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Richard Grenville-Temple, 2nd Earl Temple

Richard Grenville-Temple, 2nd Earl Temple

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Richard Grenville-Temple, 2nd Earl Temple KG
Order of the Garter
The Most Noble Order of the Garter, founded in 1348, is the highest order of chivalry, or knighthood, existing in England. The order is dedicated to the image and arms of St...

, PC (26 September 1711 – 12 September 1779) was a British
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

A politician, political leader, or political figure is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making...

. He is best known for his association with his brother-in-law William Pitt
William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham
William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham PC was a British Whig statesman who led Britain during the Seven Years' War...

 who he served with in government during Britain's participation in the Seven Years War
Great Britain in the Seven Years War
The Kingdom of Great Britain was one of the major participants in the Seven Years' War which lasted between 1756 and 1763. Britain emerged from the war as the world's leading colonial power having gained a number of new territories at the Treaty of Paris in 1763 and established itself as the...

 between 1756 and 1761. He resigned along with Pitt in protest at the cabinet's failure to declare war on Spain.

Early life

The eldest son of Richard Grenville (1678–1727) of Wotton Underwood
Wotton Underwood
Wotton Underwood is a village and civil parish in the Aylesbury Vale District of Buckinghamshire, about north of Thame in neighbouring Oxfordshire....

, Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan home county in South East England. The county town is Aylesbury, the largest town in the ceremonial county is Milton Keynes and largest town in the non-metropolitan county is High Wycombe....

 and of Hester, later Countess Temple, he was educated at Eton College
Eton College
Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....

, and in 1734 was returned to Parliament
Parliament of England
The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England. In 1066, William of Normandy introduced a feudal system, by which he sought the advice of a council of tenants-in-chief and ecclesiastics before making laws...

 as member for the borough of Buckingham. In 1752, on the death of his mother, he inherited her titles together with the rich estates of Stowe
Stowe, Buckinghamshire
Stowe is a civil parish and former village about northwest of Buckingham in the Aylesbury Vale district of Buckinghamshire, England. The parish includes the hamlets of Boycott, Dadford and Lamport....

 and Wootton; and he then took the name of Temple in addition to his original surname of Grenville.

Seven Years War

The turning point in his political fortunes was the marriage of his sister Hester in 1754 to William Pitt, later Earl of Chatham. Although Lord Temple had no outstanding qualities, his political career became linked with that of his brother-in-law. In November 1756 Temple became First Lord of the Admiralty in the ministry of Devonshire
William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire
William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire, KG, PC , styled Lord Cavendish before 1729 and Marquess of Hartington between 1729 and 1755, was a British Whig statesman who was briefly nominal Prime Minister of Great Britain...

 and Pitt. He was intensely disliked by George II
George II of Great Britain
George II was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Archtreasurer and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from 11 June 1727 until his death.George was the last British monarch born outside Great Britain. He was born and brought up in Northern Germany...

, who dismissed both him and Pitt from office in April 1757. But when the memorable coalition cabinet of Newcastle and Pitt was formed in June of the same year, Temple received the office of privy seal
Lord Privy Seal
The Lord Privy Seal is the fifth of the Great Officers of State in the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord President of the Council and above the Lord Great Chamberlain. The office is one of the traditional sinecure offices of state...

. He was the only member of the cabinet who supported Pitt's proposal to declare war with Spain in 1761, and they resigned together on 5 October.

Later career

From this time Temple became one of the most violent and factious of politicians, and it is difficult to account for the influence he exerted over his illustrious brother-in-law. He himself is said to have avowed that "he loved faction, and had a great deal of money to spare." He was on bad terms with his younger brother, George Grenville
George Grenville
George Grenville was a British Whig statesman who rose to the position of Prime Minister of Great Britain. Grenville was born into an influential political family and first entered Parliament in 1741 as an MP for Buckingham...

, when the latter became first lord of the treasury in April 1763, and he had no place in that ministry; but the brothers were reconciled before 1765, when Temple refused to join the government and persuaded Pitt to refuse likewise. A few weeks later the king offered the most liberal terms to induce Pitt to form or join an administration; and "a ministry directed by that great statesman," says Lecky
William Edward Hartpole Lecky
William Edward Hartpole Lecky, OM was an Irish historian.-Early life:Born at Newtown Park, near Dublin, he was the eldest son of John Hartpole Lecky, a landowner....

, " would have been beyond all comparison the most advantageous to the country; it had no serious difficulty to encounter, and Pitt himself was now ready to undertake the task, but the evil genius of Lord Temple again prevailed. Without his co-operation Pitt could not, or would not proceed, and Temple absolutely refused to take office even in the foremost place." Pitt's continued refusal to join the first Rockingham
Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham
Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham, KG, PC , styled The Hon. Charles Watson-Wentworth before 1733, Viscount Higham between 1733 and 1746, Earl of Malton between 1746 and 1750 and The Earl Malton in 1750, was a British Whig statesman, most notable for his two terms as Prime...

 administration was no doubt partly due to the same disastrous influence, though before the close of 1765 the old friendship between the brothers-in-law was dissolving; and when at last in July 1766 Pitt agreed to form a government, Temple refused to join; being bitterly offended because, although offered the Treasury, he was not to be allowed an equal share with Pitt in nominating to other offices. Temple then began to libel Pitt; and in conjunction with his brother George he concentrated the whole Grenville connexion in hostility to the government. After George Grenville's death in 1770 Lord Temple retired almost completely from public life.

