Sable with both supporters collared Argent banded Vert charged with three Torteaux counterchanged
Repetens exempla suorum (Following the example set by our forebears)

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. ^ 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