VERNEY, Greville (c.1587-1642), of Compton Verney and Kineton, Warws.

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. c.1587, 1st s. of Sir Richard Verney* of Compton Verney and Margaret, da. of Sir Fulke Greville of Beauchamp’s Court, Alcester, Warws.1 educ. G. Inn 1600; ?Camb. Univ.;2 travelled abroad 1607-10 (France, ?Switzerland, ?Italy), ?1612, ?1615 (Low Countries).3 m. 18 May 1618,4 Katherine (d. 13 Apr. 1657), da. of Robert Southwell of Woodrising, Norf., 4s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da.5 kntd. 1 Oct. 1617;6 suc. fa. 1630, mo. 1631.7 d. 12 May 1642.8 sig. Grevill Verney.

Offices Held

Commr. new buildings, London 1625,9 knighthood fines, Warws. 1630-1,10 j.p. 1630-d.,11 sheriff 1635-6,12 commr. oyer and terminer, Midland circ. 1639-d.,13 assessment, Warws. 1641-d.14

?Gent. of privy chamber from 1625.15


Verney was by all accounts a studious youth, and this inclination was actively encouraged by both his father, Sir Richard, and his maternal uncle, Sir Fulke Greville*. While it cannot now be demonstrated that he attended university, he certainly experienced five months’ formal study under the supervision of Robert Naunton*, a Cambridge scholar, though whether this preceded or followed his admission to Gray’s Inn in 1600 is unclear. A letter to Naunton at this time, probably dictated by Greville, describes Verney as ‘plentiful and well tilled ground which must needs yield an abundant harvest if the heart thereof through too much heat be not smothered and spent’, and praises his ‘modest alacrity of spirit’.16 This academic training was rounded off by extensive periods of foreign travel. Verney evidently made good use of a four-year passport granted in 1607, as he spent Christmas in 1609 touring the Loire region of France, and was expected by his father to visit Paris, Geneva and Italy before returning home. A further three-year travel permit issued in 1612 cannot have been used in its entirety, as Verney was in England in early 1614. However, he probably did undertake a final journey in 1615, as he was licensed to go to the Low Countries for five months, an unusually narrow time-frame which implies a firm agenda.17

During this period, Verney continued to receive support and encouragement from Greville, whose published works include a letter of advice purportedly written by him to his nephew in France in 1610.18 Greville certainly used his influence over the borough of Warwick to provide Verney with his first taste of Parliament in 1614. The novice Member’s one recorded contribution to this stormy session came on 7 June, when he opposed a proposal to head off the imminent dissolution by offering the king a subsidy grant.19 Greville’s connections as chancellor of the Exchequer probably explain Verney’s knighthood in 1617. In the following year he married the stepdaughter of a Scottish courtier, Lord Kincleven, an associate of his father. The marriage settlement gave him the use of the family’s secondary seat at Kineton.20 He again represented Warwick in the 1621 Parliament, courtesy of his uncle’s patronage. On 25 May, he argued strongly that English subjects should not receive pensions from foreign states, ‘to the dishonour and danger of our nation’, and was named immediately after the debate to the committee stage of a bill to ban this practice.21

Verney’s father remained a vigorous presence in Warwickshire’s local government right up to his death, effectively barring Verney himself from active participation until 1630. Accordingly he settled in London, where he was sufficiently well known by 1625 to be included in a buildings commission. At about the same time, he was appointed a gentleman of the privy chamber, but he was to take up office only when the next vacancy arose, and no other record of him in this role has been found.22 Three years later Sir Fulke Greville, now Lord Brooke, died. Under the terms of an old entail, a substantial proportion of his lands passed to his sister, Verney’s mother, although his title and the bulk of his remaining property descended to his adopted heir, Robert Greville*. Verney himself was left just half a Gloucestershire manor, apparently a much smaller bequest than he had been led to expect, and consequently he and his parents launched a bitter legal battle with the new Lord Brooke, demanding a larger share of the estate. The case finally came before Star Chamber, which ruled that Brooke should pay Verney £2,200 in compensation, and settle on him lands worth £500 a year. Discussions about the implementation of this settlement were underway before the death of Verney’s father, but the final outcome is unclear.23

