GREY, Hon. Ralph (1661-1706), of Gosfield, Essex
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Family and Education
b. 28 Nov. 1661, 2nd s. of Ralph, 2nd Baron Grey of Warke, by Catherine, da. and h. of Sir Edward Ford of Harting, Suss., wid. of Hon. Alexander Colepeper of Wigsell, Kent. educ. St. Paul’s 1677. unm. suc. bro. as 4th Baron Grey 24 June 1701.1
Auditor of Exchequer 1692–1702; gent. pens. 1692–1702; gov. Barbados 1697–1702; commr. adjudging piracies in W. Indies 1700, union with Scotland 1706.2
Described as ‘a thin, brown, handsome man [of] middle stature’, Grey was said to be well esteemed by William III and generally regarded as ‘a zealous asserter of the liberties of the people’. An officer in the Dutch army, Grey fought for the King in Ireland, bringing news of the victory at the Boyne back to England. In return for his services, he was granted a licence to export horses to Holland, was made a gentleman pensioner and was given the lucrative office of auditor of the Exchequer responsible for crown revenues in Wales. He attended the King on the Flanders campaign in 1693. He may have been the ‘Ralph Grey’ who in 1695 petitioned the Treasury for the reversion of the grant, then held by Sir Edward Turnor*, of five lighthouses in Norfolk and Suffolk. If so, he was granted this request and subsequently recommended that his brother-in-law Richard Neville* be allowed a lease of the properties, in return for which Grey himself received £750. Despite his accumulation of offices, however, Grey was in financial difficulty by the middle of the decade, and by June 1695 had been imprisoned in the King’s bench prison for a debt of £3,000. One report records that in the middle of June he ‘made his escape’ from prison, but a newsletter records less dramatically that he was ‘released out of the King’s bench’ and it is not clear which is the truer account. Perhaps to secure his freedom from arrest, Grey was returned upon the interest of his brother the 3rd Lord Grey for Berwick-upon-Tweed at the 1695 election.3
It is difficult to distinguish Grey’s parliamentary activity from that of his namesake Hon. John Grey in this Parliament, but his support for the Court was clear. He was forecast as likely to support government in the divisions of 31 Jan. 1696 upon the proposed council of trade and, having signed the Association, in March voted to fix the price of guineas at 22s. At the beginning of the following session he voted, on 25 Nov., for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. Perhaps in the hope of alleviating his financial difficulties, he began to lobby for the post of governor of Barbados. A similar request had been denied him back in 1689; but on this latter occasion his efforts, no doubt assisted by the influence his elder brother enjoyed as a lord of Trade, proved successful and he was appointed, with a salary of £1,200 p.a., in the summer of 1697. Despite the King’s desire that Grey leave promptly to take up his duties, he did not depart for Barbados until the spring of 1698, arriving there in July. He did not stand at the election later that year, having previously been included in a list of placemen, and was classed as a Court supporter ‘out’ of the new House. Grey’s tenure in Barbados was eventful. He was one of the colonial governors who received orders to seize Captain Kidd, and in 1700 his zeal in trying to secure the expulsion of French planters from St. Lucia was far from welcomed by the government. Grey was returned for Berwick in his absence at the first 1701 election. He did not return to England for the 1701 session, but nevertheless figured in the records of the House, as on 4 June a petition was presented to the Commons alleging that he had illegally refused to allow the petitioners to enter an appeal against a judgment in Barbados’ chancery court. The Commons decided that the complaint was unfounded, only for the House to receive a more wide-ranging petition in May 1702 alleging Grey’s maladministration of justice in Barbados. Although he had succeeded to the barony on his brother’s death in June 1701, Grey did not return to England until after the accession of Queen Anne, when he was removed from his governorship. He also lost his place as auditor of the Exchequer. Grey’s only further official appointment came in 1706 when he was nominated a commissioner for the Union. The depth of his feelings on this subject had been apparent during a Lords debate in 1704 when he had warned that union would mean ‘the nation’s over-running . . . as the Goths and Vandals did the Roman Empire’. During a meeting of the Union commissioners in June 1706 he was taken ill and died of apoplexy on the 20th. Unmarried, Grey was the last of his line and left his estates to his cousin, the 6th Lord North (William) and his nephew Henry Neville, on condition that the latter change his name to Grey. Neville did this, and sat in the 1710 and 1713 Parliaments as Henry Grey.4
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Eveline Cruickshanks
- 1. St. Paul’s Covent Garden (Harl. Soc. Reg. xxxiii), 16.
- 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1523, 1583, 1630; xvii. 239; Beaufort mss at Badminton House, list of gent. pens., Dec. 1700; CSP Dom. 1697, p. 135; 1700–2, p. 111; APC Col. ii. 792; Lockhart Mems. ed. Szechi, 119.
- 3. Macky Mems. 103; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1146; x. 952, 977, 992, 1373, 1384, 1257, 1251; CSP Dom. 1690–1, p. 403; 1693, p. 207; 1694–5, p. 484.
- 4. Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/12, James Vernon I* to Duke of Shrewsbury, 27 Oct. 1696; C. Price, Cold Caleb, 227; CSP Dom. 1697, pp. 135, 212, 488; 1698, p. 396; 1700–2, pp. 129–30; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, i. 287; Cal. Treas. Bks. xiii. 272; CJ, xiii. 16; Nicolson Diaries ed. Jones and Holmes, 234.