1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Temple, Richard Grenville-Temple

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TEMPLE, RICHARD GRENVILLE-TEMPLE, 1st Earl (1711–1779), English statesman, eldest son of Richard Grenville (d. 1727) of Wootton, Buckinghamshire, was born on the 26th of September 1711. His mother was Hester (c. 1690-1752), daughter, and ultimately heiress, of Sir Richard Temple, Bart. (1634-1697), of Stowe, Buckinghamshire[1] and sister of Richard Temple, Viscount Cobham, whose title she inherited under a special remainder in 1749; in the same year, her husband having been long dead, she was created Countess Temple. Her son, Richard Grenville, was educated at Eton, and in 1734 was returned to parliament as member for the borough of Buckingham. In 1752, on the death of his mother, he inherited her titles together with the rich estates of Stowe and Wootton; and he then took the name of Temple in addition to his own surname of Grenville. The turning point in his political fortunes was the marriage of his sister Hester in 1754 to William Pitt, afterwards earl of Chatham. Although Lord Temple was a man of little ability and indifferent character, Pitt persistently linked. his own career with that of his brother-in-law. In November 1756 Temple became first lord of the admiralty in the ministry of Devonshire and Pitt. He was intensely disliked by George II., who dismissed both him and Pitt from office in April 1757. But when the memorable coalition cabinet of Newcastle and Pitt was formed in June of the same year, Temple received the office of privy seal. He alone in the cabinet supported Pitt's proposal to declare war with Spain in 1761, and they resigned together on the 5th of October. From this time Temple became one of the most violent and factious of politicians, and it is difficult to account for the influence, wholly evil, which he exerted over his illustrious brother-in-law. He himself is said to have avowed that “he loved faction, and had a great deal of money to spare.” He was at variance with his younger brother, George Grenville, when the latter became first lord of the treasury in April 1763, and he had no place in that ministry; but the brothers were reconciled before 1765, when Temple, who probably aimed at forming a ministry mainly confined to his own family connexions, refused to join the government, and persuaded Pitt to refuse likewise. A few weeks later the king offered the most liberal terms to induce Pitt to form or join an administration; and “a ministry directed by that great statesman,” says Lecky, “would have been beyond all comparison the most advantageous to the country; it had no serious difficulty to encounter, and Pitt himself was now ready to undertake the task, but the evil genius of Lord Temple again prevailed. Without his co-operation Pitt could not, or would not proceed, and Temple absolutely refused to take office even in the foremost place.” Pitt's continued refusal to join the first Rockingham administration was no doubt partly due to the same disastrous influence, though before the close of 1765 the old friendship between the brothers-in-law was dissolving; and when at last in July 1766 Pitt consented to form a government, Temple refused to join; being bitterly offended because, although offered the head of the treasury, he was not to be allowed an equal share with Pitt in nominating to other offices, Temple forthwith began to inspire the most virulent libels against Pitt; and in conjunction with his brother George he concentrated the whole Grenville connexion in hostility to the government. After George Grenville's death in 1770 Lord Temple retired almost completely from public life. He died on the 12th of September 1779. Lord Temple was entirely without statesmanship; he possessed an insatiable appetite for intrigue, and is said to have been the author of several anonymous libels, and the inspirer of many more. Macaulay's well-known comparison of him with a mole working below “in some foul, crooked labyrinth whenever a heap of dirt was flung up,” which perpetuates the spleen of Horace Walpole, perhaps exceeds the justice of the case; but there can be no question that Temple's character as a public man was rated very low by his contemporaries. In private life he used his great wealth with generosity to his relations, friends and dependents. Pitt was under pecuniary obligation to him. He paid the costs incurred by Wilkes in litigation, and he provided the agitator with the freehold qualification which enabled him to stand for Middlesex in the famous election of 1768.

In addition to the estates he inherited, Temple gained a considerable fortune by his marriage in 1737 with Anne, daughter and co-heiress of Thomas Chambers of Hanworth, Middlesex; a volume of poems by her was printed at the Strawberry Hill press in 1764. The only issue of the marriage being a daughter who died in infancy, Temple was succeeded in the earldom by his nephew George (1753–1813), second son of George Grenville the prime minister, who then assumed in addition to the name of Grenville not only the name of Temple, but also that of Nugent, his wife being daughter and co-heiress of Robert, Viscount Clare, afterwards Earl Nugent. The 2nd Earl Temple was lord-lieutenant of Ireland in 1782–3; in 1784 was created marquess of Buckingham; and was again lord-lieutenant of Ireland in 1787–9.

His son and successor, Richard Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville (1776–1839), was created duke of Buckingham and Chandos in 1822, his wife being only daughter of the 3rd duke of Chandos; he was in the same patent created Earl Temple of Stowe, with special remainder as regards this title, in virtue of which, on the death without male issue in 1889 of the 3rd duke of Buckingham and Chandos and the consequent extinction of the original earldom of Temple, the title of Earl Temple of Stowe devolved upon William Stephen Gore-Langton (1847-1902), whose mother was granddaughter of the 1st duke of Buckingham, grantee of this earldom. In 1902 Algernon William Stephen Temple-Gore-Langton (b. 1871) became 5th Earl Temple.

See The Grenville Papers (London, 1852), a considerable portion of which consists of Earl Temple's correspondence; Horace Walpole, Memoirs of the Reign of George II., 3 vols. (London, 1847); Memoirs of the Reign of George III., 4 vols. (London, 1845 and 1894); Earl Waldegrave, Memoirs 1754–8 (London, 1821); Sir N. W. Wraxall, Historical Memoirs, edited by H. B. Wheatley, 5 vols. (London, 1884); Correrpondence of Chatham, edited by W. S. Taylor and J. H. Pringle, 4 vols. (London. 1838–40); W. E. H. Lecky, History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vols. ii. and iii. (7 vols., London, 1892).

(R. J. M.)

  1. The Temple family belonged originally to Leicestershire, where, at Temple Hall, the elder line had resided since the 14th century. Peter Temple (1600–1663). the regicide, was a member of this elder line; a younger branch had settled in Oxfordshire and passed thence to Buckinghamshire, where John Temple purchased Stowe in 1589. This John was brother of Anthony, who was great grandfather of Sir William Temple, the famous statesman. John Temple's son Thomas, who was created a baronet in 1611, was the great-grandfather of Earl Temple.