PRISE (PRICE), Thomas (1634-c.1699), of Wistaston Court, Marden, Herefs. and Scotland Yard, Whitehall.
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Family and Education
b. 25 Dec. 1634, 1st s. of John Prise† of Wistaston by Anne, da. and h. of Sir George Chute of Stockwell, Surr. educ. I. Temple 1653. m. (1) lic. 16 Aug. 1662, ‘aged 23’, (with £2,000), Diana, da. of Sir Christopher Wray† of Ashby, Lincs., 1da.; (2) 1669, Mary, da. of Thomas Carne of Nash, Glam., 1s.; (3) settlement 2 Nov. 1689, Frances (d.1692), wid. of one Scott, and of Sir Humphrey Sydenham of Chilworthy, Som., s.p. suc. fa. 1669.1
J.p. Herefs. July 1660-89, dep. lt. c. Aug. 1660-Oct. 1688; commr. for assessment, Herefs. and Hereford Aug. 1660-80, 1689-90; steward of Marden manor, Herefs. Oct. 1660-70; common councilman, Hereford 1662-bef. 1698; capt. of militia, Herefs. by 1663-89, receiver of royal aid 1665; collector of hearth-tax, S. Wales 1686-9; commr. for licensing hackney coaches, London and Westminster 1687-9.2
Capt. of ft. regt. of Mq. of Worcester (Henry Somerset ) 1667, 1673-4.
Gent. of the privy chamber 1666-at least 1689.3
Prise was the great-great-grandson of Sir John ap Rhys, MP for Hereford in 1553, who, as one of Thomas Cromwell’s visitors, did well out of the dissolution of the monasteries on both sides of the border. His grandfather, father, and uncle (Sir Herbert Price) were all active Royalists in the Civil War, and in 1677 he computed that his family had lost above £20,000 for their loyalty to the King. His father, who represented Breconshire in 1626, lived in exile till he succeeded to the family estate in 1653, when he compounded for £430 over and above the £1,200 already paid. Prise himself later claimed to have been imprisoned for taking part in Booth’s rising; probably he was one of the Cavaliers surprised by Colonel Wroth Rogers on their way to Burghope, a house where the Prises were very intimate.4
Prise was nominated as a candidate for Herefordshire at the general election of 1660 by Sir Henry Lingen and other old Cavaliers. He was described to Edward Harley by a malicious or ill-informed correspondent as the nominee of the Papists,
incapable of being chosen by the qualification, incomplete both in respect of years, estates, etc. But he is contracted, if not married, to Mistress Barbary Moore, a gentlewoman of no fortune but a very argumentative Romanist, and that is all in all.
Prise’s simultaneous but unsuccessful wooing of the argumentative gentlewoman and the Herefordshire electors sprang from a single aim; her brother had bequeathed the Burghope estate to Prise’s father, and she and her five sisters were trying to overthrow the will. At the Restoration he became steward of the queen mother’s manor of Marden, of which Wistaston formed part.5
Prise succeeded in entering Parliament at his second attempt, being nominated by Lord Scudamore for the county in 1661 and returned unopposed. He was a moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, with 114 committee appointments, but he made no recorded speeches. In the first session he was named to the committee for the corporations bill. In 1662 Prise married a wife to whom no exception could be taken, either on the grounds of religion or lack of portion, for she was the daughter of a well-to-do puritan Member of the Long Parliament. Prise was a supporter of the Court throughout his career, though he was not always well treated. On 1 June 1667 (when he was on active service defending Sheerness against the Dutch and ‘brought to death’s door’ by disease there), the treasury board ordered him into close custody until he should give satisfaction over the royal aid moneys he had received. The Hon. William Coventry reported that he had over £2,000 unaccounted for, and was unable to raise the money from his estate owing to its remoteness. Not till January 1668 could he persuade Humphrey Cornewall to stand surety for him, and he was condemned to pay interest on his arrears at the crippling rate of 12 per cent. At the summer assizes (Sir) Thomas Twisden decided the ‘great case’ over the Moore inheritance in Prise’s favour, declaring the will ‘as good a will as all the lawyers in Westminster Hall could make’. Nevertheless in 1670 Prise had to claim parliamentary privilege over a new attempt to challenge his title. On 13 Dec. he was named to the House by George Downing as owing £2,500 to the crown. A grant of £500 as royal bounty, and his appointment as gentleman of the privy chamber eased his situation, and in 1674 the whole debt (now swollen to £2,900) was taken over by Bartholomew Price, presumably a kinsman.6
