Grenville, Bevil (DNB00)
|←Grenville||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 23
|1904 Errata appended.|
GRENVILLE, Sir BEVIL (1596–1643), royalist, son of Sir Bernard Grenville and Elizabeth, daughter of Philip Bevil of Kellygarth, Cornwall, was born 23 March 1595-1596 at Brinn, in St. Withiel, Cornwall (Vivian, Visitation of Cornwall, p. 192; Bibliotheca Cornubiensis, iii. 1206), matriculated at Exeter College, Oxford, 14 June 1611, and took the degree of B.A. 17 Feb. 1613-14 (Boase, Exeter College Registers, p. xxx). In a letter to his son Richard, written in 1639, Grenville gives an account of his own studies: ‘I was left to my own little discretion when I was a youth in Oxford, and so fell upon the sweet delights of reading poetry and history in such sort as I troubled no other books, and do find myself so infinitely defective by it, when I come to manage any occasions of weight, as I would give a limb it were otherwise’ (Academy, 28 July 1877). Grenville represented Cornwall in the parliaments of 1621 and 1624, and Launceston in the first three parliaments of Charles I (Return of Names of Members of Parliament, 1878). During this period he sided with the popular party, and was the friend and follower of Sir John Eliot. Grenville's letters to his wife in 1626 show with what anxiety he regarded Eliot's brief imprisonment in that year (Forster, Life of Cromwell, p. 99). In 1628 Grenville was very active in securing the return of Eliot and other opposition candidates to parliament, in spite of the fact that his father, Sir Bernard, took the side of the government (Forster, Life of Eliot, 1865, i. 108, 110). During Eliot's final imprisonment he had no stauncher friend than Grenville; he signs himself to Eliot ‘one that will live and die your faithfullest friend and servant.’ When, in 1632, there were rumours of a fresh parliament, Grenville wrote an affectionate letter to Eliot asserting that he should ‘be sure of the first knight's place whensoever it happen’ (ib. ii. 529, 708). Grenville's reasons for abandoning the opposition are obscure. In 1639, when the king raised an army against the Scots, he manifested the greatest alacrity in his cause. ‘I go with joy and comfort,’ he wrote, ‘to venture a life in as good a cause and with as good company as ever Englishman did ; and I do take God to witness, if I were to choose a death it should be no other but this’ (Thurloe State Papers, i. 2 ; cf. Nugent, Life of Hampden, ii. 193). In the Long parliament Grenville again represented the county of Cornwall, but took no part in its debates. Heath represents him as a determined opponent of the attainder of the Earl of Strafford, but his name does not appear in the list of those who voted against the bill (Heath, Chronicle, ed. 1663, p. 33; Rushworth, Trial of Strafford, p. 59). From the beginning of the war he devoted himself to the king's service, and as he was, according to Clarendon, ‘the most generally loved man’ in Cornwall, his influence was of the greatest value. On 5 Aug. 1642 Grenville and others published the king's commission of array and his declaration against the militia at Launceston (Journals of the House of Lords, v. 275). The parliament thrice sent for him as a delinquent and ordered his arrest (ib. pp. 271, 294, 315). The representatives of the two parties signed, on 18 Aug. at Bodmin. an agreement for a truce, but the arrival of Hopton in September revived the conflict (ib. v. 315; Clarendon, vi. 239). The royalists established their headquarters at Truro, and succeeded in inducing the grand jury of Cornwall to find an indictment against their opponents for riot and unlawful assembly (Clarendon, vi. 241). Grenville was determined ‘to fetch those traitors out of their nest at Launceston, or fire them in it’ (Forster, Life of Cromwell, i. 97). The posse comitatus was raised, Launceston was triumphantly occupied, and the parliamentary forces were driven out of the county. On 19 Jan. 1643 Colonel Ruthven and the parliamentarians were defeated at Bradock Down, near Liskeard, with the loss of twelve hundred prisoners and all their guns. ‘I had the van,’ writes Grenville, ‘and so, after solemn prayers at the head of every division, I led my part away, who followed me with so great a courage, both down the one hill and up the other, that it struck a terror into them’ (Nugent, Hampden, ii. 368; Clarendon, vi. 