GROSVENOR, Sir Richard (1585-1645), of Eaton Hall, Cheshire.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. 9 Jan. 1585,1 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Richard Grosvenor of Eaton Hall and Christian, da of Sir Robert Broke of Norton, Cheshire. educ. privately (John Bruen) 1595; Queen’s Oxf. 1599, BA 1602.2 m. (1) 1600, Lettice (bur. 20 Jan. 1611),3 da. of Sir Hugh Cholmondeley† of Vale Royal, Cheshire, 1s. 3da.;4 (2) 1614, Elizabeth (bur. 26 June 1621),5 da. of Sir Thomas Wilbraham of Woodhey, Cheshire, s.p.; (3) Elizabeth (d. 12 Mar. 1628),6 da. of Sir Peter Warburton† of Grafton, Cheshire, j.c.p. wid. of Sir Thomas Stanley of Alderley, Cheshire, s.p.7 kntd. 24 Aug. 1617;8 suc. fa. 1619; cr. bt. 23 Feb. 1622.9 d.14 Sept. 1645.10 sig. Ric[hard] Grosvenor.

Offices Held

J.p. Cheshire 1619-26;11 commr subsidy, Cheshire 1621, 1624;12 sheriff, Cheshire 1623-4, Denbighshire 1624-5;13 commr. sewers, Cheshire 1627-at least 1628,14 Forced Loan, Cheshire 1627,15 charitable uses, 1630-1.16


The Grosvenors, ranked fourteenth among the Cheshire gentry, could trace their line back to a nephew of Hugh Lupus, 1st earl of Chester. At the age of ten Grosvenor joined the household of John Bruen of Stapleford, a godly Protestant tutor to children of the local upper gentry, who emphasized the link between ‘magistracy and ministry’. Grosvenor went on to Queen’s College, Oxford, where his tutor was probably the puritan William Hinde, and married for the first time before finishing his education. In all he made three marriages, which provided important links with other prominent Cheshire families, such as the Cholmondeleys of Vale Royal, the Wilbrahams of Woodhey, the Stanleys of Alderley and the Warburtons of Grafton. In 1624 he commissioned an elaborate funeral monument to himself, his three wives and the other Cheshire families to which he was connected by marriage.17

Grosvenor was knighted when the king visited Cheshire in 1617, and on his father’s death in 1619 assumed the responsibilities of county office, being added to the bench that year. In 1622 he purchased a baronetcy, rising to sixth position in the county’s list of magistrates.18 He regarded his magistracy as a service to which ‘we [are] all borne’, and has been described as the ‘archetype of the "patriots" and "public men" who played a crucial role as spokesmen for their localities’.19 Indeed, in 1627 he was noted as ‘Grosv’nor greate’20 and the following year the puritan minister Nathaniel Lancaster described him as ‘a father of the country’.21 Nevertheless he was not among the most active Cheshire JPs, though he regularly attended assizes until 1626. In that year he was removed from the bench, probably for having spoken out in Parliament against the king’s favourite, the duke of Buckingham, and for having presented the names of Buckingham clients to the Common’s committee for recusant officeholders.22 Despite his removal, Grosvenor served as a Forced Loan commissioner in 1626-7, and persuaded many reluctant Cheshire gentry to contribute.23 However, he never regained his place on the bench; in 1628, when many of his colleagues who had been removed were restored, he was embroiled in the financial difficulties of his brother-in-law, Peter Daniell*.

First elected to Parliament in December 1620 as junior knight of the shire, Grosvenor devoted himself to defending and maintaining Cheshire interests. He combined this with a godly zeal to destroy popery and promote Calvinism, and was appointed to legislative committees concerning recusants’ lands (2 Mar.), catechizing children (16 May), ministers’ leases and scandalous ministers (23 November).24 His other appointments mainly reflected his Cheshire interests and role as a county governor. He was named to bill committees concerning concealed lands (2 Mar.), the Westmorland tenants of Prince Charles (10 Mar.), sheriffs’ accounts (15 May), and punishing abuses in the issuing of licences to beg (22 November).25 During the debate on the concealments bill (2 Mar.) he alerted the House to the fact that the measure made no mention of tithes or the prince of Wales, who should be included as he enjoyed jure regalia in Cheshire.26 Grosvenor also spoke for Cheshire when the Durham enfranchisement bill was reported on 14 March. He noted that as the Palatine of Cheshire was larger and more ancient than that of Durham, it was inappropriate for the bill to give Durham more Members. He also supported the motion of his fellow Member, Sir William Brereton, that Cheshire be included in the bill concerning fees in the courts of justice.27 Grosvenor was a keen supporter of the measure to limit imports of Irish cattle in exchange for English coin. At the second reading on 9 May, he noted that over 5,000 Irish cattle had passed through Chester in 1620. Irish merchants were, he said, underselling their English counterparts and draining specie from the realm, causing a 20 per cent drop in Cheshire land values.28 Grosvenor again supported the bill when it was reported nine days later.29

