GREY, Hon. John (c.1628-1709), of Enville, Staffs.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. c.1628, 3rd s. of Henry Grey†, 1st Earl of Stamford, by Lady Anne, da. and coh. of William Cecil†, 2nd Earl of Exeter; bro. of Hon. Anchitell*, and Thomas Grey†, Baron Grey of Groby. m. (1) 6 May 1680, Mary (d. 1682), da. and coh. of Sir Francis Wolryche, 2nd Bt., of Dudmaston Hall, Salop, 1da.; (2) 2 Jan. 1684, Catherine (d. 1691), da. of Edward, 7th Ld. Dudley, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da.; (3) Susanna, wid. of one Ball of Worcester and of Edwin Skrymsher† of Aqualate, Staffs., s.p. suc. cos. Henry Grey of Enville 1687.1
Freeman, Leicester Apr. 1660.2
Chairman, cttee. of ways and means 4–11 July 1689, elections and privileges 25 Oct. 1689–5 Jan. 1691.
The transfer of Grey’s parliamentary interest from Leicestershire to Staffordshire was facilitated by the generosity of his father’s cousin, Henry Grey, who bestowed on him a property at Whittenton, near Lichfield and then left him the estate of Enville in his will, thus enabling him to play a major role in local politics. He was present at three meetings of the Staffordshire gentry late in 1688: on 29 Nov., to consider how to ‘comport ourselves’ in the wake of Prince William’s invasion; on 4 Dec., when it was agreed to address James II for the removal of all non-qualified officers from civil and military posts; and on 15 Dec., when it was decided to call another meeting to agree on the wording of a congratulatory address to the Prince. Having represented Staffordshire in the Convention Parliament, Grey was approved in 1690 as a candidate at a meeting of the gentlemen of the county, and he was then returned unopposed. The presence in the Commons of his brother Anchitell, and then after 1695 of Hon. Ralph Grey, makes it impossible to be certain of the extent of his parliamentary activity. However, it is clear from the Journals that one of the Greys was heavily involved in the legislative process. On the evidence of the 1690–1 session, when Anchitell was absent, but a ‘Mr Gray’ continued to appear regularly, it was probably John who was the more active of the brothers.3
Despite Grey’s support for Exclusion and membership of an impeccably Whig family, the Marquess of Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) could only class him as ‘doubtful’ in an analysis of the new Parliament in 1690, although his name was on another list of supporters. It is possible that Grey’s views had become less easy to categorize now he had obtained an independent income, and this may have persuaded the House to continue him as chairman of the committee of elections and privileges. Inevitably, most of his time was taken up with election disputes, and he reported on six cases in the short 1690 session. He was also appointed to the drafting committees on the bill setting up the commission of accounts (14 Apr.) and to improve the woollen manufacture (24 Apr.). Much in demand as a chairman, he took the chair of committees of the whole on five separate matters: on the bill to reverse the judgment of quo warranto against the City of London; to consider heads of bills for securing the government; on the regency bill; on the bill vesting the £500 forfeitures in William and Mary; and to consider ways to preserve the peace and safety of the kingdom. Finally, a degree of prominence may be inferred from his being selected to ask Dean Tillotson of St. Paul’s to preach before the House at Easter.
