GREVILLE, Fulke (1554-1628), of Beauchamp's Court, Alcester, Warws.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Family and Education

b. 3 Oct. 1554, s. of Sir Fulke Greville of Beauchamp’s Court by Anne Neville, da. of Ralph, 4th Earl of Westmorland. educ. Shrewsbury 1564; Jesus, Camb. 1568. unm. KB 1603. suc. fa. 1606; cr. Baron Brooke 1621.

Offices Held

Gent. of privy chamber 1581; jt. (with Charles Foxe) clerk of the signet to council in the marches of Wales 1581, sole and clerk of council in the marches of Wales 1590; sec. council in marches of Wales 1590, permanent member 1593; treasurer of navy 1598-1604; r.-adm. of fleet 1599; PC 1614; chancellor of the Exchequer 1614-21; gent. of bedchamber 1621.2

Ranger, Wedgnock park, Warws. 1597; recorder, Warwick and Stratford-on-Avon 1606-28, custos rot. and j.p.q. Mdx. by 1621, Warws. and Kent 1626.3


The Grevilles were a leading Warwickshire family, whose estates were acquired mainly through the marriage of Greville’s grandfather to a coheiress of Robert, Lord Willoughby de Broke. At Shrewsbury, Greville’s great friend was (Sir) Philip Sidney, whose biography he wrote many years later. With Sidney and another friend, Edward Dyer, Greville was to form an important centre of literary influence at court. After leaving Cambridge without a degree, there is no evidence of his activities until 12 Nov. 1576, when Sidney asked the Privy Council to help Greville obtain an unspecified minor office in the council in the Welsh marches. The following year, ‘in his youth and prime ... backed with a plentiful fortune’, he joined Sidney at court. He immediately attracted the Queen’s attention and, as Naunton wrote, ‘had the longest lease, and the smoothest time, without rub, of any of her favourites’. Other honours followed. He was admitted without payment to the Middle Temple in 1581 and to Gray’s Inn in 1588, and in the latter year was one of eight courtiers on whom an honorary MA was conferred at Oxford.4

Greville believed that the Queen prevented him from travelling abroad as often as he would have wished. He accompanied Sidney to Heidelberg in 1577, but as he was embarking for the Netherlands in 1578 his friend Dyer arrived with ‘a princely mandate’ to stop him. A month or so later, and without permission, he went with Sir Francis Walsingham on a diplomatic mission to the Low Countries; on his return he was forbidden the Queen’s presence ‘for many months’. He was, however, allowed to escort Duke Casimir back to Germany in 1579, where he met William the Silent, and from May to September of 1580 he served in Ireland under Sir William Wynter. In 1581 he accompanied the Duke of Anjou to Antwerp, when negotiations for the Duke’s marriage to the Queen had broken down. He returned there briefly in 1582 to inquire about the recovery of the Prince of Orange from an assassination attempt. In the summer of 1585 Sidney and Greville made plans to join Sir Francis Drake on his West Indies voyage, only to be prevented from doing so at the last moment by the Queen. Again, Greville was not allowed to take part in Leicester’s expedition to the Low Countries, in the course of which Sidney met his death. Greville was a pall-bearer at his funeral and inherited, with Dyer, some of his books. Though at Ostend briefly in late 1588, and perhaps with Henry of Navarre as an observer in the latter’s struggles with Henry III, little is known about Greville during the early 1590s. Perhaps he was then writing his life of Sidney and his three Senecan tragedies (one of which he destroyed as too suggestive politically). In 1594-5 he was at court as a follower of the 2nd Earl of Essex, and tried to help both Francis Bacon and Robert Sidney. The following year he acted as a messenger for Sir Walter Ralegh and Essex and their fleet, and in 1596 he accompanied the 7th Earl of Shrewsbury on his diplomatic mission to France. When Essex suggested that he join the Islands expedition in 1597, the Queen again refused. Greville therefore, as he put it, ‘found reason to contract my thoughts from those larger, but wandering horizons of the world abroad, and bound my prospect within the safe limits of duty, in such home services as were acceptable to my sovereign’. He took part in Essex’s arrest in 1601, but is said to have worked hard to persuade the Queen to be merciful to others involved in the plot.5

