Vice-Adm. Sir Richard Grenville, MP

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Richard Grenville, Knight

Birthdate:
Birthplace: Bideford, Devon, England
Death: Died in Azores Islands
Immediate Family:

Son of Capt. Roger Grenville and Thomasine Cole
Husband of Mary Grenville
Father of Mary Grenville; Sir Bernard Grenville, MP; Elizabeth Grenville; Rebecca Grenville; Ursula Grenville and 4 others
Half brother of Jane Lawton and Alexander Arundell, of Ley

Occupation: Sailor, explorer
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Richard Grenville, Knight

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Grenville

Sir Richard Grenville (6 June 1542 – 10 September 1591) (sp. var: Greynvile, Greeneville, Greenfield, etc.) was an Elizabethan sailor and explorer. He was the grandfather of Sir Richard Grenville of English Civil War fame.

In his final command, Grenville was appointed vice-admiral of the fleet under Thomas Howard and was charged with maintaining a squadron at the Azores to waylay the treasure fleets of the Spanish. He took command of HMS Revenge, a galleon considered to be a masterpiece of naval construction.

At Flores, the English fleet was surprised by a larger squadron sent by Philip II of Spain. Howard retreated, but Grenville faced the 53 ships. His crew was down by nearly 100 men because of sickness on shore. He may have had an opportunity of escape, or he may have tried to, but by some accounts he chose to confront the far superior force (or at least try and fight his way out). For 12 hours his crew fought off the Spanish, causing heavy damage to fifteen galleons. Grenville was said to wish to blow up his ship, but the crew surrendered, and he died several days later of his wounds. Revenge and 16 Spanish ships sank during a cyclone soon after.

Grenville's final battle on Revenge is commemorated in a poem by Alfred Tennyson ("The Revenge"). It was set for choir and orchestra by composer Charles Villiers Stanford ("The Revenge").

Early Life

Grenville was born at Clifton House and brought up at Buckland Abbey in Devon, England. He was a cousin of both Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake. He was resident when Theodoros Palaiologos, last descendant of the Byzantine emperors, retired to Clifton.

At age 17, Grenville began law studies at the Inner Temple. In 1562, he was in an affray in the Strand in which he ran Robert Bannister through with his sword and left him to die. He was pardoned for this crime.

Career

In pursuit of his military career, Grenville fought against the Turks in Hungary in 1566. In 1569, he arrived in Ireland with Sir Warham St. Leger to arrange for the settlement of lands in the barony of Kerricurrihy. These had been mortgaged to St Leger by the Earl of Desmond. At about this time, Grenville also seized lands for colonisation at Tracton, to the west of Cork harbour. Sir Peter Carew had asserted his claim to lands in south Leinster. St Leger settled nearby, and Humphrey Gilbert pushed westward from Idrone along the Blackwater River. All of these English efforts to take over land in the south of Ireland led to bitter disputes. They escalated into the first of the Desmond rebellions, led by James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald.

As sheriff of Cork, Grenville witnessed the rebellion in which Fitzmaurice, along with the Earl of Clancar, James Fitzedmund Fitzgerald (the Seneschal of Imokilly); Edmund Fitzgibbon (the White Knight); and others, attacked Tracton. They overcame the English defence with pickaxes and killed nearly the entire garrison. The three surviving English soldiers were hanged the next day by the Irish. Fitzmaurice threatened the imminent arrival of Spanish forces. Having robbed the citizens of Cork, he boasted that he could also take the artillery of the city of Youghal.

In June 1569, soon after Grenville's sailing for England, Fitzmaurice camped outside the walls of Waterford and demanded that Grenville's wife and Lady St Leger be given over to him, along with all the English and all prisoners; the citizens refused. His forces put local English farmers to the sword. As Cork ran low on provisions, the people of Youghal expected an attack at any minute. The rebellion continued, but Grenville remained in England.

Grenville sided with the Earl of Arundel and the Duke of Norfolk in 1569 against the Queen's secretary. "Undeviatingly Protestant", he arrested the Catholic priest Cuthbert Mayne at the home of the Tregians in 1577. Mayne was martyred as a result. During this period Grenville played a major role in the transformation of the small fishing port of Bideford in north Devon into a significant trading centre.

