GRENVILLE, Richard I (by 1495-1550), of Stowe in Kilkhampton, Cornw.
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Family and Education
Sewer, privy chamber by 1523; commr. subsidy, Cornw. 1523, 1524, 1547, musters 1546; sheriff, Cornw. July-Nov. 1523, 1526-7, 1544-5, Devon 1532-3; j.p. Cornw. 1524-d., Devon, Exeter 1535-47; steward of Devon lands, Bodmin priory, Frithelstock abbey, of Cornish lands, Hartland abbey by 1535; marshal, Calais Oct. 1535-Oct. 1540.2
Richard Grenville’s forbears had held land in Cornwall since the 12th century and by the time he was born the family had made its principal residence in the county. Its seat at Stowe, in the extreme north-east of the shire, was nearer to Bideford than to any Cornish town of comparable size, but their remoteness did not prevent the Grenvilles from taking a leading part in the public life of Cornwall or from ranking high in its society. By descent and marriage Richard Grenville was related to the chief families of the shire, Arundell of Lanherne and Trerice, Chamond, Roscarrock and St. Aubyn. Apart from his appointment to a minor post in the royal household nothing is known about his early career, but on his father’s death he made his entry into local administration by completing Roger Grenville’s term as sheriff: within a year he had been named to the commission of the peace and for the remainder of his life he was a figure to be reckoned with.3
Grenville may have had a taste of Parliament before 1529, but his choice on that occasion as junior knight for Cornwall followed naturally on the many local duties he had performed in the previous six years; it was also doubtless helped by the sheriff, his uncle Sir John Chamond. Soon after the opening of Parliament he was knighted by Henry VIII, probably on the day which saw the King take possession of York Place, the later Whitehall. All that is known of his part in the proceedings of the House is that his name is included in a list of Members drawn up by Cromwell probably in December 1534 and thought to be connected with the treasons bills then in passage, possibly for the manning of a committee. In the following year Grenville obtained the marshalcy of Calais, presumably on the recommendation of his uncle Viscount Lisle, the deputy of the town. As the post required his presence there—his precursor Sir Edward Ryngeley had been unable to attend the House while holding it—Grenville probably missed the last session (1536) of the Parliament, an inference which is borne out by his complaint to Cromwell in 1536 that his attendance in Parliament for five years, that is, until 1534, had cost him 500 marks. Even if his shire complied with the King’s request of May 1536 and re-elected him to the following Parliament, the severe illness which he reported to Cromwell from Calais on the day after its opening probably kept him away again. He could certainly ill afford the cost of Membership: he had found his inheritance encumbered with debt, and the problem of meeting his father’s creditors was aggravated by the need to honour his father’s generous benefactions and to provide marriage portions for his aunts, sisters and daughters. If he had hoped to mend his fortunes by service at Westminster or in Calais he was to be disappointed, and perhaps for this reason he did not sit in Parliament again (except possibly in 1542), although he did not lose interest in it.4
Grenville did not relish his time at Calais. Within several months of his arrival he had disagreed with Lady Lisle, and he was soon at cross purposes with the deputy. The difference between Lisle and Grenville was partly religious, for the deputy was conservative in his beliefs while the marshal openly favoured ‘God’s word’. Cromwell intervened unsuccessfully to reconcile the two, but despite their mutual dislike Grenville remained at Calais until Lisle’s disgrace. He was then given only six months to enjoy his post untroubled by the deputy before he himself was removed: on 3 Oct. 1540 the Privy Council assured him that although he ‘should leave the office of marshal, the King was his good lord, as at his coming thither ... he should perceive’. Grenville’s Protestantism led him to look upon all monks as ‘orgulous persons and devourers of God’s word’ and encouraged him to become an eager suitor for monastic land: he was anxious to acquire such property so that ‘his heirs may be of the same mind for their own profit’. In the summer of 1539 he had crossed to England to attend to his affairs and, finding that most of his neighbours were benefiting from the spoliation, he wrote to Cromwell to ask for Launceston priory: this he did not receive and after a tour through Devon, during which he and his wife were entertained by Sir John Russell, Lord Russell, he returned to Calais empty-handed. Later he was more successful: in May 1541 he obtained the rectory of Morwenstow, and the reversion of a lease of Buckland abbey for some £233, and in September 1546 he and Roger Blewett paid nearly £1,170 for the manors of Tynyell in Landulph and Canonleigh in Burlescombe.5
In 1544 Grenville accompanied the King to France as a commander in the English army. On his return home in the autumn he was once more pricked sheriff, and in this capacity he played an important role in the Cornish elections to the last Parliament of Henry VIII’s reign. The Parliament of 1545 was originally summoned to meet in January but on account of the war its opening was postponed until November. The elections for the shire and boroughs were thus held at intervals over nine months, and Grenville utilized his shrievalty throughout that time to secure the return of many of his kinsmen and dependants. In the following year he crossed to Boulogne with 200 men, but after this brief visit he never again ventured to ‘interlace his home magistracy with martial employments abroad’.6
Grenville was, however, to see active service at home. In 1549 he was called upon against the western rebels, and with a company of friends and followers he defended Trematon castle. After the castle fell to a ruse, he and his wife were taken to Launceston gaol and held in custody there. It was perhaps as a result of this experience that Grenville contracted the illness from which he died on 18 Mar. 1550; he was buried at Kilkhampton five days later. His will, made on 8 Mar. 1546 in the presence of John Ley alias Kempthorn I* and others, was proved on 8 Nov. 1550 and executed by a number of relations and friends, including John Beauchamp. Grenville had provided for his children and wife, but she survived him by only five weeks. His eldest son being already dead, he was succeeded by his eight year-old grandson Richard, later the famous sea captain. At Grenville’s death his estates were valued at £237 a year.7
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: J. J. Goring
- 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/40/22, 44/103. Vis. Cornw. ed. Vivian, 191; Paroch. Hist. Cornw. 373.
- 2. LP Hen. VIII, iii, iv, viii, ix, xxi; CPR, 1547-8, p. 82; E179/87/185, m. 1; D. H. Pill, ‘The diocese of Exeter under Bp. Veysey’ (Exeter Univ. M.A. thesis, 1967), 199; A. L. Rowse, Sir Richard Grenville, 29.
- 3. Rowse, 18.
- 4. LP Hen. VIII, vii-xii; vii. 1522(ii) citing SP1/87, f. 106v.
- 5. Ibid. x, xii, xiv, xvi, xxi.