Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Grenville, John
GRENVILLE, JOHN, Earl of Bath (1628–1701), born on 29 Aug. and baptised on 16 Sept. 1628 at Kilkhampton, Cornwall, was the third but eldest surviving son of Sir Bevil Grenville (1595-1643) [q. v.] of Stowe in that parish, by his wife Grace (d. 1647), daughter of Sir George Smith or Smythe, knt., of Matford in Heavitree, Devonshire (Vivian, Visitations of Cornwall, 1887, pp. 192, 195). He held a commission in his father's regiment, was knighted at Bristol, 3 Aug. 1643 (Metcalfe, A Book of Knights, p. 200), and was severely wounded at the second battle of Newbury on 27 Oct. 1644 (Monet, Battles of Newbury, 2nd edit., pp. 160, 176, 253). After the downfall of the monarchy he retired to Jersey, whence he sailed in February 1649 to assume, at the request of Charles, the governorship of the Scilly Islands (Cal. Clarendon State Papers, ii. 1). In April 1650 a plot for his murder and the seizure of the islands was discovered on the very day appointed for its execution (ib. ii. 53). Grenville's stubborn defence of Scilly caused the parliament considerable anxiety. The council of state, on 26 March 1651, sent instructions to Major-general John Desborough [q. v.] to imprison Grenville's relations in Cornwall until Grenville had liberated some merchants then in his hands. Desborough was to treat with Grenville before taking action (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1651, p. 111). Meanwhile, three days previously, articles of agreement for the delivery of the Scilly Islands on the ensuing 2 June had been arranged between Grenville and Admiral Robert Blake and Lieutenant-colonel John Clarke.
Grenville had leave to visit Charles and return to England within twelve months following the surrender. In case the king should not take him into his service he had also power to raise a regiment of fifteen hundred Irish for service abroad (ib. 1651, pp. 214-17). Grenville decided to stay in England and disarm suspicion by submissive conduct. By an order in parliament made 11 July 1651 the council of state granted him leave ‘to pass up and down in England, without doing anything prejudicial to the state’ (ib. 1651, p. 285). He was occasionally able to assist Charles with money (Cal. Clarendon State Papers, ii. 361, 362). He gave the living of Kilkhampton to his kinsman, Dr. Nicholas Monck, and employed him to influence his brother the general in favour of Charles. On 26 July 1659 the council, after receiving his parole for peaceable submission, allowed him to return to Cornwall, and ordered the release of his servants and horses (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1659-60, pp. 38, 43). Having succeeded in his negotiations with Monck, Grenville delivered to both houses of parliament, 1 May 1660, the king's letters from Breda; and four days afterwards was voted by the commons 500l. to buy a jewel in token of his services (ib. 1659-60, pp. 428, 430, 559). In June 1660 he received a grant of the office of steward of the duchy of Cornwall, and the borough of Bradninch, Devonshire; also of steward of all the castles and other offices belonging to the said duchy, and rider and master of Dartmoor (ib. 1660-1, p. 73). By July he had become lord-lieutenant of Cornwall, lord warden of the stannaries, and, a little later, groom of the stole (ib. 1660-1, pp. 150, 435). In August he accepted, on behalf of himself, his wife, and his brother Bernard, the office of housekeeper at St. James's Palace, keeper of the wardrobe and gardens, and bailiff of the fair, at the fee of 8d. a day and 80l. a year (ib. 1660-1, p. 213). With Sir Robert Howard and five others Grenville was commissioned on 26 Oct. to take compound for goods forfeited to the king before 25 May 1660, and discovered by them (ib. 1660-1, pp. 323, 607). On 20 April 1661 he was created Earl of Bath, Viscount Lansdowne, and Baron Grenville of Kilkhampton and Bideford, with permission to use the titles of Earl of Corboile, Thorigny, and Granville as his ancestors had done. At the same time he received the colonelcy of a