Grenville, Richard Temple (1711-1779) (DNB00)
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Grenville, Richard Temple (1711-1779)
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GRENVILLE, RICHARD TEMPLE, afterwards Grenville-Temple, Richard, Earl Temple (1711–1779), eldest son of Richard Grenville (1678-1728) of Wotton Hall, Buckinghamshire, by his wife Hester, second daughter of Sir Richard Temple, bart., of Stowe, near Buckingham, and sister and coheiress of Richard, viscount Cobham of Stowe, was born on 26 Sept. 1711. After receiving his education at Eton, he travelled about with a private tutor for more than four years. At the general election in 1734, shortly after his return to England, he was elected to parliament for the borough of Buckingham. In the parliament of 1741-7 he represented the county of Buckingham, but at the general election in the latter year was once more returned for the borough.
His mother succeeded as Viscountess Cobham on the death of her brother in September 1749, and was created on the following 18 Oct. Countess of Temple. On her death on 7 Oct. 1752, Richard succeeded to the House of Lords as Earl Temple. At the same time he inherited the large estates of Wotton and Stowe, and took the additional surname of Temple.
His career in the House of Commons appears to have been comparatively undistinguished. Walpole describes him as being at this period ‘the absolute creature of Pitt, vehement in whatever faction he was engaged, and as mischievous as his understanding would let him be, which is not saying he was very bad’ (Memoirs of the Reign of George II, pp. 135-6). In 1754 his only sister Hester was married to Pitt, and on 19 Nov. 1756 Temple was appointed first lord of the admiralty in the Duke of Devonshire's administration, being sworn a member of the privy council the same day. Having been absent from the council when the clause thanking the king for bringing the Hanoverian troops to England was added to the speech, Temple went down to the house at the opening of parliament (2 Dec. 1756), ‘as he told the lords, out of a sick bed, at the hazard of his life (indeed, he made a most sorrowful appearance), to represent to their lordships the fatal consequences of the intended compliment.… And having finished his oration, went out of the house with a thorough conviction that such weighty reasons must be quite unanswerable’ (Lord Waldegrave, Memoirs, pp. 89-90). This is probably the only instance of a cabinet minister on his first appearance as a minister in the house opposing any part of the address in return to the king's speech. The ‘oration,’ however, had no effect, and the address was carried unanimously. Temple was greatly disliked by the king, who complained to Waldegrave that he ‘was so disagreeable a fellow, there was no bearing him; that when he attempted to argue, he was pert, and sometimes insolent ; that when he meant to be civil, he was exceeding troublesome, and that in the business of his office he was totally ignorant’ (ib. p. 95). According to Walpole, who is in a great measure confirmed by Waldegrave, Temple on one occasion actually ventured so far as to sketch a parallel between the king at Oudenarde and Admiral Byng at Minorca, in which the advantage did not lie with the former (Memoirs of the Reign of George II, ii. 378). Temple was dismissed from his post on 5 April 1757, and a few days after Pitt shared the same fate. On the formation of the Duke of Newcastle's administration in June they both returned to office, Pitt as secretary for state and Temple as lord privy seal. On 22 Dec. 1758 Temple was appointed lord-lieutenant of Buckinghamshire. Being refused the Garter he resigned the privy seal on 14 Nov. 1759, but at the request of the king resumed office two days afterwards, and was elected a knight of the Garter on 4 Feb. 1760. He resigned office with Pitt in October 1761 in consequence of the rejection of Pitt's proposal for an immediate declaration of war with Spain. On 9 Nov. following they made a triumphal entry into the city, their reception being a remarkable contrast to that given to the king and queen. Temple now became estranged from his brother George [q. v.], and figured as one of the most active of Bute's opponents. Owing to his ostentatious patronage of Wilkes he was dismissed from his post of lord-lieutenant on 7 May 1763. In May 1765 Pitt was dissuaded from forming an administration by Temple, who was on the point of becoming reconciled with his brother George and had conceived the idea of forming a ministry the principal members of which were to be of his own family. In his interview with the king on the 25th of the following month Temple for the second time in this year refused to become first lord of the treasury. In the following year he intrigued with his brother George and the Duke of Bedford against the Rockingham ministry, and opposed the repeal of the Stamp Act, In July, at Pitt's advice he was again offered the post of the first lord of the treasury, which he refused after a stormy interview with his brother-m-law. ‘I might,’ he wrote to his brother George, ‘have stood a capital cypher, surrounded with cyphers of quite a different complexion, the whole under the guidance of that great luminary, the Great Commoner, with the privy seal in his hand.