Fletcher Norton, 1st Baron Grantley
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|The Right Honourable
The Lord Grantley
|Speaker of the House of Commons|
|Preceded by||John Cust|
|Succeeded by||Charles Wolfran Cornwall|
|Solicitor General for England and Wales|
|Preceded by||Charles Yorke|
|Succeeded by||William de Grey|
He was the eldest son of Thomas Norton of Grantley, Yorkshire. Educated at St John's College Cambridge, he became a barrister in 1739, and, after a period of inactivity, built up a profitable practice, becoming a King's Counsel in 1754, and later attorney-general for the county palatine of Lancaster. In 1756 he was elected member of parliament for Appleby; he represented Wigan from 1761 to 1768, and was appointed solicitor-general for England and knighted in 1762. He took part in the proceedings against John Wilkes, and, having become Attorney General for England and Wales in 1763, prosecuted William Byron, 5th Baron Byron for the murder of William Chaworth. However, he lost his office when the Marquess of Rockingham came to power in July 1765.
In 1769, as MP for Guildford, Norton became a privy councillor and chief Justice in Eyre of the forests south of the Trent, and in 1770 was elected Speaker of the House of Commons. In 1777, when presenting the bill for the increase of the civil list to the king, he told George III that "parliament has not only granted to your majesty a large present supply, but also a very great additional revenue; great beyond example; great beyond your majesty's highest expense." This speech aroused general attention and caused some irritation; but the Speaker was supported by Charles James Fox and by the city of London, and received the thanks of the House of Commons.
The king did not forget these plain words, and after the general election of 1780, the prime minister, Lord North, and his followers declined to support the re-election of the retiring Speaker, alleging that his health was not equal to the duties of the office, and he was defeated when the voting took place. In 1782 he was made a peer as Baron Grantley of Markenfield in the County of York.
He was succeeded as Baron Grantley by his eldest son William (1742–1822). Nathaniel William Wraxall describes Norton as a bold, able and eloquent, but not a popular pleader, and as Speaker he was aggressive and indiscreet. Derided by satirists as "Sir Bullface Doublefee," and described by Horace Walpole as one who rose from obscure infamy to that infamous fame which will long stick to him, his character was also assailed by "Junius".
By his wife Grace, daughter of Sir William Chapple, he had five children:
- William Norton, 2nd Baron Grantley (1742–1822)
- Hon. Fletcher Norton (1744–1820)
- Hon. Chapple Norton (1746–1818)
- Hon. Edward Norton (1750–1786)
- Hon. Grace Norton (1752–1813), married John Wallop, 3rd Earl of Portsmouth
- "Norton, Fletcher (NRTN734F)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- London Gazette no. 12282. p. 1
- Horace Walpole, Memoirs of the Reign of George III., edited by G. F. R. Barker (1894);
- Sir N. W. Wraxall, Historical and Posthumous Memoirs, edited by H. B. Wheatley (1884);
- J. A. Manning, Lives of the Speakers (1850);
- Hammond Innes, The Last Voyage: Captain Cook's Lost Diary, (N.Y.: Knopf, 1978).