Born 1690 Died 1763
John Carteret commonly known by his earlier title as Lord Carteret, born on the 22nd of April 1690, was the son of George, 1st Lord Carteret, by his marriage with Grace Granville, daughter of Sir John Granville, 1st Earl of Bath, and great grandson of the Elizabethan admiral, Sir Richard Grenville, famous for his death in the Revenge. The family of Carteret was settled in the Channel Islands, and was of Norman descent.
John Carteret was educated at Westminster, and at Christ Church, Oxford. Swift says that "with a singularity scarce to be justified he carried away more Greek, Latin and philosophy than properly became a person of his rank". Throughout life Carteret not only showed a keen love of the classics, but a taste for, and a knowledge of, modern languages and literatures. He was almost the only Englishman of his time who knew German. Harte, the author of the Life of Gustavus Adolphus, acknowledged the aid which Carteret had given him. On the 17th of October 1710 he married at Longleat Lady Frances Worsley, grand-daughter of the first Viscount Weymouth. He took his seat in the Lords on the 25th of May 1711.
Though his family, on both sides, had been devoted to the house of Stuart, Carteret was a steady adherent of the Hanoverian dynasty. He was a friend of the Whig leaders Stanhope and Sunderland, took a share in defeating the Jacobite conspiracy of Bolingbroke on the death of Queen Anne, and supported the passing of the Septennial Act. Carteret's interests were however in foreign, and not in domestic policy. His serious work in public life began with his appointment, early in 1719, as ambassador to Sweden. During this and the following year he was employed in saving Sweden from the attacks of Peter the Great, and in arranging the pacification of the north. His efforts were finally successful. During this period of diplomatic work he acquired an exceptional knowledge of the affairs of Europe, and in particular of Germany, and displayed great tact and temper in dealing with the Swedish senate, with Queen Ulrica, with the king of Denmark and Frederick William I of Prussia. But he was not qualified to hold his own in the intrigues of court and parliament in London. Named secretary of state for the southern department on his return home, he soon became helplessly in conflict with the intrigues of Townshend and Sir Robert Walpole. To Walpole, who looked upon every able colleague, or subordinate, as an enemy to be removed, Carteret was exceptionally odious. His capacity to speak German with the king would alone have made Sir Robert detest him.
When, therefore, the violent agitation in Ireland against Wood's halfpence (see Jonathan Swift) made it necessary to replace the Duke of Grafton as lord lieutenant, Carteret was sent to Dublin. He landed in Dublin on the 23rd of October 1724, and remained there till 1730. In the first months of his tenure of office he had to deal with the furious opposition to Wood's halfpence, and to counteract the effect of Swift's Draper's Letters. The lord lieutenant had a strong personal liking for Swift, who was also a friend of Lady Carteret's family. It is highly doubtful whether Carteret could have reconciled his duty to the crown with his private friendships, if government had persisted in endeavouring to force the detested coinage on the Irish people. Wood's patent was however withdrawn, and Ireland settled down. Carteret was a profuse and popular lord lieutenant who pleased both the "English interest" and the native Irish. He was at all times addicted to lavish hospitality, and according to the testimony of contemporaries was too fond of burgundy.
When he returned to London in 1730, Walpole was firmly established as master of the House of Commons, and as the trusted minister of King George II. He had the full confidence of Queen Caroline, whom he prejudiced against Carteret. Till the fall of Walpole in 1742, Carteret could take no share in public affairs except as a leader of opposition of the Lords. His brilliant parts were somewhat obscured by his rather erratic conduct, and a certain contempt, partly aristocratic and partly intellectual, for commonplace men and ways. He endeavoured to please Queen Caroline, who loved literature, and he has the credit, on good grounds, of having paid the expenses of the first handsome edition of Don Quixote to please her. But he reluctantly, and most unwisely, allowed himself to be entangled in the scandalous family quarrel between Frederick, Prince of Wales, and his parents. Queen Caroline was provoked into classing him and Bolingbroke, as "the two most worthless men of parts in the country."
Carteret took the popular side in the outcry against Walpole for not making war on Spain. When the War of the Austrian Succession
approached, his sympathies were entirely with Maria Theresa
- mainly on the ground that the fall of the house of Austria would dangerously increase the power of France, even if she gained no accession of territory. These views made him welcome to George II, who gladly accepted him as Secretary of State
in 1742. In 1743 he accompanied the king of Germany, and was present at the battle of Dettingen
on the 27th of June. He held the secretaryship till November 1744. He succeeded in promoting an agreement between Maria Theresa and Frederick. He under stood the relations of the European states, and the interests of Great Britain
among them. But the defects which had rendered him unable to baffle the intrigues of Walpole made him equally unable to contend with the Pelhams. His support of the king's policy was denounced as subservience to Hanover
called him "an execrable, a sole minister who had renounced the British nation." A few years later Pitt adopted an identical policy, and professed that whatever he knew he had learnt from Carteret.
On the 18th of October 1744 Carteret became Earl Granville on the death of his mother. His first wife died in June 1743 at Aschaffenburg, and in April 1744 he married Lady Sophia Fermor, daughter of Lord Pomfret - a fashionable beauty and "reigning toast" of London society, who was younger than his daughters. "The nuptials of our great Quixote and the fair Sophia", and Granville's ostentatious performance of the part of lover, were ridiculed by Horace Walpole. The countess Granville died on the 7th of October 1745, leaving one daughter Sophia, who married Lord Shelburne, 1st Marquess of Lansdowne. This marriage may have done something to increase Granville's reputation for eccentricity.
In February 1746 he allowed himself to be entrapped by the intrigues of the Pelhams into accepting the secretaryship, but resigned in forty-eight hours. In June 1751 he became President of the Council, and was still liked and trusted by the king, but his share in government did not go beyond giving advice, and endeavouring to forward ministerial arrangements. In 1756 he was asked by Newcastle to become prime minister as the alternative to Pitt, but Granville, who perfectly understood why the offer was made, declined and supported Pitt. When in October 1761 Pitt, who had information of the signing of the 'Family Compact' wished to declare war on Spain, and declared his intention to resign unless his advice was accepted, Granville replied that "the opinion of the majority (of the Cabinet) must decide." He spoke in complimentary terms of Pitt, but resisted his claim to be considered as a "sole minister" or, in the modern phrase, "a prime minister." Whether he used the words attributed to him in the Annual Register for 1761 is more than doubtful, but the minutes of council show that they express his meaning. Granville remained in office as president till his death.
His last act was to listen while on his death-bed to the reading of the preliminaries of the Treaty of Paris. He was so weak that the under-secretary, Robert Wood, author of an essay on The Original Genius of Homer, would have postponed the business, but Granville said that it "could not prolong his life to neglect his duty", and quoted the speech of Sarpedon from Iliad xii. 322-328, repeating the last word (*) "with a calm and determined resignation." He died in his house in Arlington Street, London, on the 22nd of January 1763. The title of Granville descended to his son Robert, who died without issue in 1776, when the earldom of this creation became extinct.
A somewhat partisan life of Granville was published in 1887, by Archibald Ballantyne, under the title of Lord Carteret, a Political Biography.
Being the entry for GRANVILLE, JOHN CARTERET, EARL in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.