From this date onwards, Prise’s name returns to the lists of politically important committees. He was included in the Paston list, and in the same year took part in the inquiry into the state of Ireland. In 1675 he was named to committees on the growth of Popery, the exclusion of Papists from Parliament, the recall of British subjects from French service, and illegal exactions from the subject. Although he was struck off the list of King’s servants in the House in this year, he was expected to influence his first wife’s kinsman Sir Christopher Wray, he received the government whip for the autumn session, and he was one of the Herefordshire Members not doubted by Sir Richard Wiseman. During his 16 years in the House, he claimed, he was ‘never absent in any one session’. He was rewarded with a grant of £400 p.a. from the French subsidy, later transferred to the excise as a perpetuity. But he was unsuccessful in his application for a seat on the board of green cloth ‘to evolve himself from great debts’. In A Seasonable Argumenthe was described as ‘a pensioner with £300 p.a., and having £500 from the Court and protection at Whitehall during prorogation’, and Shaftesbury classed him as ‘doubly vile’. He was appointed to two committees of political importance in the autumn of 1678, one for the exclusion of Papists from Parliament, the other to investigate suspicious noises in Old Palace Yard, and was included in both lists of the court party.7
As one of the ‘unanimous club’, Prise was not reelected, and he was named to the first Exclusion Parliament by (Sir) Stephen Fox as a pensioner. He was among those who presented the Herefordshire address in 1681 approving the dissolution of the last two Parliaments. He was still receiving his pension in 1682 when he petitioned to be made a commissioner of excise, in place of Charles Davenant, whom he described as ‘altogether factious’, or for the reversion of the governorship of Languard Fort, or a seat on the board of green cloth. He got nothing, and was forced to sell all of his land that was alienable to Paul Foley for £3,650. Under James II he again aspired to the board of green cloth ‘from the constant life he had led at Whitehall, though indeed he could not stir out of it without the danger of a prison’. When the Duke of Beaufort (Henry Somerset) was collecting opinions on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws in 1687, he wrote of Prise that he was always at Whitehall, ‘and his mind I suppose known to the King’. His second wife came from a Roman Catholic family, and he probably returned affirmative answers when he was closeted, for he was retained in the lieutenancy. His final ruin was doubtless accelerated by the Revolution. He was apparently still alive in 1698, though his son John (knight of the shire from 1708 to 1713) was in possession of the entailed estate, but he died either in that year or the next.8
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: Edward Rowlands
- 1. Cal. Comm. Comp. 2490; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 1094; W. R. Williams, Parl. Hist. Herefs. 55; HMC Lords, n.s. v. 57-58; C5/172/6, 67.
- 2. T. Coningsby, Manor of Marden, i. 598; Trans. Woolhope Field Club, xxxiv. 293; BL Loan 29/49, accounts of Nicholas Philpott, 1662-8; 29/141, Sir Edward to Robert Harley, 19 June 1691; Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 697; viii. 646; Duncumb, Herefs, i. 361; SP29/417/188; Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 1550.
- 3. Privy Chamber, 177, 190, 192, 198, 204.
- 4. Duncumb, ii. 111; Cal. Comm. Comp. 1980, 2489-90; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 304; CSP Dom. 1677, pp. 544-5.
- 5. HMC Portland, iii. 220; Cooke, Herefs. iv. 173.
- 6. Keeler, Long Parl. 400; SP29/398/195; CSP Dom. 1667, p. 147; 1671, pp. 227, 258; Cal. Treas. Bks. ii. 4, 241, 341; iv. 566; CJ, ix. 169; Cooke, iv. 174; Grey, i. 323; M. Hopton, Froma Cannonica, 79.
- 7. Grey, vii. 324; SP29/398/195; Cal. Treas. Bks. vii. 550; viii. 1330.
- 8. London Gazette, 8 Nov. 1681; CSP Dom. 1682, pp. 617-18; Ellis Corresp. i. 141; C5/283/42; Coningsby, i. 305.