regiment of foot. In May he was chosen captain and governor of Plymouth and St. Nicholas Island, with the castle and fort (ib. 1660-1, p. 605); in October he had a grant of 2,000l. a year and all other fees due to him as groom of the stole and first gentleman usher of the bedchamber; and in the same month a large grant of felon's goods, deodands, and treasure trove in certain manors in Cornwall and Devonshire (ib. 1661-2, pp. 131, 535). On 17 May 1662 he obtained a grant of the agency for issuing wine licenses, on 28 March 1663 he received a warrant for a grant of a lease for ten years of the duties on pre-emption and coinage of tin in Devonshire and Cornwall, on rental of 1,200l. (ib. 1661-2 pp. 95, 377, 1663-4 p. 90), which was subsequently changed to a perpetuity of 3,000l. a year out of the tin revenue to him and his heirs for ever (ib. Treas. 1708-1714, p. 271). He failed, however, to get the keepership of the privy purse, although backed up in his application by his near kinsman, the Duke of Albemarle (ib. Dom. 1664-1665, p. 438). He was accused of ingratitude by one Edward Rymill, who in petitioning the council in 1666 for the twenty-seventh time stated that he had stood bound in 1,000l. for Bath in the time of his direst need, who had allowed him to be imprisoned for want of the money. On his family petitioning the earl they were threatened to be whipped out of court (ib. Dom. 1665-6 p. 162, 1666-7 p. 406).
Bath was busily engaged in trying disaffected people by offering them the new oath for military officers, and in settling the parliament of tinners, in which he recovered for the crown by 27 Feb. 1662-3 a revenue of 12,000l. lost during many years (ib. 1663-4, p. 57). In the Dutch invasions of 1666 and 1667 he displayed eminent skill in the work of organising the militia both in Devonshire and Cornwall ; while his abilities as a military engineer found full scope in strengthening and enlarging the fortifications of Plymouth (ib. 1665-6 pp. 541-2, 1666-7 p. 355, 1667 p. 219). Along with Lewis de Duras, earl of Feversham [q. v.], Bath was permitted to remain in the room when Charles received absolution on his deathbed (Burnet, Own Time, Oxford edit., ii. 457). James II dismissed him as a protestant, in March 1684-5, from the office of groom of the stole (Luttrell, Historical Relation, i. 336, 339). He did his utmost, however, to secure members of parliament to the king's mind in Cornwall (Burnet, iii. 15-16). During the same year James discovered, or affected to discover, some irregularities in the stannaries, by which he was defrauded of part of his dues. Bath wrote a long letter to the lord treasurer on 2 Nov. 1686, stating that he was ready immediately to come to London, but asked for the king's permission (Cal. State Papers, Treas. 1556-1696, pp. 17-20). Ultimately he made his peace with the king, and in the middle of February 1687-8 was sent down into the west ‘to see how the gentlemen there stood affected to taking of the penall lawes and tests’ (Luttrell, i. 432). Though he had been authorised to offer the removal of oppressive restrictions in the tin trade, all the justices and deputy-lieutenants of Devonshire and Cornwall declared that the protestant religion was dearer to them than either life or property, and Bath added that any successors would make the same answer (Macaulay, Hist. of England, ch. viii.) On the landing of the Prince of Orange, Bath, who was then in command at Plymouth, was for some time undecided. He promised through Admiral Russel to join the prince at once, but afterwards excused himself on the pretence that the garrison needed managing (Burnet, iii. 311). William had reached Exeter before Bath deemed it safe to declare in the prince's favour (cf. Bath's letter to Lord Godolphin, dated 23 Oct. 1688, in Cal. State Papers, Treas. 