Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Grey, William de

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

GREY, WILLIAM de, Lord Walsingham (1719–1781), judge, born at Merton, Norfolk, on 7 July 1719, was the third son of Thomas de Grey, M.P., of Merton, by Elizabeth, daughter of William Windham of Felbrigge in the same county. He was educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, entered the Middle Temple in January 1738, and was called to the bar on 26 Nov. 1742. In 1758 he became king's counsel, and in September 1761 was appointed solicitor-general to Queen Charlotte. He was elected M.P. for Newport, Cornwall, in 1761, and in December 1763 was made solicitor-general to the king. In August 1766 he succeeded as attorney-general, and was knighted. He was also comptroller of the first-fruits and tenths. At the election of 1768 he was chosen for both Newport and Tamworth, Staffordshire, when he selected the former, and in February 1770 he was returned for the university of Cambridge. In parliament he argued against the legality of Wilkes's return for Middlesex, and on all other occasions proved himself a powerful supporter of Lord North's party. On a motion to curtail the power of the attorney-general in filing ex-officio informations, he showed that the power was not only constitutional, but necessary. As solicitor-general he spoke with much ingenuity in favour of the king's messengers acting under the general warrant issued by Lord Halifax, and as attorney-general he conducted the proceedings against Wilkes in 1768. On 25 Jan. 1771 he succeeded Wilmot as lord chief justice of the common pleas. On the question whether Brass Crosby [q. v.], the lord mayor of London, should be discharged from the custody of the lieutenant of the Tower, where he had been imprisoned by warrant from the speaker of the House of Commons, he refused to interfere with the privileges of parliament. Infirm health obliged him to resign in June 1780. In the following October he was created a peer by the title of Lord Walsingham. He died on 9 May 1781, and was buried at Merton. By his marriage in 1743 with Mary (d. 1800), daughter of William Cowper, M.P., he left a son and daughter. He was an accomplished lawyer, and possessed a wonderfully retentive memory. Lord Eldon declared that he would come into court with both hands crippled by gout, try a cause which lasted nine or ten hours, and then correctly sum up all the evidence without the aid of a single note (Twiss, Life of Eldon, i. 113).

[Collins's Peerage (Brydges), vii. 519; Foss's Judges, viii. 264-6; Parl. Hist. xvi. 585, 1182, 1194, 1271; State Trials, xix. 1012, 1079, 1146.]

G. G.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.142
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
216 i 18 f.e. Grey, William de, Lord Walsingham: for Wyndham read Windham
16 f.e. for Christ's College read Trinity Hall