New World and Ireland

Grenville had once planned to enter the Pacific by the Magellan Straits, rather than by Labrador, a plan eventually executed by Sir Francis Drake when he circumnavigated the world in 1577. In 1585, Grenville was admiral of the seven-strong fleet that brought English settlers to establish a colony on Roanoke Island, off the coast of modern North Carolina in North America. He was heavily criticised by Ralph Lane, part of the expedition and later governor of the colony, who referred to Grenville's "intolerable pride and unsatiable ambition".

In 1586, Grenville returned to Roanoke to find that the surviving colonists had shipped out with Drake; during his return to England, Grenville raided various towns in the Azores Islands. At about this time, a description was given of his behaviour while dining with Spanish captains:

"He would carouse three or four glasses of wine, and in a bravery take the glasses between his teeth and crash them in pieces and swallow them down, so that often the blood ran out of his mouth without any harm at all unto him.", Tudor History

Grenville was denied a command under Drake in the successful raid on Cadiz in 1587. He organized the defences of Devon and Cornwall in preparation for the expected attack by the Spanish Armada the following year. With Sir Walter Raleigh, Grenville was commissioned to keep watch at sea on the approaches to Ireland. After helping repulse the invasion attempt, he returned to Munster to arrange the estate granted him under the plantation of the province. After suppression of the Second Desmond Rebellion in 1583, he had purchased some 24,000 acres (97 km²) in Kinalmeaky and brought settlers over. His renewed efforts beginning in 1588 yielded little success, and Grenville returned to England late in 1590.

Final command

Grenville was appointed vice-admiral of the fleet under Thomas Howard. He was charged with maintaining a squadron at the Azores to waylay the treasure fleets of the Spanish. He took command of HMS Revenge, a galleon considered to be a masterpiece of naval construction.

At Flores, the English fleet was surprised by a larger squadron sent by Philip II of Spain. Howard retreated, but Grenville faced the 53 ships. His crew was down by nearly 100 men because of sickness on shore. He may have had an opportunity of escape, or he may have tried to, but by some accounts he chose to confront the far superior force (or at least try and fight his way out). For 12 hours his crew fought off the Spanish, causing heavy damage to fifteen galleons. Grenville was said to wish to blow up his ship, but the crew surrendered, and he died several days later of his wounds. Revenge and 16 Spanish ships sank during a cyclone soon after.

Legacy and honors

Grenville's final battle on Revenge is commemorated in a poem by Alfred Tennyson ("The Revenge"). It was set for choir and orchestra by composer Charles Villiers Stanford ("The Revenge").

One of the five houses of British public school Churcher's College is named for Grenville. He is also honored by houses named in his honor at Dulwich College, Queen Elizabeth's High School and Devonport High School for Boys.

Grenville College, the private school in Bideford, was named for Sir Richard. The school has since been combined with another school and renamed the Kingsley School.

In popular culture

Grenville's final battle on Revenge is mentioned in a poem by Robert E. Howard; ("Solomon Kane's Homecoming") from Fanciful Tales (1936). Howard mentions Grenville in several other Solomon Kane stories and poems, most prominently in "The Return of Sir Richard Grenville".

Grenville is the subject of a 20th century song by Al Stewart, "Lord Grenville," ("Lord Grenville") on Stewart's Year of the Cat album.

http://www.wolfson.ox.ac.uk/~ben/grenv3.htm

Sir Richard Grenville, Vice Admiral, of the Revenge

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Grenville or Greynvile, Sir Richard (1541? - 1591), naval commander, of an old Cornish family, whose name has been spelt in a countless number of different ways, was the son of Sir Roger Greynvile, who commanded and was lost in the Mary Rose in 1545, and grandson of Sir Richard Greynvile (d.1550), marshal of Calais under Henry VIII. There were other Rogers and Richards, as well as Johns and Diggorys, all closely related, and often confused one with the other (eg Froude, Hist.of England, cab.edit., iv.436 n)

