GRANVILLE, George (1666-1735), of Stowe, Cornw.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1702 - 1710
1710 - 1 Jan. 1712

Family and Education

b. 9 Mar. 1666, 2nd s. of Bernard Granville I* and bro. of Bernard II* and Sir Bevill Granville*.  educ. travelled abroad (France) 1676–7; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1677, MA 1679; acads. in Paris 1682–7.  m. 15 Dec. 1711, Lady Mary (d. 1735), da. of Edward Villiers, 1st Earl of Jersey, wid. of Thomas Thynne of Old Windsor, Berks., 4da.  suc. uncle Denis Granville 1703, bro. Sir Bevill Granville 1706; cr. Baron Lansdown 1 Jan. 1712.

Offices Held

Gov. Pendennis Castle Mar. 1703–Nov. 1714; recorder, Launceston 1710–19; freeman and high steward, Barnstaple 1713–?14.1

Sec. at war 1710–12; comptroller of Household July 1712–Aug. 1713, treasurer Aug. 1713–14; PC 18 Aug. 1712–Aug. 1714.2

Commr. taking subscriptions to S. Sea Co. 1711.3


Granville was always conscious of his family's history of service to the Stuart dynasty. This was reinforced early when, at the age of ten, he was sent to France with his tutor, William Ellis, a proponent of the doctrine of passive resistance and later a servant of James II at St. Germain. At Cambridge Granville made a name for himself with verses composed on the visit of Mary of Modena, then Duchess of York, for whom he conceived a lifelong admiration. Five years later, he went to Paris with his brother Sir Bevill, where they attended academies to learn fencing, riding, dancing, as well as mathematics and the elements of military science. When his brother returned to England to serve in the regiment of his uncle Lord Bath against the Monmouth rebellion, Granville was told by his father to remain in France. He stayed until 1687, accumulating debts amounting to £500. He wrote from his mother's house at Marr, near Doncaster, on 6 Oct. 1688, asking to be allowed to fight for King James:

You having no prospect of obtaining a commission for me, can no way alter or cool my desire at this important juncture to venture my life in some manner or other for my King and my country.
     I cannot bear living under the reproach of lying obscure and idle in a country retirement, when every man who has the least sense of honour should be preparing for the field . . . The King has been misled; let those who have misled him be answerable for it. Nobody can deny but he is sacred in his own person, and it is every honest man’s duty to defend it.

It is possible he was the ‘George Grinville’ who enrolled in Bishop Compton's troop at Nottingham, where Princess Anne had taken refuge. However, he was clearly out of sympathy with the route the Revolution took and in May 1690, in company with his uncle Denis, the non-juring ex-dean of Durham, he was given a pass to go to Flanders.4

During William's reign Granville eschewed the limelight, although, intriguingly, a list of dancers proposed for a ball to be held by the Queen in honour of her husband's birthday in November 1691 included a ‘Mr George Greenville’. Instead, he lived mostly in retirement at Marr, where he wrote plays which were performed in London. During his visits to London he mixed in Dryden's circle and it was probably here that he first met Henry St. John II*. Around 1701 Granville's position within his family was transformed by a series of deaths. His father and mother both died in that year, followed by his uncle, the Earl of Bath, who left him £100 p.a., secured on one of his Cornish manors and a pension of £3,000 p.a. out of the Duchy.5

On the accession of Queen Anne, Granville's cousin Hon. John*, an influential Tory leader, secured his return to Parliament for Fowey. In the opening session of the Parliament Granville voted on 13 Feb. 1703 against agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration. Following the elevation of his cousin to the peerage as Lord Granville in March 1703, alll references to ‘Mr Granville’ in the Journals are to George Granville. The appointment of his elder brother, Sir Bevill, to the governorship of Barbados saw Granville inherit his office as constable of Pendennis Castle. Another task was to act as executor to his uncle Denis who had died in April. In the new session of Parliament, on 29 Nov. 1703, he was named to the drafting committee of the estate bill being managed by Lord Carteret (whose mother was John Granville's sister and hence Granville's cousin). On 3 Feb. 1704 he was named to address the Queen concerning the actions of the Commons over the Scotch Plot, reporting from the committee on the 18th. On that day he brought a complaint of breach of privilege following the arrest of one of his servants, and the matter was duly resolved in his favour on 1 Mar. On 21 Mar. he was appointed to the conference committee on the bill for stating the public accounts.

