Grenville, George Nugent-Temple- (DNB00)

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GRENVILLE, GEORGE NUGENT-TEMPLE-, first Marquis of Buckingham (1753–1813), second son of George Grenville [q. v.], by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Wyndham, bart.,was born on 17 June 1753. He was educated at Eton, and on the death of the Earl of Macclesfield, in March 1764, became one of the tellers of the exchequer, a post of great profit, the reversion of which had been granted him by patent dated 2 May 1763. Grenville matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, on 20 April 1770, but did not take a degree. At the general election in October 1774 he was elected one of the members for Buckinghamshire. In March 1775 his motion for leave to bring in a bill to enable members of parliament to vacate their seats was negatived by 173 to 126 (Parliamentary Hist. xviii. 421). In February 1776 he supported Lord North in the debate on the German treaties for the hire of troops, asserting that he had ‘no doubt of the right of parliament to tax America, and consequently must concur in the coercive measures’ (ib. 1179). During the debate in February 1778 on Fox's motion on the state of the British forces in America, Grenville in an animated speech condemned the conduct of the American war, and declared for the recall of Chatham (ib. xix. 721-3). In November 1778, while opposing the address of thanks, Grenville insisted that the removal of the ministry was ‘an indispensable preliminary to any overtures for a reconciliation with America’ (ib. 1369). In March 1779 he supported Fox's motion on the state of the navy, and declared that the measures respecting America had been wrong at the outset (ib. xx. 231-2). Grenville succeeded his uncle Richard [q. v.] as second Earl Temple on 11 Sept. 1779, and in the following month obtained the royal license to take ‘the names and arms of Nugent and Temple in addition to his own, and also to subscribe the name of Nugent before all titles of honor’ (London Gazette, 1779, No. 12036). In February 1780 Temple made his maiden speech in the House of Lords in support of Shelburne's motion for a committee of inquiry into the public expenditure, and explained at some length the reasons which had governed his political conduct in the House of Commons (Parl. Hist. xx. 1354-7). On the downfall of Lord North's administration he became lord-lieutenant and custos rotulorum of Buckinghamshire (30 March 1782), and on 31 July 1782 was appointed lord-lieutenant of Ireland in the place of the Duke of Portland, being admitted a member of the English privy council on the same day. It was not, however, until 15 Sept. that Temple took up his duties at Dublin. In his early letters to Shelburne soon after his arrival he expressed the greatest alarm at the state of affairs in Ireland, and urged the government to immediately summon a new parliament, in order to counteract the influence of the volunteers. Though at first Temple emphatically declared that ‘simple repeal comprised complete renunciation, he considered that after Lord Mansfield's decision on an Irish case, which had been removed into the king's bench prior to the passing of the act (22 Geo. III, c. 53), a renunciation bill had become a political necessity. In accordance with his advice the Irish Judicature Bill was introduced into the English parliament early in 1783; it passed without difficulty through both houses, and formed ‘the coping-stone of the constitution of 1782’ (Lecky, History of England, vi. 313). On 5 Feb. 1783 a royal warrant was addressed to the lord-lieutenant, authorising him to cause letters patent to be passed under the great seal of Ireland for the creation of the new order of St. Patrick. Though no letters patent appear to have been executed (Sir N. H. Nicolas, History of the Orders of British Knighthood, iv 8), the statutes of the order received the royal signature on 28 Feb., and the first chapter was held by Temple on 11 March 1783 when he invested himself grand master. Shelburne resigned on 24 Feb. 1783 and early in March Temple determined to follow his example. Owing, however, to the ministerial interregnum and the delay in appointing as his successor Lord Northington, Temple did not leave Ireland until early in June. During the short time that he was in office he introduced several economical reforms into the administrative department, and was successful in punishing several cases of official peculation. The proposed scheme for establishing a colony of emigrants from Geneva at Passage, co. Waterford, subsequently tell to the ground (Plowden, Historical Review, ii. pt. i. 23-7). Upon his return to England Temple was frequently consulted by the king on the question how he was to get rid of the coalition ministry. In the debate on the address at the opening of parliament in November 1783, Temple denounced the ministry (Parliamentary Hist. xxiii. 1127-30). Upon the introduction of Fox's East India Bill into the House of Lords on 9 Dec. following, he seized ‘the first opportunity of entering his solemn protest against so infamous a bill’ (ib. xxiv. 123). On the 11th he was authorised by the king to oppose the bill in his name, and at the same time was given a letter in which it was stated that ‘his majesty allowed Earl Temple to say that whoever voted for the India Bill were not only not his friends, but he should consider them as his enemies. And if these words were not strong enough, Earl Temple might use whatever words he might deem stronger, or more to the purpose’ (ib. xxiv. 207). This famous interview is spiritedly described in ‘The Rolliad' (1799, p. 123), in the lines commencing thus :

On the great day, when Buckingham by pairs
Ascended, Heaven impell'd, the k—'s back-stairs ;
And panting breathless, strain'd his lungs to show
From Fox's bill what mighty ills would flow.