In early youth Greynvile is said to have served in Hungary under Emperor Maximilian against the Turks, and to have won special distinction (Arber p 10). On 28 April 1570 he made a declaration of his submission to the Act of Uniformity of Common Prayer and Service (Col. State Papers, Dom). In 1571, and again in 1574, he sat in parliament as one of the members for Cornwall, of which county he was also sheriff in 1577. He is said to have been knighted while holding this office, but it appears from a petition, 22 March 1573-4 (ib), that he was already a knight at that date. He was then interesting himself, in company with Sir Humphrey Gilbert, in ['an enterprise for the discovery of sundry rich and unknown lands',]but it does not appear that he himself undertook any such voyage till in May 1585 he had command of a fleet of seven ships which sailed from England for the colonisation of Virginia, acting in this, it would seem, as the representative of his cousin, Sir Walter Raleigh. On his return in October he fell in with a Spanish ship, homeward bound from St Domingo, which attacked him, but was herself overpowered and captured; Greynvile and a part of his men, not having any boat, going on board her on a raft hastily made of some old chests, which fell to pieces just as they reached the Spaniard. In 1586 he returned to Virginia with stores for the colonists, who, however, had left before his arrival [see Drake, Sir Francis; Lane, Ralph], and on his homeward voyage he landed at the Azores, where he pillaged the towns and carried of many of the Spaniards as prisoners. He had already, in 1583 and 1584, been employed as a commissioner for the works at Dover harbour, and from the time of his return from Virginia he was actively engaged in concerting measures for the defence of the western counties; an important post, which he still held through the eventful summer of 1588 (Col State Papers, Dom 8 March 1587, 14 Sept 1588).

The Expedition to the Azores,

and the capture of the Revenge

In 1591, when a squadron of queen's ships and private men-of-war, with some victuallers, under the command of Lord Thomas Howard [qv], was sent to the Azores to look out for the homeward-bound treasure fleet of Spain, Greynvile, as vice-admiral, or second-in-command, was appointed to the Revenge, a ship of 500 tons and 250 men, which had carried Drake's flag against the Armada in the Channel three years before. As a defence against this or any other squadron the King of Spain fitted out a powerful fleet of ships of war, and despatched it to the Azores. The Earl of Cumberland, however, then on the coast of Portugal, sent off a pinnace, to warn Howard of the impending danger. The pinnace, being a good sailer, kept company with the Spanish fleet for three days, learning the details of its force and gaining assurance of its route; then leaving the Spaniards, brought the intelligence to Howard on 31 August. Howard, then lying at anchor on the north side of Flores, had scarcely heard the news before the Spanish fleet was in sight. It is said to have numbered fifty-three sail all told. Of English ships there were in all sixteen, six of which were queen's ships, but they were very sickly; quite half the men were down with fever or scurvy, and the rest at the moment were busy watering. Howard determined at once that he was in no condition to fight a force so superior, and, hastily getting his men on board, weighed anchor and stood out to sea. It has been supposed that the Spanish fleet passed to the southward of Flores, and thus came in on the English from the west; that Greynvile, not knowing or not believing the news which the pinnace had just brought, was convinced that the ships coming round the western point were the long-awaited treasure ships, and therefore refused to follow Howard. Such seems to have been the opinion of Monson, a contemporary seaman, and of Linschoten, who was at the time actually at Tercera. On the other hand, Ralegh, writing, it must be remembered, as a cousin and dear friend, has stated that Greynvile was delayed in getting his sick men brought on board from the shore. But the other ships also had to get their sick men on board, and sickly as the Revenge was, she was no worse off than her consorts. It is quite certain, however, that by some cause the Revenge was delayed, and before she could weigh, the Spanish fleet had stretched to windward of her, cutting her off from the admiral and the rest of the squadron. Greynvile might still have got clear by keeping away, and so, doubling on the enemy, have rejoined his friends. But he was not a seaman, nor had he any large experience of the requirements of actual war. Acting from what is difficult to describe otherwise than as a false notion of honour, he scornfully and passionately refused to bear up, and with angry voice and gesture expressed his determination to pass through the Spanish fleet. In attempting to do so, that happened which any seaman could have foretold. The Revenge coming under the lee of some of the huge high charged galleons was becalmed; they were enabled to close with her, and she lost the advantage of her superior seamanship and superior gunnery which in all other contests during that war told so heavily in favour of the English. She was beset by numbers, boarded, and overpowered after a long and desperate resistance, the circumstances of which, as related in the first instance by Ralegh, have been enshrined in immortal verse by Tennyson. The Revenge was captured, and Greynvile, mortally wounded, was taken on board the Spanish Admiral's ship San Pablo, where he died a few days afterwards.

