Henry Grey, 1st Earl of Stamford, c.1599-1673

Puritan nobleman who proved to be an unsuccessful military commander for Parliament and later supported Booth's Uprising against the Commonwealth.

Portrait of Henry Grey, Earl of StamfordBorn at Bradgate in Leicestershire, Henry Grey was the eldest son of Sir John Grey (d.1611) and succeeded as the second Baron Grey of Groby on the death of his grandfather in 1614. In July 1619, he married Ann Cecil, daughter of the Earl of Exeter, obtaining the manor of Stamford in Lincolnshire as part of the marriage settlement which he took as his title when he was created an earl in March 1628. From 1625, he served as deputy-lieutenant of Leicestershire but came into conflict with the lord-lieutenant Henry Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon, whose family had a long-standing feud with the Greys.

Stamford joined the royal army for the Bishops' Wars against the Scots (1638-9). However, he displeased King Charles by expressing admiration for the godliness and learning of the Scottish clergy. As a devout Puritan, Stamford supported Parliament in the build-up to the English Civil War and was appointed lord-lieutenant of Leicestershire by Parliament in February 1642. Street fighting broke out in Leicester in June 1642 when Stamford and the Royalist Lord Hastings both tried to call out the county militia at the same time. Although Hastings and his supporters were driven off, Stamford fled from Leicester in July when the King's army approached. He went to London and was commissioned a colonel in the army of the Earl of Essex.

In October 1642, Stamford was appointed governor of Hereford from where he directed raids on Royalist bases in Wales. He was appointed commander of Parliament's forces in Wales and the border counties but the predominantly Royalist townsmen of Hereford refused to co-operate with him and he withdrew to Bristol. Early in 1643, Stamford took command of Parliament's army in Devon to counter the threat from Sir Ralph Hopton's Cornish army. Stamford advanced into Cornwall in May 1643. He was decisively defeated by Hopton at the battle of Stratton and fled to Exeter. Besieged by Prince Maurice, Stamford surrendered Exeter in September 1643 and returned to London. Despite his attempts to blame his military failure on his subordinates, Stamford was lampooned in the press for incompetence.

Stamford became associated with the Presbyterian faction in Parliament, which brought him into conflict with his son, the regicide Lord Grey of Groby. He sat as MP for Leicestershire in the First Protectorate Parliament (1654), but became increasingly disenchanted with the Protectorate régime. In August 1659, Stamford supported his son-in-law Sir George Booth in Booth's Uprising. The 200 men he raised in Leicestershire quickly dispersed when government troops approached and Stamford was briefly imprisoned for his complicity in the uprising. At the Restoration, he was pardoned for his role in the First Civil War. He outlived his heir Lord Grey and the Stamford title passed to his grandson.


Andrew J. Hopper, Henry Grey, first earl of Stamford, Oxford DNB, 2004