Grosvenor also spoke on broader issues. Although not named to the committee appointed to investigate the activities of (Sir) Giles Mompesson*, he attended on 26 Feb. and described projectors as ‘caterpillars’.30 In line with his godly Protestantism, he warmed to the theme of punishing the Catholic barrister Edward Floyd, suggesting on 1 May that he should be sent to the Tower with his papers and beads after being whipped, removed from local office, and debarred from practising law.31 At the second reading of the land bill concerning the duplicitous moneylender Thomas Frith, Grosvenor supported its committal, noting ‘it will make a good precedent to suppress fraud’.32

When the Parliament approached adjournment in late May, Grosvenor intervened to express concern that the Commons had not achieved enough for the people:

the cause of our sorrow is fear of not effecting our desired good. We sung placebo and now lacrimae. We that go home may be made subjects of the people’s fury, if not of disgrace ... We carry down grants of pardons for grievances and suppression of monopolies, which are but like comforts set before a sick man to the common people. Let us effect somewhat more, or leave all to the king.

Sir Robert Phelips, who spoke next, noted how Grosvenor ‘hath affect[ionately] and honourably expressed his own grief for the present state’.33 Indeed, Grosvenor played a significant role in the debates surrounding the adjournment. He argued on 30 May against William Nyell, who had suggested that although the bills on monopolies, informers and recusants were not expedited, the country would be satisfied with the 17 measures which had passed both Houses.34 Two days later, Grosvenor moved that during the adjournment, Members and their servants should have privilege and the Speaker be empowered to discharge anyone who was arrested. Comparing the Speaker to the doge of Venice, he proposed that the mace should precede the Speaker wherever he went, and that he should be prohibited from practising at the bar. The House accepted Grosvenor’s motion, but allowed Richardson to continue his legal career.35 Later the same day, after the Commons had ordered that committees should continue to meet during the adjournment, Grosvenor suggested that a quorum of three or four members would suffice, because if all were required to be present the committee would never meet, which the House agreed.36 On 2 June he supported the majority of Speakers in the Commons who called for an immediate adjournment rather than a fortnight’s continuance.37

Grosvenor was present at the start of the November-December sitting, and moved, on the first day (20 Nov.), for writs authorizing by-elections to be sent out to replace those Members who had been called to the Lords during the adjournment.38 A week later Grosvenor made a lengthy speech, the second half evidently entirely in Latin, on supply and the imminent loss of the Palatinate. Provided that their grievances were eased and their enemy was declared, he argued that further subsidies should be voted as some course had to be taken to defend the Palatinate ‘howsoever poor our country be’.39

When Parliament met again in 1624 Grosvenor was sheriff of Cheshire and thus ineligible to stand. However, as the county’s returning officer he addressed the voters concerning the qualities needed in a Member of the Commons, who should be ‘quick of capacity, nimble of apprehension, ripe in judgment, sound and untainted in their religion, faithful and trusty’. Cheshire’s Members should also ‘thoroughly understand the nature of this County Palatine’, and be prepared to ‘command their tongues without fear to utter their country’s just complaints and grievances’. After defining the nature of a Parliament and praising its worth, Grosvenor launched a long attack on papists. He carefully avoided blaming the sharp rise in their numbers on the king, but instead accused Catholics of taking advantage of the ‘favour which it hath pleased His Majesty to afford them out of his innate goodness and peaceable disposition’ to double their pride and insolence. Finally, Grosvenor noted that many worthy bills had been introduced in 1621, and he hoped this Parliament would ‘give life and form to their predecessor’s conceptions’. At the end of his speech he presented the candidates, William Booth and William Brereton, and announced that they had been chosen unanimously by him and the other members of the Cheshire gentry seated on the platform behind him.40

