Grosvenor, Robert, second Earl Grosvenor and first Marquis of Westminster 1767-1845, was the third son and only surviving child of Richard, first earl Grosvenor (1731-1802) [qv.]. He was born in the parish of St. George, Hanover Square, London, on 22 March 1767, and was educated at Harrow, and afterwards at Trinity College, Cambridge, taking his degree of M.A. in 1786 (J. Romilly, Graduati Cantabr. 1856, p. 28). His father had made a home at Eaton for William Gifford, who acted as tutor to the son, then Viscount Belgrave, and travelled with him on two continental tours. Gifford speaks warmly of his most amiable and accomplished pupil (Autobiography in Nichols, Illustr. vi. 28). From 1788 to 1790 Lord Belgrave was M.P. for East Looe, and on 15 Aug. 1789 was appointed a lord of the admiralty, an office which he held until 25 June 1791. Peter Pindar styled him the Lord of Greek for having upon his first entrance in parliament shocked the House of Commons with a quotation from Demosthenes (Mathias, The Pursuits of Literature, 1812, p. 144). At the general election in 1790 Lord Belgrave was elected M.P. for Chester, and continued to represent the city from 1796 to 1802. Between 1793 and 1801 he was a commissioner of the board of control. About 1795 Lord Belgrave printed for private circulation a quarto volume, containing Charlotte, an Elegy, and other poems in English and Latin. During the revolutionary war he raised a regiment of volunteers in the city of Westminster, and was major commandant on 21 July 1798. On the death of his father he became second Earl Grosvenor on 5 Aug. 1802, and in the following year began to rebuild Eaton Hall upon a very extensive scale (The Eaton Tourist, or a Description of the House, Grounds, &c., Chester, 1825, sm. 8vo). Bamford describes his very courteous and affable manner in receiving a petition (Passages in the Life of a Radical, ii. 42-5). In 1826 he obtained special powers by act of parliament, and set to work with the help of Cubitt to lay out in roads, streets, and squares that part of his London estate now called Belgravia. Pimlico was soon after built over (Loftie, History of London, 1884, ii. 104-5). At the coronation of William IV he was created Marquis of Westminster on 13 Sept. 1831. On this occasion the arms of the city of Westminster, a portcullis, with chains pendent, were granted to him as a coat of augmentation. He received the Garter on 11 March 1841.
He was a man of taste, and largely increased the famous Grosvenor gallery of pictures, adding to it among others the collection of Mr. Agar. A Catalogue of the Pictures at Grosvenor House, London, with Etchings from the whole Collection, and Historical Notices (London, 1821, 4to), was compiled by John Young. He took an active part in public affairs, and supported Pitt down to his death, when he seceded from the tory party, and remained faithful to the whigs during the remainder of his life. He contributed to the Anti-Cornlaw League, and voted for the Reform Bill. Among the many improvements Chester owed to him was the north gate, erected from the designs of Harrison in 1810, some time after he had served as mayor of the city. Some of the most famous racehorses of the day were owned by him, and he left a large stud. After a short illness he died at Eaton on 17 Feb. 1845, in his seventy-eighth year. There is at Eaton a portrait of him painted by Gainsborough. J. Young produced a mezzotint after a painting by Hoppner (J. C. Smith, British Mezz. Portraits, iv. 1632).
He married, on 28 April 1794, Eleanor, daughter and subsequently sole heiress of Thomas Egerton, earl of Wilton, and thus acquired the extensive Egerton estates, with the earldom and viscounty of Wilton, entailed upon his second son. She died in 1846. There were three sons of the marriage, together with a daughter, Amelia, who died young: Richard (1795-1869), the second marquis [qv.]; Thomas (1799-1882), who succeeded to the earldom of Wilton; and Robert (b. 1801), created Baron Ebury in 1857, and still living.
Obituary notice in Gent. Mag. 1845, pt. i. pp. 423-6, and 666 (abstract of will)
Collins's Peerage (Sir E. Brydges), v. 1812, 263
Chester Chronicle, 21 Feb. 1845
Ormerod's Cheshire (Helsby), ii. 837
The White Cat, with the Earl of Grosvenor's Ass, with seven plates by Cruikshank, 1821, 8vo
Croston's County Families of Lancashire and Cheshire, 1887, pp. 335-8
Doyle's Official Baronage, 1885, ii. 82, iii. 625
Burke's Peerage, 1890.
Contributor: H. R. T. [Henry Richard Tedder]