Grenville, Denis (DNB00)
GRENVILLE, DENIS (1637–1703), Jacobite divine, youngest son of Sir Bevil Grenville [q. v.], was born 13 Feb 1637 and baptised at Kilkhampton, Cornwall, 26 Feb. He was probably educated for some time at a grammar school in his native county, and at Eton. He was matriculated as a gentleman-commoner of Exeter College, Oxford, 22 Sept. 1657, according to Boase (Register of Exeter, p. xxxi), or, according to the university records, on 6 Aug. 1658. He was created M.A. in convocation 28 Sept. 1660, and proceeded D.D. on 28 Feb. 1671. About 1660 he married Anne, fourth and youngest daughter of Bishop Cosen. He was then preparing, according to his panegyrists, to cast ‘a lustre upon the clergy,’ adding the ‘eminency of birth’ to ‘virtues, learning, and piety.’ Bishop Sanderson ordained him in 1661, and on 10 July in the same year he succeeded, on the presentation of his eldest brother, Sir John Grenville [q. v.], earl of Bath, to the family living of Kilkhampton. Lord Bath also obtained for him a promise of the next vacant fellowship at Eton College. Sheldon, archbishop of Canterbury, resisted this arrangement, but the king sent a peremptory mandate directing that it should be strictly fulfilled. Before the next vacancy (in 1669) Grenville exchanged the reversion for the prebendal stall of Langtoft in York Cathedral, held by Timothy Thriscrosse. He was collated to the first stall in Durham (his father-in-law's) Cathedral on 18 Sept. 1662. He was appointed to the archdeaconry of Durham, with the rectory of Easington annexed, in September 1662, and in 1664 to the rectory of Elwick Hall. He resigned Elwick Hall in 1667 upon his institution to the rich rectory of Sedgefield, and in 1668 he surrendered the first for the second stall, being installed on 16 Feb. 1668. With the assistance of Bishop Nathaniel Crew [q. v.] he obtained, in spite of Archbishop Sancroft's opposition, the very lucrative deanery of Durham, to which he was instituted on 9 Dec. 1684. Sancroft exclaimed that ‘Grenville was not worthy of the least stall in Durham Cathedral,’ and his diocesan retorted that ‘he would rather choose a gentleman than a silly fellow who knew nothing about [? but] books.’ Grenville then vacated his stall, but held at the same time the deanery and archdeaconry of Durham, and the rectory of Sedgefield, described in his own words as ‘the best deanery, the best archdeaconry, and one of the best livings in England.’ He managed, however, to get into debt, and while archdeacon of Durham and one of the king's chaplains in ordinary he was openly arrested within the cloisters of the cathedral and imprisoned, though claiming his privileges. The matter was brought before the king in council, when he was freed, and the offending officials were severely punished. His wife suffered from ‘occasional attacks of mental excitement,’ aggravated, if not created, by these debts, and by her husband's consequent estrangement from her father and her sister, Lady Gerrard. During 1678 and 1679 he retired with his sister, Lady Joanna Thornhill, and her family to Tour D'Aigues, a small town in Provence.
