Henry Grey, 3rd Earl Grey

Henry George Grey, 3rd Earl Grey KG GCMG PC (28 December 1802  9 October 1894), known as Viscount Howick from 1807 until 1845, was an English statesman.

The Earl Grey
Secretary at War
In office
18 April 1835  27 September 1839
MonarchsWilliam IV
Prime MinisterThe Viscount Melbourne
Preceded byJohn Charles Herries
Succeeded byThomas Babington Macaulay
Secretary of State for War and the Colonies
In office
6 July 1846  21 February 1852
MonarchQueen Victoria
Prime MinisterLord John Russell
Preceded byWilliam Ewart Gladstone
Succeeded bySir John Pakington, Bt
Personal details
Born28 December 1802 (1802-12-28)
Died9 October 1894(1894-10-09) (aged 91)
Political partyWhig
SpouseMaria Copley (d. 1879)
Parent(s)Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey
The Hon. Mary Ponsonby


Grey was the eldest son of Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, who served as Prime Minister in the 1830s, by his wife The Honorable Mary Ponsonby, daughter of William Ponsonby, 1st Baron Ponsonby.

Political career

He entered parliament in 1826, under the title of Viscount Howick, as Whig member for Winchelsea, and then briefly for Higham Ferrers before settling for a northern constituency. Northumberland in 1831 was followed by North Northumberland after the Great Reform Act 1832. He remained in the parliaments dominated by his party and later by Lord Melbourne as Prime Minister.

On the accession of the Whigs to power in 1830, when his father became prime minister, he was made Under-Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. This gave him responsibility for Britain's colonial possessions and laid the foundation of his intimate acquaintance with colonial questions. He belonged at the time to the more advanced party of colonial reformers, sharing the views of Edward Gibbon Wakefield on questions of land and emigration, and resigned in 1834 from dissatisfaction that slave emancipation was made gradual instead of immediate. In 1835 he entered Lord Melbourne's cabinet as Secretary at War, and effected some valuable administrative reforms, especially by suppressing malpractices detrimental to the troops in India. After the partial reconstruction of the ministry in 1839, he again resigned, disapproving of the more advanced views of some of his colleagues.

These repeated resignations gave him a reputation for crotchetiness, which he did not decrease by his disposition to embarrass his old colleagues by his action on free trade questions in the session of 1841.[1]

After being returned unopposed at the first three general elections in Northern division of Northumberland,[2] Howick was defeated at the 1841 general election.[2] He returned to the Commons after a few months absence, when he was elected for the borough of Sunderland at by-election in September 1841.[3][4]

During the exile of the Liberals from power he went still farther on the path of free trade, and anticipated Lord John Russell's declaration against the corn laws. When, on Sir Robert Peel's resignation in December 1845, Lord John Russell was called upon to form a ministry, Howick, who had become Earl Grey by the death of his father in the preceding July, refused to enter the new cabinet if Lord Palmerston were foreign secretary.[5] He was greatly censured for perverseness, and particularly when in the following July he accepted Lord Palmerston as a colleague without remonstrance. His conduct, nevertheless, afforded Lord John Russell an escape from an embarrassing situation.[1]

Becoming colonial secretary in 1846, he found himself everywhere confronted with arduous problems, which in the main he encountered with success. His administration formed an epoch. He was the first minister to proclaim that the colonies were to be governed for their own benefit and not for the mother countries; the first systematically to accord them self-government so far as then seemed possible; the first to introduce free trade into their relations with Great Britain and Ireland. The concession by which colonies were allowed to tax imports from the mother-country ad libitum was not his; he protested against it, but was overruled. In the West Indies he suppressed, if he could not overcome, discontent; in Ceylon he put down rebellion; in New Zealand he suspended the constitution he had himself accorded, and yielded everything into the hands of Sir George Grey. The least successful part of his administration was his treatment of the convict question at the Cape of Good Hope, which seemed an exception to his rule that the colonies were to be governed for their own benefit and in accordance with their own wishes, and subjected him to a humiliating defeat.[1]