Grey’s influence in the House at this time can also be seen in a ministerial memorandum of 1690 on Commons management, which included the instruction, ‘Mr Grey and Mr Roberts [Robartes] to be spoken to by the King’. This importance was confirmed when he was reappointed on 6 Nov. 1690 to chair the committee of elections. His name was included on a list drawn up by Carmarthen in December, probably a list of supporters in the event of an attack on Carmarthen in the Commons. However, his main task in this session was to report election cases to the House, which he did on 20 occasions. He was also named to three drafting committees and was given the congenial task of asking Dr Hickman to preach before the House. In April 1691 Robert Harley* classed him as a Court supporter with a qualifying ‘d’ (doubtful). However, Grey was certainly present when Parliament was finally prorogued on 26 May 1691: while the House awaited Black Rod, Grey ‘entertained them with a complaint of privilege in a cause that he had depending in Chancery’.4
Although Grey was relieved of his duties on the committee of elections at the beginning of the 1691–2 session, he was still in demand as a chairman of committees of the whole. He chaired two such committees, on the state of the nation (3 Nov.) and on the state of the fleet (7 Nov.). He also acted as a teller on 14 Nov. against giving Ralph Macclesfield leave for a private bill concerning lands in Staffordshire. On 11 Jan. 1692 Grey presented a petition to the House from merchants provisioning the navy, complaining that the tallies allocated for their payment were insufficient and in arrears.5
In the 1692–3 session Grey was less active, chairing no committees of the whole. Shortly after the prorogation in March 1693, his fellow knight of the shire Walter Chetwynd I* died, and, with the prospect of a long interval before a writ could be moved, Grey was propelled into the discussions which surrounded the choice of a new partner. After much manoeuvring some of the gentry signed a circular letter in favour of Sir Walter Bagot, 3rd Bt.*: Grey’s signature was the first. Although Grey was nominated in second place to the committee of privileges and elections on 7 Nov. 1693, this did not presage any increase in his activities in the House. In the following session he again appears to have been largely inactive, apart from telling on 11 Feb. 1695 for a motion that Salwey Winnington* might have leave to go into the country.6
According to the Earl of Ailesbury (Thomas Bruce†) a group of about 30 Members who refused to abjure James II held a series of conspiratorial meetings ‘in the summer of 1695 and towards the winter’. Ailesbury included among them his uncle John Grey, with some surprise, having long seen Grey as ‘a downright Whig’ even if ‘by a principle and not by ambition’. Ailesbury likened Grey’s desertion of the Whigs to that of the Harleys, Foleys and others, citing as the basic reason that their old comrades had ‘only kept to their name but not to their old character’. Ailesbury defined the purpose of this group as the obstruction of war supplies, a policy which caused some disruption in the 1694–5 session, but which may also have created difficulties for its major proponents in the election of October 1695. However, Grey was not a leader of the group, at least according to Ailesbury, and his election was secured by the prior agreement of the gentry. Grey certainly had contacts with members of both the Harley and Foley families, and Ailesbury’s basic contention that he was opposed to the government is borne out by Grey’s voting record in the first session of the new Parliament. He was forecast as likely to oppose the Court on 31 Jan. 1696 in the division over the proposed council of trade. He refused the Association in February 1696 and voted in March against fixing the price of guineas at 22s. In the following November his attitude to the attainder of Sir John Fenwick† confirmed his opposition to the Court. He may have been the ‘Mr Grey’ who spoke in the debate on the attainder bill on 13 Nov. 1696 to warn against the perils of taking only one man’s evidence. In the lower courts there was redress against perjury, ‘but I would ask him [a previous speaker], what remedy there is here, if he do not say the truth? We have no remedy against him if he takes away this man’s life by what he says here.’ Grey certainly voted against the bill of attainder on 25 Nov. He did not attend during the 1697–8 session, owing to an attack of gout which kept him in the country and led to his decision, reported to Sir Charles Lyttelton, 3rd Bt.†, in February 1698, not to contest the next election. In a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments in September 1698 he was marked as a supporter of the Country party.7
Grey did not sit after 1698 but continued to be active in local affairs until the early years of Anne’s reign. He died in February 1709, leaving a personalty of £15,000. His eldest son succeeded to the earldom of Stamford in 1720 and his grandson represented Leicestershire in George II’s reign.8
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. Collins, Peerage, iii. 360; J. C. Wedgwood, Staffs. Parl. Hist. (William Salt Arch. Soc.), ii. 166–7; Trans. Salop Arch. and Nat. Hist. Soc. ser. 4, iv. 116; VCH Staffs. xx. 97; Shaw, Staffs. ii. 269.
- 2. Reg. Leicester Freemen, i. 143.
- 3. Staffs. Peds. 1664–1700 (Harl. Soc. lxiii), 111–12; Wm. Salt Lib. (Stafford), Bagot mss D1721/3/291; Bath mss at Longleat House, Thynne pprs. 28, ff. 272–3; 24, f. 172.
- 4. CSP Dom. 1690–1, p. 211; Bodl. Carte 79, f. 346.
- 5. Luttrell Diary, 120.
- 6. Hereford and Worcester RO (Hereford), Foley mss E12/F/IV, letter from Staffs. ‘gents.’, Oct. 1693; Add. 36663, ff. 375, 377–8.
- 7. Ailesbury Mems. i. 359–60; Add. 70018, f. 85; 29578, ff. 492, 592; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 1049.
- 8. CSP Dom. 1703–4, p. 278; Top. and Gen. iii. 269.