PRICE, James I (1566-at least 1626), of Mynachdy, Bleddfa, Rad.
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Family and Education
b. 8 Oct. 1566, 1st s. of John Price (d.1579) of Mynachdy and Elizabeth, da. of Sir Robert Whitney† of Whitney, Herefs. and Iccombe, Glos.1 m. 1593, Alice, da. of Edward Croft† (d.1601) of Croft Castle, Herefs., 2s. 2da.2 suc. fa. 29 Mar. 1579. d. aft. Nov. 1626.3
The multifarious Prices of Radnorshire traced their common ancestry to pre-Norman Welsh stock who settled in the Welsh Marches. Their political and economic influence was established by this Member’s grandfather, Ieuan ap James ap Rhys (James Price), who leased the grange of Mynachdy Poeth from Abbey Cwm Hir in 1529, and acquired the freehold in 1550.10 Shortly thereafter, the family signalled their arrival into the premier rank of Radnorshire society by constructing an impressive U-shaped storeyed mansion house at Mynachdy.11 The Prices dominated many of the political and administrative positions in Elizabethan Radnorshire because of their landed presence, but also on account of their associations with prominent courtiers. The Member’s father, John, had connections with Sir Henry Sidney†, lord president of the Council in the Marches, while James himself became an associate of Sidney’s successor, Henry Herbert, 2nd earl of Pembroke.12
James succeeded to the Mynachdy inheritance of some 4,000 acres as a minor in 1579, and may have been placed in the care of one of his uncles until he attained his majority in 1587.13 He does not appear to have attended university or an inn of court.14 His marriage in 1593 at the comparatively advanced age of 27 to a daughter of Edward Croft of Croft Castle, occurred after Croft had fled to the Netherlands to avoid his creditors. Edward Croft possessed no estate of his own as his lands were held in trust by Sir William Herbert† and Thomas Wigmore†, who granted them to Edward’s son, (Sir) Herbert Croft*, in 1594. The union was perhaps arranged in the knowledge that Herbert would soon acquire the family estates and augment his already impressive political influence on the Anglo-Welsh border. It is perhaps not coincidental, then, that the year of his betrothal saw Price elevated to the Radnorshire bench and also enter Parliament as knight of the shire.
These events signalled the beginning of a remarkable period of parliamentary dominance in Radnorshire, in which Price was returned as the shire’s representative to every Parliament between 1593 and 1621. His hegemony did not go unchallenged, however, and Roger Vaughan† of the powerful Clyro family (which was said to be the wealthiest in the county at this time) challenged Price in 1597,15 on which occasion Price was accused of unlawfully confederating with his uncle, Clement Price, a j.p., and the sheriff, Richard Fowler, to secure his return.16 This challenge was probably a product of the Essex-Pembroke struggle within Radnorshire politics. In 1598 a further clash occurred, this time over the nomination of the county deputy lieutenants, with Essex supporting Roger Vaughan while Pembroke (unsuccessfully) sponsored the appointment of James Price and the latter’s nephew, John Bradshaw of Presteigne.17
This friction was probably intensified by the shifting balance of power within Radnorshire’s political and administrative structures. The Vaughans were a powerful family in both Herefordshire and Radnorshire, and Roger Vaughan† pointedly claimed in his bill of complaint concerning the 1597 election that he possessed an ‘inheritance of as great yearly value within [Radnorshire] ... as any other of his fellow justices of [the] peace’.18 James Price, meanwhile, appears to have been experiencing financial difficulties, in part as a result of his family’s feud with the Vaughans. In a Star Chamber action of 1608, it was alleged that Price and John Bradshaw had ‘wastefully misspent and wilfully consumed a great part of their substance and estates’, partly in an effort to maintain their local prestige and positions as magistrates and, in Price’s case, as deputy lieutenant also. They were also accused of embezzling some of the 1601 subsidy money to support their ‘decaying estates’.19 By 1619 Price was defaulting on loans from London lenders and riotously evading arrest in Radnorshire through the interventions of kinsmen and allies.20 In 1621 it was claimed that he was a man ‘very much indebted unto many creditors in divers great sums of money’, that he had been outlawed for his debts, and held no land or goods - which had presumably been mortgaged or conveyed to his son to avoid his creditors. His fall from grace was encapsulated in one observer’s characterization of him as a man who ‘doth live and lurk obscurely in secret and privileged places in and about ... London’.21
Price’s local position as justice and deputy lieutenant and his continued return as the shire Member were predicated largely upon an active network of powerful kinsmen and allies within Radnorshire. These included James Price II* of Pilleth, Richard Jones* of Trewern, John Bradshaw of Presteigne and Richard Phillips of Llanddewi.22 These figures are to be found endorsing his election returns and appear as supporters and associates in lawsuits against him. Importantly, the sheriffs overseeing his elections were also firmly within his circle. John Bradshaw, sheriff in 1601, was Price’s nephew; Evan Vaughan, sheriff in 1604, was accused of seeking illegally to free Price from custody in 1619; Sir Robert Whitney, sheriff in 1614, was his father-in-law; Thomas Rea, sheriff in 1620, was spoken of as Price’s ‘instrument’, while the under-sheriff, Richard Phillips of Llanddewi, was Price’s brother-in-law. It seems that through these associations Price was able to face down the rising power of the Vaughans until the election of 1620.