Following the death of his parents in 1630-1, Verney became one of Warwickshire’s leading figures. In addition to his patrimony, he inherited his mother’s entailed lands, an impressive collection of 26 manors mostly located in Staffordshire and Lincolnshire, along with her de jure claim to the barony of Willoughby de Broke, a prize which he apparently neglected to pursue.24 Local opinion had broadly favoured him in his dispute with Lord Brooke, and he seems to have been well regarded within his own county. Indeed, Dugdale described him as ‘a gentleman accomplished with singular endowments, and of a noble and courteous disposition’.25 However, such popularity counted for little when his appointment as sheriff in 1635 saddled him with the task of collecting Ship Money from his neighbours. The first writ had been delivered to his predecessor a few months earlier, but little had been done beyond assessing the major towns, and Coventry had already persuaded the Privy Council to reduce its share of the burden, with the result that Verney had to get the rest of the county to pay more. In March 1636, just as he was preparing to issue revised warrants, he discovered that Birmingham had also won an abatement of its initial charge, and that Warwick was now appealing for a reduction as well. The continuing government concessions to the towns in turn exacerbated resentment in rural areas, where the local constables obstructed Verney’s efforts to prepare his assessments.26 The Privy Council at first sympathized with his difficulties, but as the Warwickshire levy fell ever further behind schedule, its patience dwindled. In May the Council delivered a ‘sharp censure’ of Verney’s performance, and he was obliged to turn for protection to secretary of state (Sir) John Coke*, sometime secretary to Sir Fulke Greville, and an old friend. By the time he relinquished his office in November 1636, Verney was able to claim that he had raised all but £400 of the £4,000 originally demanded, but of this deficit £260 was still outstanding in mid-1638, and was probably never collected.27

By May 1639, when he drew up his will, Verney was apparently concerned about the scale of his debts, but he nevertheless felt able to bequeath his daughter a dowry of £4,000. Even one of his principal servants was left £200, while he assigned £40 to the poor. In marked contrast to this display of affluence, he specifically rejected the construction of an elaborate memorial, and his desire simply for a ‘fair gravestone’ in the chapel at Compton Verney was subsequently respected. His death in May 1642 deprived Warwickshire of one of its prospective leaders in the upheavals of the Civil War. His son Richard represented the county in Parliament in the 1680s.28

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Aged 32 in 1619: Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. xii), 25.
  • 2. GI Admiss.; HMC Cowper, i. 38.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 379; HMC Cowper, i. 68; SO3/5, unfol.; APC, 1615-16, p. 250.
  • 4. WARD 7/86/148.
  • 5. W. Dugdale, Antiqs. of Warws. (2nd edn. 1730), i. 568, 570, 572.
  • 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 166.
  • 7. WARD 7/86/148; C142/514/55.
  • 8. Dugdale, i. 568.
  • 9. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 1, p. 70.
  • 10. E178/5687, ff. 5, 9; 178/7154, f. 189c.
  • 11. C231/5, p. 43; A. Hughes, Pols. Soc. and Civil War in Warws. 351.
  • 12. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 147.
  • 13. C181/5, ff. 141v, 220v.
  • 14. SR, v. 67, 90, 156.
  • 15. SP16/2/118.
  • 16. HMC Cowper, i. 38, 47.
  • 17. Ibid. i. 68; APC, 1615-16, p. 250.
  • 18. HMC 11th Rep. vii. 251; HMC Cowper, i. 483; R.A. Rebholz, Life of Fulke Greville, 1st Lord Brooke, 196, n. 49.
  • 19. Hughes, 24; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 438.
  • 20. WARD 7/86/148; C66/2068/1.
  • 21. CJ, i. 626b; CD 1621, iii. 302.
  • 22. SP16/2/118.
  • 23. C142/514/55; PROB 11/154, ff. 285-94; Hughes, 25; SP16/126/5.
  • 24. C142/514/55; CP, xii. 691-2.
  • 25. Hughes, 25; Dugdale, i. 565.
  • 26. SP16/305/33; 16/315/68; 16/321/76.
  • 27. SP16/322/13; 16/336/4; HMC Cowper, i. 64; ii. 119; Hughes, 107.
  • 28. HMC Cowper, ii. 226; PROB 11/189, ff. 318v-19v; Dugdale, i. 570; Hughes, 133.