Lord Temple was a great intriguer, and is said to have been the author of several anonymous libels, and the inspirer of many more. Macaulay's well-known comparison of him with a mole working below "in some foul, crooked labyrinth whenever a heap of dirt was flung up," which perpetuates the spleen of Horace Walpole, perhaps exceeds the justice of the case; but his character was rated very low by his contemporaries. In private life he used his great wealth with generosity to his relations, friends and dependents. Pitt was under pecuniary obligation to him. He was the principle backer behind The North Briton
The North Briton
The North Briton was a radical newspaper published in 18th century London. The North Briton also served as the pseudonym of the newspaper's author, used in advertisements, letters to other publications, and handbills....

weekly newspaper, and he paid the costs incurred by John Wilkes
John Wilkes
John Wilkes was an English radical, journalist and politician.He was first elected Member of Parliament in 1757. In the Middlesex election dispute, he fought for the right of voters—rather than the House of Commons—to determine their representatives...

 in litigation. He also provided Wilkes with the freehold qualification which enabled him to stand for Middlesex
Middlesex is one of the historic counties of England and the second smallest by area. The low-lying county contained the wealthy and politically independent City of London on its southern boundary and was dominated by it from a very early time...

 in the famous election of 1768.

Although known as a man given to confrontation and strife, Earl Temple did get involved with one of London's most fashionable charities of his time. He served as a vice president for the Foundling Hospital
Foundling Hospital
The Foundling Hospital in London, England was founded in 1741 by the philanthropic sea captain Thomas Coram. It was a children's home established for the "education and maintenance of exposed and deserted young children." The word "hospital" was used in a more general sense than it is today, simply...

 from 1760 to 1768, which was dedicated to the salvation of the large amount of children abandoned by their parents in London each day. It cannot be ruled out that his involvement in this charity was motivated purely by compassion. However, it is possible that it also had to do with the achievement of status and access to other notable supporters, such as the Duke of Bedford
John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford
John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford KG, PC, FRS was an 18th century British statesman. He was the fourth son of Wriothesley Russell, 2nd Duke of Bedford, by his wife, Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of John Howland of Streatham, Surrey...

, Lord Vere Beauclerk, and the Earl of Dartmouth
William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth
William Legge 2nd Earl of Dartmouth PC, FRS , styled as Viscount Lewisham from 1732 to 1750, was a British statesman who is most remembered for his part in the government before and during the American Revolution....

, among others.

In addition to the estates he inherited, Temple gained a considerable fortune by his marriage in 1737 with Anne, daughter and co-heiress of Thomas Chambers of Hanworth, Middlesex; a volume of poems by her was printed at the Strawberry Hill Press
Strawberry Hill Press
The Strawberry Hill Press was established on 25 June 1757 at Strawberry Hill, by the house's owner, Horace Walpole. He called it the Officina Arbuteana, and many of the first editions of his own works were printed there. The first works printed at Strawberry Hill, on 8 August 1757, were two odes...

 in 1764. The only issue of the marriage being a daughter who died in infancy, Temple was succeeded in the earldom by his nephew George Nugent-Temple-Grenville
George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st Marquess of Buckingham
George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st Marquess of Buckingham, KG, PC was a British statesman. He was the second son of George Grenville and a brother of the 1st Baron Grenville.-Career:...


General references

  • The Grenville Papers (London, 1852), a considerable portion of which consists of Earl Temple's correspondence;
  • Horace Walpole, Memoirs of the Reign of George II., 3 vols. (London, 1847); Memoirs of the Reign of George III., 4 vols. (London, 1845 and 1894);
  • Earl Waldegrave, Memoirs 1754-8 (London, 1821);
  • Nathaniel William Wraxall
    Nathaniel William Wraxall
    Sir Nathaniel William Wraxall, 1st Baronet was an English author-Life:He was born in Queen Square, Bristol, the son of a Bristol merchant, Nathaniel Wraxall, and his wife Anne, great niece of Sir James Thornhill the painter...

    , Historical Memoirs, edited by H. B. Wheatley, 5 vols. (London, 1884);
  • Correspondence of Chatham, edited by W. S. Taylor and J. H. Pringle, 4 vols. (London, 1838–40);
  • W. E. H. Lecky, History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vols. ii. and iii. (7 vols., London, 1892).
  • R. H. Nichols and F. A. Wray, The History of the Foundling Hospital (London: Oxford University Press, 1935).