Biography

I am happy that you are using this web site and hope that you found it useful. Unfortunately, the cost of making this material freely available is increasing, so if you have found the site useful and would like to contribute towards its continuation, I would greatly appreciate it. Click the button to go to Paypal and make a donation.


Charles Cavendish Fulke Greville (1794-1865)

GrevilleCharles Greville was born in 1794 and became one of the finest political diarists of his time. He was an aristocrat who belonged to a younger branch of the family of the Earls of Warwick. He was educated to Eton and Christ Church, Oxford and began his career as private secretary to Earl Bathurst. From 1821 to 1859 he was Clerk to the Privy Council where his work brought him into contact with all the leading political people of the time. He was a well-known racehorse owner and something of a literary figure. Greville died in 1865.

His diaries are generally known as the Greville Papers but properly are called the Journals of the Reigns of George IV, William IV and Queen Victoria. They were published with some omissions between 1875 and 1887. In 1938 they were re-edited by L. Strachey and R. Fulford and comprise the best contemporary political commentary of the period.


Taken from Sir Lesley Stephen & Sir Sidney Lee (eds.), Dictionary of National Biography: from the earliest times to 1900 (London, Oxford University Press, 1949).

Charles Cavendish Fulke Greville, the political diarist, was the eldest son of Charles Greville, grandson to the fifth Lord Warwick, by his wife, Lady Charlotte Cavendish Bentinck, eldest daughter of William Henry, third duke of Portland, was born 2 April 1794. His childhood was in great part spent at Bulstrode, his maternal grandfather's house. He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, where he matriculated in 1810 but took no degree. For a time he was page to George III. He left Oxford early to be private secretary to Lord Bathurst, and the influence of the Duke of Portland procured him the sinecure secretaryship of Jamaica, the duties of which office he performed by deputy in the island without ever visiting it, though he interested himself in Jamaica business in England. He also obtained by the same means the reversion of the clerkship to the privy council. This office fell into possession in 1821 and withdrew from public life a man whose talents signally fitted him to have played the part of an eminent statesman; but on the other hand it afforded him exceptional opportunities for observing the inner workings of high political circles, and these opportunities he turned to good account in his journal.

For some years he chiefly amused himself with horse-racing. He was one of the oldest members of the Jockey Club, and from 1821 till 1826 managed the racing establishment of his intimate friend, the Duke of York. Subsequently he was partner in training racehorses with Lord George Bentinck, his cousin, till, about 1835, they parted company in consequence of a dispute about the handling of Greville's mare, Preserve. Greville afterwards trained with the Duke of Portland. In 1845 his horse Alarm would have won the Derby but for an accident at the start; but though he was owner of Alarm, Preserve, and Orlando, he never won the Derby, and only once the St. Leger. Till 1855, when he sold all his racehorses, though often complaining of its frivolity, he was a devotee and excellent judge of racing.

Greville's chief title to fame is his series of memoirs. For forty years he kept with great pains a political diary, designed for publication, which he confided to Mr. Henry Reeve shortly before his death. Owing to his close relations with both whigs and tories, but especially with the Duke of Wellington, the Duke of Bedford, Lord Palmerston, and Lord Clarendon, relations so close that he was not infrequently employed as a negotiator during ministerial changes, especially at the time of Palmerston's resignation in 1853, he was peculiarly well informed on the most secret transactions of contemporary politics. He spared no pains in completing his information, recorded it with great freshness and perfect impartiality, and frequently revised his diaries. These characteristics, coupled with the brilliant portraits which he draws of his contemporaries, make his diaries the most important work of their kind of his generation. They were published in three series, one for 1817 to 1837.

Greville published in his lifetime an account of a visit to Louis XVIII at Hartwell in 1814, in the Miscellanies of the Philobiblon Society, vol. v.; [1] A Letter to Lockhart in Reply to an Article in the Quarterly Review, March 1832; a pamphlet on the prince consort's precedence in 1840, reprinted in Memoirs 2nd ser. vol. i. append.; The Policy of England to Ireland in 1845, in which he was aided by Sir George Cornewall Lewis; a pamphlet on Peel and the Corn Law Crisis in 1846, and a review on the memoirs of King Joseph Bonaparte in the Edinburgh Review for 1854. He also revised Lady Canning's pamphlet on the Portuguese question, 1830, edited a volume of Moore's Correspondence for Lord John Russell, and Raikes's Memoirs.

In May 1859 he resigned the clerkship of the council, and feeling that he then ceased to be intimately acquainted with the details of politics, he closed his journal in 1860. In 1849 he removed from Grosvenor Place to rooms in Lord Granville's house in Bruton Street, and there he died of heart disease, accelerated by a chill caught in an inn at Marlborough, on 18 January 1865. His diary is full of pathetic lamentations over his wasted opportunities and educational shortcomings, yet he was in truth among the most remarkable men of his generation. Though a cynic he was popular among a large number of friends, to whom he was known by the nickname of ‘Punch,’ or the ‘Gruncher’. Sir Henry Taylor describes him as ‘a friend of many, and always most a friend when friendship was most wanted; high-born, high-bred, avowedly Epicurean, with a somewhat square and sturdy figure, adorned by a face both solid and refined, noble in its outline, the mouth tense and exquisitely chiselled’.


[1] I am grateful to Mr Tom Champagne for the following information, which corrects the DNB source (above).

The account of Greville's visit to Hartwell House appears in Volume 9 of Miscellanies of the Philobiblon Society published in 1854. It is under the authorship of Reeve and entitled "Memorandum on Diaries of the late Mr Charles Greville (with extracts)" and is the ninth section within the volume: on pages 12 - 18 of a 35 page article. It was published (shortly) after the death of Greville. Thus, the extracts were not published "during his lifetime" as suggested by the above source. An account by Greville of one of his trips to Paris appears in Volume 15 of the Miscellanies. Back


Greville on Peel
Meet the web creator

These materials may be freely used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with applicable statutory allowances and distribution to students.
Re-publication in any form is subject to written permission.

Last modified 11 November, 2013

The Age of George III Home Page

Ministerial Instability 1760-70

Lord North's Ministry 1770-82

American Affairs 1760-83

The period of peace 1783-92

The Age of the French Wars 1792-1815 Irish Affairs 1760-89

Peel Web Home Page

Tory Governments 1812-30

Political Organisations in the Age of Peel

Economic Affairs in the Age of Peel

Popular Movements in the Age of Peel

Irish Affairs
1789-1850
 
Primary sources index British Political Personalities British Foreign policy 1815-65 European history
index sitemap advanced
search engine by freefind