From 1704 there is evidence that Granville, like St. John, had attached himself to Robert Harley*. On 25 July Granville wrote to Harley in the hope of gaining his support for the lucrative post of tellership of the Exchequer expected to fall vacant upon the demise of Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Bt.* Further disillusionment with the high flyers came over his defence of his brother Sir Bevill, who was under attack for his activities as governor of Barbados. Bishop Nicolson recorded Granville as being ‘very angry at Lord Nottingham [Daniel Finch†] for his severities towards this gentleman's brother’. Further, his attempts to solicit the patronage of Christopher Musgrave*, clerk of the Ordnance, also failed. In the 1704-5 session Granville was on Harley's lobbying list for the Tack in November, marked as to be approached by Thomas Mansel I*, and was absent from the division. Subsequently, he was labelled a ‘Sneaker’. Family business occupied him in January and February 1705 when a bill was brought into the Lords to allow the Earl of Bath (then aged 13) to execute his powers of making leases of his settled estate. At stake was land worth £3,000 p.a. in Devon and Cornwall, which, until the young Earl attained the age of 14, three trustees, General George Cholmondeley*, (Sir) Thomas Hanmer II* (4th Bt.) and Sir John Stanley, 1st Bt. (who was married to Granville's sister Anne), were to grant in leases with the consent of his guardian, his grandfather Henry de Nassau. Granville opposed this bill on behalf of his cousin Lord Granville and on his own account. The Lords passed the bill, but was halted on a motion for a second reading in the Commons on 20 Feb. Granville was at the forefront of the opposition, writing to Thomas Coke to get him to attend the House about ‘our family bill’. Possibly in return for this favour, in February Granville managed through the Commons a bill from the Lords confirming an agreement between Coke and Bishop Nicolson. Similarly, it fell to Granville to continue the defence of his brother from accusations of misconduct which arrived regularly from Barbados.6

In May 1705 Granville left London for Cornwall in order to ensure his re-election at Fowey. Again, his letters to Harley hark upon his failure to obtain a place: on 10 May he wrote

I have endeavoured to give all the demonstrations I could of disinterested zeal for the Queen's and the public service. The only place where I have been allowed to show it has been in the Parliament house; you are yourself the best judge of my behaviour there, but it is often the misfortune of those who happen to be in their persons or families unacceptable, that even their zeal and affection become an offence.

He wrote to Harley on 4 Aug. lamenting his neglect by Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†) regarding employment, so that ‘I remain under the same suspense in which he has thought fit to keep me for about three years’. Furthermore, Hugh Boscawen II*, ‘who pretends to direct the favours and smiles of the ministers as he pleases, has engaged to remove me from my small government [Pendennis Castle] there’. Thus

in the very instant of time when I am made to expect the favour of the Court, I am threatened with its displeasure. It will be a great surprise to me if I should find your friendship less powerful than his enmity, and therefore from the assurances you have been pleased to give me I find myself more inclined to hope than to apprehend ...
     It is so well known to everybody how much I have devoted myself personally to your service, that I flatter myself you will confound my interest a little with your own, since the injuries that are offered to our friends, are so many affronts to ourselves.

On 8 Aug. Granville wrote another letter to Harley in which he thanked him for the favour received, presumably a guarantee of his post at Pendennis. In September Granville was thwarted in his attempts to gain a governorship for his brother closer to England, and Lord Godolphin’s answer to Granville’s own ambitions was to suggest an ambassadorial post to one of the northern kings as ‘the readiest way for him to be made easy at home’.7

Perhaps because of his ‘sneaking’ over the Tack, an uncomfortable label for a Tory, a letter to Coke in the weeks running up to the new Parliament exhibits a degree of disillusionment: ‘I could be very well contented to pass the winter out of the hearing of your politics.’ However, in keeping with his determination to secure a post and protect his brother, he voted on 25 Oct. 1705 for the Court candidate as Speaker, and subsequently supported the Court on the ‘place clause’ of the regency bill in February 1706. Nevertheless, in electoral matters he was to be found defying Court expectations, supporting Salwey Winnington’s return for Bewdley against Whig attempts to unseat him. Ironically, after Granville had secured leave for his brother to return home, Bevill died on the return voyage. News of this reached England early in November 1706, and ‘touched George to the quick’. However, as executor and heir of his brother’s estate Granville benefited financially. By November 1706 he was again optimistic of an office, even being so bold as to ask to keep Pendennis as well as any new appointment. However, he was again disappointed, informing Harley that after receiving frequent, but unfulfilled, promises from Godolphin, he was writing to the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) as ‘last year no particular application was made to him, and ’twas attributed to that that I met with so unexpected a disappointment’. In the Commons the only important matter to concern him was in March 1707 over a breach of privilege when ejectments were delivered against some of his Berkshire tenants, a matter which was resolved in his favour. Early in 1708 he was classed as a Tory.8

