Greville, Charles Francis (1749–1809), mineralogist and horticulturist
by Michael P. Cooper

Greville, Charles Francis (1749–1809), mineralogist and horticulturist, was born, probably at Warwick Castle, on 12 May 1749, the second son of Francis, eighth Baron Brooke and first earl of Warwick (1719–1773) and his wife, Elizabeth (1720/21–1800), daughter of Lord Archibald Hamilton. He was educated at Harrow School and Edinburgh University (although he seems not to have graduated), and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1772. Later vice-president of the society, he contributed two papers to its Philosophical Transactions. He was MP for Warwick in 1774–90. On the Board of Trade from 1774 to 1780, he left to become a lord of the Admiralty. From 1794 to his death he was vice-chamberlain of the royal household.

Greville is most commonly remembered for his involvement with Emma Lyon (1765–1815) [see ], later the wife of his uncle and subsequently the mistress of Horatio Nelson. They lived in Paddington Green, Middlesex, where Greville also indulged his passion for collecting minerals, plants, and works of art. Emma was his mistress for four years until, anxious to find a wealthy bride (a search which ultimately ended in failure), he sent her in 1786 to stay with his widowed uncle, then ambassador to Naples. At this time Greville was managing his uncle's Welsh estate in his absence, laying the foundation for Milford Haven's future development as a port.

Greville made lasting contributions to mineralogy and horticulture. It has been said that his appreciation of beauty eclipsed any truly scientific interest or understanding of these subjects, but this is perhaps unfair—he was a patron of science almost on a par with Joseph Banks. Greville's mineral collection, based on that of Ignaz von Born (1742–1791), was begun in 1773 and was strong in meteorites and gem minerals. By 1803 it was one of the finest in the world. He was the principal supporter of the comte de Bournon, mineralogist and refugee from the French Revolution, and much of the excellence of Greville's collection must be attributable to his influence. (Although not recognized by him at the time, the first specimen of the rare lead chloro-carbonate, phosgenite, was later found in his collection, among specimens acquired in Derbyshire about 1785.) Greville was a member of a panel convened in 1799 to assess the mineral collection of the British Museum: to improve the disappointing national collection it recommended the purchase of the collection of Charles Hatchett (1765–1847) which was to lay the foundation for the museum's subsequent rise to international status. It was also Greville's recommendation that established Adolarius Forster as the first state mineralogist in New South Wales in 1803.

Greville is credited with the introduction to Britain of several species of lily, peony, camellia, and magnolia. He joined the Linnean Society in 1802 and in 1804 helped found the Royal Horticultural Society. He was one of the society's first vice-presidents and its treasurer from 1806 to his death. The genus Grevillea was named in his honour by Robert Brown in 1808. Elected to the Society of Dilettanti in 1774, Greville became its ‘very high steward’ in 1778. He was a patron of the artist Paul Sandby (1730–1809) and has been credited with the introduction to England of aquatint engraving made popular by Sandby, though it is likely that Sandby acquired the method independently.

Greville died intestate at his home in Edgware Row, Paddington Green, on 23 April 1809 and was buried in the family vault at St Mary's Church, Warwick. His 14,800 mineral specimens were bought for the nation for £13,727. The 5200 faceted gems were sold separately. The acquisition raised the British Museum's mineral collection to the first rank but few of Greville's specimens can now be recognized within it.

MICHAEL P. COOPER

Sources  

A. Simmonds, ‘The founders: the Rt. Hon. Charles Greville, FRS, FLS, 1749–1809’, Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society, 67 (1942), 219–32 · F. Fraser, Beloved Emma (1986) · The Hamilton and Nelson papers, ed. A. Morrison, 2 vols. (privately printed, London, 1893–4) · L. Fletcher, ‘The Department of Minerals’, The history of the collections contained in the natural history departments of the British Museum, British Museum, 1 (1904), 343–442 · M. M. Drummond, ‘Greville, Hon. Charles Francis’, HoP, Commons, 1754–90, 550–51 · P. Edwards, ‘Clubman, MP and botanist: Charles Francis Greville, 1749–1809’, Country Life, 174 (1983), 1498–9 · P. S. Burr, ‘Notes on the history of phosgenite and matlockite from Matlock, England’, Mineralogical Record, 23 (1992), 377–86 · T. G. Vallance, ‘The start of government science in Australia: A. W. H. Humphrey, his majesty's mineralogist in New South Wales, 1803–1812’, Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, 105 (1981), 107–46 · A. Valentine, The British establishment, 1760–1784: an eighteenth-century biographical dictionary, 2 vols. (1970) · A. Bruce, American Mineralogical Journal, 1 (1810), 55–6 · J. Ball, Paul and Thomas Sandby, Royal Academicians: an Anglo-Danish saga of art, love and war in Georgian England (1985) · W. E. Wilson, ‘The history of mineral collecting, 1530–1799’, Mineralogical Record, 25/6 (1994), 75–8 · E. L. Dellow, Svedenstierna's tour in Great Britain, 1802–3: the travel diary of an industrial spy (1973) · W. C. Smith, ‘A history of the first hundred years of the mineral collections in the British Museum’, Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) [Historical Series], 3 (1962–9), 237–59 · W. C. Smith, ‘Early mineralogy in Great Britain and Ireland’, Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) [Historical Series], 6 (1977–80), 49–74 · W. T. J. Gun, ed., The Harrow School register, 1571–1800 (1934) · GEC, Peerage, new edn, vol. 2

Archives  

BL, corresp. and papers, Add. MSS 40715–40716, 42071–42076 · BL OIOC, corresp. and papers relating to India, MSS Eur E 309 · Warks. CRO, papers |  Library of Birmingham, letters to Boulton family · BL, corresp. with Sir Joseph Banks, Add. MSS 33978–33992 · BL, corresp. with first earl of Liverpool, Add. MSS 38222–38231, 38309–38311, 38351 · Hunt. L., corresp. with Sir William Hamilton · NL Wales, letters and papers relating to Pembrokeshire estate · NMM, corresp. with Emma Hamilton


Likenesses  

J. Reynolds, group portrait, 1777 (with members of the Society of Dilettanti), V&A · G. Romney, portrait, 1781, Parham Park, Sussex · J. Zoffany, group portrait, 1781–3, Towneley Hall, Burnley; see illus. in Townley, Charles (1737–1805) · H. Meyer, mezzotint, pubd 1810 (after G. Romney, 1781), BM, NPG, Royal Horticultural Society; repro. in Simmonds, ‘The founders’ · G. Romney, group portrait, sketch, NPG

Wealth at death  

mineral collection valued at £13,727


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Charles Francis Greville (1749–1809): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/40496