William Grenville

William Grenville

19th Prime Minister of Great Britain, in office 1806–1807
Date of Birth: 24.10.1759
Country: Great Britain

  1. Biography of William Grenville
  2. Early Political Career
  3. Rise to Power
  4. Leadership and Legacy

Biography of William Grenville

William Grenville, the 19th Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, served in office from 1806 to 1807. Born into a political family, he was the son of George Grenville, a Whig Prime Minister, and Elizabeth Windham, the daughter of Tory statesman William Windham. Grenville received his education at Eton College, Christ Church, and Lincoln's Inn.

William Grenville

Early Political Career

Grenville was elected to the House of Commons in 1782, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Thomas, who was already a member of Parliament. He quickly became a close ally of his cousin, Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger, and served in the government as the Paymaster of the Army from 1784 to 1789. Before assuming the position of Home Secretary in 1789, he briefly served as the Speaker of the British House of Commons.

Rise to Power

Grenville's ascent continued as he became the leader of the House of Lords when he was elevated to the peerage as Baron Grenville of Wotton Underwood in Buckinghamshire in 1790. The following year, he replaced the Duke of Leeds as the Foreign Secretary. Grenville's tenure in this role was marked by the dramatic events of the wars that followed the French Revolution. During the war, Grenville led a faction that advocated for focusing military efforts on the continent, in opposition to the faction led by Henry Dundas, who supported war at sea and in the colonies.

Leadership and Legacy

Grenville resigned alongside Pitt in 1801 due to the Catholic Emancipation issue. During his time in the ministry, Grenville formed a close relationship with Charles James Fox, the leader of the Whigs. Therefore, when Pitt returned to power in 1804, Grenville refused to join the new Cabinet.

After Pitt's death in 1806, Grenville became the head of the "Ministry of All the Talents," a coalition of Grenvillites, Foxite Whigs, and former Prime Minister Lord Sidmouth's supporters. Grenville and Fox served as joint leaders, with Grenville as the First Lord of the Treasury and Fox as the Foreign Secretary. Grenville's cousin, William Windham, became the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, while his younger brother, Thomas Grenville, briefly served as the First Lord of the Admiralty.

Although the Grenville government ultimately achieved little, it did abolish the slave trade in 1807. After his resignation, Grenville continued his political activity in opposition. He supported a union with Lord Grey and the Whigs, criticized the war on the Peninsular Peninsula, and declined an offer to join Robert Jenkinson's government in 1812. In the post-war years, Grenville gradually shifted his focus towards the Tories but never returned to the Cabinet. His political career came to an end due to a stroke in 1823.

Grenville also held the honorary position of Chancellor of the University of Oxford from 1810 until his death in 1834.