The death of Lord Granville in 1707 had strengthened George’s claims to be the leader of the Granville interest in Cornwall, the 3rd Earl of Bath being still a minor. However, Bath’s guardians (his Dutch grandparents) continued to control the bulk of the family estates, and Granville still sat for a borough rather than the prestigious county seat. This did not prevent him from campaigning vigorously during the 1708 election: indeed, he wrote to Harley ‘no endeavours of mine have been wanting nor have I spared for anything that might contribute to the public service, in which I have so far succeeded where it has been possible for me to appear, that, without your protection defends me, there is no revenge but will be taken’. How Harley could help, when Granville also wrote that Boscawen would turn him out ‘for professing myself your friend’, is unknown, but he kept his place at Pendennis. By the time Parliament was due to sit, Granville was being used by Harley as the ‘whip’ for Members in the south-west in an attempt to get them to London early in the session. Before Parliament sat Granville stayed with St. John at Bucklebury, and probably shared the latter’s views about the need to reunite the Tories. Thereafter, Granville frequently acted as intermediary between Harley and St. John and did his utmost to prevent any breach between them. For example, he wrote to Harley from Bucklebury on 22 Sept. 1709:

I am much mistaken if I cannot likewise answer in the same manner for the friend with whom I am, notwithstanding any suggestions that may have been, etc. We constantly remember you, I can’t say in our prayers, for I fear we don’t all pray, but in our cups, for we all drink and when our hearts are most open, your image is most conspicuous.

Further, Granville was useful in cultivating other Tory leaders such as the Duke of Beaufort. Naturally, he voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.9

After Godolphin’s fall Granville was an obvious candidate for office in Harley’s new ministry. Initial reports suggested he might be made treasurer of the navy, one of the most lucrative appointments in the government, although Harley’s manuscript jottings of 9 Sept. mark him down as either comptroller of the Household or secretary at war. Having been confirmed in the latter post despite Marlborough’s efforts to get his own secretary, Adam de Cardonnel*, into it, Granville then went to Cornwall to manage elections in the Tory interest. With a Tory ascendancy signalled by the appointment of the Earl of Rochester (Laurence Hyde†) as lord lieutenant until the young Earl of Bath came of age, Granville stood for the county. While still in London he issued a statement for the county meeting in which he laid down his Tory principles. Having returned to Cornwall for the election, he presided over a Tory triumph in the boroughs there, spending some £4,000 on the campaigns. Almost immediately he was alarmed by a report that John Smith I would be set up by the Court as Speaker, referring to the splits engendered in 1705 when the Harleyites had backed him over William Bromley II: ‘I hope we shall never be split twice upon the same rock.’ More practically, he asked to be made a Privy Councillor, ‘a favour that will cost the Queen nothing, and ’twill give me a great deal of ease in my correspondence with the General [Marlborough] when he comes home by putting me above the servile attendance which he may expect’, but Harley evidently did not approve his request.10

At this stage Granville had a greater reputation outside the world of politics. In 1709 Manley alluded to him as ‘a nearer favourite of the muses’, continuing, ‘I find a wonderful deal of good sense in that gentleman; he has wit, without pride and affectation, that generally accompanies, and always corrupts it’. Similarly, on his appointment Boyer remembered the feats of his family, but described him as ‘a gentleman of bright, polite parts, affability and address’. As befitted an office-holder, Granville became more active in the new Parliament. He was listed as a Tory on the ‘Hanover list’ and also among the ‘worthy patriots’ who in the 1710–11 session helped detect the mismanagements of the previous administration. Principally, Granville’s role in the Commons involved preparing the army estimates and departmental information demanded by Tory back-benchers on the shortcomings of the previous administration, especially relating to the Spanish theatre of war. He managed two important pieces of legislation through the Commons in February and March 1711, the recruitment bill and the mutiny bill, chairing the committee of the whole on both occasions. In April he presented the bill for paying and clearing a detachment of guards after Almanza. Possibly as much because of his sociability as his political weight, Granville was one of the original members of the ‘Society of Brothers’ founded by St. John in that year, although he was threatened with expulsion for leaving a meeting in July 1711 upon a summons from Harley, now Earl of Oxford.11