Grosvenor was also ineligible for the 1625 Parliament as he was pricked as sheriff of Denbighshire, but in 1626, freed of office, he resumed his place as knight of the shire for Cheshire. He was unanimously elected to the senior place, leaving the other two candidates to squabble for two days over the remaining seat.41 Surprisingly, Grosvenor made only two recorded speeches during this Parliament. On 27 Feb. he remarked on ‘the enchanting and bewitching of our Papists at home’ and how, if allowed to remain unchecked, they would join forces with an invader.42 Later in the session (25 Apr.) Grosvenor suggested that a large subsidy would be difficult to collect and create a precedent. Indeed, he recalled how this had happened in 1417, when the Parliament ‘would let no record of it be nor any precedent to posterity’. Instead he proposed that the Commons look into augmenting the king’s finances by extra-parliamentary taxation. Thomas Meautys suggested that Grosvenor should be called to explain what he meant, but the Commons were unwilling to pursue the matter.43

Grosvenor was again named to a number of legislative committees concerned with religious affairs: recusants (23 Feb.), citations from ecclesiastical courts (9 Mar.), excommunication and ecclesiastical jurisdiction (2 May), subscription (6 May) and the better continuance of peace and unity in the Church (14 June).44 He was also named to committees on financing the war against Spain, one of which sought to reform the king’s finances (7 Mar.) while another proposed creating a joint stock company (14 March). On 22 Mar. he was appointed to examine the logistical difficulties that had dogged Count Mansfeld’s expedition,45 and on 7 Mar. he was named to a joint conference to discuss mismanagement by the Council of War. Following the pattern established in 1621, the remainder of Grosvenor’s bill committees were either of interest to local magistrates or related to individuals.

Grosvenor was re-elected as Cheshire’s senior knight in 1628, when he again spoke sparingly. On 4 Apr. he argued for a grant of four subsidies rather than the five eventually voted,46 but said no more until 24 May, when he vainly argued that the Commons should appoint a select committee to confer with the Lords on a joint approach to the king about the Petition of Right.47 On 14 June Grosvenor attacked Buckingham and the introduction into England of German cavalry, and stated there was ‘cause to fear’ Buckingham’s commission to command a peacetime army in England. In an oblique reference to his own recent removal from the bench, he also complained that Buckingham had influenced the removal of ‘able and sufficient officers and ministers, some from judicial places and some from offices and authorities’.48 Grosvenor was named to five private bill committees and two measures on religion - the perennial bill to disable the clergy from being JPs (21 Apr.), which Grosvenor may have chaired, and a measure for the better maintenance of the ministry (7 May).49 He was also appointed to committees to review the names of prominent recusants (24 Apr.), to consider commissions for compounding with recusants (24 May), to preserve the liberties of Parliament (28 Apr.) and to examine records concerning privilege (21 May).50

In the 1629 session Grosvenor was appointed to committees for bills to increase the amount of preaching (5 Feb.) and to enable the will of late Thomas Sutton to be properly executed (20 February). He was also required to consider the petition against Lord Savile’s (Sir John Savile*) commission for compounding with recusants (16 February).51 Grosvenor’s only recorded speech was a lengthy and detailed report on 13 Feb. to the standing committee on religion, in which he attacked both Catholics and, for the first time, Arminians. He was particularly scathing about Richard Montagu’s preferment to the bishopric of Chichester, and also about Roger Manwaring, whom he claimed had ‘attempted to make his holy function a means to seduce the king’s conscience, to misguide his judgment, to disjoint his affection from his people, to avert his mind from calling of parliaments; the particulars of his damned doctrine are yet fresh in our memories.’52

Grosvenor kept a parliamentary diary from 1626, which may partly explain why he spoke only infrequently in the Commons. Not all of the volumes, kept in small leatherbound books, have survived. The diary for 1626 does not commence until 1 May, nearly three months after the session opened, while the first extant volume for 1628 is labelled as the ‘second book’. Grosvenor’s diaries have been described as ‘very dreary reading, [having] the dullness of a narrative which has no particular point or reason for being told’,53 but they are remarkable for their attention to detail. Grosvenor, who clearly compiled his notes while sitting in the Commons, attempted to record as much as possible verbatim using his own system of abbreviation. This technique, combined with diligent attendance, gives particular value to his diaries, especially as they record several speeches not noticed in other sources.54 Furthermore, in addition to keeping his own journal of proceedings, Grosvenor compiled a commonplace book containing copies of other men’s diaries of previous Parliaments dating back to 1593, indicating that he may have been interested in studying the long-term development of Parliament as an institution.55