One reason Price sought the county place in the 1604-21 parliaments was that he probably wished thereby to escape his creditors - this much was stated explicitly with relation to his candidacy in 1620. His precarious financial position in the 1600s and 1610s appears to have emboldened the Vaughans, however, and at the 1620 election Price was challenged by William Vaughan of Llowes Court, a relation of the Vaughans of Clyro. Vaughan claimed that Price mobilized his political machine with considerable vigour in order to secure the place, even having several clergymen, including his son-in-law Dr Richard Vaughan, exhort their parishioners to give their voices for him. Price could count on support from the hundreds of New Radnor and Knighton, but supporters from Vaughan’s stronghold, Painscastle, in the south of the county, were not counted.23 This election was noteworthy as it led Vaughan to introduce a bill against Price in Star Chamber, an action which incurred the wrath of some in the Commons, who asserted that the House had the sole right to adjudicate in such cases.24
It seems likely that James Price made no further impression on the records of any of the parliaments in which he sat.25 Most of the contributions from ‘Mr. Price’ in 1621 were almost certainly made by Price’s relation and Member for New Radnor, Charles Price of Pilleth, who was a much more verbose parliamentary contributor than James had ever been, while the speeches on the issue of Welsh butter and coasting trade can be attributed with confidence to William Price, Member for Glamorgan. It is known, however, that this Member attended a meeting of the committee, named on 2 Mar. 1621, for freeing the trade in Welsh cottons. He was also present at a meeting of the committee established on 16 Apr. 1624, which considered a bill relating to a decree in the Court of Requests concerning the Edwards family of north Wales.26
Price’s political career appears to have been ended by the skulduggery he employed in getting elected, and also by his mounting indebtedness. He was omitted from the list of county justices in September 1622, possibly because he was outlawed for debt, while his adversary, Vaughan, secured the custos-ship in February of that year.27 In 1624 Price was again named as a deputy lieutenant, but his impact on Radnorshire society appears to have been negligible and he probably died before the end of the decade although no record of his burial appears in the Bleddfa parish register.28 He was succeeded by his son John who, despite struggling with the family’s precarious financial situation, undertook some remodelling at Mynachdy in 1638, which he paid for by mortgaging most of his lands to one Allen Currance of London, who hailed originally from Boultibrooke near Presteigne. John was dead by April 1639, having made out a will in December 1638 in which he named Sir Robert Harley* and Thomas Smith of London his executors and trustees of debts on the family estates ‘amounting to a great value’.29 The lands passed briefly to his younger brother Edward, but he too died a few months later. The trustees later claimed that Charles Price* of Pilleth had illegally entered the Mynachdy estates after John’s death, and they prosecuted Charles’s executors in pursuit of lost revenues which should have been directed towards satisfying the outstanding debts. Charles Price himself had petitioned the king in 1639 in pursuit of a claim to the estate, but was rebuffed after objections from Edward Price’s heirs and Currance.30 Mynachdy devolved upon a cousin of James Price, but it appears to have ended up in the possession of Thomas Lewis of Harpton Court by the end of the 1650s.31 No members of this branch of the family sat again in Parliament.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Lloyd Bowen
- 1. C142/191/69; Dwnn, Vis. Wales ed. S.R. Meyrick, i. 252; Trans. Rad. Soc. xxxviii. 53; NLW, ms 5270, ff. 213-15.
- 2. Dwnn, i. 252; Add. 39747, f. 29; T. Llwyd, ‘Noddwyr Beirdd yn Siroedd Brycheiniog a Maesyfed’(Aberystwyth Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1987), p. 561; E112/278/39; PROB 11/179, ff. 416-17.
- 3. C8/36/73.
- 4. JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 321-9.
- 5. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 169.
- 6. STAC 8/15/9.
- 7. Arch. Camb. (ser. 3), x. 23.
- 8. STAC 8/15/9; Charles by the Grace of God King of England (1625) STC 8766.
- 9. SP14/43/107; E179/283.
- 10. K. Parker, Rad. 27; PROB 11/56, ff. 309v-310.
- 11. R. Suggett, Houses and Hist. in the March of Wales, 153-4, 160.
- 12. P. Williams, Council in the Marches of Wales, 122n, 288.
- 13. C142/191/61. The poet-genealogist Lewys Dwnn composed a marwnad, or elegy, for James’s father in 1579: NLW, ms 5270, ff. 213-15.
- 14. W.R. Williams, Parl. Hist. Wales, 172-3 and HP Commons 1558-1603, iii. 247-8, have both confused this Member with his cousin, James Price II* of Pilleth.
- 15. G. Owen, Description of Penbrokshire ed. H. Owen (Cymmrodorion Rec. Ser. i.), ii. 336-7. Price’s grandfather had opposed Vaughan’s election in 1572: STAC 5/L24/21.
- 16. STAC 5/V7/39.
- 17. HMC Hatfield, viii. 233, 251, 264; ix. 43; APC, 1597-8, p. 500.
- 18. STAC 5/V7/39.
- 19. STAC 8/15/9. See also Exchequer Procs. in Wales, Jas. I comp. T.I. Jeffreys Jones (Univ. Wales, Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. xv), 317.
- 20. STAC 8/110/24. For another example of his financial sharp practice, see C3/263/18; C8/36/73.
- 21. STAC 8/288/9.
- 22. Ibid.; C3/263/18; STAC 8/15/9; 8/110/24.
- 23. STAC 8/288/9.
- 24. CJ, i. 624b; CD 1621, ii. 380; iii. 285-6; iv. 360; v. 172-3; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 90.
- 25. Price’s parliamentary anonymity is suggested by the fact that, during the 1621 debate on the Radnorshire election, he was mistaken by the clerk for the Member for New Radnor, Charles Price, while some speakers in the same debate referred to him as ‘Sir’ James Price.