The Granville Archive

Item date: 18th and 19th centuries
Grant Value: £15,000
Item cost: Not disclosed.
Item date acquired: 2018
Item institution: British Library
Town/City: London
London borough: LB Camden

The British Library is grateful to have received the support of the Friends of the National Libraries, in the form of a grant of £15,000, towards the purchase of the archives of three generations of the Leveson-Gower family of Staffordshire (known collectively as The Granville Archive).  The archive reflects the family’s pivotal role in eighteenth and nineteenth century politics and society and is of outstanding significance for the study and understanding of modern British history. Its coverage of foreign policy from the American War of Independence to the late-Victorian era, a period when Britain was at the height of its commercial and imperial power, is also extensive.

The papers of Granville Leveson-Gower, Earl Gower and Marquess of Stafford (1721-1803), and his third wife, the political hostess Susanna Leveson-Gower (1742/3–1805), reflect British politics and society in the late eighteenth century and contain important material relating to both the American War of Independence and the French Revolution. Granville Leveson-Gower’s political correspondence includes a series of letters from Lord North, alongside papers relating to British policy in North America. Susanna Leveson-Gower’s papers contain letters describing the development of the French Revolution written by her daughter-in-law, who was in Paris at the time, as well as letters from other leading women of the period.

Granville Leveson-Gower, first Earl Granville (1773-1846), was a career diplomat who served as British Ambassador to Russia at the time of the Treaty of Tilsit, and to France and Holland during the post-war period. His correspondence includes letters from, among others, George Canning, William Huskisson and Lord Palmerston, as well as extensive diplomatic and political papers. The archive also includes a long series of personal letters from his lover, Harriet, Countess of Bessborough, and letters from her sister Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.   These letters, alongside other personal and family correspondence, have not been available for research before.

Granville George Leveson-Gower, second Earl Granville (1815-1891) was a Liberal politician who served as Foreign Secretary three times. He was a close friend and supporter of William Gladstone and acted as intermediary in the often-strained relationship between Gladstone and Queen Victoria. The archive includes Granville’s extensive correspondence both with Gladstone and with Victoria and her household. More generally, it contains correspondence and papers on most of the major foreign policy issues of the second half of the nineteenth century, including relations with the Russian and Ottoman empires, the governance of British India, the scramble for Africa and Anglo-American relations.

The archive will be available in perpetuity at the British Library, enabling researchers to view it alongside other pre-eminent historical archives housed at the Library, including the papers of George Canning and William Gladstone. Access to researchers will be provided in the Manuscripts Reading Room and documents will be available for use in online and onsite learning programmes. Highlights from the archive will be displayed in the Treasures Gallery, which is open every day, free of charge, and items from the archive will be available for loan to external exhibitions.

One of the tin trunks containing intimate personal and family correspondence.
One of the tin trunks containing intimate personal and family correspondence.
Selection of papers.
Selection of papers.
Lady Bessborough’s November 1811 letter including her comment on  Sense and Sensibility: “God bless you dearest G. have you read Sense & Sensibility? it is a clever novel they were full of it at Althorp – tho’ it ends stupidly I was much amus’d by it...”
Lady Bessborough’s November 1811 letter including her comment on Sense and Sensibility: “God bless you dearest G. have you read Sense & Sensibility? it is a clever novel they were full of it at Althorp – tho’ it ends stupidly I was much amus’d by it...” Images courtesy of the British Library Board.