GRENVILLE, Bevill (1596-1643), of Stowe, Kilkhampton, Cornw.
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Family and Education
b. 23 Mar. 1596, 1st s. of Sir Bernard Grenville† of Stowe and Elizabeth, da. and h. of Philip Bevill of Killigarth; bro. of Sir Richard*.1 educ. Exeter Coll., Oxf. 1611, BA 1614;2 Court 1614-c.1618;3 ?travelled abroad 1623.4 m. 1619,5 Grace (bur. 8 June 1647), da. of (Sir) George Smith* of Exeter, Devon and coh. to her grandfa. William Viell of Trevorder, St. Breock, Cornw., 7s. (4 d.v.p.) 5da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1636;6 kntd. 23 June 1639.7 d. 5 July 1643.8 sig. Bevill Grenvile.
Commr. piracy, Cornw. 1624-6, 1637, 16419, Devon 1624, 1637-9, Exeter, Devon 1639,10 Forced Loan, Cornw. 1626-7,11 swans, W. Country 1629;12 col. militia ft. and dep. lt. Cornw. 1636-d.;13 commr. assessment 1641-2,14 array 1642,15 j.p. 1642-d.16
Gent. of the privy chamber (extraordinary) 1639-d.19
Grenville’s forebears had established themselves in the parish of Kilkhampton by 1237, and produced a knight of the shire for Devon in 1388. One of the leading families of Tudor Cornwall, their name acquired additional lustre through the gallantry of Sir Richard Grenville† of the Revenge.20 Grenville’s father Sir Bernard, son of the implacable hero, was of a rather different stamp, a diligent deputy lieutenant who sat for Bodmin in 1597, and was noted for his ‘kind magnanimity’. In addition to his ancestral estates, which included the seat of Stowe, Sir Bernard’s fortunate marriage to the heiress of Philip Bevill, one of the county’s principal landowners, brought him a life interest in most of his father-in-law’s properties, including the mansion at Killigarth.21 Despite the prospect of this great inheritance, the young Grenville did little to ready himself for his future responsibilities, even though he stayed long enough at university to take a degree. As he later lamented:
I was left to my own little discretion when I was a youth in Oxford, and so fell upon the sweet delights of reading poetry and history, in such sort as I troubled no other books, and do find myself so infinitely defective by it, when I come to manage any occasions of weight as I would give a limb it were otherwise.
On leaving Oxford he spent around four years at Court, presumably under the protection of his father’s friend, Endymion Porter†.22 His return to Cornwall coincided with the death of his maternal grandfather in early 1618, at which juncture he was formally acknowledged as rightful heir to the Bevill lands, even though his father retained actual possession. This enhanced status was doubtless a significant factor behind his election as senior knight of the shire at the next general election.23 Nevertheless, the novice Member made little impression on the 1621 Parliament, as he was nominated to a solitary committee, to scrutinize the bill to confirm the endowment of Wadham College, Oxford (9 March).24
The decision in 1619 that Grenville should marry the daughter of a wealthy merchant, notwithstanding his pedigree and prospects, was almost certainly prompted by the family’s mounting financial troubles. Despite the acquisition of the Bevill lands, Sir Bernard had fallen heavily into debt, and in 1621 he and Grenville raised £3,500 by selling a number of Irish properties to Sir Lionel Cranfield*, who also lent Sir Bernard £1,000 ‘to preserve [him] from an extremity’.25 In spite of these problems, Grenville was accorded the unusual honour of re-election as knight of the shire in 1624, although once again he secured only a single legislative committee nomination during the Parliament, relating to the estates of Sir Richard Lumley (23 March).26
By February 1625 Grenville and his father were around £15,000 in debt. The fault apparently lay primarily with Sir Bernard, who handed Grenville control of the bulk of his inheritance with the proviso that he also took responsibility for most of the repayments.27 These financial worries severely strained the two men’s relationship, and a serious rift developed during the next few years, as Sir Bernard co-operated with arbitrary taxation and martial law, while Grenville’s deep friendship with (Sir) John Eliot* led him to oppose such measures.28 For the next three parliaments Grenville represented Launceston, one of the boroughs closest to Stowe. Parliamentary privilege offered him protection against his numerous creditors, but it is not clear how often he actually attended the Commons, as he left no trace on the first Caroline Parliament and was absent from the call of the House on 5 Apr. 1626, when ‘Mr. Grenville [is] left to his own excuse at