Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey
Birthday: March 13, 1764
Died At Age: 81
Sun Sign: Pisces
Also Known As: Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, Viscount Howick
Born Country: England
Born in: Fallodon, Northumberland, England
Famous as: Former Prime Minister of United Kingdom
Spouse/Ex-: Countess Grey (m. 1794), Mary Grey
father: Charles Grey, 1st Earl Grey
mother: Elizabeth Grey
children: 3rd Earl Grey, Charles Grey, Countess Louisa Elizabeth Grey Durham, Eliza Courtney, Frederick Grey, Henry Grey, Henry Grey - 3rd Earl Grey, Lady Elizabeth Bulteel, Louisa Elizabeth Grey, Mary Grey
Died on: July 17, 1845
place of death: Howick, Northumberland, England, United Kingdom
education: Eton College, Trinity College
Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, KG, PC served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom between November 1830 to July 1834. A native of Northumberland, he was appointed Viscount Howick and Baron Grey of Howick following the death of his father in 1807. Later, he was made the third Baronet Grey of Howick. As a member of the Whig Party, Grey served as the leader of several reform movements, including the Reform Act 1832. In 1833, His government introduced laws abolishing slavery. He also served as the First Lord of Admiralty between February and September 1806, Leader of the House of Commons between September 1806 and March 1807, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs between September 1806 and March 1807, and Leader of the House of Lords between November 1830 and July 1834. In order to protest against the king’s unyielding refusal of Catholic emancipation, Grey quit Lord Grenville’s government in 1807. In 1834, he submitted his resignation as the PM following disputes in his cabinet about Ireland. He subsequently left politics altogether. A particular variant of tea, in which bergamot oil is added to increase the flavour of the brew, is named Earl Grey tea, after Charles.
Childhood & Early Life
Charles Grey was born on March 13, 1764, in Fallodon, Northumberland, England, to General Charles Grey KB and his wife Elizabeth. He was his parents’ second but oldest surviving son and grew up alongside four brothers and two sisters.
Charles attended Richmond School before enrolling at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. He obtained a facility in Latin and in English composition and declamation that made him one of the leading parliamentary orators of his generation.
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Career & Later Life
In September 1786, Grey successfully contested to be a Member of the Parliament from the Northumberland constituency. He was 22 years old at the time. He then joined the Whig circle of Charles James Fox, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and the Prince of Wales and rapidly rose through the ranks to become one of the most influential leaders of his party.
He served as the youngest manager on the committee that oversaw Warren Hastings’ impeachment. Grey was also a prominent advocate of parliamentary reform and Catholic emancipation.
By 1806, Grey had become Lord Howick, following his father’s ascension to the peerage as Earl Grey. That year, he started serving in the Ministry of All the Talents as First Lord of the Admiralty. The prime minister at the time was Lord Grenville. After the death of Charles James Fox, Howick assumed the duties of the foreign secretary as well as the leader of the Whigs.
In 1807, the ministry was dismissed after George III stopped the Catholic emancipation legislation and demanded that all ministers individually sign a pledge. Howick declined to do this, stating that they would not suggest any more “concessions to the Catholics”.
In 1807, the Whigs lost power. Grey served as an MP from Appleby from May to July 1807, before he travelled to the Lords and became Earl Grey after his father’s death. For the ensuing 23 years, he was part of the opposition. There were a few instances during this period when Grey nearly became part of the government.
In 1811, the Prince of Wales attempted to convince Grey and his ally William Grenville to serve in the Spencer Perceval ministry after Lord Wellesley had quit. Grey and Grenville refused to do so as the Prince Regent had declined to allow concessions on the matter of Catholic emancipation.
The relationship between Grey and the prince further deteriorated when the prince’s daughter, Princess Charlotte, approached him for advice on how not to get married to her father’s choice of husband.
During the Napoleonic Wars, Grey maintained the official view of the Whig party on Napoleon and France. He sincerely believed that the French emperor was invincible after the defeat and demise of Sir John Moore, who led the British forces in the Peninsular War. He was gradually convinced of the military success of the Duke of Wellington, Moore’s successor.
In 1814, after Napoleon’s abdication, Grey advocated against the restoration of the Bourbons. After Napoleon regained his throne, Grey held the view that it was an internal matter of France.
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By 1826, he saw himself as someone whose opinion did not matter much in his party. As a result, he stepped aside as a leader for Lord Lansdowne. A year later, after George Canning was appointed the prime minister, Lansdowne and not Grey was brought in to empower the government when Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington resigned.
When Wellington became the PM, King George IV made it clear that Grey was the one person he would not let join the government.
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
George IV died in 1830, and Wellington subsequently resigned after the prospects of parliamentary reform was brought up, paving the way for the Whigs to return to power and Grey to find relevance in the British political sphere once more. Grey took the oath of office as the PM on November 30, 1830.
His four-year (1830-34) tenure is an important period in the history of UK, as the country witnessed the passage of the Reform Act 1832, which finally ushered in much-needed changes to the House of Commons, and the abolition of slavery across the British Empire in 1833 while he was in office.
As the years went by, Grey became more conservative, as he was well aware of the fact the king would be reluctant to implement any more drastic reforms. It was the matter of reforms in Ireland that eventually led to Grey’s resignation.
The Viceroy of Ireland, Lord Anglesey, was in favour of conciliatory reform, which would include, among other things, the partial redistribution of the income from the church tithe to the Catholic church and away from the established Protestant one. This policy was popularised as “appropriation”. However, Lord Stanley, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, wanted coercive measures.
The cabinet was split, and after the House of Commons discovered the dispute over appropriation, Stanley and others submitted their resignations. On July 9, 1834, Grey quit as well, leaving Viscount Melbourne in charge. In the following decade, Grey kept a critical eye on the government.
In 1831, Grey was included in the Order of the Garter.
Family & Personal Life
On November 18, 1794, Charles Grey married Mary Elizabeth Ponsonby. They had sixteen children, including sons Henry George Grey, 3rd Earl Grey (1802-94), General Charles Grey (1804-70), Admiral Sir Frederick William Grey (1805-78), William (1808-15), and Admiral the Honourable George Grey (1809-91), and daughters Louisa Elizabeth (1797-1841), Elizabeth (1798-1880) and Mary (1807-84).
Grey had several relationships before and during the marriage. His most enduring affair was with Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. Their relationship began sometime in the late 1780s or early 1790s, before his marriage to Mary Elizabeth.
He told Georgiana to leave her husband for him, but the Duke of Devonshire warned his wife that if she did, he would not let her see her children again. Grey and Georgiana had an illegitimate daughter together, named Eliza Courtney (1792-1859), who was raised by Grey’s parents.
Death & Legacy
Grey spent the final years of his life surrounded by his books, family, and dogs in Howick. On July 17, 1845, he passed away quietly in his bed at the age of 81. He is interred in the Church of St Michael and All Angels.