The Political Stowe Twins
23 August 2016
Recently, when Angela Eagle was running to be Labour leader, it was mentioned that she and her twin sister Maria weren’t the only set of twins who had served in Parliament – the others being James and Richard Grenville (1742-1825/1823)! Grenville being the name of the family here at Stowe I did some investigating.
James and Richard were the sons of James Grenville Sr, Earl Temple’s 2nd eldest brother, and therefore cousins to the Marquess of Buckingham, William Pitt the Younger and George Grenville. They were both MPs for Buckingham.
Richard Grenville was returned for Buckingham on the family interest. There are very few occasions on which he is known to have spoken or voted. Robinson wrote of him in July 1780: ‘It is said to be doubtful whether Lord Temple [later Marquess of Buckingham] will bring Mr. Richard Grenville in again, and thought that he may bring in his younger brother ... but if Mr. Richard Grenville comes in, he may be reckoned hopeful, because he never votes against Government.’
James Grenville was returned for Buckingham again in 1790 by his cousin, the 1st Marquess of Buckingham, but he was not in the best of health, and was never a serious politician. During his last years in the House he was exploited by Buckingham for the protection of his electoral interests which James generally submitted to - these demands perhaps came more easily as they involved merely the use of his name rather than any actual work on his part. In November 1790 he agreed, under pressure, to fill the vacancy in the Bucks county representation created by the elevation of his cousin, William Wyndham Grenville, to the Lords (who went on to be Prime Minister in 1806). James Grenville’s political sympathies remained with William Pitt (the Elder), but no speech or vote is attributed to him in this period.
In 1844 William Wyndham Grenville recorded an anecdote related by Thomas Grenville concerning the motives behind James Grenville’s request for a peerage: ‘Mr G[renville] one day asked his cousin ... what had induced him to get made a peer, for he could not think he had ever cared much for a title. He said, ‘God, Devil! ... I’ll tell you. I never thought of a peerage, but one day I took up the newspaper, and read in it that Tommy Townshend was made a peer. Confound the fellow, said I, what right had he to be made a peer I should like to know. Why, I am as rich again as he is, and have a much better right. So I resolved to write to Pitt and tell him so. I wrote, and was made a peer the following week.’
James Grenville was made 1st Baron Glastonbury on October 1797 but the title died with him 1825 as he never married.
I’m glad to say that the British electoral system doesn’t still run this way today!