1556-1696, pp. 30-1, with that to William, dated 18 Nov. 1688, in Dalrymple's Memoirs). He pretended to have discovered a plot devised by Lord Huntingdon and the papists of the town to poison him and seize on the citadel; whereupon he secured and disarmed them ( Luttrell, i. 480). In December, having summoned the deputy-lieutenants, justices, and gentlemen of Cornwall to meet him at Saltash, he read the prince's declaration to them, and they subscribed the association (ib. i. 483). Bath was appointed a privy councillor in February 1688-9, and in the following March lord-lieutenant for Cornwall and Devonshire (ib. i. 502, 512). He took considerable interest in promoting the East India trade, for which purpose two ships were, in March 1691-2, in course of building by several Cornish gentlemen by virtue of a grant of Charles I, and with others subscribed to the amount of 70,000l. (ib. ii. 375). The next seven years of Bath's life were chiefly occupied in proving his title to the Albemarle estate, which he claimed under the will of the second duke, who died in 1688. The cost of the litigation was enormous, but he was successful in the actions brought by the Duchess of Albemarle and a Mr. Pride, the reputed heir-at-law, and to a great extent in those instituted by the Earl of Montague and a Mr. Monck. By 14 Jan. 1690-1 (Luttrell, iii.77, says in April 1693) he had bought the rangership of St. James's Park of William Harbord, surveyor-general (Cal.State Papers, Treas. 1556-1696, p. 156). In January 1693-4, acting on a hint received from the king, he handed over the colonelcy of his regiment to his nephew, Sir Bevil Granville (d. 1706) [q. v.], and retired from the governorship of Plymouth (Luttrell, iii. 254, 275). He ceased to be lord-lieutenant of Cornwall and Devonshire in April 1696 ; and in May was requested by William to sell his office of lord warden of the stannaries and those connected with St. James's Palace and park (ib. iv. 45, 62); the latter he disposed of in September 1697 to Thomas Foley (ib. iv. 280, 281). Bath doubtless hoped by this pliancy to obtain the dukedom of Albemarle (cf. ib. ii. 308-9), and was cruelly mortified when the king made Arnold van Keppel an earl by that very same title: he even entered a caveat in January 1696-7 against the patent passing (ib. iv. 176). Bath died on 21 Aug. 1701, and was buried on 22 Sept. at Kilkhampton. By his marriage with Jane, daughter of Sir Peter Wyche, knt., he had two sons (Charles (1661-1701), second earl, who died a fortnight after his father by the discharge of his own pistol, and was buried on the same day at Kilkhampton ; and John (1665-1707), created, 9 March 1702, Baron Granville of Potheridge, Devonshire) and five daughters: Jane (b.1653), married Sir William Leveson-Gower, ancestor of the Duke of Sutherland ; Catherine, married Craven Peyton, warden of the mint: Grace (1654-1744), married Sir George Carteret, afterwards Lord Carteret ; surviving her husband she was herself elevated to the peerage as Viscountess Carteret and Countess Granville, 1 Jan. 1714; Mary (b. 1655), and Bridget (b. 1656). The Countess of Bath died on 3 Feb. 1691-2 (ib. ii. 349). The earldom became extinct by the death of William Henry Grenville, third earl, on 17 May 1711. In 1680 Bath pulled down the old house at Stowe, and built a magnificent mansion in its place, which was utterly demolished in 1720, and the materials disposed of by public auction. It has been said that almost every gentleman's seat in Cornwall received some embellishment from Stowe. The cedar wainscotting, which had been bought out of a Spanish prize, and used for fitting up the chapel, was purchased by Lord Cobham, and applied to the same purpose at Stowe, the seat of the Grenvilles in Buckinghamshire (Parochial Hist. of Cornwall, ii. 375-9). Burnet (i. 168) characterises Bath as ‘a mean-minded man, who thought of nothing but of getting and spending money.’ He got so much and apparently spent so little that the world was surprised to learn how poor he died. Both Burnet and Luttrell assert that the eldest son, on discovering the state of affairs, died not by accident but by his own hand.[Burke's Extinct Peerage; Parochial Hist. of Cornwall, ii. 365, 368, 369, 375-9; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. i. 192; Cal. State Papers, Treas. 1686-1708; will registered in P.C.C. 146, Dyer.]