Sir Richard Grenville, 1st Baronet
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He was the third son of Sir Bernard Grenville (1559–1636), and a grandson of the famous seaman, Sir Richard Grenville. Having served in France, Germany, and the Netherlands, Grenville gained the favour of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, took part in the expeditions to Cádiz, to the island of Rhé and to La Rochelle, was knighted, and in 1628 became member of parliament for Fowey, Cornwall.
In 1630, he married Mary Fitz (1596–1671), the wealthy widow of Sir Charles Howard (died 1626), and was made a baronet, of Kilkhampton in the County of Cornwall; his violent temper destroyed the marriage, and he was imprisoned as the result of two lawsuits, one with his wife, and the other with her kinsman, the Earl of Suffolk. In 1633 he escaped from prison and went to Germany, returning to England six years later to join the army which Charles I was collecting to march against the Scots. Early in 1641, just after the outbreak of the Irish rebellion, Sir Richard led some troops to Ireland, where he won some fame and became governor of Trim, County Meath; then returning to England in 1643 he was arrested at Liverpool by Parliament, but was soon released and sent to join the parliamentary army.
Instead, having obtained men and money, he hurried to Charles I at Oxford and was despatched to take part in the siege of Plymouth, quickly becoming the leader of the forces engaged in this enterprise. Compelled to raise the siege he withdrew into Cornwall, where he helped to resist the advancing Parliamentarians. In 1644, parliament, for his desertion, put out a proclamation against him; in this there were attached to his name several offensive epithets, among them being skellum, a word probably derived from the German Scheim, a scoundrel. Hence he is often called "skellum Grenville."
Vital supplies of Cornish tin helped finance the Royalist war-effort and Grenville marched his contingent to Launceston where he positioned Cornish troops along the River Tamar and issued instructions to keep "all foreign troops out of Cornwall". Grenville tried to use "Cornish particularist sentiment" to gather support for the Royalist cause. The Cornish were fighting for their Royalist privileges, notably the Duchy and Stannaries and he put a plan to the Prince which would, if implemented, have created a semi-independent Cornwall. Grenville had sent several letters to the "gentlemen of Cornwall" to meet him at Launceston in December 1645.
About this time complaints were brought against Grenville, saying that he had behaved in a very arbitrary fashion, hanging some men and imprisoning others, extorting money and using war contributions for his own ends. Many of these charges were undoubtedly true, but upon his recovery the councillors of the Prince of Wales gave him a position under Lord Goring, whom he refused to obey. Equally recalcitrant was his attitude towards Goring's successor, Sir Ralph Hopton. Grenville refused to serve under Lord Hopton and resigned his commission. In January 1646 he was arrested at Launceston for insubordination and imprisoned on St Michael's Mount.
On his release, he went to France and Italy, and after visiting England in disguise passed some time in the Netherlands. He was excepted by parliament from pardon in 1648, and after the king's execution he was with Charles II in France and elsewhere until some unfounded accusation which he brought against Edward Hyde led to his removal from court. He died in 1658 and was buried at Ghent.
Grenville wrote an account of affairs in the west of England, which was printed in T. Carte's Original Letters (1739). To this partisan account Clarendon drew up an answer, the bulk of which he afterwards incorporated in his History. In 1654 Grenville wrote his Single defence against all aspersions of all malignant persons. This is printed in the Works of George Granville, Lord Lansdowne (London, 1736), where Lansdowne's vindication of his kinsman, Sir Richard, against Clarendon's charges is also found.
- West Britons, by Mark Stoyle (Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Southampton) University of Exeter Press, 2002
- Clarendon, History of the Rebellion, edited by William D. Macray (Oxford, 1888)
- R. Granville, The King's General in the West (1908).
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
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