Charles Grey, 1st Earl Grey

Charles Grey, 1st Earl Grey
The Earl Grey.

Charles Grey, 1st Earl Grey, KB PC (October 1729 – 14 November 1807) was one of the most important British generals of the 18th century. He was the fourth son of Sir Henry Grey, 1st Baronet, of Howick in Northumberland. He served in the Seven Years' War, American War of Independence and French Revolutionary War. Following the Battle of Paoli in 1777 he became known as "No-flint Grey".

His second son was the Prime Minister Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey.


Early life

Charles Grey was born at his family's estate, known as Howick, 30 miles north of Newcastle upon Tyne and one mile from the North Sea, in Northumberland. His exact birthdate is unknown, but he was baptized 23 October 1729, so he was probably born in October.[1] His father was Henry Grey (later Sir Henry Grey, first baronet of Howick) and his mother was Hannah Grey (nee. Wood).

Because he had three older brothers, Charles didn't expect to inherit his father's titles and estates, so he pursued a career in the military.

Military career

In 1744, with financial assistance from his father, he purchased a commission as an ensign in the 6th Regiment of Foot.[2] He soon went to Scotland with the Sixth Regiment to suppress the Jacobite Rising of 1745. Following victory there, the Sixth Regiment spent the next few years in Gibraltar. In December 1752, he purchased a lieutenancy in the Sixth Regiment. In March 1755, he formed a new independent company and became their captain. Two months later, he purchased a captaincy in the 20th Regiment of Foot, also called the East Devonshire Regiment (and later the Lancashire Fusiliers), in which James Wolfe served as lieutenant colonel. In 1757, while with Wolfe's regiment, he participated in the unsuccessful attack on Rochefort.

Seven Years' War

In the Seven Years' War, he served as adjutant in the staff of Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick and on August 1, 1759 was wounded at Minden. On October 14, 1760 he commanded a Light Company at the Battle of Campen, where he was again wounded. One year later, as Lt. Colonel of the 98th Foot, he participated in the Capture of Belle Île, off the coast of Brittany. Next, he served at the Battle of Havana in 1762. Later, he was on the staff of Wilhelm, Count of Schaumburg-Lippe during the Spanish invasion of Portugal (1762). In 1763 he retired on half-pay, but in 1772 he received a promotion to Colonel and served as aide-de-camp to King George III.

American War of Independence

During the American War of Independence he was one of the more successful army leaders. He was rapidly promoted, becoming a Major General in 1777. He earned the nickname "No-flint Grey" after the Paoli Massacre nighttime attack of 1777, before which he had collected flints from the muskets of his troops before they engaged the American revolutionaries using bayonets, thus maintaining the element of surprise. Immediately thereafter, he commanded the 3d Brigade at the Battle of Germantown.

In 1778 he led raids at New Bedford on September 5-6, destroying nearly all the shipping and burning twenty shops and twenty-two houses in the town, and Martha's Vineyard, where between September 10 and 15, the British carried off all the sheep, swine, cattle and oxen that they could find with promise of payment in New York. Grey then used the same tactic as he had at Paoli in the Baylor Massacre. He was recalled to England and became a knight of the Order of the Bath and a lieutenant general. He later was appointed commander-in-chief of the British troops in America, but hostilities ended before he could take command.

French Revolutionary Wars

At the outset of the war with Revolutionary France, in 1793, Sir Charles Grey was appointed commander of the West Indian expedition. First, however, he went to Ostend to participate in the relief of Nieuwpoort, Belgium. In early 1794, he and Admiral Sir John Jervis led a British force to capture Martinique. The campaign lasted about six weeks with the British capturing Fort Royal and Fort Saint Louis on March 22, and Fort Bourbon two days later. The British then occupied Martinique until the Treaty of Amiens returned the island to the French in 1802.


In late 1794 he returned to England. From 1798 to 1799 he served as Commander of the Southern District, retiring in 1799. In acknowledgment of his service, he was raised in January 1801 to the peerage as Baron Grey of Howick. In 1806, he was created Earl Grey and Viscount Howick. He died the next year, at the age of 78.


In 1762, Grey married Elizabeth Grey (1744–1822), the daughter of George Grey of Southwick (1713–1746), their children were:

  • Elizabeth Grey (1765–1846) married Samuel Whitbread
  • Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, (1764-1845) British statesman and prime minister after whom Earl Grey tea is named. and who married Mary Elizabeth Ponsonby.
  • Hon. Henry George Grey, (1766-1845) G.C.H., G.C.B., Colonel in the 13th Light Dragoons, who married Charlotte Des Voeux (1789-1882)
  • Sir George Grey, 1st Baronet of Fallodon, K.C.B. (1767–1828), Flag Captain under Admiral Jervis, Flag Captain of King George III's Royal Yacht(1801-4) and Commissioner of Sheerness Dockyard(1804-6) & Portsmouth Dockyard(1806-28), married Mary Whitbread,daughter of Samuel Whitbread (1720-1796), whose sons: Sir George Grey, 2nd Baronet (1799-1882) was a British Statesman and Home Secretary, and Charles Samuel Grey, Paymaster of Civil Service in Ireland; and daughters: Mary married Capt Thomas Monck Mason, Elizabeth married Charles Noel, 1st Earl of Gainsborough, Harriet married Revd John Jenkinson, Hannah Jean married Sir Henry Thompson, 3rd Baronet, Jane married Francis Baring,
  • Hon. Lt. Col. William Grey (1777–1817) married Maria Shirreff
  • Hon. Rt. Revd Edward Grey (1782–1837) Bishop of Hereford married firstly Charlotte Elizabeth Croft, secondly Elizabeth Adair, and thirdly Eliza Innes
  • Hannah Althea Grey (1785–1832) married George Edmund Byron Bettesworth

He was also an ancestor of Prime Ministers Anthony Eden and Alec Douglas-Home, and of Eliza Courtney and Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales.


  • John C. Fredriksen, 2001, America's Military Adversaries: From Colonial Times to the Present, (ABC-CLIO), p. 203.


  1. ^ Nelson, Paul David (April). Sir Charles Grey, First Earl Grey: Royal Soldier, Family Patriarch. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. pp. 18. ISBN 978-0838636732. 
  2. ^ Nelson, Paul David (April). Sir Charles Grey, First Earl Grey: Royal Soldier, Family Patriarch. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. pp. 19. ISBN 978-0838636732. 
Military offices
New title
Regiment raised
Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant of the 98th Regiment of Foot
Regiment disbanded
Preceded by
Thomas Erle
Colonel of the 28th (North Gloucestershire) Regiment of Foot
Succeeded by
James Patterson
Preceded by
John Severne
Colonel of the 8th (The King's Royal Irish) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons
Succeeded by
Francis Lascelles
Preceded by
Studholme Hodgson
Colonel of the 7th (The Princess Royal's) Dragoon Guards
Succeeded by
Sir Ralph Abercromby
Preceded by
George Sandford
Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant
Colonel of the 20th Regiment of (Light) Dragoons
Succeeded by
The Lord Heathfield
Preceded by
Francis Lascelles
Colonel of the 8th (The King's Royal Irish) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons
Succeeded by
Sir Robert Laurie
Preceded by
The Lord Amherst
Governor of Guernsey
Succeeded by
The Earl of Pembroke
Preceded by
Francis Lascelles
Colonel of the 3rd (The King's Own) Regiment of Dragoons
Succeeded by
William Cartwright
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Earl Grey
Succeeded by
Charles Grey
Baron Grey

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