GRIMSTON, Sir Samuel, 3rd Bt. (1644-1700), of Gorhambury, Herts. and Soho Square, London
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Family and Education
b. 7 Jan. 1644, 6th but o. surv. s. of Sir Harbottle Grimston, 2nd Bt.†, by Mary, da. of Sir George Croke. educ. at home (fa.); Clare, Camb. 1663; L. Inn 1668, called 1670. m. (1) 14 Feb. 1670, Elizabeth (d. 1672), da. of Heneage Finch†, 1st Earl of Nottingham, 1da. d.v.p.; (2) 17 Apr. 1673, Lady Anne Tufton (d. 1713), da. of John, 2nd Earl of Thanet, 1s. d.v.p. 1da. d.v.p. suc. fa. as 3rd Bt. 2 Jan. 1685.1
Freeman, Hertford 1698.2
Grimston’s status and parliamentary seat were almost entirely owing to his father, a leading Presbyterian lawyer by whom he was educated and taken abroad. Indeed, one satirist described him as ‘a silly son to the master of the rolls’, and he showed no promise of following his father or his maternal grandfather, Sir George Croke, into legal practice. His activity in Parliament prior to the Revolution was also undistinguished, although two breaks in his representation of St. Albans, where he had a proprietorial interest, helped shape his future conduct. He lost the first election of 1679 ‘by being too close-fisted’, a lesson in the need to lavish money on the borough that he learned well, for an expense of £324 appears in his accounts for the election of 1695 and he was later described as ‘very hospitable’. Second, he was ousted in 1685 by the machinations of George Churchill*, brother of King James’s protégé John Churchill†. The intrusion was an affront to Grimston’s local status, and King James’s hostility to him in turn sharpened so much that at the time of the planned invasion of 1692, Grimston was specifically excluded from the ‘royal’ pardon. Yet he was never a strict party man, and certainly not a rigid Whig, possibly because of the counterbalancing influence of his brother-in-law, the High Church 2nd Earl of Nottingham (Daniel Finch†). Indeed, it was as a Court Tory that Grimston was listed by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) in March 1690, and in December the lord president included him as a probable supporter in the event of a Commons attack upon his ministerial position. Robert Harley*, on the other hand, was sufficiently doubtful about the strength of Grimston’s allegiances to mark him as a Country supporter the following April. Grimston’s activity in the House does little to resolve the ambiguity, since his only significant entry in the Journals for 1690 was in connexion with a breach of privilege committed against him. His ‘Country’ sympathies are more firmly substantiated by later evidence: in January 1696 he was forecast as likely to oppose the Court over the proposed council of trade, while after the 1698 election he was listed as a Country supporter, and at about the same time was noted as likely to oppose a standing army. Grimston’s political connexions were nevertheless mainly with the Tories: in 1685 his wife had described him as Lord Hatton’s (Charles†) ‘most humble servant’; at the 1694 Essex by-election Grimston voted for Sir Charles Barrington, 5th Bt.*; in August 1696 he drank the 2nd Earl of Nottingham’s health with Sir George Rooke*; and in 1697–8 he paid a ‘Mr Caesar’, probably Charles*, for the purchase of the lease of his house in Soho Square, London. Although these four were all High Churchmen, it has been claimed that Grimston himself was a Presbyterian like his father, and that he commanded the votes of a large number of Dissenters living in St. Albans, even if all the evidence points to his adherence to the established Church. He also signed the Association readily. On 26 Nov. 1696 he was absent at the call of the House, and made no further significant contribution to its business. In the light of such complex and indistinct allegiances it is scarcely surprising that in early 1700 a ‘Q’ was placed by his name on an analysis of the Commons into interests, signifying either that he supported the opposition, or more likely, that his opinions were indistinct.3
Grimston died on 17 Oct. 1700. His rather lacklustre life was more than compensated for by the style of his funeral. His interment was a spectacle of pomp, with a coffin ‘all gilt with gold’, and plumed horses carrying a hearse covered with velvet, followed by over a hundred beribboned mourners, mostly tenants and servants, who were said to have received the news of his death with ‘great regret and grief’. The total cost of the burial came to £469, and he left further debts of over £5,000. The extravagance of the occasion was mirrored by the vast sums of money determined by his will, the terms of which were universally condemned: according to Lady Gardiner it was ‘said he lived as he died’. Having no surviving children of his own, he left the estate, worth about £8,000 a year, to his great-nephew William Luckyn* (see GRIMSTON, William) on two preconditions: first, that he change his name to Grimston, and second, that he pay Grimston’s granddaughter (the child of his son-in-law William Savile*, 2nd Marquess of Halifax) a burdensome £30,000, at £1,000 a year. By contrast Grimston only bequeathed £500 and £1,000 in lieu of jointure to his ‘dear’ wife, a reflection perhaps of their cool relationship. There is a family tradition, backed by the evidence of a contemporary inventory, that he called a small room, accessible only by a very narrow winding stair, ‘Mount Pleasant because Lady Anne, being extremely corpulent, found the ascent of the stairs too difficult to interrupt his retirement by her presence’. Lady Anne’s evil reputation lives on, since her tomb at Tewin church is completely enclosed by the trunks of sycamore trees, fostering a legend that she will be denied resurrection. Other beneficiaries of his will included his ‘domestic chaplain’, the vicar of his local parish church, and the poor of St. Albans and St. Anne’s, Westminster.4
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Mark Knights
- 1. DNB (Grimston, Sir Harbottle).
- 2. Herts. RO, Hertford bor. recs. 25/100.
- 3. DNB; HMC Verulam, 213, 215; Add. 29569, f. 186; Colchester Pub. Lib. A True and Exact Catalogue (1694), ex inf. Prof. H. G. Horwitz; Devonshire mss at Chatsworth House, Rooke to Ld. Halifax, 15 Aug. 1696; H. C. Lansberry, ‘Pol. and Govt. in St. Albans 1685–1835’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1964), 203.
- 4. HMC Verulam, 112; Post Boy, 19–21 Oct. 1700; Herts. RO, Verulam mss IX. 37/3, 37/4; Verney Letters, i. 86–87; St. Albans and Herts. Arch. Soc. n.s. v. 81–82; Cussans, Herts. Hertford Hundred, 22; PCC 87 Dyer.