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HE Grenvilles are country squires, who
for five hundred years vegetated on slowly increasing estates in Buckinghamshire, then acquired almost by accident an earldom, then gave a con
nection, one William Pitt, a heavy annuity ; turned politicians; exhibited singular capacity for that profession,—which they worked like a profession, caring for themselves as well as the country,—and rose in two generations to the very top of English society. From country gentlemen they became earls at a step, and then marquesses and dukes ; but, unlike most men who have achieved this kind of advancement, they really were gentlemen. Their pedigree has been complicated by the inven
tions of the peerage-makers, who will have it that they can prove a descent for them direct from Rollo, and by the claim of the Granvilles of the West,Earls of Bath and Marquesses of Lansdowne,—to be an elder branch of the same house; but they have an undoubted historic pedigree, a family tree which can be proved, as well as delineated, up to Edward I. They are not quite the people heralds make out; but they are of old and pure Norman strain, men whose fathers served the Edwards, fought at Agincourt, and commanded ships under Elizabeth's piratical admirals.
There was a Gerard de Grenville in the time of Henry II., who held three knights' fees, or 4020 acres, worth about £420 a-year, under Walter Giffard, Earl of Buckinghamshire ; but there is no proof of connection between him and the founder of the existing house, who, if a descendant, must, from his position, have been, or come of a younger son.
SIR EUSTACE DE GRENVILLE must at present stand at the top of the Duke of Buckingham's true pedigree. Sir Eustace had a grant in 1273 from Hugh de la Wichead, of his whole right to a virgate of land, with messuage, croft, and meadow, in WOTTON (Underwoods, Buckinghamshire), and Hame-juxta-Brehul, which William de Hame, his brother, held of the said Sir Eustace, and the deed is dated at Wotton on St Nicholas's Day. Wotton is still the second seat of the Dukes of Buckingham. Again, among the pleas of 2d and 3d Edward I., in Michaelmas Term, it is recorded that Eustace de Grenville impleaded William Coly and many others, for having come to his house at Wotton, and taken away his chattels to the value of five marks. And they answered that the said Eustace seized certain cattle of William de Shobington, who made complaint to the bailiffs of the Earl of Gloucester in Crendon, within whose lordship his land at Wotton is, and they considered them as the cattle of the said bailiff. And Eustace said that his land aforesaid in Wotton was within the liberty of William de Valence, and not within the liberty of the Earl of Gloucester. This seems confirmed by a document of the 52d Henry III., in which William de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, acknowledges the receipt of two marks for one knight's fee, which Eustace de Grenville held of him in Wotton. This would make Sir Eustace's estate in Wotton at least 1340 acres, or about £140 per annum, besides land at Chilton, in the same county. Sir Eustace gave by a charter one-half of his estate in Wotton to his second son Richard, with the consent of Gerard, whom he calls his son and heir, and denominates as “of Chilton." We forbear from quoting from undated deeds cited by Collins, because among the Grenvilles of the same name in different generations, it is impossible to decide to whom they refer. On the 17th of April 1294, however, it appears that Richard de Grenville accepted an annual payment of £10 rent to excuse the homage of William de Olive, for lands held of him in Wotton, and in 1302 his name occurs with that of Joane, his wife, daughter of William Lord Zouch, of Harringworth. By deed, in 1309, he granted lands in Wotton to his son William, and in 1330 settled his manor of Wotton, after his own decease, on William, his son and heir, and the heirs of his body, with remainder to Edmund, brother of the said William, and the heirs of his body, and in default of these, on Margery, Nicholea, and Agnes, his (Richard Grenville's) daughters. Joane, Richard Grenville's wife, was in her widowhood in 1334, and William de Grenville, his son and successor, is styled in 1337 “Lord of Wotton.” He married Agnes, daughter of William Wightham, of Hoddenham, and in 1343 obtained a licence from the Bishop of Lincoln to found a chantry in the church of Wotton. In 1351 a strange mishap occurred in his family. In that year, Thomas Freysel and William Freysel, with others unknown, were charged with having forcibly carried away Agnes de Grenville (called in the record “ Lady of Wotton”), conveying her naked into Bernwood Forest, and there and in divers places in the county of Bucks, unlawfully imprisoning her. But whether they violated her was unknown. For these offences Thomas Freysel was fined ten marks, and William five. The Freysels appear to have been neighbours of the Grenvilles of Wotton. In 1358 William Freysel appears as a purchaser of land in Wotton, and in 1365 there was a fine of the manor of Wotton passed between Agnes de Grenville and Walter Freysel and Margaret his wife. In the same year Agnes de Grenville and her son Thomas (and their heirs) acquired from Richard Smith, of Ashendon, all his arable land in Wotton called Great Burwell, with certain meadows and pastures, with remainder to William, another son of Agnes, and his heirs for ever. In 1380, or 1381, the manor of Wotton was settled by her son on Agnes de Grenville for life; but in 1389 resumed by Thomas, who settled on his mother instead £40 per annum. therefore, trust that the lady had a more tranquil ter