The sudden death of his young nephew, the 3rd Earl of Bath, in May 1711, without male heirs, at first presented Granville with a great opportunity. He had always believed that the 1st Earl had intended to leave him the Granville titles and estates as the heir male of the family, but although he took possession of Stowe, his claims were challenged by the 1st Earl’s heirs, chiefly his daughter, Lady Grace (who had married George, 1st Lord Carteret, d. 1695), and the heirs of his other two daughters, Lady Jane (d. 1696, who had married Sir William Leveson Gower, 4th Bt.*) and Lady Catherine (who had married Craven Peyton*). As early as 18 May Granville had appealed to Harley for a peerage on the grounds of political expediency, affecting to believe that ‘if I am no longer to appear at the head of that interest which I have been collecting with so much pains and expense in the west’ the control of Cornish elections would fall to the enemies of the government. On the 22nd the ‘desire and expectation’ that the Queen would revive ‘the honours of my family in myself’ was seen as a means by which Granville could enjoy the ‘estate of my family’ without trouble from the other claimants. Several undated memoranda survive from Granville to Harley in which he put forward his claims to a peerage. First, there was the 2nd Earl of Bath’s title of Count in the Holy Roman Empire, granted for services against the Turks by Emperor Leopold; then there were the earldoms of Glamorgan and Corboil possessed by his ancestors until ‘the Duchy of Normandy was lost from the crown of England’. As the 1st Earl of Bath had pretensions to the dukedom of Albemarle no patent was taken out for restoring these titles. All of these pleas went in vain, so that, as one newsletter writer put it, although Granville had possession of part of the family estates ‘there is like to be a furious contest at law between him and three others’.12

Bath’s death had created an even more pressing political problem for Granville, making his appeals for a peerage more urgent still. Two weeks before the death of the Earl, Rochester had died unexpectedly. The lieutenancy of Cornwall now lay open, with Lord Radnor (Charles Bodvile Robartes†) and Lord Carteret ready to press their claims. While Oxford pondered what to do, Granville pressed on with grinding down the Whig interest in the Stannaries and securing for his brother Bernard Granville II the governorship of Hull. Action in the Cornish boroughs was important owing to the elections for mayors: the nominees of Godolphin and Boscawen having ‘behaved themselves with such insolence, especially at the late elections of mayors in our corporations’. Not surprisingly, Granville’s health gave way under the strain and in mid-October Swift reported that he ‘apprehends the apoplexy’. Relief was at hand, however, for on 25 Oct. the new Earl of Rochester (Henry, Lord Hyde*) succeeded his father as lord lieutenant.13

Two events hastened Granville to his much-wanted peerage. First, his marriage to Lady Mary Thynne, a young widow with a jointure of £12,000 p.a. and an infant son, increased his wealth, although this did not prevent him from approaching Oxford for the reimbursement of some of his Cornish election expenses in order to uphold the dignity of a peerage. Second, there was the acute political crisis facing Oxford in the Lords and the need for a phalanx of loyal peers to ensure the passage of his peace policy. Granville’s name was included on a list of 20 possible candidates, and he was granted a barony on 1 Jan. 1712. Rather pointedly, he asked that his brother Bernard be included in the patent as he had suffered personally from a former omission of that kind.14

Granville took his seat in the Lords on 2 Jan. 1712 and continued as secretary at war until June when he was reported to have been made a teller of the Exchequer, but in fact became comptroller of the Household. His tenure of the secretaryship had been marked by a quarrel with Swift who, while extolling his virtues, published in the Examiner a denunciation of the ‘bribery and oppression’ of his office, and by the manner of his departure, which some contemporaries saw as ‘a slight put upon my Lord Lansdown as not to provide first for him’. By October he was somewhat beleaguered by lawsuits surrounding the Bath estate, reputedly worth £6,000 p.a. Further, he was soon financially embarrassed, partly because of losses (amounting to £6,000) from the bankruptcy of a London goldsmith in 1713, and partly as a result of his wife’s extravagant tastes and lavish entertainments.15