248). Against Grenville's judgment Hopton then besieged Plymouth, but before the end of February he was forced to raise the siege, and on 5 March a cessation of arms was concluded between the counties of Devon and Cornwall (Clarendon, vi. 254 ; Forster, Life of Cromwell, i. 106). In May Henry Grey [q. v.], earl of Stamford, marched into Cornwall with an army of 5,400 foot and 1,400 horse. Hopton and Grenville, though their forces hardly amounted to half that number, attacked Stamford's camp at Stratton on 16 May, and completely routed him. As at Bradock Down, Grenville was again conspicuous for his personal courage (Clarendon, vii. 89) . In June the Cornish army joined that under Prince Maurice, and the Marquis of Hertford advanced into Somersetshire and attacked Sir William Waller at Lansdowne, near Bath (5 July 1643). Grenville was killed as he led his Cornish pikemen up the hill against Waller's entrenchments. ‘In the face of their cannon and small shot from their breastworks, he gained the brow of the hill, having sustained two full charges from the enemy's horse ; but in their third charge, his horse failing and giving ground, he received, after other wounds, a blow on the head with a poleaxe, with which he fell’ (ib. vii. 106). In his pocket was found the treasured letter of thanks which Charles had sent him in the preceding March (Biographia Britannica, 1757, p. 2295). He was buried at Kilkhampton on 26 July (Vivian, p. 192). Lord Nugent prints an admirable and touching letter of condolence addressed to Lady Grenville by John Trelawney (Life of Hampden, ii. 381), but the letter of Anthony Payne on the same subject quoted by Mr. Hawker does not appear to be genuine (Hawker, Footprints of Former Men, 1870, p. 39). Grenville was a very great loss to the king's cause. ‘His activity, interest, and reputation was the foundation of all that had been done in Cornwall ; his temper and affection so public that no accident which happened could make any impression on him, and his example kept others from taking anything ill, or at least seeming to do so.’ Grenville's influence over his Cornish followers ‘restrained much of the license and suppressed the murmurs and mutiny to which that people were too much inclined’ (Clarendon, vii. 108, 82n.) In the following year a collection of poems was published at Oxford, entitled ‘Verses on the Death of the right Valiant Sir Bevill Grenvill, knight,’ containing elegies by William Cartwright, Jasper Mayne, and others. Memorial verses are also to be found in Heath's ‘Clarastella,’ 1650, p. 6, and Sir Francis Wortley's ‘Characters and Elegies,’ 1646, p. 44. Best known are the oft-quoted lines of Martin Lluellin :
Where shall th' next famous Grenville's ashes
Thy grandsire fills the seas and thou the land!
Grenville married Grace, daughter of Sir George Smith of Exeter, by whom he had seven sons and five daughters. Lady Grenville was buried at Kilkhampton on 8 June 1647. Of his sons the most notable were John Grenville, first earl of Bath [q.v.]; Bernard (1631-1701), father of Sir Bevil Granville [q. v.] and of George Granville, lord Lansdowne [q. v.]; and Denis Grenville (1637-1703) [q. v.] afterwards dean of Durham (Vivian,p. 192). Monuments to Grenville's memory were erected by his grandson, lord Lansdowne, at Stratton, at Lansdowne and at Kilkhampton (Warner, History of Bath, 1801, p. 84; Gent. Mag. 1845, pt. ii. p 35). A portrait of Grenville, from a miniature in the possession of Thomas Grenville [q. v.] is engraved in Lord Nugent's ‘Life of Hampden,’ ed. 1832.
[Clarendon's History of the Rebellion, ed. Macray; the narratives on which Clarendon founded his history of the western campaign are Clarendon MS. 1738 (Nos. 1, 2). Letters by Grenville are printed in Nugent's Life of Harmpden, Forster's Life of Cromwell, 1838 and Forster's Life of Eliot, 1865; the originals of some of these are among the Forster MSS. at South Kensington; others are mentioned in Baring Gould's Life of R. S. Hawker, ed. 1876, 36, 288. Lives of Grenville are contained in Lloyd's Memoirs of Excellent Personages 1668, Wood's Fasti Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 352, and Biog. Brit. 1750 A pedigree of the Grenville family is given in Vivian's Visitations of Cornwall; see also Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. i. 190 iii. 1206.]
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