We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Robinson, Thomas, second Baron Grantham (1738–1786), diplomatist, born at Vienna, Austria, on 30 November 1738, was the elder son of , diplomatist, and his wife, Frances Worsley (1716–1750). He was educated at Westminster School and at Christ's College, Cambridge, from where he matriculated in 1755 (MA, 1757). From 1759 to 1761 he travelled in France and Italy on the grand tour; Horace Mann pronounced him to be ‘a glorious young fellow’, who ‘seeks company and shines in it too’ (Walpole, Corr., 21.436). At the general election in March 1761 he was returned to the House of Commons for Christchurch in Hampshire and he continued to represent that borough for nine years. He followed his father in giving loyal support to the duke of Newcastle and subsequently to the Rockingham administration. He was appointed secretary of the British embassy to the intended congress at Augsburg in April 1761 and, on 11 October 1766, he became one of the commissioners of trade and plantations. On 13 February 1770 he was promoted to the post of vice-chamberlain of the household and he was sworn of the privy council on 26 February. He succeeded his father as second Baron Grantham on 30 September 1770 and took his seat in the House of Lords at the opening of parliament on 13 November following.

Grantham took office as ambassador to Madrid on 25 January 1771 and he held that post until Spain declared war in 1779. According to Horace Walpole, Grantham was ‘under a cloud’ in 1775 because he was suspected of making an unauthorized visit to the East India House to examine official papers there while on a holiday. Deceived by Florida Blanca, Grantham believed in the neutrality of the Spanish court to the last, and he wrote home in January 1779, ‘I really believe this court is sincere in wishing to bring about a pacification’ (G. Bancroft, A History of the United States, 6 vols., 1876, 6.180). Following his recall in July 1779, he seconded the address in the Lords at the opening of the session on 25 November 1779 and declared that ‘Spain had acted a most ungenerous and unprovoked part’ against Great Britain (Cobbett, Parl. hist., 20, 1778–80, 1025). On 17 August 1780 he married Lady Mary Jemima Grey Yorke (1757–1830), younger daughter and coheir of , and Jemima Campbell [see ].

Grantham was appointed first commissioner of the Board of Trade and Plantations on 9 December 1780, a post that he held until the abolition of the board in June 1782. He joined Lord Shelburne's administration as secretary of state for the foreign department in July 1782 and he assisted Shelburne in the conduct of the negotiations with France, Spain, and America. He defended the preliminary articles of peace in the House of Lords on 17 February 1783 and pleaded that the peace was ‘as good a one as, considering our situation, we could possibly have had’ (Cobbett, Parl. hist. 23, 1782–3, 403). He resigned on the formation of the coalition government in April 1783. Grantham, who had declined upon the declaration of war with Spain any longer to accept his salary as ambassador, was granted a large pension of £2000 a year on retiring from the Foreign Office. He was criticized for his greed at the time, for he already enjoyed another pension of £3000 a year that he had inherited from his father. He was appointed a member of the committee of the privy council for the consideration of all matters relating to trade and foreign plantations on 5 March 1784. He died at home at Grantham House, Putney Heath, Surrey, on 20 July 1786, and was buried on 27 July at Chiswick in Middlesex. He was survived by his wife and by two of their three sons, Thomas Philip, who succeeded his father in the barony of Grantham and his maternal aunt in the earldom of De Grey [see ]; and .

G. F. R. Barker, rev. Hallie Rubenhold

Sources  

J. Brooke, ‘Robinson, Hon. Thomas’, HoP, Commons · GEC, Peerage · Walpole, Corr. · H. Walpole, Memoirs of the reign of King George the Third, ed. G. F. R. Barker, 4 vols. (1894), vol. 1, pp. 42–3, vol. 4, p. 176 · The political memoranda of Francis … duke of Leeds, ed. O. Browning (1884), 19, 73, 76–80, 82 · Life of William, earl of Shelburne … with extracts from his papers and correspondence, ed. E. G. P. Fitzmaurice, 3 (1876), 222–389 · Diaries and correspondence of James Harris, first earl of Malmesbury, ed. third earl of Malmesbury [J. H. Harris], 1 (1844), 524–42 · J. H. Jesse, George Selwyn and his contemporaries, with memoirs and notes, 4 vols. (1843–4), vol. 3, pp. 15–17, 33–6 · Venn, Alum. Cant. · Old Westminsters · GM, 1st ser., 56 (1786), 622 · GM, 1st ser., 100/1 (1830), 90 · D. B. Horn, ed., British diplomatic representatives, 1689–1789, CS, 3rd ser., 46 (1932), 137

Archives  

Beds. & Luton ARS, corresp. and papers · BL, corresp. and papers, Add. MSS 22529, 23780–23877 · W. Yorks. AS, Leeds, corresp. and papers |  Beds. & Luton ARS, corresp. with his sisters, Theresa Parker and Ann Robinson · BL, corresp. with earl of Chichester, Add. MS 33099 · BL, corresp. with Lord Holderness, Egerton MS 3432 · BL, corresp. with B. Keene, Add. MSS 43412–43417, 43431–43436 · BL, corresp. with duke of Newcastle, Add. MSS 32687–33099, passim · BL, corresp. with Theresa Parker and Lord Bovingdon, Add. MS 48218 · BL, corresp. with Pelham family, Add. MSS 32949, 32983, 33089–33090, 33099, 33127 · BL, letters to Lord Hardwicke, Sir Robert Keith, Lord Stow, and others, Add. MSS 35409–36125, passim · BL, letters to G. Tilson, Add. MS 46856 · BL, letters to Lord Townshend and G. Tilson, Add. MSS 38502–38504 · Castle Howard, Yorkshire, letters to Lord Carlisle · Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, letters to duke of Devonshire · NL Ire., letters to Lord Upper Ossory · NL Scot., corresp. with Robert Liston · NMM, letters to Lord Sandwich · NRA, priv. coll., letters to Lord Shelburne · Plymouth and West Devon RO, Plymouth, letters to Ann Robinson · priv. coll., corresp. with Lord Waldegrave


Likenesses  

N. Dance, group portrait, oils, c.1760–1766, Yale U. CBA · G. Romney, oils, c.1779–1780, Newby Hall, North Yorkshire · G. Stuart, oils, 1781, Saltram, Devon · W. Dickinson, mezzotint, 1783 (after Romney), BM · E. Harding, stipple, pubd 1802, BM, NPG · H. Robinson, stipple, pubd 1829, NPG