Naunton remarked that Greville ‘neither sought for nor obtained any great place or preferment’. This was true, at least until late 1598, when, after pressing Robert Cecil for two years, he was appointed treasurer of the navy. His connexions with the council in the marches of Wales, however, increased steadily in number and value until he held three major posts in the marches. With the help of the 2nd Earl of Pembroke and Archbishop Whitgift he was also appointed a permanent member of the council. Spending most of his time in London and acting through deputies, he nevertheless drew an income of £1,000 a year from these posts in the 1590s. By 1620 his income from this source was £2,000, and at his death his successor, Sir Adam Newton, was told that the same posts would produce £3,000 ‘clear’. His offices were obviously well worth the £500 Greville had to pay Sir David Foulis in 1603 to retain them.6

Owing to the absence in Ireland of Sir Henry Wallop, a by-election was held at Southampton in 1581 and Greville was returned, possibly at the request of the Earl of Leicester, to whom the borough gave a nomination for the next Parliament. He attended the Commons from 16 Jan. and is recorded as sitting on committees for the seditious practices bill (1 Feb. 1581) and Worcestershire copyholders (6 Feb.), but on 18 Mar., the last day of the session, the returning of the replacement Members was declared invalid. In 1584 he was returned for the borough of Hedon through the recommendation of his cousin and fellow-Member Henry Constable, and was named to confer with the Lords on the Jesuits bill, 18 Feb. In 1586, on the first occasion that he was elected for his county, Greville held the junior seat, but on subsequent occasions, and in spite of being only the eldest son and heir of a commoner, he secured and retained the senior seat. In 1601 a faction led by Sir Thomas Lucy, the sheriff, attempted to break this monopoly by manipulating the date of the poll, for which he was reprimanded by the Privy Council, and a new writ was issued.

Greville is not mentioned by name in the known surviving journals of the 1586 and 1589 Parliaments. In 1593 he was named to a conference with the Lords (1 Mar.) and to committees on the subsidy (26 Feb.), the bill against recusants (28 Feb.) and a private lands bill (19 Mar.). On 6 Mar. he spoke as Mr. ‘Frowick Grevill’, on the joint themes of the privilege of the House and the poverty of the people. Precedents were neither to be rejected nor to be eternal; the poor were overcharged and

must be helped by increasing our own burden, for otherwise the weak feet will complain of too heavy a body ... They cannot think we overcharge them, when we charge ourselves with them and above them. But if nothing will satisfy them, our doings are sufficient to bind them [but] the more laws we make the less liberty we have to ourselves.

In the following Parliament he took part in conferences with the Lords on 12, 14, 20, 23 Jan. 1598; he was a member of committees on monopolies and patents (10 Nov. 1597), marriage licences (14 Nov.), Warwick hospital (18 Nov.), perfecting statutes (14 Jan. 1598) and ‘for reformation of sundry abuses committed by soldiers’ (27 Jan.). Great Yarmouth caused him some trouble. On 23 Nov. 1597 he was appointed to the committee on the second reading of the bill for repealing part of the Yarmouth charter. They were to meet in the Exchequer chamber at 2 p.m. two days later, but nothing further appears in the journals until the following 23 Jan. when

The bill for the better measuring of seven miles from Great Yarmouth according to a statute made in the thirtieth year of King Edward the Third was, upon the second reading, committed unto ... Mr. Fulk Grevill ... and others, and the bill with the committees names was delivered to the said Mr. Fulk Grevill, who, with the rest, was appointed to meet tomorrow in the afternoon at 2 of the clock in the Exchequer chamber.

But on 31 Jan.:

Mr. Fulk Grevill, one of the committees in the bill for the better measuring of seven miles from the town and haven of Great Yarmouth in the county of Norfolk (who were appointed on Monday the 23rd day of this instant January foregoing) showed the meeting of the committees, and that they cannot agree upon anything touching the said bill, and so delivered in the same bill in such manner as he before received the same out of this House.

