Grenville, George Nugent Temple (1753–1813), 3rd Earl Temple , 1st marquess of Buckingham and twice lord lieutenant of Ireland, was born 17 June 1753 at Wotton House, Buckinghamshire, England, second but eldest surviving son among four sons and four daughters of George Grenville, future British prime minister, and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Wyndham. Educated at Eton, he left prematurely in 1768, apparently after organising a student protest, and entered Christ Church, Oxford, where he did not take a degree. Following the family tradition, he entered politics, becoming MP for Buckinghamshire (1774–9). Vain and impetuous, he lacked charm and failed to make a success at Westminster. On 11 September 1779 he succeeded his uncle as 3rd Earl Temple, and obtained a royal license to add the names Nugent and Temple to his own.
From the house of lords he accepted the office of lord lieutenant of Ireland 15 August 1782, believing it would demonstrate his political ability, and persuaded his youngest brother, William Wyndham Grenville (qv), to accompany him as chief secretary. Arriving in Dublin, he threw himself completely into the job, and Lord Charlemont (qv) admitted that he worked assiduously, his only complaint being that Temple was prone to flaunt his ‘knowledge of business’ and be a little verbose (G.E.C., Peerage). There were three main aspects to his viceroyalty: reforming the economy, reducing the influence of the Volunteers, and resolving the question of Patriot demands for Westminster to renounce its right to legislate for Ireland. This last controversy was settled after Temple threatened to resign if the Irish demands were not granted, and a compromise was reached in London. With the creation of the new order of St Patrick, Temple became grand master. The formation of a new government in Britain in April 1783 precipitated his resignation, and he returned to London on 5 June.
When William Pitt the younger, his first cousin, became prime minister on 19 December 1783, Temple was appointed both home and foreign secretary, but resigned three days later after an argument with Pitt over whether parliament should be dissolved. As a reward for helping the king to bring down the previous government, he was created marquess of Buckingham on 4 December 1784. With the death of the duke of Rutland (qv), he was again appointed Irish viceroy on 6 November 1787. Thus he was lord lieutenant during the regency crisis of 1788–9, a critical time in Anglo-Irish relations. Even though he was carefully advised by his brother in London, he was temperamentally unsuitable for any work requiring tact or diplomacy, and he proved deeply unpopular. Buckingham's ‘personal obnoxiousness’ (Malcomson, 165) has been blamed for many of the defections from the government at this time. His biggest blunder was his refusal to transmit parliament's address to the prince of Wales, offering him the regency of Ireland. Furiously attacked by Henry Grattan (qv) and others on 20 February 1789, he was the subject of votes of censure by both houses. The recovery of the king ended the crisis, removing the impetus for a regent, and Buckingham seized the opportunity to reestablish government authority through generous, but select, use of patronage, and by punishing some of the ‘rats’ who had abandoned the government. Nevertheless, his tenure had neither been happy nor successful and he was replaced in January 1790 by Lord Westmorland (qv).
Increasingly embittered by his experiences, and overshadowed by his brother, who was becoming the major political power in the family, he never held office again. Colonel of the Buckinghamshire militia regiment, he was sent to Ireland in the summer of 1798 to help quell the rebellion, and his letters to his brother served as an important source of intelligence. In favour of accompanying the proposed legislative union with catholic emancipation, he was critical of many of the leading figures in Ireland. He was forced to remain in Ireland by the new lord lieutenant, Cornwallis (qv), and soon grew to despise him; this helped colour his brother's perceptions of the viceroy. Drifting into retirement after the union, he died 11 February 1813 at Stowe, Buckinghamshire, and was buried at Wotton.
He married (16 April 1775) Mary Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Robert Nugent, later 1st Earl Nugent. She was seen as a closet catholic, and this contributed to Buckingham's unpopularity in Ireland. They had two sons and two daughters; he was succeeded by his eldest son Richard as 2nd marquis of Buckingham. Vain and petulant, though undoubtedly talented, Buckingham was unsuited to political life. He was avaricious, inheriting his first office at the age of 11, and at one stage shared sinecures with his brother worth £21,000 a year. George III was once reported to have said ‘I hate nobody, why should anybody hate me?’ before pausing to add ‘I beg pardon, I do hate the marquess of Buckingham’ (Malcomson, 231).