Grenville was a strong churchman, and he laboured all his time at Durham to promote a weekly communion in the cathedral; he confessed to Dugdale in 1683 that he had been compelled to play ‘a very hard game these twenty years in maintaining ye exact order wch Bpp. Cosins set on foot.’ As dean he also endeavoured to make ‘the cathedral the great seminary of young divines for the diocese, and to this end to invite ingenuous young men to be minor canons,’ with right of succession to the chapter livings. He was a zealous adherent of James II, and upon William's landing raised 700l. from the prebendaries of Durham for the king, giving 100l. himself. He addressed the clergy of his archdeaconry on behalf of James, and even after Durham had been surprised by William's followers (Sunday, 9 Dec.) Grenville delivered ‘a seasonable loyall sermon.’ At midnight on 11 Dec. he fled to Carlisle, and a few days later was seized on the borders while hastening to Scotland, and was robbed of his horses and money. These were recovered by him when he had been brought back to Carlisle, and after a short stay at Durham he succeeded in escaping to Edinburgh and landing at Honfleur (19 March 1689). His wife was left destitute in England, and by an order of the chapter of Durham she received an allowance of ‘twenty pounds quarterly.’ His goods at Durham were distrained upon by the sheriff for debts when Sir George Wheler purchased for 221l. the dean's library, which was rich in bibles and common-prayer books. Through his brothers influence Grenville retained the revenues of his preferment for some time; but as he declined to take the oaths of allegiance to the new sovereigns he was deprived of them from 1 Feb. 1691. Except in February 1690, when he came incognito into England, but was recognised by ‘an impertinent and malitious postmaster’ at Canterbury and a second visit in April 1695, he remained in France. James nominated him for the archbishopric of York on the death of Lamplugh, and he was always kindly treated by the ex-king's wife. Sums of money were occasionally sent to him from England, especially by Sir George Wheler and Thomas Higgons his nephew who were threatened with prosecution in 1698 by Sir George's son-in-law, an attorney with whom he had quarrelled. Grenville was the chief ecclesiastic who accompanied James into exile, but was not allowed to perform the Anglican service. His conversion was vainly attempted, at one time by restraint, at another by argument. He lived first at Rouen, from 1698 to 1701 at Tremblet, and afterwards at Corbeil on the Seine. He sickened at Corbeil on the night of 12 April 1703, was taken to Paris, and died on 18 April. His body was buried privately at night at the lower end of the consecrated ground of the Holy Innocents churchyard in Paris. The funeral was at the cost of Mary, the widow of James II, who had often helped him from her scanty resources. His wife died in October 1691, and was buried in Durham Cathedral on 14 Oct.
Grenville when an undergraduate at Oxford contributed verses to the university collection of loyal poems printed in 1660, with the title of ‘Britannia Rediviva.’ On his appointment to the archdeaconry of Durham in 1662 he issued and reissued in the next year ‘Article of Enquiry concerning Matters Ecclesiastical’ for the officials of every parish in the diocese. In 1664 he printed a sermon and a letter, entitled ‘The Compleat Conformist, or Seasonable Advice concerning strict Conformity and frequent Celebration of the Holy Communion.’ He addressed to his nephew Thomas, son of his sister, Bridget Grenville, by Sir Thomas Higgons, in 1685, an anonymous volume of ‘Counsel and Directions, Divine and Moral, in Plain and Familiar Letters of Advice.’ When in exile at Rouen he printed twenty copies of ‘The Resigned and Resolved Christian and Faithful and Undaunted Royalist in two plain farewell Sermons and a loyal farewell Visitation Speech. Whereunto are added certaine letters to his relations and friends in England.’ A copy of this very scarce production is in the Bodleian Library, and another in the Grenville collection; both contain portraits of the dean after Beaupoille, engraved by Edelinck. Numerous letters from him are printed in Comber's ‘Life of Thomas Comber,’ pp. 139-334; many more remain imprinted among the Rawlinson MSS. at the Bodleian Library. Locke when in France in 1678 wrote three letters to Grenville. Two of them are in Addit. MS. 4290 at the British Museum, and are printed, together with the third, in Fox Bourne's ‘John Locke,’ i. 387-97. A narrative of his life was composed by a clergyman named Beaumont, residing in the diocese of Durham. Two collections of his remains have been distributed by the Surtees Society. The former (pt. i. of vol. xxxvii. of their ‘Transactions’) was taken from a book in the Durham Cathedral library, consisting of letters and other documents collected by Dr. Hunter, the well-known antiquary of that county. The latter (vol. xlvii. of the Surtees Society) was based on the papers at the Bodleian Library. Granville, lord Lansdowne, pronounced a high eulogy upon his apostolic virtues in an often-quoted passage.[Lord Lansdowne's Works, ii. 283-5; Dugdale's Diary, pp. 428-32; Surtees's Durham, i. 12-13, 175, ii. 373-4, iii. 32-6; Maxwell Lyte's Eton College, pp. 269-70; Luttrell's Relation, iv. 369-71; Zouch's Sudbury and Sir George Wheler in Zouch's Works, ii. 80-1, 158-9, 167-171; Boase's Exeter College, p. xxxi; Gilling's Life of Trosse, pp. 123-5; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iv. 497-8; Wood's Fasti, ii. 229, 326; Le Neve's Fasti, iii. 300-10; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. i. 191-2, iii. 1206.]