Biography of GRENVILLE, William Wyndham - Archontology
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GRENVILLE, William Wyndham

William Wyndham Grenville

b. 24 Oct 1759, Wotton House, Buckinghamshire
d. 12 Jan 1834, Dropmore Lodge, Burnham, Buckinghamshire

Ministerial offices: Chief Secretary for Ireland (15 Aug 1782 - 2 May 1783)
Paymaster General (26 Dec 1783 - 7 Mar 1784)
Member of the Board of Trade (5 Mar 1784 - 23 Aug 1786)
Joint Paymaster General (7 Mar 1784 - 4 Sep 1789)
Commissioner of the Board of Control (31 Aug 1784 - 28 Mar 1790)
Vice President of the Board of Trade (23 Aug 1786 - 8 Aug 1789)
Home Secretary (5 Jun 1789 - 8 Jun 1791)
President of the Board of Control (12 Mar 1790 - 28 Jun 1793)
Leader of the House of Lords (Nov 1790 - 20 Feb 1801, 11 Feb 1806 - 25 Mar 1807)
Foreign Secretary (8 Jun 1791 - 20 Feb 1801)
First Lord Commissioner of the Treasury (11 Feb 1806 - 25 Mar 1807)
Names/titles: Baron Grenville of Wotton-under-Bernewood [from 25 Nov 1790]

William Grenville was the third son of the former prime minister George Grenville and cousin of William Pitt the Younger. Educated at Eton and Oxford (Christ Church College), he entered Parliament in 1782 (MP, 1782-1790) and joined the Rockingham-Fox opposition. In 1783 he became a member of the Pitt Administration and was elected the youngest Speaker of the House of Commons (5 Jan 1789 - 5 Jun 1789) since the time of Edward III. In 1790 Grenville was created Baron Grenville of Wotton-under-Bernewood and took his seat in the House of Lords. After holding a number of ministerial offices in 1791 Grenville, at the age of thirty-one, became Pitt's Foreign Secretary (1791-1801) for a decade. After Pitt's death in office the King lacking candidates turned unenthusiastically to Grenville to be his next prime minister. With similar lack of enthusiasm Grenville accepted the office of First Lord of the Treasury (11 Feb 1806) and formed a broadly based Administration from three of the four major factions, with Charles Fox as his Foreign Secretary - a 'Ministry of All the Talents'. He instituted reforms in the Treasury's accounting practices, reorganized the armed forces, and reformed the governing of Scotland to ensure support of Scottish MPs. With Fox he successfully moved a resolution in the House of Commons abolishing the slave trade. This vigorous start was not maintained. Fox died (13 Sep 1806) and Grenville lost Pittite support, although he increased his majority at the General Election of 1806. When his administration sought to extend military commissions to Catholics, he clashed with the King to whom he refused reassurances not to raise the subject again. He resigned (25 Mar 1807) barely a year after taking office, but remained politically active for another fifteen years. He was a nominal leader of the Opposition from 1807 to 1817. [1, pp. 90-97]

[1] Englefield, Dermot; Seaton, Janet; White, Isobel (eds.) Facts About the British Prime Ministers: A Compilation of Biographical and Historical Information. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1995. online
Image: Baron Grenville, detail of a portrait by John Hoppner, c. 1800.