Skip Navigation
 
 

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community archives > Silsoe > The Duke of Kent

The Duke of Kent

Effigy of the Duke of Kent August 2011
Effigy of the Duke of Kent August 2011

Henry Grey was born at Wrest on 17th September 1671, eldest son of Anthony, the 11th Earl. The 2nd Earl de Grey wrote a history of the family in 1846 and Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has notes [CRT190/45] taken from this. They read as follows: "He succeeded his father at the age of 30. Up to the time of his succession he seems, without authority, to have styled himself as Lord Ruthyn, owing to the Ruthyn title passing away in the Female line that rather unusual position of an Earldom having no second title came intro existence, consequently, the eldest son of the Earls of Kent did not rightly adopt any courtesy title. It would seem that he could have called himself Lord Weysford or Hastings, but this title never seems to have been adopted".

"In 1689 he made a grand tour of Europe and was Abroad for about two years. Many of the letters written home during this period are still in existence" [L30/8].

The Crewe coat of arms in the north aisle of Silsoe church March 2011
The Crewe coat of arms in the north aisle of Silsoe church March 2011

He married Jemima, eldest daughter of Thomas, Lord Crewe of Stene on 20th April 1693 at 7 o'clock at night. The officiating clergyman was Nathaniel Crewe, Bishop of Durham and Lord Crewe's brother.

Jemima died on 27th July 1728, aged 35, and was buried in the de Grey Mausoleum at Flitton church. He had four sons and seven daughters by her. the eulogy on her memorial reads: "She was a most Excellent lady in all conditions of Life, an Obedient Daughter, a Virtuous & Affectionate Wife, a kind and tender Mother, exceedingly good to all about her, Sincere and Constant in her Friendships, Charitable and Benificent to all who needed her Assistance (especially those of this Parish) and of true and unaffected Piety towards God. She died July 27 1728 Lamented by all who knew her and was buried in this Vault made by her most loving Husband, who designing to be Deposited by her, Erected this Monument in memory of so deserving a Wife".

Statue of Jemima Duchess of Kent September 2011
Statue of Jemima Duchess of Kent September 2011

The Duke was singularly unlucky in his children, because of these eleven fully nine died before him. His eldest son Anthony, Earl of Harrold died in 1723 aged 27. His second son, Henry, died in 1717 aged 20. His third son Lucas died in 1704 aged just two years and four months and his fourth son George died in 1717 just two days shy of his third birthday.

Effigy of Anthony de Grey Earl of Harrold August 2011
Effigy of Anthony de Grey Earl of Harrold August 2011

His eldest daughter Amabel became Viscountess Glenorchy and her daughter succeeded him as 3rd Baroness Lucas as well as being made Marchioness Grey in her own right. His second daughter Jemima died in 1731, aged 31 but did leave children as did his fourth daughter Anne, who died in 1733, aged 27. His daughter Henrietta died in 1716 aged 12 and his daughters Jane and Caroline died in infancy. His youngest daughter by his first wife, Mary, died in 1761, aged 41 leaving children.

Memorial to Henrietta daughter of the Duke of Kent August 2011
Memorial to Henrietta daughter of the Duke of Kent August 2011

The notes [CRT190/45] continue: "On 23rd April 1704 Kent was made Lord Chamberlain of the Household [of Queen Anne (1702-1714)] and the same year he was made Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire and a Privy Councillor".

"By Letters Patent dated at Westminster 14th December 1706, he was created Viscount Goderich in the County of Hereford, Earl Harrold in the County of Bedford and Marquess of Kent".

"In 1710 a general reaction [took place] against the weakness of Kent and he was deprived of his Office of Lord Chamberlain, which was given to [Charles Talbot, 1st Duke of] Shrewsbury. Kent, however, retained his personal favour with the Queen and was created Duke of Kent by Letters Patent dated 28th July 1711 and was also appointed Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire".

"In October 1712 he was made a Knight of the Garter. Six vacancies were filled on this occasion and the fact that five were Tories and Kent the only Whig shows how well he must have stood in the Queen's favour".

"On the death of Queen Anne, he was appointed one of the Special Lords Justices to carry on Government until the Coronation of George I (1714-1727). After George's accession, he as reappointed to the Office of Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire and was further made a Lord of the Bedchamber and Constable of Windsor Castle".

"In 1716 he was appointed Lord Steward of the Household and a short time afterwards, Lord Privy Seal".

"He does not seem to have taken a prominent part in Political Affairs, but on the other hand, was always prominent in Court Circles".

His second wife was Sophia, daughter of William Bentinck, Earl of Portland. They married on 24th March 1729 when she was 28 and he was 57. She survived him by eight years, dying on 14th June 1749, aged 48. She, too, was buried at Flitton. The eulogy on her monument reads: "A Lady, whose worthy Character and exemplary Behaviour in all different Relations, wherein She was placed, as a Daughter, a Wife, a Mother, a Friend, a Mistress, and a Christian, deserved and acquired through Life the truest Esteem and Regard from all who approached her, and affected them with a Sorrow no less sincere at her Death". They had two children together, George, who died before he was a year old and Anne Sophia who died in 1780 aged 51, leaving a son who became Earl of Bridgewater as well as other children.

Memorials to the Duke of Kent and his children August 2011
Memorials to the Duke of Kent and his children August 2011

He died on 5th June 1740 and was duly buried in the de Grey Mausoleum at Flitton. "He added very considerably to Wrest, both in enlarging the house and in laying out the Grounds".

"He prepared a special room for the reception of Queen Anne, which, however, she never occupied. This was always known as Queen Anne's Room and was finally pulled down by his Granddaughter [Jemima, Marchioness Grey] in 1753".

"It seems almost certain that he must have enlarged Number 4 Saint James' Square [London] very considerably, although no plans or correspondence relating to this survives".

"He also added very considerably to the Collection of Pictures at Wrest. In addition to thee activities, he employed [Peter] Le Neve [1661-1729], Norroy King of Arms, to go through the Family papers at Wrest and other materials to work out a Pedigree and History of the Family. This, when completed, was Officially registered at the College of Arms and also embodied in a magnificently illuminated book, which is one of the finest examples of Heraldic work of the period still extant".

His memorial in the de Grey Mausoleum includes the following eulogy: "His public life was adorned by the Great Offices which he successively filled, and administered with Reputation and Dignity; but more by his Unvaried Attachment to the Principles and Hospitality, the Regular Government of his Family and the Excellent education of his children. His taste and Magnificence are still conspicuous in the Elegant House which he Erected for the Town-residence of his Family, and the beautiful and spacious gardens, which he laid out and finished at his favourite seat in this neighbourhood".

The Banqueting House at Wrest, built for the Duke of Kent 1709-1711
The Banqueting House at Wrest, built for the Duke of Kent 1709-1711