In consequence of this unconstitutional proceeding the bill was thrown out by a majority of nineteen. On the 19th Temple was appointed a secretary of state, while Pitt was charged with the formation of a new ministry. On the 22nd Temple suddenly resigned the seals. The real reason of his resignation is obscure. According to some it was because he had been refused a dukedom ; according to others, because Pitt resisted his proposal of an immediate dissolution. The reason publicly given in the House of Commons was that ‘he might not be supposed to make his situation as minister stand in the way of, or serve as a protection or shelter from, inquiry and from justice’ (ib. xxiv. 238), a resolution having been passed in the House of Commons declaring that the circulation of the opinion of the king ‘upon any bill or other proceeding depending in either house of parliament, with a view to influence the votes of members, was a high crime and misdemeanour.’ On 4 Dec. 1784 Temple was created Marquis of Buckingham, and on 2 June 1786 was elected and invested a knight of the Garter, being installed by dispensation on 29 May 1801. Buckingham was again appointed lord-lieutenant of Ireland on 2 Nov. 1787 (in the place of the Duke of Rutland, who had died in the previous month), and arrived at Dublin on 16 Dec. On the death of his father-in-law on 14 Oct. 1788, he succeeded to the Irish earldom of Nugent, in accordance with the limitation in the patent. On 6 Feb. 1789, during the debate on the address, Grattan entered a protest against ‘the expensive genius of the Marquis of Buckingham in the management of the public money’ (Grattan, Speeches, ii. 100). In consequence of Buckingham's refusal to transmit the address of the two houses of parliament to the Prince of Wales, desiring him to exercise the royal authority during the king's illness, votes of censure were passed on the lord-lieutenant in both houses. On the recovery of the king, Buckingham dismissed from office many of those who had opposed the government on the regency question, and in order to strengthen his administration resorted to a system of wholesale corruption. Buckingham had now become very unpopular, and his health beginning to give way he resigned office on 30 Sept. 1789, and returned to England in the following month. After his return from Ireland Buckingham practically retired from political life, and took but little part in the debates in the House of Lords. On 14 March 1794 he received the rank of colonel in the army (during service), and during the insurrection of 1798 served in Ireland as colonel of the Buckinghamshire militia regiment. In moving the address to the House of Lords on 24 Sept. 1799, Buckingham spoke strongly in favour of the proposed union with Ireland, being ‘confident that the happiest effects would result from it’ (Plowden, Historical Review, ii. pt. ii. 978). He died at Stowe, Buckinghamshire, on 11 Feb. 1813, aged 59, and was buried at Wotton. Buckingham was a man of considerable industry and some financial ability ; but his overbearing manner, his excessive pride, and his extreme proneness to take offence unfitted him for political life. Horace Walpole describes him as having ‘many disgusting qualities, as pride, obstinacy, and want of truth, with natural propensity to avarice’ (Journals of Geo. III, 1771-83, 1859, ii. 622). He married, on 16 April 1775, the Hon. Mary Elizabeth Nugent, elder daughter and coheiress of Robert, viscount Clare, afterwards Earl Nugent, by his third wife, Elizabeth, countess dowager of Berkeley. There were four children of the marriage, viz. Richard, first duke of Buckingham [q. v.], George Nugent, baron Nugent [q.v.], Mary, who died an infant on 10 April 1782, and Mary Anne, who, born on 8 July 1787, was married on 26 Feb. 1811 to the Hon. James Everard Arundell, afterwards tenth Baron Arundell of Wardour, and died without issue on 1 June 1854. On 29 Dec. 1800 the marchioness was created Baroness Nugent of Carlanstown, co. Westmeath, in the peerage of Ireland, with remainder to her younger son. She died at Buckingham House, Pall Mall, on 16 March 1812, aged 53, and was buried at Wotton. A portrait of the marquis, painted by Gainsborough in 1787, was exhibited at the Loan Collection of National Portraits in 1867 (Catalogue, No. 657).

[Memoirs of the Court and Cabinet of Geo. III (1853-5), 4 vols.; Memoirs of the Court of England during the Regency (1856), i. 273, ii. 16-23; Memoirs of Sir N. W. Wraxall (1884), ii. 359-60, iii. 186-99, iv. 63-5, v. 34-5; Lord Stanhope's Life of Pitt (1862), vols. i. ii.; Plowden's Historical Review of the State of Ireland (1803), vol. ii.; Lecky's Hist. of England, iv. 279-84, 294-5, vi. 309-25, 413-31; Sir N. H. Nicolas's Hist. of the Orders of British Knighthood (1842), vols. ii. iv.; Lipscombe's Hist. of Buckinghamshire (1847), i. 601, 614; Doyle's Official Baronage of England (1886), i. 262-3, iii. 519-20; Collins's Peerage (1812), ii. 420-1; Burke's Extinct Peerage (1883), p. 405; Burke's Peerage (1888), pp. 199, 200; Foster's Alumni Oxonienses, pt. ii. p. 562; Gent. Mag. (1775) xlv. 206, (1812) lxxxii. pt. i. 292-3, (1813) lxxxiii. pt. i. 189-90; Haydn's Book of Dignities (1851); London Gazettes.]

G. F. R. B.