For the next few issues we present several men and women of our district who were famed not only in their own town or village but in a much wider area. And who more so than Fulke Greville of Alcester?
Which Fulke Greville? There were three of them, one after the other. There was Fulke Greville I died 1559, F.G. II died 1606 and F.G. III , died 1628. All of them lived parts of their lives at Beauchamp Court, which was their Alcester manor house at King's Coughton.
F.G.I's tomb is in Alcester church: he enhanced the family fortunes by marrying a rich bride. F.G. II was prominent in county affairs was a Knight of the Shire in several Parliaments. But it is F.G. III of whom we now speak. Such an article as this can only hint vaguely at his talents and his participation, not only in county but in national affairs. He is the most famous figure that Alcester has produced. (Books which deal in great detail with his life and attainments are named at the end of this article).
Fulke Greville III was the son of F.G. II and grandson of F.G. I. Born in 1554 at Beauchamp Court, for which he seems to have had a life-long affection, he was educated at Shrewsbury Grammar School, Cambridge and Oxford. His attempt to rise in favour at Queen Elizabeth's court was successful because of his literary attainments, his intelligence, his fluency and general happy disposition. As well as receiving a knighthoodjulke got several state appointments under both Elizabeth and James 1. He had a large circle of friends, many of them famous in their own rights; they included Shakespeare, John son and Spencer. He devoted his mornings to his books and we learn that on one occasion, when temporarily out of favour with the Queen, he retired for 6 months to Alcester, where he devoted himself to writing. His books and his writing were his chief love, for he never married. Few people today read Fulke's poetry and this is not too surprising, for his poems are often very long and, I think, little in accord with modern taste. Around 1600, however, they were probably highly regarded.
Sir Phillip Sidney was a particular friend of Fulke Greville and King James used him as a counsellor. It is not too surprising that he became Chancellor of the Exchequor. After the death of his father in 1606, Fulke made a determined effort with the King to obtain Warwick Castle, then in a state of some disrepair: this he succeeded in doing and spent £20,000 on repairs (probably over £2 million today.) This underlines the vastness of his estates and income. He was made Lord Brooke, eventually Earl Brooke, and lived to a reasonable age 74. He would have lived even longer had not a servant of his become enraged at being left out of Fulke's will and murdered him at Holborn in 1628.
Alcester remembers him for his initial gift of £300 which enabled the town to build the lower part of the Market (or Town) Hail. The small portrait in the upper storey there today is from a contemporary painting of Fulke Greville III
"Worthies of Warwickshire" (Colville)
"Fulke Greville Lord Brooke" (Joan Rees)
"Life of Fulke Greville, 1st Lord Brooke" (Rebholz)
Alcester & District Local History Society
Spring 1985 Index