GRIMSTON (formerly LUCKYN), William (1684-1756), of Gorhambury, Herts.
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Family and Education
bap. 31 Dec. 1684, 2nd s. of Sir William Luckyn, 3rd Bt., of Little Waltham, Essex by Mary, da. and h. of Sir William Sherrington, Fishmonger, of St. Peter Cornhill, London, alderman of London 1667. m. 14 Aug. 1706 (with £10,000), Jane, da. of James Cooke of London, 10s. (6 d.v.p.) 3da. suc. gt.-uncle Sir Samuel Grimston, 3rd Bt.*, in estate 1700, taking name of Grimston; cr. Visct. Grimston [I] 29 May 1719; suc. bro. Sir Harbottle Luckyn as 5th Bt. 4 Feb. 1737, but not in estate.1
Commr. charitable uses, St. Albans 1721.2
Although he has been cited as ‘an excellent example of an already wealthy young landowner . . . who became even wealthier during Anne’s reign’, Grimston’s inheritance of his great-uncle’s estate proved a mixed blessing. By the terms of the will he gained estates worth about £8,000 a year, yet not only had he to adopt the name of Grimston but also to make provision for an annual payment of £1,000, up to a total of £30,000, to Sir Samuel’s granddaughter Lady Anne Savile, later Countess of Ailesbury. According to one of his descendants, Grimston hesitated before accepting such a heavily burdened estate, but was persuaded to do so by his brother, Sir Harbottle, from whom he was in turn to inherit his own family’s baronetcy. The same source refers to ‘innumerable letters’ passing from the younger to the elder brother, ‘full of mournful details of his poverty and expressions of regret of the necessity of keeping the house in repair without the means adequate for the purpose’, circumstances which forced Grimston to let most of his house, and confine his own living quarters to the side overlooking the stables. To extricate his brother from the plight for which he bore some responsibility, Sir Harbottle recommended that William marry a rich heiress, and in 1706 Grimston duly wedded the daughter of a wealthy Londoner, who brought with her a portion of £10,000 and who was worth £20,000 in all. A year before, perhaps with his own situation in mind, he had written a feeble comedy, aptly titled, in view of the source of his wealth from the Croke and Grimston legal dynasties, The Lawyer’s Fortune or Love in a Hollow Tree. After a preface in which he confessed that he found it ‘very hard to write well’ but admitted to an ‘itch for scribbling’, he expressed unoriginal observations on marriage and society and his own sensitivity about status, with one character lamenting that ‘’tis wealth that creates respect – no one esteems a man for his virtue, but what he’s worth’. The play is significant for three further reasons. First, several passages show Grimston’s commitment to upholding the idea of hospitality practised by his benefactor great-uncle, an open-handedness that was to influence future elections; second, Grimston’s political and religious views are indicated in the preface, which attacked Tackers, and in a scene about preparations for a good reception for the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†); and third, although penned ‘only for an amusement in the country and never intended for the stage’, the text was reprinted in 1736 by the Duchess of Marlborough, with whom Grimston had fallen out and who wished to humiliate him, with a frontispiece depicting a coroneted ass eating a thistle.3
Despite this printed evidence of his views, Grimston was at first thought to be a Tory when he entered Parliament in 1710. He was marked as such on the ‘Hanover list’, an error also committed by Hon. James Brydges*, who saw Grimston’s victory at St. Albans as evidence that the Tories had gained ground. Grimston’s success is perhaps best regarded as a demonstration not so much of his political influence as of his successful electioneering techniques, part of which involved ‘lending’ money to freemen. Although listed as one of the ‘worthy patriots’ who had detected the mismanagements of the previous administration, he made little significant contribution to the daily business of the House, as recorded in the Journals, and voted with the Whigs, supporting the motion of ‘No Peace without Spain’ on 7 Dec. 1711. His re-election in 1713 was supported by the Duchess of Marlborough, who wrote that she was
sorry to find there should be any struggle to choose a stranger for St. Albans, rather than so honest a gentleman as yourself and who will have so considerable an estate from your ancestors, that for so many years spent so much money and did so much good in the town.
Grimston’s relationship with the Duchess was nevertheless a frosty one, chiefly because they vied for influence over the town, but also because of the Churchills’ arrogant treatment of their neighbour, which by 1717 had bred ‘a spirit and indignation’ in him. Grimston resented Marlborough’s suggestion that he had taken ‘a great deal of pains to choose me when my interest was very little’ for he was ‘at a loss to know when that time was. All the favour and support I ever received was only promises which I shall not easily forget as long as my elections bills, upwards of £2,000, are fresh in my thoughts.’ That he did indeed bear the cost of influencing votes is proved by a bundle of ‘notes for money borrowed of Mr Grimston by the freemen of St. Albans in 1713’, two of which specifically declared that they would be remitted if the recipient voted according to his promise.