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Richard, Earl of Grosvenor (1731-1802)

Richard Grosvenor, first Earl Grosvenor, was the eldest son and heir of Sir Robert, sixth baronet and the grandson of Sir Thomas Grosvenor. Born 18 June 1731, he was educated at Oriel College, Oxford (M.A. 1751, and D.C.L. 1754). He succeeded his father as seventh baronet on 1 August 1755, having been elected M.P. for Chester the year before.

In 1758 he added by purchase the manor of Eccleston and hamlet of Belgrave to the family estate of Eaton. In 1759 he served as mayor of Chester, and at the coronation of George III, 22 September 1761, officiated as grand cupbearer, like his uncle at the coronation of George II. For parliamentary services, ‘at the recommendation of Mr. Pitt,’ says Walpole, he was raised to the peerage as Baron Grosvenor of Eaton on 8 April 1761, and on 5 July 1784 was created Viscount Belgrave and Earl Grosvenor.

He married on 19 July 1764, Henrietta, daughter of Henry Vernon of Hilton Park, Staffordshire. They had four sons, all of whom died young, except the third, Robert (1767-1845), afterwards Marquis of Westminster. Their marriage was unhappy. The husband gave his wife ‘no slight grounds of alienation’. Lady Grosvenor is described by Walpole as ‘a young woman of quality, whom a good person, moderate beauty, no understanding, and excessive vanity had rendered too accessible’ to the attentions of Henry, duke of Cumberland, brother of George III. In an action for criminal conversation (adultery) brought before Lord Mansfield in July 1770, the jury awarded £10,000 damages against the prince. This affair resulted in the Royal Marriages Act of 1772.

In 1772 Lord Grosvenor settled £1,200 a year upon his wife by arbitration. Upon the death of the earl, she married, on 1 September 1802, Lieutenant-general George Porter, M.P., who afterwards became Baron de Hochepied in Hungary. She lived until 2 January 1828.

In the summer of 1788 Grosvenor invited a party to Eaton to celebrate the coming of age of his son. Some fugitive literary pieces were read each morning at breakfast and reprinted for private circulation under the title of Eaton Chronicle, or the Salt Box’ . He died at Earl's Court, near London on 5 August 1802, aged 71, and was buried in the family vault at Eccleston 15 August. The obituary paragraph in the Gentleman's Magazine (August 1802) states that ‘his death will be much regretted on the turf.’ He was the greatest breeder of racing stock in England of his day. Walpole refers to an instance of his ‘humanity’ and ‘tenderness' and his generous treatment of William Gifford is well known.

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Last modified 12 January, 2016

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