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Grafton, Augustus Henry Fitzroy, 3rd duke of

Grafton, Augustus Henry Fitzroy, 3rd duke of (1735–1811). Prime minister. Grafton came from an aristocratic Whig background and opposed Lord Bute in the early years of George III's reign. He became secretary of state in the first Rockingham administration, but his admiration for the elder Pitt caused a breach with his colleagues, and he resigned in April 1766 after the failure to negotiate Pitt's entry into the ministry. Grafton returned to office in July, when Pitt (now earl of Chatham) succeeded Rockingham as prime minister. Although Grafton became 1st lord of the Treasury, Chatham headed the ministry as lord privy seal. This unusual arrangement (devised to free Chatham from a heavy departmental work-load) did not achieve its object of preserving Chatham's precarious health. Grafton gradually emerged as de facto prime minister during 1767 and officially led the ministry after Chatham finally resigned in October 1768. The Grafton ministry was plagued with serious problems, such as the Wilkes case and the Townshend duties crisis; Grafton himself was ridiculed in the press by Junius. Unable to withstand the pressure (the final straw being a parliamentary attack by Chatham himself, who had recently recovered from illness), Grafton resigned in January 1770. He never returned to the front rank of politics, but served as lord privy seal in 1771–5 and 1782–3. Grafton is often accused of lacking political stamina and preferring the aristocratic good life to the burdens of office. Whilst partially true, it was a formidable assault by three former premiers (Grenville, Rockingham, and Chatham) which prompted his resignation. Furthermore, the emergence of North removed any necessity for the king to rely on Grafton.

David Wilkinson

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