Grenville, Richard (1600-1658) (DNB00)
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Grenville, Richard (1600-1658)
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GRENVILLE, Sir RICHARD (1600–1658), royalist, second son of Sir Bernard Grenville, and grandson of Sir Richard Grenvile (1541?-1591) [q. v.], was baptised 26 June 1600 at Kilkhampton, Cornwall (Vivian, Visitations of Cornwall, pp. 192, 639). In a tract in his own vindication, written in 1654, Grenville states that he left England in 1618 to take service in the wars in the Palatinate and the Netherlands (‘Sir Richard Grenville's Defence against all Aspersions of Malignant Persons,’ reprinted in the Works of George Grenville, Lord Lansdowne, 1732, i. 545). He served as a captain in the expedition to Cadiz, and as sergeant-major in that to the Isle of Rhé. Of the latter Grenville wrote an account, which is printed by Lord Lansdowne, who also assigns to him a share in the composition of Lord Wimbledon's defence ot his conduct during the Cadiz expedition (ib. ii. 247-337). Thanks to the favour of Buckingham, he was knighted on 20 June 1627, and obtained in the following year the command of one of the regiments destined for the relief of Rochelle (Cal. State Papers, Dom. p. 162; Metcalfe, Book of Knights, p. 187). Clarendon also attributes to Buckingham's ‘countenance and solicitation’ Grenville's marriage with a rich widow, Mary, daughter of Sir John Fitz of Fitzford, Devonshire, and widow of Sir Charles Howard, which took place in October 1629 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1639-40, p. 415). She had a fortune of 700l. a year, and Grenville, being now a man of wealth, was created a baronet on 9 April 1630 (Forty-seventh Report of the Deputy-keeper of the Public Records, p. 133). The marriage involved Grenville in a quarrel with the Earl of Suffolk, brother of his wife's last husband. According to Grenville, Suffolk refused to pay money due to Lady Grenville, and, when a chancery decree was obtained against him, trumped up false charges against his opponent. Grenville was accused of terming the Earl of Suffolk ‘a base lord,’ and sentenced by the Star-chamber to pay a fine of 4,000l. to the king, 4,000l. damages to the Earl of Suffolk, and to be imprisoned during the king's pleasure. Six days later (9 Feb. 1631) judgment was given in a suit brought against him by Lady Grenville, who proved that he had treated her with the greatest barbarity, and obtained a separation and alimony to the amount of 350l. per annum (Cases in the Courts of Star-chamber and High Commission, Camden Soc., pp. 108, 265; cf. Nelson, Reports of Special Cases in the Court of Chancery). These two sentences ruined Grenville. ‘I was necessitated,’ he says, ‘to sell my own estate, and to empawn my goods, which by it were quite lost’ (Lansdowne, i. 547). He was committed to the Fleet for the non-payment of his fine, whence he succeeded in escaping on 17 Oct. 1633 (ib.) In 1639 he came back to England with the intention of offering his services against the Scots, and at once began a new suit against his old enemy the Earl of Suffolk (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1639-40, pp. 73, 414). He further petitioned the Long parliament against the Star-chamber sentence passed on him, and his case was referred to a committee; but before it was heard the Irish rebellion broke out (Clarendon, viii. 137). Grenville took service in the army destined for Ireland as major in the regiment of Lord Lisle (ib.) He landed in Ireland with four hundred horse in February 1641, distinguished himself at the battle of Kilrush (15 April 1642), and on the capture of Trim (8 May 1642) was appointed governor of that place (Carte, Ormonde, ed. 1851, ii. 183, 247, 256). In January 1643 he successfully relieved the Earl of Clanricarde, then besieged in Athlone, and, during his return from this expedition, gained a victory over the Irish at Rathconnell (7 Feb. 1643). On 8 March following the king wrote to Ormonde to give Grenville his special thanks for his great services ‘and singular constant affections’ (ib. ii. 312, 357, 387, v. 408). At the battle of New Ross, however (18 March 1643), the cavalry of Ormonde's army ran away, and one eye-witness gravely impugns Grenville's own conduct (ib. ii. 432; Meehan, Confederation of Kilkenny, Creightons Narrative, p. 293). Grenville is said to have opposed the cessation of arms concluded in the summer of 1643, and left Ireland in August 1643, ‘importuned,’ he says, ‘by letters to come to England for his Majesty's service’ (Lansdowne, ii. 548). He landed at Liverpool, but was immediately arrested by the parliamentary commander there, and sent up to London under a guard. On inquiry, however, the House of Commons voted him free from any imputation on his faithfulness, thanked him for his services, passed an ordinance for the payment of his arrears, and voted that a regiment of five hundred horse should be raised for him, to form part of the army under Sir William Waller (Commons' Journals, iii. 223, 259, 347).