In 1848 Grey was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Council representing the City of Melbourne[6] despite never visiting the colony; his seat was declared vacant in 1850 due to his non-attendance. This election was a protest against rule from Sydney and in 1850 Grey introduced the Australian Colonies Government Act which separated the district from New South Wales to become the colony of Victoria.[7]

After his retirement he wrote a history and defence of his colonial policy in the form of letters to Lord John Russell (Colonial Policy of Lord John Russell's Administration, 1853).[8][9] He resigned with his colleagues in February 1852. No room was found for him in the Aberdeen ministry formed in December that year, and although during the Crimean struggle public opinion pointed to him as the fittest man as minister for war, he never again held office. During the remainder of his long life he exercised a vigilant criticism on public affairs. In 1858 he wrote a work (republished in 1864) on parliamentary reform;[10][11] in 1888 he wrote another on the state of Ireland;[12] and in 1892 one on the United States tariff.[13] In his latter years he was a frequent contributor of weighty letters to The Times on land, tithes, currency and other public questions. His principal parliamentary appearances were when he moved for a committee on Irish affairs in 1866, and when in 1878 he passionately opposed the policy of the Beaconsfield cabinet in India. He nevertheless supported Lord Beaconsfield at the dissolution, regarding William Ewart Gladstone's accession to power with much greater alarm. He was a determined opponent of Gladstone's Home rule policy.[1]


Lord Grey married on 9 August 1832, to Maria, daughter of Sir Joseph Copley, 3rd Baronet of Sprotborough.[14] They had no children. She died in September 1879. Lord Grey survived her by fifteen years and died on 9 October 1894, aged 91. He was succeeded in the earldom by his nephew, Albert Grey (born 1851). The suburb of Howick in Auckland, New Zealand, is named after the earl.


  1. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Grey, Henry Grey, 3rd Earl". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 590.
  2. Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1977]. British parliamentary election results 1832–1885 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 435. ISBN 0-900178-26-4.
  3. Craig, p. 295
  4. "No. 20021". The London Gazette. 24 September 1841. p. 2373.
  5. See J. R. Thursfield in vol i, and Hon. F. H. Baring in vol xxiii, of the English Historical Review
  6. "The Hon. Henry (Earl Grey) Grey". Former members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  7. Twomey, Anne (20 April 2013). "Senator Assange? – Constitutional Critique". Blogs.usyd.edu.au. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
  8. Earl Grey, K.G. (1853). The Colonial Policy of Lord John Russell's Administration, in Two Volumes. Vol. I. London: Richard Bentley. Retrieved 7 November 2009. Full text at Internet Archive (archive.org)
  9. Earl Grey, K.G. (1853). The Colonial Policy of Lord John Russell's Administration, in Two Volumes. Vol. II. London: Richard Bentley. Retrieved 7 November 2009. Full text at Internet Archive (archive.org)
  10. Earl Grey, K.G. (1858). Parliamentary Government. Considered with reference to a Reform of Parliament. An Essay. London: Richard Bentley. Retrieved 7 November 2009. Full text at Internet Archive (archive.org)
  11. Earl Grey, K.G. (1864). Parliamentary Government. Considered with reference to Reform. Containing Suggestions for Improvement of our Representative System, and an Examination of The Reform Bills of 1859 and 1861 (New ed.). London: John Murray. Retrieved 7 November 2009. Full text at Internet Archive (archive.org)
  12. Earl Grey, K.G. (1888). Ireland. The Causes of its Present Condition, and The Measures Proposed for its Improvement. London: John Murray. Retrieved 7 November 2009. Full text at Internet Archive (archive.org)
  13. Earl Grey, K.G. (1892). The Commercial Policy of the British Colonies and The McKinley Tariff. London & New York: Macmillan & Co. Retrieved 7 November 2009. Full text at Internet Archive (archive.org)
  14. Burke's Peerage of Great Britain and Ireland, (1883); Burke's Peerage and Baronetage (1999), p. 1225
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