Richard Grenville-Temple, 2nd Earl Temple

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Portrait by William Hoare, 1760.

Richard Grenville-Temple, 2nd Earl Temple KG PC (26 September 1711 – 12 September 1779) was a British politician. He is best known for his association with his brother-in-law William Pitt who he served with in government during Britain's participation in the Seven Years War between 1756 and 1761. He resigned along with Pitt in protest at the cabinet's failure to declare war on Spain.

Early life[edit]

The eldest son of Richard Grenville (1678–1727) of Wotton Underwood, Buckinghamshire and of Hester, later Countess Temple, he was educated at Eton College, and in 1734 was returned to Parliament 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 and Wotton; and he then took the name of Temple in addition to his original surname of Grenville.

Seven Years War[edit]

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 and Pitt. He was intensely disliked by George II, 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. 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.

Portrait by Allan Ramsay, 1762.

Later career[edit]

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, 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, " 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 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 connection 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 weekly newspaper,[1] and he paid the costs incurred by John Wilkes in litigation. He also provided Wilkes with the freehold qualification which enabled him to stand for Middlesex 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 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, Lord Vere Beauclerk, and the Earl of Dartmouth, 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 in 1764.

Death[edit]

Earl Temple died early in September 1779, aged 67, after a fall from his phaeton.[2] The only issue of his marriage being a daughter who died in infancy, Temple was succeeded in the earldom by his nephew George Nugent-Temple-Grenville.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cash, Arthur (2006). John Wilkes: The Scandalous Father of Civil Liberty. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. p. 69. ISBN 0-300-12363-9. 
  2. ^ The Complete Peerage, Volume XII. St Catherine's Press. 1953. p. 658. 

General references[edit]

  • 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, 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).
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  • R. H. Nichols and F. A. Wray, The History of the Foundling Hospital (London: Oxford University Press, 1935).
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
John Fane
George Chamberlayne
Member for Buckingham
1734–1741
With: George Chamberlayne
Succeeded by
George Chamberlayne
George Grenville
Preceded by
Sir William Stanhope
Sir Thomas Lee, 3rd Bt.
Member for Buckinghamshire
1741–1747
With: Richard Lowndes
Succeeded by
Richard Lowndes
Sir William Stanhope
Preceded by
George Chamberlayne
George Grenville
Member for Buckingham
1747–1752
With: George Grenville
Succeeded by
George Grenville
Temple West
Political offices
Preceded by
The Lord Anson
First Lord of the Admiralty
1756–1757
Succeeded by
The Earl of Winchilsea and Nottingham
Preceded by
The Earl Gower
Lord Privy Seal
1757–1761
Succeeded by
The Duke of Bedford
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Duke of Marlborough
Lord Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire
1759–1763
Succeeded by
The Lord le Despencer
Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by
Hester Temple
Earl Temple
1752–1779
Succeeded by
George Nugent-Temple-Grenville