The Marquis of Granby is the traditional title of the eldest son of the Duke of Rutland, so there have been many Marquises of Granby, but the ubiquitous pub of that name is called after just one, another fondly remembered, flawed British hero.
Dismissed by George II as a drunkard and bully, John Manners, Marquis of Granby, only came into his own during the Seven Years’ War (1756–63), in which he was appointed Colonel of the Royal Horse Guards, later promoted to lieutenant-general. All the major European powers of the time were involved in the fighting, 1.5 million soldiers dying in a conflict later described by Winston Churchill as the ‘real first world war’. The marquis may have liked a drink (or three) but he wasn’t lacking in courage (or even Courage, although the brewery wasn’t established until later in the century). On 31 July 1760 he led the cavalry on a daring charge against the French at the Battle of Warburg, capturing nearly two thousand enemy soldiers and many much needed guns. Granby had been bald since his early twenties but in a time where most people wore wigs, he saw no need to. During the charge he lost his hat but he kept charging at the enemy, giving rise, it is believed, to the expression ‘going at it bald headed’.
Yet despite being such an inspiring soldier that one of his opponents even commissioned a portrait of him after the war, the marquis lacked administrative skills and was often criticized by his fellow officers for the leniency he showed his men. This was seen as weakness at the time, conducive to a lack of discipline among the rank and file, which some thought made him unfit for command. The public loved him, however, and his popularity is reflected in a contemporary painting by Edward Penny, The Marquis of Granby Relieving a Sick Soldier, showing the general’s compassion for his fellow man rather than portraying him, more conventionally, as the conquering hero. Prints of the picture were displayed proudly in many Georgian homes.
After the war was over, Granby turned his attention to politics, at which he proved somewhat less successful. His hot temper and hard drinking were less suited to diplomacy and led to a series of disastrous mistakes. But he always remained available to any man who had served under his command during the war. It has been reported that on many occasions he helped members of his old regiment establish themselves as innkeepers, most of whom would honour their former general by displaying his name above their doors.