PROGERS, Edward (1621-1713), of Bushy House, Hampton, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 16 June 1621, 3rd s. of Philip Progers, equerry, (d.1644) of Westminster by Mary Brightmet of Caistor St. Edmund, Norf. m. by 1668, Elizabeth Wells, 2s. d.v.p. 5da.1
Page to Charles I 1632-46; groom of the bedchamber to the Prince of Wales 1646-50, (as King) Apr. 1660-85; asst. R. Adventurers into Africa 1666, 1670-1; commr. for customs and excise accounts [I] 1666-7.2
Commr. for assessment, Brec. 1662-80, won. 1663-80, Mdx. 1663-80, Monmouth 1673-4, Norf. and Surr. 1673-9, Surr. 1677-80, Westminster 1677-9, loyal and indigent officers, London and Westminster 1662; freeman, Portsmouth 1662; col. ?Brec. militia c.1662-6; dep. ranger, Bushey Park, Mdx. by 1664, ranger 1670-d.; j.p. Mdx.by 1668-85, Westminster Feb. 1688-9; housekeeper, York palace 1670, dep. lt. Brec. 1674-?85.3
Progers came of a family which was of some standing in Monmouthshire by the 15th century; his grandfather sat for the county in 1589. Many of the family were Roman Catholics, but Progers was baptized and buried in the Anglican communion, and was never accused of Popery in his lifetime. His father, a younger son, became a courtier, dying at Oxford during the Civil War, and Progers himself entered the royal Household at the age of II. His eldest brother was a colonel in the royalist army, but Progers himself does not seem to have been in arms. George, Lord Digby† described him as ‘a modest and discreet young man’, and in 1646 he was appointed groom of the bedchamber to the future Charles II, whom he helped to debauch. The Scots insisted on his removal from the King’s person during the second Civil War. Two of his brothers, both Roman Catholics, took part in the assassination of the Commonwealth ambassador in Madrid in 1650, but Progers himself, although twice imprisoned, seems to have lived quietly in England until the eve of the Restoration. After a visit to Breda, he reassured the wife of George Monck about Charles’s character, and resumed his career at Court.4
Progers first stood for Breconshire at a by-election in 1661. He held no property in the county, but an obscure and impoverished cousin was seated at Gwernvale, soon to be transferred to his brother Henry, also a courtier. He was defeated by a local Cavalier, John Jeffreys, but the election was declared void, after which Jeffreys, at the instance of the Duke of Ormonde, stood down in his favour. During his first few years in the House, Progers is regularly described as a colonel; perhaps, in order to give him some claim to represent the county, he had been commissioned to succeed Sir Henry Williams in command of the Breconshire militia. He was a moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, in which he was appointed to 102 committees, acted as teller in 23 divisions and carried seven messages to the King, all before 1667; but he seldom spoke. In 1663 he helped to prepare a bill against the growth of Popery, and to consider the bill to prevent abuses in the sale of offices. He was appointed to the committee to investigate the charge of ‘undertaking’ against Sir Richard Temple, and, together with Sir Charles Berkeley I, Sir William Compton and William Coventry, he was sent to thank the King for informing the House of Temple’s offer. He was among those ordered by the House on 18 July to request preferment for the chaplain, and two days later reported that the King had promised to take him under his care. He was listed among the court dependants for the 1664 session, during which he was appointed to the committees for the conventicles bill and the additional corporations bill. He was one of the four Members sent to thank the King on 13 Feb. 1665. Andrew Marvell included him as the ‘gentlest of men’ among the ‘procurers’ in the government ranks. In 1668 he was among those ordered to inspect the militia laws and to consider the extension of habeas corpus, and in the debate on uniting Protestants moved to refer the matter to the committee of religion. On 30 Mar. 1670, he was teller for the bill to enable Lord Roos (John Manners) to divorce his wife, a measure in which the King was believed to take a personal interest. He was on both lists of the court party at this time, and described as ‘a pimping bedchamber man, not born to a farthing’.5
