Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Grosvenor, Robert (1801-1893)

GROSVENOR, Lord ROBERT, first Baron Ebury (1801–1893), born at Millbank House, Westminster, on 24 April 1801, was third son of Robert Grosvenor, first Marquis of Westminster [q. v.], and his wife Eleanor, daughter, and subsequently sole heiress, of Thomas Egerton, earl of Wilton. His elder brothers were Richard Grosvenor, second Marquis of Westminster [q. v.], and Thomas Grosvenor, second Earl of Wilton. Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, first Duke of Westminster [q. v. Suppl.], was his nephew. The future Baron Ebury, who was styled the Hon. Robert Grosvenor from 1801 to 1831, and Lord Robert Grosvenor from 1831, when his father became marquis, was educated at Westminster School, where he was admitted on 18 June 1810; he left on 18 April 1816, and on 9 Dec. 1818 matriculated from Christ Church, Oxford. He graduated B.A. in 1821, and on 7 July in the same year was admitted student of Lincoln's Inn. In April of the following year he was returned to parliament as member for Shaftesbury, and in 1826 he was elected for Chester, which he continued to represent through seven parliaments until 1847.

In 1830 Grosvenor visited the northern states of Africa, publishing on his return 'Extracts from the Journal of Lord Robert Grosvenor: being an account of his visit to the Barbary Regencies in the Spring of 1830' (Chester, 1831, 8vo). On the accession of the whigs to power in 1830 he was appointed comptroller of the household, and sworn of the privy council on 1 Dec. He held this appointment until 1834, and after Lord John Russell's return to power in 1846 Grosvenor was for a few months treasurer of the household. From 1847 to 1857 he sat in parliament for Middlesex, but took little part in party politics, and on 15 Sept. 1857 was raised to the peerage, on Palmerston's recommendation, as Baron Ebury of Ebury Manor, Middlesex, In 1852 he published anonymously 'Leaves from my Journal during the Summer of 1851; by a Member of the late Parliament' (London, 8vo).

Ebury now devoted himself mainly to the cause of protestantism in the church of England. He viewed with alarm the development of high-church views and ritualistic practices, and the remainder of his life was spent in endeavours to enforce old laws and enact new ones for their suppression. To his initiative was due 'the omission from the prayer-book of the state services for King Charles the martyr, for the restoration of Charles II, and for Guy Fawkes's day; the relaxation of the terms of clerical subscription; the adoption of an alternative burial office and a new lectionary' (Bligh, Lord Ebury as a Church Reformer, p. 2), all of which were effected during Lord Derby's administration in 1858-9. During that year he founded and became president of the society for the 'revision of the prayer-book,' which in 1874 produced and published a revised prayer-book. Ebury frequently advocated in the House of Lords, where his chief opponent was Samuel Wilberforce, the appointment of a royal commission for this purpose. In 1862 he introduced a bill for the amendment of the Act of Uniformity, and in 1879 another for the amendment of the prayer-book. These efforts proved unavailing, and in 1889 Ebury retired from the presidency of the Prayer-book Revision Society.

Ebury also associated himself with Anthony Ashley Cooper, seventh Earl of Shaftesbury [q. v.], in demanding further limitation of the hours of work in factories, and in 1854 he carried a bill for 'the provision, regulation, and maintenance of county industrial schools in Middlesex' (Hodder, Life and Work of the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, ii. 431). In politics Ebury was an advanced whig, and in 1864 he presided at a banquet to Garibaldi during the latter's visit to England. Later on Ebury was a liberal unionist, and he voted against Gladstone's home rule bill in September 1893, being by many years the oldest peer to take part in the division. He died at his town house, 35 Park Street, on 18 Nov. following, and was buried on the 22nd at Northwood, near Rickmansworth, the church of which had been erected almost entirely at his expense. Portraits of Ebury are prefixed to the 'Leaves from my Journal' (1852) and to Bligh's 'Lord Ebury as a Church Reformer' (1891). He married, on 17 May 1831, Charlotte Arbuthnot (1808-1891), eldest daughter of Henry Wellesley, baron Cowley [q. v.], by whom he had issue five sons and two daughters. The eldest son, Robert Wellesley Grosvenor, succeeded as second and present Baron Ebury : the second son, Thomas George (1842-1886), was secretary of legation at Peking from 1879 to 1883, chargé d'affaires in 1883, and secretary of legation at St. Petersburg in 1885–6.

Besides the works already mentioned, Ebury published several pamphlets and speeches advocating liturgical reform; his speech on the revision of the liturgy, delivered in the House of Lords on 6 May 1858, was published in that year, and reached a fourth edition in 1860. In 1861 he published 'The only Compromise possible in regard to Church Rates' (2nd edit, same year); in 1880 ' Auricular Confession;' and in 1886 'Laity and Church Reform,' reprinted from the 'Times.' Other letters and speeches on similar subjects are collected in the Hon. and Rev. E. V. Bligh's 'Lord Ebury as a Church Reformer' (London, 1891, 8vo).

[Bligh's Lord Ebury, 1891; Ebury's Works in Brit. Mus. Library; Barker and Stenning's Westm. Sch. Reg.; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715-1886; Off. Return Members of Parl.; Hansard's Parl. Debates; Lincoln's Inn Records, ii. 92; A. H. Clough's Mem. i. 106; Liddon's Life of Pusey; R. G. Wilberforce's Life of Samuel Wilberforce; Davidson and Benham's Life of Tait; Mowbray's Seventy Years at Westminster, p. 127; Tiroes, 20 and 23 Nov. 1893; Guardian, 1893, ii. 1859; Burke's, Foster's, and G. E. C[okayne]'s Peerages.]

A. F. P.