GRANVILLE, William Henry (1692-1711)

GRANVILLE, William Henry (1692–1711)

suc. fa. 4 Sept. 1701 (a minor) as 3rd earl of BATH

Never sat.

b. 30 Jan. 1692, o.s. and h. of Charles Granville, 2nd earl of Bath, and 2nd w. Isabella de Nassau. educ. unknown. unm. d. 17 May 1711; will 3 Apr. 1710, pr. 24 May 1711.1

Associated with: Kilkhampton, Cornw. and Whitehall, Westminster.

William Henry Granville succeeded to the earldom of Bath as a nine-year-old child following the suicide of his father. Along with the title he inherited titular leadership of a powerful west country political connection and a share in the convoluted, and expensive law suits begun by his grandfather, John Granville, earl of Bath, and given new life by disputes over the disposition of his grandfather’s estates. Responsibility for nursing the Granville family’s political interests was assumed by his uncle, also named John Granville, then serving in the Commons but later to enter the Lords himself as Baron Granville of Potheridge. The new earl’s minority and John Granville’s close association with the Tories provided an opportunity for renewed attacks on the Granville interest in the west country, but after a short delay and ‘a considerable obstruction’ John Granville was appointed lord lieutenant of Cornwall and lord warden of the stannaries until his nephew attained his majority.

Bath’s only formal involvement in parliamentary business related to attempts to secure the passage of a private act to manage his affairs during his minority. The bill was read for the first time on 28 Nov. 1703 and sent into committee the next day. It languished for several months, possibly because of opposition from adversaries in the long-running litigation over the Albemarle inheritance. In February 1704 arguments entered on behalf of Ralph Montagu, duke of Montagu, and of Katherine and Elizabeth Monck, all of whom were rival claimants to the Albemarle fortune, secured an agreement that any lands concerned in the Albemarle inheritance case would be excluded from Bath’s bill. The bill was recommitted but despite the agreement nothing more was heard of it, and it was lost at the end of the session. A new bill was introduced in January 1705, this time provoking opposition from John Granville who insisted that the bill was prejudicial to his interests as the heir apparent to the young earl. Backed by his friend and ally, Laurence Hyde, earl of Rochester, and a small group of like-minded Tories, on 17 Jan. 1705 he protested against the first reading of the bill, arguing that for the House to consider a bill that meddled in private property without the consent of all parties was ‘contrary to the usual method of proceeding in all bills of this nature’. Although the bill passed through its committee stage, it was again lost at the end of the session; its fate perhaps influenced by reports that Bath was ill of the ‘spotted fever’ and unlikely to recover.2

A dispute over the distribution of the personal estate of John Granville, earl of Bath, suggests an engrained lack of trust between Baron Granville of Potheridge and those responsible for the welfare of the young earl.3 Nevertheless, the continuing claims and counter claims over the Albemarle inheritance forced a façade of family unity. They also led to a major innovation in English law when, on 17 Jan. 1710, in response to an appeal brought on Bath’s behalf, the House of Lords overturned a decision of the lord chancellor and ordered a perpetual injunction against some of the Albemarle claimants, preventing them from bringing multiple actions of ejectment based in allegations that Christopher Monck, 2nd duke of Albemarle, had been illegitimate.

Whether Bath was present in the House to observe the proceedings over his case is unknown. He was, however, in Westminster Hall for the trial of Dr Sacheverell in March 1710, when Sarah Churchill, duchess of Marlborough took the opportunity of speaking with him.4 Although not yet of age, the young man was beginning to cut a figure in local and national politics and was deputed to present an address from Cornwall to the queen. Bath’s political loyalties were clearly a matter of intense interest to both parties. Bath’s Granville connections were solidly Harleyite Tory with Jacobite overtones, but he had been brought up by his mother’s family whose close connections to William III suggested potentially whiggish inclinations. Lady Marlborough told her husband John Churchill, duke of Marlborough, ‘that the enemys here attack him with all their strength’ but that, nevertheless, ‘he seemed to me, to be very well inclined … So I hope your civillity and prudence may help fix him, though he is a Greendvill [sic].’ Charles Talbot, duke of Shrewsbury, had similar designs on Bath, entreating Charles Seymour, 6th duke of Somerset, to ‘favour him with your countenance, and get him a good reception and answer from her majesty, [so] that young noble man might now be gained, who in regard to his interest in the western boroughs is one of the most considerable in England ...’.5 In April 1710 Bath made his will, not because he was in poor health but in anticipation of travelling abroad. Whether he intended to join Marlborough’s army or merely to take the grand tour is unclear, but he was still in England in May 1711 when he died of smallpox after a short illness. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. His honours died with him, but control of the family interest passed to his kinsman George Granville, created Baron Lansdown as one of ‘Harley’s dozen’ the following winter.


  • 1 TNA, PROB 11/521.
  • 2 Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 535.
  • 3 TNA, PROB 5/2847.
  • 4 Marlborough-Godolphin Corresp. 1454.
  • 5 W. Suss. RO, Petworth House Archives/14, Shrewsbury to Somerset, 9 Apr. 1710.