The diaries for 1626 and 1628 include several speeches by Grosvenor himself that were not recorded by other diarists. Although these may never have been delivered, they nevertheless shed light on Grosvenor’s attitudes. On 23 Apr. 1628 he included the draft of a speech bemoaning the ‘miserable loss of hopeful parliaments that has ushered in the danger of perpetual vassalage’.56 He echoed this point more stridently on 3 June, in a draft speech which attacked Buckingham and popery: ‘hither we came full charge from our country with many complaints touching our lost liberties, the violation of justice, the beggary of our country, the imprisonment of our bodies for no other reason but because honest men’. He railed at the imprisonment of Sir Dudley Digges and Sir John Eliot in 1626 before coming to the ‘griefs of griefs: our religion undermined. Papists in authority: the laws against recusants sleeping, and no man daring to waken them; priests and Jesuits enjoying the benefit of our English air as fully and freely as the best subjects.’ After criticizing the king’s advisers for leading Charles astray, he ‘presented’ an impassioned plea for the Commons to act:

can we see all this and be silent? Can we hold our tongues and be trusty? Can we conceal these things from his Majesty and be faithful counsellors? If so then farewell conscience; adieu religion. Let us give the ultimum vale to all honesty and with Tiberius cry, ‘Oh, people born to servitude’.57

After the 1629 session Grosvenor returned to Eaton Hall, but by the end of the year he was in the Fleet as a result of the debts of his brother-in-law, Peter Daniell, and was not released until December 1638.58 He led a comfortable existence during his confinement, often being permitted to dine in town, and he made at least one visit to Cheshire. For most of 1636-8 he was sent to live in Reading, and was often in the company of leading Berkshire gentlemen. He remained in close contact with his friends and family and was kept up-to-date with Cheshire’s affairs through a weekly newsletter sent to him by Sir Richard Wilbraham.59 On his release, Grosvenor returned to Cheshire, evidently with his local influence intact, helping to arbitrate in the dispute surrounding the county election to the Short Parliament. He was also one of the leading moderates who tried to steer a middle course between supporters of episcopacy on the one hand and the exponents of radical puritan reform on the other. The disagreement between the latter two groups emerged in February 1641, over the wording of a petition by Sir Thomas Aston to the Commons in defence of episcopacy. Aston claimed to speak for the whole county, whereupon Grosvenor and his allies drafted an Attestation which supported the Common’s efforts to preserve peace.60

Throughout 1642 Grosvenor worked to prevent the outbreak of hostilities in Cheshire. He strongly supported, and may have helped draft, the Cheshire Remonstrance of August 1642, a plea for the king and Parliament to unite to cure the ills of the Commonwealth. However, the middle group to which Grosvenor belonged collapsed a month later when Charles visited Chester.61 Grosvenor probably retired to Eaton Hall, where he died on 14 Sept. 1645. He was buried at Eccleston.62 No will or administration has been found. His eldest son, Richard, an active royalist, was forced to compound for his estates at £1,250 and alienate tithes worth £130 p.a.63 Grosvenor’s grandson, Sir Thomas, sat in the first Exclusion Parliament and on five further occasions. Grosvenor’s direct descendants became dukes of Westminster.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Chris Kyle


We are grateful to Richard Cust for his advice and to the duke of Westminster for permission to consult the Grosvenor mss at Eaton Hall.

