GRENVILLE, Richard I (by 1495-1550), of Stowe in Kilkhampton, Cornw.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1495, 1st s. of Roger Grenville, and bro. of John. m. Matilda, da. and coh. of John Bevill of Gwarnock in St. Allen, Cornw., 2s. 3da. suc. fa. 7 July 1523. Kntd. aft. 3 Nov. 1529.1

Offices Held

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, Lo