Greville was again active in Elizabeth’s last Parliament. He was appointed to the committee of a bill against horse stealing (3 Nov.), to that of a cloth bill (21 Nov.), and to the committee of the bill against the export of iron ordnance (8 Dec.). His interest in matters of privilege and procedure led him to speak—his was the last speech before the division—in the debate on committees, 11 Nov. The question was whether a Member who had served on the committee of a bill might afterwards vote against the bill itself in the House. Greville said that

a committee was an artificial body framed out of us who are the general body. And therefore that which is spoken at the committees evanescit, it is gone, when the body which is the commitment is dissolved. And then every particular committee [man] is no more a part of the artificial body but of us the general body, when he hath his full voice as though he had never spoken before.

And this was the sense of the House, for, when the Speaker put the question ‘whether any member of this House after having been a committee [man] in any bill, may afterwards speak in the negative part against the said bill’, all said ‘Yea’. Greville again intervened on a procedural point on 8 Dec. 1601, anxious lest a conference with the Lords should detract from the privileges of the Commons.

Greville may also have attended further committees by virtue of his position as knight for Warwickshire: in 1589, the subsidy committee (11 Feb.) and a private committee (22 Feb.); in 1593, a legal committee (9 Mar.); in 1597, committees concerning enclosures (5 Nov.), the poor law (5, 22 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), the penal laws (8 Nov.), the subsidy (15 Nov.) and a hospital in Warwick (18 Nov.); and in 1601, committees concerning the order of parliamentary business (3 Nov.) and monopolies (23 Nov.).7

After the accession of James I, Greville withdrew from public life until the death of Robert Cecil in 1612. Finally retiring in 1621, he died on 30 Sept. 1628 from wounds inflicted by his manservant.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: P. W. Hasler


Much of Greville’s extra-parliamentary career as it appears in this biography is based upon a paper by Mr. Brian Carter.

  • 1. Served as a substitute in 1581 session.
  • 2. CP, ii. 331-3; C142/300/172; HMC Cowper, i. 30-31; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 399; 1598-1601, pp. 95, 282; 1603-10, p. 98; 1611-18, p. 257; 1619-23, p. 296; APC, xx. 233, 235; 1613-14, p. 575; pat. roll 19 Eliz. f. 25.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 444; Trans. Birmingham Arch. Soc. lix. 9; VCH Warws. iii. 250; C193/12/2, 13/1.
  • 4. HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, i. 355; R. Naunton, Fragmenta Regalia, 265-6.
  • 5. CSP Ire. 1574-85, pp. 230, 233, 243 et passim; Greville, Life of Sidney (1907), pp. 19-20, 146-9, 155; Nichols, Progresses Eliz. ii. 345; Cam. Misc. vi(3), p. 45; Sidney State Pprs. ed. Collins, i. 111, 359, 364, 376; ii. 5, 6, 7, 65 et passim; CSP For. July-Dec. 1588, p. 238; Spedding, Bacon, i. 298, 301, 359; Birch, Mems. i. 179; ii. 11, 45, 466; HMC Hatfield, vi. 415.
  • 6. HMC Hatfield, viii. 347; xii. 457; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, i. 355; pat. roll 19 Eliz. f. 31; Flenley, Cal. Reg. Council, Marches of Wales, 210; APC, xx. 233, 235; Harl. 6995, f. 123; 7000, f. 228; Lansd. 51, f. 103; 88, f. 123; 111, f. 41; SP12/154/45, 192/38, 197/20, 219/79; Add. 37482, f. 64; Egerton 2882, f. 86; Warwick Castle mss 2701.
  • 7. CJ, i. 122, 135-6; D’Ewes, 292, 308, 352, 431, 437, 474, 477, 481, 490, 496, 503, 552, 553, 555, 556, 557, 559, 561, 562, 565, 578, 580, 584, 586, 589, 591, 623, 624, 635, 637, 647, 649, 672, 673.