Grenville's adoption of the parliamentary cause was merely a stratagem to obtain his pay. On 8 March 1644 he arrived at Oxford, bringing with him thirty-six of his troop, 600l. advanced to him to raise his regiment, and news of an intended plot for the surprise of Basing House (Clarendon, viii. 139). Parliament proclaimed him ‘traitor, rogue, villain, and skellum,’ nailed their proclamation on a gibbet set up in Palace Yard, and promised to put him in the same place when they could catch him. In the parliamentary newspapers he is henceforth termed ‘skellum Grenville’ (Rushworth, v. 384). On arriving at Oxford, Grenville addressed a long letter to Lenthall, in which he explained and justified his change of parties (ib. v. 385). A similar letter to the governor of Plymouth gives some additional details (A Continuation of the True Narrative of the most observable Passages about Plymouth, together with the Letter of Sir R. Grenville, 1644, 4to). Four days only after his arrival at Oxford, Grenville was despatched to the west to take part in the siege of Plymouth, and with a commission to raise additional troops in Cornwall (Black, Oxford Docquets, p. 198). Shortly afterwards Colonel John Digby, who commanded the besiegers of Plymouth, was disabled by a wound, and Grenville succeeded to his post (Clarendon, viii. 142). In June 1644 the march of the Earl of Essex into the west obliged Grenville to raise the siege and retire into Cornwall. ‘Like a man of honour and courage, he kept a good body together and retreated in good order to Truro, endeavouring actively to raise a force sufficient to oppose Essex's farther advance’ (Walker, Historical Discourses, 1707, p. 49). On 11 Aug. he joined the king's army at Boconnoc with eighteen hundred foot and six hundred horse, and took an important part in the final defeat of Essex (ib. pp. 62, 74). Grenville then resumed the siege of Plymouth, which, according to Clarendon, he promised to reduce before Christmas (Clarendon, viii. 133; Rushworth, v. 713). According to Walker, the force left under his command amounted only to three hundred foot and three hundred horse, a fact which helps to explain his failure to perform his promise. During the last year of the war Grenville's conduct was ambiguous and discreditable. In March 1645 he was ordered to march into Somersetshire and assist in the siege of Taunton. There, while inspecting the fortifications of Wellington House, he was severely wounded, and obliged for a time to resign the command of his forces to Sir John Berkeley (Clarendon, ix. 13-15). This gave rise to a quarrel between Grenville and Berkeley. Grenville believed that Berkeley's intrigues had led to his own removal from Plymouth, and complained of Berkeley's conduct while in command of his forces, and of his encroachments on his own jurisdiction. Berkeley's commission as colonel-general of Devon and Cornwall clashed with his own as sheriff of Devon and commander of the forces before Plymouth. At the same time general complaints of Grenville's conduct arose from all parts of the west. Towards prisoners of war, towards his own soldiers, and all those under his command, he was severe and cruel, ‘so strong,’ says Clarendon, ‘was his appetite to those executions he had been used to in Ireland’ (ib. viii. 133, 141). He habitually abused his military position in order to satisfy his malice or his avarice. He threw many persons into prison in order to enforce disputed manorial rights, or simply to extort ransom (ib. ix. 24, 141). He seized and hanged the solicitor who had conducted his wife's case in the Star-chamber (ib. ix. 55). On first coming into the west the king had granted Grenville the sequestration of his wife's estate to his own use ; in Devonshire the king had also granted him the sequestration of the estates of the Earl of Bedford and Sir Francis Drake, and that of Lord Roberts in Cornwall. Moreover, he levied assessments and plundered on his own account. At the same time the commissioners of Devonshire loudly complained that he monopolised the contributions of their county, and did not maintain as large a force out of them as he was bound to do (ib. ix. 22, 53, 62). The prince and his council attempted to bring about an agreement; Grenville was to be removed from the command before Plymouth, and made major-general of the prince's field army. He accepted the post, but immediately commenced quarrelling with his commander, Lord Goring. He disputed his general's orders, encouraged the disinclination of the Cornish troops to move from their own county, attempted to prevent Goring's forces from entering Cornwall, and even proposed that the prince should treat with Fairfax for the neutrality of that county (ib. ix. 94, 103, 133). Finally, in January 1646, when Hopton succeeded Goring, Grenville declined to serve under him. ‘It plainly appeared now that his drift was to stay behind and command Cornwall, with which the prince thought he had no reason to trust him.’ Neither was it thought safe to leave him free to continue his intrigues, and on 19 Jan. 1646 he was arrested and sent prisoner first to Launceston and afterwards to St. Michael's Mount (ib. ix. 137). When Fairfax's army advanced into Cornwall, Grenville, on his petition that he might be allowed to leave the kingdom rather than fall into the hands of the enemy, ‘from whence he had no reason to expect the least degree of mercy,’ was allowed to embark for France (Carte, Original Letters, i. 108). Grenville landed at Brest on 14 March 1646, and after a short stay in Brittany proceeded to Holland. One of his first cares was to vindicate his conduct as a soldier, by publishing a narrative of affairs in the west from 2 Sept. 1644 to 2 March 1646 (this narrative, originally printed in 1647, is reprinted by Carte, Original Letters, 1739, i. 96-109; see also Clarendon MSS. 2139, 2676). In anticipation of some such attempted justification, Hyde had already completed (31 July 1646) an account of events from March 1645 to May 1646 from the point of view of the king's council, the greater part of which account he afterwards embodied in his history (Rebellion, ed. Macray, ix. 7, x. 12). On the publication of Clarendon's history, George Granville, lord Lansdowne, attempted to vindicate Sir Richard from Clarendon's charges, but without success (Lansdowne, Works, 1732, i. 503; see also Biographia Britannica, pp. 2308-9).
Nevertheless Grenville was still employed by Charles II. He states that in February 1650, while living in Holland, he received the king's commands to come to France ‘to attend his service,’ and in consequence returned to Brittany. ‘There I employed my own monies and great labours to advantage the king's service, as in supplying the Sorlinges with what was in my power, also in clothing and victualling the soldiers of Guernsey Castle when no man else would do it, they being almost naked and starved’ (ib. p. 549; cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1665-6, p. 154). A letter from Charles II, dated 2 Oct. 1650, shows that there was some intention of employing his services in a proposed rising in the west of England (Evelyn, Memoirs, ed. Wheatley, iv. 202; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1650, pp. 47, 88). Grenville, probably with justice, attributed his non-employment to Hyde, and was bitterly incensed against him. ‘So fat a Hide ought to be well tanned,’ wrote Grenville to his friend Robert Long, and on the evidence of Long and some worthless gossip accused Hyde to the king (12 Aug. 1653) of treasonable correspondence with Cromwell. The charge was examined by the king and council, and Grenville forbidden to come into the king's presence or court (29 Nov. 1653), while Hyde's honesty was vindicated by a public declaration, 14 Jan. 1654 (Cal. Clarendon Papers, ii. 239, 259, 279, 299; Lister, Life of Clarendon, iii. 69-83). Grenville at once published a pamphlet entitled ‘Sir Richard Grenville's Single Defence against all aspersions (in the power or aim) of all malignant persons, and to satisfy the contrary,’ containing an autobiographical account of his life, services, and sufferings (reprinted in Lansdowne's ‘Works,’ i. 544-56). Grenville died in 1658; of the last four years of his life Lord Lansdowne writes (with some exaggeration) : ‘He retired from all conversation with mankind, shut himself up from the world to prepare himself seriously for another, never so much as suffering his beard to be shaven from that moment to his dying day, which followed soon, his great heart not being able to hold out any longer. He lies buried in a church in Ghent, with this inscription only upon a plain stone, “Sir Richard Granville, the King's general in the West”’ (Lansdowne, Works, i. 560).[Boase and Courtney's Bibliotheca Cornubiensis, i. 193, iii. 1208 ; Clarendon's Rebellion, ed. Macray; State Papers, Dom.; Wood's Fasti. ed. Bliss, i. 352; Lloyd's Memoirs of Excellent Persons, 1668. Manuscript letters by Grenville are to be found among the Tanner MSS. in the Bodleian; others are enumerated by Boase and Courtney, p. 1208.]