  • 1. G. Ormerod, Hist. Cheshire (1882), ii. 843.
  • 2. Pprs. of Sir Richard Grosvenor ed. R. Cust (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. cxxxiv), xiv; Al. Ox.
  • 3. Ormerod, ii. 843.
  • 4. P.H. Lawson, ‘Fam. Mem. of the Stanleys’, Jnl. of the Chester and N. Wales Arch. and Hist. Soc. n.s. xxiv, 89.
  • 5. Ormerod, ii. 843.
  • 6. Cheshire and Lancs. Fun. Certs. ed. J.P. Rylands (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. vi), 99-100.
  • 7. Pprs. of Sir Richard Grosvenor, xii-xiii; Eaton Hall, Grosvenor Hist. and Legal Misc. 6, ff. 6-7; Ormerod, ii. 843; CB, i. 189-90.
  • 8. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 165.
  • 9. CB, i. 189-90.
  • 10. Ormerod, ii. 843.
  • 11. C231/4, pp. 92, 177, 210; Pprs. of Sir Richard Grosvenor, xvi-xvii.
  • 12. C212/22/20, 23.
  • 13. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 18.
  • 14. C181/3, ff. 215, 237v.
  • 15. R. Cust, Forced Loan, 188-9; SP16/56/72.
  • 16. C192/1, unfol.
  • 17. Harl. 2151 f. 59v. A representation of the memorial can be found on the dustjacket of Pprs. of Sir Richard Grosvenor.
  • 18. Eaton Hall, Grosvenor Personal and Misc. 2/51, f. 2; C231/4, p. 184.
  • 19. DNB (Missing Persons).
  • 20. Cheshire Archives, DBC 2309/1/11, p. 70.
  • 21. N. Lancaster, Proofe of Profession (1628), sig. A.2, quoted in Pprs. of Sir Richard Grosvenor, xxviii, n. 8.
  • 22. Cust, Forced Loan, 188-9; Pprs. of Sir Richard Grosvenor, xvi-ii.
  • 23. SP16/56/72; Cust, Forced Loan, 122; Eaton Hall, Grosvenor Pprs. Personal and Misc. 2/21.
  • 24. CJ, i. 534a, 622a, 643a, 643b.
  • 25. Ibid. 534a, 548b, 555a, 641b. For his private bill cttee. appointments see ibid. 614b, 615a, 627b, 631a.
  • 26. Ibid. 534a; CD 1621, v. 18.
  • 27. CJ, i. 606a; CD 1621, iii. 149; iv. 294.
  • 28. CJ, i. 615b; CD 1621, iii. 213; ii. 356; V. Treadwell, Buckingham and Ire. 1616-28, p. 161.
  • 29. CJ, i. 625b.
  • 30. CD 1621, v. 219-20.
  • 31. CJ, i. 601b; CD 1621, iii. 125.
  • 32. CJ, i. 627b.
  • 33. CD 1621, iii. 347; ii. 407; vi. 177.
  • 34. Ibid. iii. 362.
  • 35. CJ, i. 634b; CD 1621, iii. 380; iv. 400; vi. 183.
  • 36. CD 1621, iii. 387.
  • 37. Ibid. iii. 400; ii. 454.
  • 38. CJ, i. 640b; CD 1621, vi. 192.
  • 39. CJ, i. 647b-8a; CD 1621, iii. 462; ii. 454; v. 216, 405; vi. 200, 322.
  • 40. Pprs. of Sir Richard Grosvenor, 1-7; R. Cust and P. Lake, ‘Sir Richard Grosvenor and the Rhetoric of Magistracy’, BIHR, liv. 40-53.
  • 41. VCH Cheshire, ii. 107; Cheshire Archives, CR63/2/18, unfol.
  • 42. Procs. 1626, ii. 137, 141.
  • 43. Ibid. iii. 63, 66.
  • 44. Ibid. ii. 102, 238; iii. 120, 180, 444.
  • 45. Ibid. ii. 214, 280, 340, 216.
  • 46. CD 1628, ii. 308; iv. 63.
  • 47. Ibid. iii. 596, 600.
  • 48. Ibid. iv. 326.
  • 49. Grosvenor notes in his diary that he was ‘first in the committee’. CD 1628, iii. 3, 9, 301.
  • 50. Ibid. iii. 61, 122, 511, 517, 593, 601.
  • 51. CJ, i. 930b, 931b, 962a.
  • 52. CD 1629, p. 68. Grosvenor possessed a copy of Montagu’s New Gagg for a New Gospell. Eaton Hall, Grosvenor Lib. Lists, no. 1417.
  • 53. CD 1629, p. lxiv.
  • 54. For fuller analyses of the diaries see CD 1628, ii. 23-6; CD 1629, lxi-lxv.
  • 55. HLRO, GRO/1.
  • 56. CD 1628, iii. 52.
  • 57. Ibid. iv. 76-7.
  • 58. APC, 1628-9, pp. 398, 516, 530.
  • 59. Pprs. of Sir Richard Grosvenor, p. ix.
  • 60. Ibid. ix-x; J. Morrill, Cheshire, 32-60; J. Morrill, Revolt of the Provinces, 36-7, 44-5.
  • 61. Pprs. of Sir Richard Grosvenor, xxi-xxii; Add. 36913, ff. 64, 66-7, 122; Mems. of the Civil War in Cheshire ed. J. Hall (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. xix), 25-6.
  • 62. Directions for his funeral are in Harl. 2129, f. 17.
  • 63. Both Morrill and HP Commons, 1660-1690 state that Grosvenor was forced to compound for his estates, but Grosvenor died in 1645, six months before the composition. Morrill, Cheshire, 208; CCC, 1185.