In July 1713 Lansdown was attempting without success to obtain from Oxford patronage decisions with a bearing on the forthcoming Cornish elections, and of course a contribution to his own expenses:

I have appropriated every penny of my own rents in that county for services of this kind, being attacked in every corporation. It is not to be imagined what efforts have been made, and what money has been lavished upon this occasion. The contention and expense is greater than ever was known upon the choice of a Parliament, so much the enemies of the government have thought it necessary to be beforehand with us in securing the returning officers.

Granville was still in London in late August, even though he had now become treasurer of the Household and the Queen had expected him to have departed for Cornwall. However, on 11 Sept. he wrote to Oxford claiming a ten to one majority in the Cornish seats ‘in which no less than 20 are of my own nomination’. Dismissed from his Household office on the accession of George I, he was regarded with suspicion by the government. In September 1715 he was arrested on a charge of high treason, and although never brought to trial was kept in the Tower until 1717. Four years later he went to Paris, where he acted as one of the chief orchestrators of the Atterbury Plot. In 1721 he was granted a Jacobite patent as Duke of Albemarle, a title claimed by the 1st Earl of Bath, to take effect in the event of a restoration. After the failure of the plot he returned to England, and in 1730 took the oath of allegiance to George II. He was, however, inactive politically. He died on 29 Jan. 1735.16

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley


Unless otherwise stated this biography is based on E. Handasyde, Granville the Polite.

  • 1. Bank of Eng. Morice mss, Sir Nicholas* to Humphrey Morice†, 3 Oct. 1710.
  • 2. Boase and Courtney, Bibl. Cornub. 295.
  • 3. Pittis, Pres. Parl. 350.
  • 4. R. Granville, Granville Fam. 412; Northants RO, Isham mss IC 3982; CSP Dom. 1690-1, p. 4.
  • 5. Granville, 413; Bodl. Carte 79, ff. 438-9; R. O. Bucholz, Augustan Court, 131.
  • 6. G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 263-4; HMC Portland, iv. 104; Nicolson Diaries ed. Jones and Holmes, 217-18; Bagot mss at Levens Hall, Musgrave to James Grahme*, 17 Oct. 1704; HMC Lords, n.s. vi. 249-51; HMC Cowper, iii. 184.
  • 7. Add. 70165, Granville to Harley, 10 May 1705; HMC Portland, 216–17; HMC Bath, i. 77.
  • 8. HMC Cowper, i. 121; iii. 65–66; Bull. IHR, xlv. 48–49; Add. 70284, Godolphin to Harley, ‘Wednesday morning’; HMC Portland, 361, 396.
  • 9. HMC Portland, 489–90, 495, 527; Holmes, 264; HMC Bath, 192–4.
  • 10. Wentworth Pprs. 142; Add. 70331–3, memo. 9 Sept. 1710; 17677 DDD, f. 608; Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 57(4), p. 141; Bolingbroke Corresp. i. 25; HMC Portland, iv. 623, 627, 646; v. 134; G. Holmes and W. A. Speck, Divided Soc. 127.
  • 11. D. Manley, Secret Mems. 177; Boyer, Pol. State, i–ii. 6; Swift Stella ed. Davis, 308.
  • 12. HMC Portland, iv. 690, 696; Add. 70312, petitions of Granville, n.d.; Strathmore mss at Glamis Castle, box 75 bdle 3, newsletter 24 May 1711.
  • 13. HMC Portland, iv. 690, 693; v. 97; Swift Stella, 381.
  • 14. Add. 70331–3, Oxford’s memorandum, 27 Dec. 1711; HMC Portland, v. 97, 134; HMC Dartmouth, i. 309.
  • 15. Nicolson Diaries, 575–6; Swift Stella, 512, 568; Add. 22226, f. 167; BL, Evelyn mss, Anne to John Evelyn II*, 2 July 1712; HMC Portland, v. 241;
  • 16. HMC Portland, v. 312, 315, 322, 330–1; vii. 174; Bodl. Carte 231, ff. 49–50; P. K. Monod, Jacobitism and Eng. People, 317; G. V. Bennett, Tory Crisis 1688–1730, 233–4.