In 1673 Progers was added to the committee for the better observance of the anniversary of Charles I’s martyrdon. His name appeared on the Paston list. On 26 Feb. 1674 he acted as teller against the opposition amendment to the motion on the state of Ireland, but he was nevertheless named to the committee of inquiry. Danby awarded him an excise pension of £400 p.a. as compensation for his failure to obtain a lump sum previously awarded to him from the Irish revenues. In May 1675 he was again appointed to a committee to prevent the growth of Popery, and in the autumn session he was included in the list of officials in the House. Shaftesbury marked him ‘thrice vile’ in 1677. In the earlier sessions of 1678 he was on the government list of the court party, acting as teller for agreeing with the committee on naval estimates and against the address for the removal of Lauderdale. But he helped to draw up the address for the removal of counsellors on 7 May. During the Popish Plot panic he took part in two searches for incriminating documents, and was among those appointed to consider the access of ambassadors to the Court. In a last attempt to save Danby from impeachment on 21 Dec. he was teller against the motion for candles. His parliamentary career closed with a speech in defence of Sir George Jeffreys for respiting the execution of three convicted Jesuits.6
Although not blacklisted in the ‘unanimous club’ of court supporters, Progers was unable to secure re-election in 1679. He was named by (Sir) Stephen Fox in the first Exclusion Parliament as a pensioner, and in August he told his brother that his duties at Court precluded him from standing again. He retired on the death of Charles II to the house which he had built in Bushey Park, ‘spending the remainder of his life in hearty and zealous prayer for the good and prosperity of his church and country’. He acquired an estate in Suffolk as executor and residuary legatee to the sister-in-law of William Crofts, and some time after 1686 he bought Gwernvale from a spendthrift nephew. Nevertheless on the accession of Queen Anne he petitioned for financial assistance, pointing out that, come June 1702, he would have served the royal family for 69 years. Although reported to be on his deathbed before the Restoration, he survived till 31 Dec. 1713. He died at the age of 92, of a fever said to have been caused by cutting new teeth, and was buried at Hampton. Gwernvale was inherited by his daughter, who was married to a local clergyman, ‘a zealous friend to the Hanoverian succession’.7
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: Leonard Naylor
This biography, is based on the account by S. H. A. Hervey in West Stow Par. Reg. (Suff. Green Bks. vii), 191-222.
- 1. St. Martin in the Fields (Harl. Soc. Reg. xxv) 46; (lxvi) 13, 22; Thurloe, i. 151; G. T. Clark, Limbus Patrum, 252-3; Copinger, Suff. Manors, i. 409; VCH Mdx. ii. 387. Wood’s City of Oxford (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xxxvii), 245.
- 2. HMC 10th Rep. IV, 147, 152; Cal. Treas. Bks. xvii. 71; HMC Pepys, 255; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 654; CSP Ire. 1666-9, pp. 114, 349.
- 3. R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 357; CJ, viii. 431, 634; CSP Dom. 1664-5, p. 4; 1666-7, p. 447; Mdx. RO, Acc. 890, WJP/CP2; HMC 10th Rep. IV, 151.
- 4. DWB; CSP Dom. 1645-7, p. 13; 1652-3, p. 94; 1655, p. 204; Cal. Cl. SP, v. 13.
- 5. Jones, Brec. iii. 135; Bodl. Carte 33, f. 7; CJ, viii. 502; Poems on Affairs of State, i. 108; Grey, i. 127; Harl. 7020, f. 47v.
- 6. CJ, ix. 438, 478; Cal. Treas. Bks. xvii. 71; Grey, vi. 397.
- 7. CSP Dom. 1679-80, p. 64; Grey, vii. 324; HMC 10th Rep. IV, 151; Copinger, i. 408-10; Jones, iii. 135; Add. 22185, f. 14; Cal. Cl. SP, v. 13; Cal. Treas. Bks. xvii. 71, 464; Lysons, Mdx. Parishes, 87-88.