Grey, Forde, Earl of Tankerville d. 1701, was the eldest son of Ralph Grey, second baron Grey of Werk, Northumberland, by Catherine, widow of Alexander, eldest son of John, lord Colepeper, and daughter of Sir Edward Forde, knt., of Harting, Sussex; he was therefore grandson of William Grey, first lord Grey of Werk (d. 1674) [qv.]. He succeeded his father in 1675. His parliamentary abilities and influence were considerable (cf. Burnet, Own Time, Oxford edit. ii. 250-1). He voted for the conviction of William, viscount Stafford, on 7 Dec. 1680 (State Trials, vii. 1552). In the debates of 1681 he took a prominent part as a zealous exclusionist. Having eloped with his sister-in-law, Lady Henrietta Berkeley, Grey and some of his minions were brought to trial on a charge of conspiracy on 23 Nov. 1682. He appeared in court accompanied by his mistress and many influential whig lords. The jury found a verdict of guilty. Lord Berkeley thereupon called on all his friends to help him to seize his daughter, and a skirmish followed (ib. ix. 127-86). Along with Alderman Henry Cornish [qv.], Richard Goodenough [qv.], and several others, Grey was tried on 16 Feb. 1683 for a pretended riot and assault on the lord mayor, Sir John Moore, at the election of sheriffs for the city of London at the Guildhall on Midsummer day, 1682. Although he called witnesses to prove that business with Sir William Gulston about the sale of Corsfield in Essex had summoned him to the Guildhall, and then only after the poll had closed, Chief-justice Saunders in his summing-up singled him out, in company with Goodenough, for especial castigation, insinuating that they were the promoters of the fictitious riot. He was found guilty and fined a thousand marks on 15 June, when he failed to appear (ib. ix. 187-293). His goods were afterwards seized. For his concurrence in the Rye House plot he was arrested on 4 July, but succeeded in escaping to Holland. There he encouraged his friend the Duke of Monmouth to invade England. He landed at Lyme Regis, Dorsetshire, with Monmouth on 11 June 1685, and was entrusted with the command of the cavalry. Though he was easily driven from Bridport by the militia, Monmouth refused to supersede him. He dissuaded Monmouth from abandoning the enterprise at Frome. At the battle of Sedgemoor, on 6 July, his troops were quickly routed, owing, it is said, to his pusillanimity. He was taken on the following day in the New Forest, near Ringwood. In his interview with the king he frankly owned himself guilty. His life was spared on his giving a bond for 40,000l. to the lord treasurer (Sunderland), and smaller sums to other courtiers. He was obliged, however, to tell all he knew concerning the plot, and to appear as a witness against some of the supposed authors, but with the assurance that nobody should die upon his evidence (Burnet, iii. 53-4). His confession was accompanied by a servile letter to James. Both were published in 1754 as the Secret History of the Rye House Plot and of Monmouth's Rebellion. He was produced at the trial of Lord Brandon Gerard on 25 Nov. 1685 (Luttrell, Brief Historical Relation, i. 364-5), and at that of Henry Booth, lord Delamere, on 14 Jan. 1686 (State Trials, xi. 538-40). In the following June he was restored in honour and blood (Luttrell, i. 379). After a brief sojourn abroad he returned to England with William of Orange, and attempted to retrieve his reputation by taking an active share in politics. He regularly attended the convention, in which he was one of the thirty-six lords who, on 31 Jan. 1689, protested against the resolution not to agree to the vote of the commons that the throne was vacant, and on 4 Feb. he joined in a second protest. Along with Goodenough he was to have appeared on 7 May 1689 as a witness against John Charlton, charged with high treason against Charles II, but both kept away (ib. i. 363, 531). On 9 May 1695 he was sworn of the privy council (ib. iii. 470), and on the following 11 June was created Earl of Tankerville. In May 1696 he was appointed a commissioner of trade (ib. iv. 58). During the same year he supported the Association Bill in a brilliant speech, and also spoke in favour of the bill for Fenwick's attainder. He vigorously opposed the bill for disbanding the army in 1698. He became a lord of the treasury on 28 May 1699 (ib. iv. 521), first commissioner of the treasury on 17 Nov. of that year (ib. iv. 583), a lord justice during the king's absence at the end of June 1700 (ib. iv. 661), and lord privy seal on 28 Oct. following (ib. iv. 702, 704). He died on 25 June 1701 (ib. v. 65). By his wife Mary, daughter of George, lord Berkeley, he had an only daughter, Mary, married in June 1695 to Charles Bennet, second lord Ossulston (ib. iii. 492), who, after the extinction of the male line of the Greys, was created Earl of Tankerville. The barony of Grey of Werk became extinct in 1706 on the death of Tankerville's brother Ralph, who was governor of Barbadoes in 1698.

     Burke's Extinct Peerage, p. 253
     Burnet's Own Time, Oxford ed., ii. 359, iii. 23, 25
     Macaulay's Hist. of England
     Ranke's Hist. of England
     State Trials, ix. 359-62
     Luttrell's Brief Historical Relation, i. 265, 269.

Contributor: G. G. [Gordon Goodwin]

Published: 1890