… Thus ends the political farce of my journey to town, as it was always intended’ (Grenville Papers, iii. 267-8). Temple having openly quarrelled with his brother-in-law now endeavoured to influence the public mind against him by a pamphlet warfare, conducted with most bitter personal animosity, and it was not until November 1768, shortly after Chatham's resignation of office, that a reconciliation took place between them. In the debate on the Duke of Richmond's resolutions relating to the disorders in America on 18 May 1770, Temple made a severe attack upon the Government, declaring that he had ‘known administrations that were highly obnoxious to the people; but such a set of ministers as the present, so lost to all sense of shame, so eminently above the mere pretence of regard for justice,’ he had never seen (Parl. Hist. xvi. 1024). After the death of his brother George, Temple retired to a great extent from political life, and amused himself with the improvement of his house and gardens at Stowe. He was created a D.C.L. of Oxford University on 4 July 1771. His last reported speech in the House of Lords was delivered on 5 March 1778, when he declaimed against Lord North's conciliatory bills, asserting his belief that America had ‘aimed at independency from the beginning,’ and declaring that the ‘men who had shown to the whole world they were incapable of conducting a war … were now preparing to give another proof of their incapacity by showing they do not know how to make peace (ib. xx. 845-8). He was thrown out of his pony carriage in the Park Ridings at Stowe, and fractured his skull. After lingering for a few days in an insensible state, he died on 12 Sept. 1779 in the sixty-eighth year of his age. He was buried at Stowe on 16 Sept. 1779, but his body was afterwards removed to Wotton. Temple was a man of wealth and position, but without any great talents except that for intrigue. His ambition was unbounded, but his factiousness and arrogance made him the most impracticable of men. ‘Those who knew his habits,’ wrote Macaulay, ‘tracked him as men track a mole. It was his nature to grub underground. Whenever a heap of dirt was flung up, it might well be suspected that he was at work in some foul, crooked labyrinth below’ (Essays, p. 762). He is supposed to have been the author of several anonymous and scurrilous pamphlets (for a list of which see the Grenville Papers, iii. cl-cli), and to have assisted either with money or information in the production of many more.
Walpole, while referring to Wilkes and Churchill, speaks of Temple as their familiar, ‘who whispered them where they might find torches, but took care never to be seen to light one himself (Memoirs of George III, i. p. 182). The authorship of Junius's ‘Letters’ has also been ascribed to him. Though a bitter and unscrupulous opponent in public life, his liberality to his friends and relations was profuse. Pitt himself was indebted to Temple for pecuniary assistance, and on his dismissal from the post of pay-master-general Temple entreated his sister to persuade her husband to ‘give his brother Temple leave to become his debtor for a thousand pounds a year 'till better times’ (Grenville Papers, i. 408). To Wilkes too he showed his generosity in bearing the expense of all his law proceedings, and thus ‘it is to Earl Temple and to him alone that the nation owes the condemnation of the general warrants and the arbitrary seizure of persons and papers’ (Almon, Correspondence of the late John Wilkes with his Friends, 1805, i. 135). Wraxall, describing Temple in 1776, says: ‘In his person he was tall and large, though not inclined to corpulency. A disorder, the seat of which lay in his ribs, bending him almost double, compelled him in walking to use a sort of crutch; but his mind seemed exempt from decay. His conversation was animated, brilliant, and full of entertainment’ (Historical Memoirs, 1884, i. 88-9). In the satirical and political productions of the time he was known by the name of ‘Squire Gawkey.’ He married, on 19 May 1737, Anne, daughter and coheiress of Thomas Chambers of Hanworth, Middlesex, by his wife Lady Mary Berkeley, the eldest daughter of Charles, second earl of Berkeley. The only issue of the marriage was a daughter, Elizabeth, who was born on 1 Sept. 1738 and died an infant on 14 July 1742. The countess, whose ‘Select Poems’ were printed at Strawberry Hill in 1764 (Walpole, Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors, ed. Park, iv. 361-4), died suddenlyon 7 April 1777. In default of male issue Temple was succeeded in the earldom by his nephew George [q. v.], who was afterwards created Marquis of Buckingham. A portrait of Temple, painted by William Hoare of Bath, R.A., in 1760, is in the National Portrait Gallery. The same collection contains a portrait of his wife, drawn by Hugh Douglas Hamilton, R.H.A., in 1770. The portrait of Temple painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1776 was engraved by William Dickinson.[Grenville Papers (1852-3); Chatham Correspondence (1838-40); Walpole's Memoirs of the Reign of George II (1846); Walpole's Memoirs of the Reign of George III (1845); Lord Waldegrave's Memoirs (1821); Lord Mahon's History of England (1858), vols. iv. v. vi.; Lecky's History of England, ii. 458-62, vol. iii. chaps, x. xi.; Jesse's Memoirs of the Life and Reign of George III (1867), vol. i.; Macaulay's Essays (1885), pp. 306, 307, 757, 762, 773, 774, 777, 782-3; Quarterly Review, xc. 515-17; Lipscombe's History of Buckinghamshire (1847), i. 600, 614-15, iii. 86; Collins's Peerage of England (1812), ii. 419-20; Doyle's Official Baronage (1886), iii. 519; Foster's Alumni Oxonienses, pt, ii. p. 562; Gent. Mag. 1737 vii. 315, 1738 viii. 490, 1752 xxii. 478, 1777 xlvii. 195, 1779 xlix. 471; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament, pt. ii.pp. 72, 85, 98; Haydn's Book of Dignities (1851).]