his coming’.29 One of the ‘honest knot’ in Cornwall that opposed the Forced Loan, he wrote to Eliot of his amazement that he had not been required to share his imprisonment: ‘No man hath with more boldness declared his resolution in this particular than myself, which nor fire nor torture can divert me from, while in mine own heart I am satisfied that it belongs unto the duty of an honest Englishman so to do.’30 It was presumably his father’s ties through Porter to the duke of Buckingham that secured him from punishment. Before the general election of 1628 Grenville wrote to the county electors in support of Eliot and William Coryton*, and attended the hustings, like John Arundell* and Charles Trevanion*, with 500 men at his heels. (Sir) James Bagg II* optimistically suggested that he might be expelled from the Commons as an outlaw, but once again there is no firm evidence that he attended. When Sir Bernard came under attack in the House for his interference in the county election, it was Grenville’s brother Sir Richard who sprang to his defence, and prevailed on Members to spare him an arduous journey to Westminster.31 Over three weeks into the 1629 session Grenville wrote to Eliot craving forgiveness for his ‘so long constrained absence and neglect of duty in [his] attendance at the Parliament’, and requesting him to procure the Speaker’s letter for stay of a trial at the forthcoming assizes. Eliot evidently obliged, as the Commons awarded Grenville privilege on 23 February. However, it is unlikely that he reached Westminster before the tumultuous end of the session, although he was in London in late April to present a bill in Chancery to establish his family’s title to Lundy Island.32
Grenville was deeply affected by Eliot’s final imprisonment, and in response to rumours of a new Parliament in 1631, offered to exert his local influence to secure his friend’s re-election as senior knight of the shire. Eliot’s fate may have prompted Grenville’s decision ‘not to intermeddle with the affairs of the commonwealth’, but following his father’s death in 1636 he once again participated in local government.33 The First Bishops’ War aroused in him a burning enthusiasm for the king’s cause which was duly rewarded with a knighthood and a place at Court. Described by Clarendon (Sir Edward Hyde†) as ‘the generally most loved man’ in Cornwall, he sat for Launceston in the Short Parliament, then represented his county in the Long Parliament until disabled as a royalist.34 Grenville died gallantly at the head of his regiment at the Battle of Lansdowne in July 1643. In Clarendon’s opinion, ‘a brighter courage and a gentler disposition were never married together’. His eldest son John, an active royalist conspirator throughout the Interregnum, received the earldom of Bath at the Restoration. A younger son, Bernard, sat for Launceston and other Cornish boroughs in most parliaments between 1661 and 1698.35
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: Anne Duffin / Paul Hunneyball
- 1. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 192.
- 2. Al. Ox.
- 3. R. Granville, Hist. of Granville Fam. 142-4; M. Coate, Cornw. in Gt. Civil War, 85.
- 4. APC, 1623-5, p. 47.
- 5. Granville, 145.
- 6. Vivian, 192.
- 7. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 206.
- 8. Vivian, 192.
- 9. C181/3, ff. 113, 196; 181/5, ff. 83v, 187v.
- 10. C181/3, f. 130; 181/5, ff. 84v, 133.
- 11. C193/12/2, f. 7v; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 144.
- 12. C181/4, f. 3.
- 13. Granville, 192, 194.
- 14. SR, v. 82, 149.
- 15. HMC 4th Rep. 307.
- 16. C231/5, p. 529.
- 17. CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 607.
- 18. R. Hopton, Bellum Civile ed. C.E.H. Chadwyck Healey (Som. Rec. Soc. xviii), 25; F.T.R. Edgar, Sir Ralph Hopton, 208.
- 19. LC5/134, p. 329.
- 20. J. Polsue, Complete Paroch. Hist. of Cornw. ii. 370; A.L. Rowse, Tudor Cornw. 84; C.S. Gilbert, Survey of Cornw. i. 25.
- 21. R. Carew, Survey of Cornw. ed. P. White, 99, 139; WARD 7/58/193.
- 22. Granville, 205-6, 223-4; Coate, 85.
- 23. WARD 7/58/193.
- 24. CJ, i. 546b.
- 25. M. Prestwich, Cranfield, 384-5.
- 26. CJ, i. 747a.
- 27. Roy. Institution of Cornw. BRA.B/328/3; Northants. RO, Grafton (Fitzroy) G3034.
- 28. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 434; 1628-9, p. 37; Granville, 155-6.
- 29. Procs. 1626, ii. 431.
- 30. Granville, 163.
- 31. SP16/96/36; CD 1628, ii. 36; iii. 33.
- 32. Granville, 171; CJ, i. 932b; C78/462/4.
- 33. Granville, 182-3, 192.
- 34. Ibid. 213; Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion ed. W.D. Macray, ii. 452; CJ, ii. 772a.
- 35. Clarendon, iii. 92; Coate, 284, 316.