Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fitzroy, Henry (1663-1690)
FITZROY, HENRY, first Duke of Grafton (1663–1690), second son of Charles II by Barbara Villiers, countess of Castlemaine, afterwards Duchess of Cleveland [see Villiers, Barbara], was born on 20 Sept. 1663, and was, after, it is said, some hesitation, acknowledged by Charles as his son. A rich wife was early provided for him in Isabella, daughter and heiress of Henry Bennet, earl of Arlington. She was only five years old when, on 1 Aug. 1672, she was married by Archbishop Sheldon to her young husband in the presence of the king and court (Evelyn, Diary, 1 Aug. 1672). On 16 Aug. he was made Earl of Euston, the title being derived from Arlington's house in Suffolk, of which he was now the probable heir. In September 1675 he was made Duke of Grafton. Arlington and his family were very unwilling to sanction the alliance, and so late as 1678 there were rumours that it was broken off (Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. p. 386); but in 1679 the couple were remarried, though Evelyn looked with the greatest anxiety to the union of the ‘sweetest and most beautiful child’ to a ‘boy that had been rudely bred’ (Diary, 6 Sept. 1679). Grafton was, however, ‘exceeding handsome, by far surpassing any of the king's other natural issue,’ and his father's resolution to bring him up for the sea soon made him, as Evelyn had hoped, ‘a plain, useful, and robust officer, and, were he polished, a tolerable man.’ He was sent as a volunteer to learn his profession under Sir John Berry [q. v.], and in his absence on 30 Sept. 1680 was installed by proxy as knight of the Garter. In 1682–3 he was master of the Trinity House, was colonel of the 1st foot guards 1681–8 and 1688–9, and, on the death of Prince Rupert, vice-admiral of England (Kennett, iii. 82). In 1683 he became captain of the Grafton, a ship of 70 guns. In 1684 he visited Louis XIV at Condé, and, at some personal danger, won experience of military service at the siege of Luxemburg (Hist. MSS. Comm. App. to 7th Rep. pp. 84, 263, 302). At the coronation of James II he acted as lord high constable. He shared in suppressing the rebellion of Monmouth; showed great gallantry at the skirmish at Philip's Norton, near Bath, on 27 June, where he fell into an ambuscade, and it was only with great risk that he succeeded in effecting his retreat (London Gazette, 2 July 1685; Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. pp. 3, 4). He was also present at Sedgmoor. He first took his seat in parliament on 9 Nov. 1685 (ib. 11th Rep. pt. ii. p. 321). Early in 1686 he fought two fatal duels; in one case, however, Evelyn acknowledges ‘after almost insufferable provocation from Mr. Stanley, brother of Lord Derby’ (Diary, 19 Feb. 1686). A few days afterwards he helped his brother Northumberland in an attempt to ‘spirit away’ his wife (ib. 29 Feb. 1686). On 3 July 1687 he carried his complaisance to his uncle so far as to act as conductor for the papal nuncio D'Adda on his public entry into London. But soon after he started with a fleet on an expedition which first conveyed the betrothed queen of Pedro II of Portugal from Rotterdam to Lisbon, where Grafton was magnificently entertained. Thence he sailed on a cruise among the Barbary states, where at Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli he renewed treaties, and procured the release of English captives. He returned in March 1688, and, though not much of a politician, and less of a churchman (Burnet, iii. 317), was disgusted at his uncle's proceedings, and hurt at Dartmouth being preferred to him in the command of the fleet (Clarke, Life of James II, ii. 208). Falling under the influence of Churchill, he excited discontent not only among the ships at Portsmouth, where he now joined the fleet as a volunteer (Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. pt. iv. p. 397), but also through his own regiment of guards. He signed the petition to James II for a ‘free and regular parliament.’ Yet he accompanied James on his march against William, and joined with Churchill in protesting that he would serve him with the last drop of his blood. He was suspected, however, of having joined the conspiracy, and on 24 Nov. ran away with Churchill to join William at Axminster (Clarke, Life of James II, ii. 219; Macpherson, Original Papers, i. 280–3). The success of William restored him to his regiment, at the head of which he was sent to siege Tilbury fort. He was one of the forty-nine lords who voted for a regency; but he took the oaths to William and Mary on the very first day, and carried the orb at their coronation. Disappointed of any great command, he served in his ship the Grafton at the battle of Beachy Head, 30 June 1690, and showed great gallantry in assisting distressed Dutch vessels in that unlucky action (Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. p. 482). Finally he took service as a volunteer under Churchill, now Lord Marlborough, on his expedition to the south of Ireland. On 28 Sept. Grafton went with four regiments, who ‘waded through water up to their armpits,’ to effect a landing under the walls of Cork, and storm the town through the breach. They had almost succeeded when a musket-ball from the walls broke two of his ribs, and he was conveyed dangerously wounded into the captured city. He lingered some time, but died 9 Oct. 1690 (London Gazette, September and October 1690; cf. Life of Joseph Pike, in Friends' Library, ii. 368). His body was conveyed to England and buried at Euston. The most popular and ablest of the sons of Charles II, his strong and decided character, his reckless daring, and rough but honest temperament, caused him to be widely lamented. It was generally believed that he had the prospect of a brilliant career as a sailor (Burnet, iii. 317, iv. 105; cf. An Elegy on the Death of the Duke of Grafton, a broadside, licensed 27 Oct. 1690; and the ballad on The Noble Funeral of that renowned Champion the Duke of Grafton).
He was succeeded by his only son, Charles, born on 25 Nov. 1683, who died 6 May 1757. His widow, whose sweetness and beauty were universally commended, subsequently married Sir Thomas Hanmer.[Evelyn's Diary; London Gazette; Burnet's Hist. of his own Time; Kennett's Hist. of England, vol. iii.; Clarke's Life of James II; Doyle's Official Baronage, ii. 48–9; Charnock's Biographia Navalis, ii. 98–105; Ranke's Engl. Hist. vol. iv.; Granger's Biog. Hist. iii. 199–200; Macaulay's Hist. of Engl.; Hist. MSS. Comm. Appendices, 6th, 7th, and 9th Reps.]