Thermopylae compared

His chivalrous courage has generally been held to atone for the fatal error. The defence has been compared to that of the three hundred at Thermopylae, and the lines in Campbell's famous ode were originally (Naval Chronicle, 1801, v.427):

Where Granville, boast of freedom, fell,

Your manly hearts shall glow.

It is therefore necessary to point out that, in the opinion of contemporaries well qualified to judge, the loss of his ship, of his men, and of his own life was caused by Greynvile's violent and obstinate temper, and a flagrant disobedience to the orders of his commanding officer. His 'wilful rashness' according to Monson, 'made the Spaniards triumph as much as if they had obtained a signal victory, it being the first ship that ever they took from her majesty's, and commended to them by some English fugitives to be the very best she had.' Mr. Froude, on the other hand, tells us that the gallant defence, 'struck a deeper terror, though it was but the action of a single ship, into the hearts of the Spanish people; it dealt a more deadly blow upon their fame and moral strength than the destruction of the Armada itself, and in the direct results which arose from it it was scarcely less disastrous to them' (Short Studies, i 494). For this statement there is no sufficient authority, and it may be doubted whether in it, as in Ralegh's prose or Tennyson's verse, there is not a good deal of poetic exaggeration. In the numbers there is certainly such, for of the fifty-three Spaniards, a large proportion were victuallers intended for the relief of the Indian ships. Not more than twenty were ships of war, and of these not more than fifteen were engaged with the Revenge (Bacon, Considerations touching a War with Spain, in Arber, p.8). That was sufficient. The truth in its simple grandeur needed no exaggeration. When we have before us the fact that 150 men during fifteen hours of hand-to-hand fighting held out against a host of five thousand, and yielded only when not more than twenty were left alive, and those grievously wounded, the story, 'memorable even beyond credit and to the height of some heroic fable' (ib), is not rendered more interesting, and scarcely more wondrous, by trebling the numbers of the host.

The circumstances of Greynvile's death correspond very exactly with what we are told of his character; a man he was 'of intolerable pride and insatiable ambition' (Lane to Walsingham, 8 Sept 1585; Cal. State Papers, Col), a man 'very unquiet in his mind and greatly affected to war', 'of nature very severe, so that his own people hated him for his fierceness and spoke very hardly of him' (Linschoten, in Arber, p 91), but also a man 'of great and stout courage', who 'had performed many valiant acts, and was greatly feared in these islands' the Azores.

Greynvile married Mary, daughter and coheiress of Sir John St Leger, and by her left issue four sons and three daughters..... The spelling of the name Greynvile is that of Sir Richard's own signature, in a bold and clear handwriting...... A portrait, supposed to be of Sir Richard Greynvile - half length, embossed armour, red trunk hose, dated 1571 - was exhibited at South Kensington in 1866, lent by Rev Lord John Thynne.

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  • 'Sir Richard GRENVILLE, Knight
  • 'Born: 6 Jun 1542
  • 'Died: 10 Sep 1591
  • Father: Roger GRENVILLE
  • Mother: Thomasine COLE
  • 'Married: Mary St. LEGER
  • Children:
    • 1. Barnard GRENVILLE (b. 1568 - d. 1636) (m. Elizabeth Beville)
    • 2. John GRENVILLE (d. 1595)
    • 3. Ursula GRENVILLE (d. 1643)
    • 4. Catherine GRENVILLE
    • 5. Bridget GRENVILLE (d. 1578)
    • 6. Son GRENVILLE
    • 7. Rebecca GRENVILLE
    • 8. Roger GRENVILLE (d. Dec 1565)
  • From: http://www.tudorplace.com.ar/Bios/RichardGrenville.htm
  • ___________
view all 12

Vice-Adm. Sir Richard Grenville, MP's Timeline

1542
June 6, 1542
Devon, England
1565
1565
Age 22
Bideford,,Devon,England
1567
1567
Age 24
1578
1578
Age 35
Annery,,Devon,England
1591
September 10, 1591
Age 49
Azores Islands
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