Charles Francis Greville

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The Right Honourable
Charles Francis Greville
Greville 1749 1809.jpg
Greville by George Romney
Treasurer of the Household
In office
Monarch George III
Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger
Preceded by The Earl of Effingham
Succeeded by The Earl of Courtown
Vice-Chamberlain of the Household
In office
Monarch George III
Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger
Henry Addington
Preceded by Lord Herbert
Succeeded by Lord John Thynne
Personal details
Born 12 May 1749
Died 23 April 1809 (1809-04-24) (aged 59)
Nationality British

The Hon Charles Francis Greville PC, FRS FRSE FLS FSA (12 May 1749 – 23 April 1809), was a British antiquarian, collector and politician.

Early life[edit]

Greville was the second son of Francis Greville, 1st Earl of Warwick and his wife, Elizabeth Hamilton, daughter of Lord Archibald Hamilton. George Greville, 2nd Earl of Warwick and Robert Fulke Greville were his brothers and he had four sisters. He was brought up in the family home, Warwick Castle.

His father had been created Earl Brooke three years before he was born and in 1759 had successfully petitioned to have the prestigious medieval title of a more senior extinct line of his family, Earl of Warwick, conferred on him as the senior male heir of the family and lieutenant of the county.

He was educated at Edinburgh University from 1764 to 1767.[1]

Art collections[edit]

Classical and renaissance artwork

Greville lived most of his adult life on a rigid income of 500 a year, generated from landowning and investments, with which managed to acquire antiquities from Gavin Hamilton in Rome. He also purchased through his uncle a genre piece by Annibale Carracci.[2] Greville was the nephew of Sir William Hamilton, the British envoy at Naples who formed two collections of Greek vases, one of which is at the British Museum.

Stones and minerals

As a Fellow of the Royal Society, his special interest was in minerals and precious stones, which were catalogued by the émigré Jacques Louis, Comte de Bournon[3] and were later purchased via Act of Parliament for the British Museum. He was good friends with James Smithson, whom he sponsored for membership in the Royal Society and with whom he exchanged minerals.[4]


Greville remained for years a very close friend of Sir Joseph Banks and, like him, a member of the Society of Dilettanti. He accompanied Banks at the organizing meeting in March 1804 of the precursor to the Royal Horticultural Society, the Society for the Improvement of Horticulture.[5]

Portraits of Emma Hart (later Lady Emma Hamilton)

Greville briefly (1782–86) had for a mistress Emma Hart, whom he educated and took to George Romney's studio where he was sitting for his own portrait; Romney became fascinated with the beautiful Emma,[6] who later became Sir William's Lady Hamilton and eventually Lord Nelson's lover.

Political career[edit]

When his father died in 1773 and his brother became Earl of Warwick, Greville effectively inherited the latter's seat (one of two for Warwick) in the unreformed House of Commons. He held the seat until 1790.[7] He served as a Lord of the Treasury from 1780 to 1782, as Treasurer of the Household from 1783[8] to 1784 and as Vice-Chamberlain of the Household from 1794 to 1804 and was sworn of the Privy Council in 1783.[8]

Milford Haven[edit]

The Hakin Observatory

The construction of the seaport of Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, South Wales, is due to Greville's entrepreneurial spirit. When it was the property of Sir William Hamilton, Greville applied for an Act of Parliament to enable Hamilton and his heirs to make docks, construct quays, establish markets, with roads and avenues to the port, to regulate the police, and make the place a station for conveying the mails.[9] The first structure was a coaching inn. Quaker whaling ship owners[10] from Nantucket were induced to settle, and for some decades Milford was a whaling port. A royal dockyard was established during the Napoleonic Wars.[11] At his death in 1803, Hamilton bequeathed it to his nephew.[12]

At a site on high ground in nearby Hakin, Greville planned to build the College of King George the Third to allow the study of mathematics and navigation, whose centrepiece would be an observatory. Although the observatory was built, and scientific instruments delivered, the college never functioned as such as after the death of Greville in 1809 the whole project was abandoned.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Greville never married. He lived for years in a house facing Paddington Green, a contemporary suburban district of London, where he indulged his passion for gardening in a large garden provided with glasshouses in which he grew many rare tropical plants, aided by his connection with Banks, and where he managed to coax Vanilla planifolia to flower for the first time under glass, in the winter of 1806-07.[14] His contributions to the herbarium assembled by Sir James Edward Smith are preserved by the Linnaean Society of London.[15] The Australasian genus Grevillea is named in his honour. In the latter part of his life he lived at Warwick Castle.

Greville died in April 1809, aged 60. His estates were inherited by his nephew, Sir William Hamilton.[16]


Greville Island, in the South Island of New Zealand, was named to honour his memory by Ensign Barallier, in 1820.[17] Greville plays a role in Susan Sontag's 1992 novel The Volcano Lover, about Sir William Hamilton.


  1. ^ BIOGRAPHICAL INDEX OF FORMER FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF EDINBURGH 1783 – 2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X. 
  2. ^ It is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City: Two Children Teasing a Cat, attributed to Annibale Carracci.
  3. ^ Jacques Louis, comte de Bournon (1751–1825), is commemorated in bournonite.
  4. ^ Heather Ewing, The Lost World of James Smithson: Science, Revolution, and the Birth of the Smithsonian, (New York and London: Bloomsbury, 2007), pp. 118, 127-37.
  5. ^ Tim Ecott, and Hubert Selby, Vanilla: Travels In Search Of The Ice Cream Orchid (Grove Press) 2005, pp 84ff.
  6. ^ He painted allegorical "fancy pictures" of Emma in various guises forty-five times. (Fitzgerald Molloy, Sir Joshua and His Circle (Hutchinson) 1906, vol. II p. 490).
  7. ^ Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "W" (part 1)[self-published source][better source needed]
  8. ^ a b "No. 12430". The London Gazette. 8 April 1783. p. 1. 
  9. ^ Charles Francis Greville, Welsh Biography Online, accessed October 2010
  10. ^ Stephen Griffith A History of Quakers in Pembrokeshire, Gomer Press, 1990, pp18-26
  11. ^ 'Michael-Church - Monkton', A Topographical Dictionary of Wales (1849), pp. 213-23. URL: Date accessed: 18 March 2007.
  12. ^ J. F. Rees, The Story of Milford, (University of Wales Press) 1954, details the largely unsuccessful efforts to create a rival port to Liverpool.
  13. ^ "Astronomical Observatories in Wales". Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  14. ^ Ecott and Selby 2005:87.
  15. ^ John Edmondson and Claire Smith, "The Linnean Society's Smith Herbarium: A Resource for Eighteenth-Century Garden History Research" Garden History 27.2 (Winter 1999:244-252) p. 249 (list).
  16. ^ BIOGRAPHICAL INDEX OF FORMER FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF EDINBURGH 1783 – 2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X. 
  17. ^ Ernest Favenc, The History of Australian Exploration, chapter 18.
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Lord Greville
Paul Methuen
Member of Parliament for Warwick
With: Paul Methuen 1774
Hon. Robert Fulke Greville 1774–80
Robert Ladbroke 1780–90
Succeeded by
The Lord Arden
Henry Gage
Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Effingham
Treasurer of the Household
Succeeded by
The Earl of Courtown
Preceded by
Lord Herbert
Vice-Chamberlain of the Household
Succeeded by
Lord John Thynne