PALMER, Sir Thomas, 4th Bt. (1682-1723), of Wingham, Kent
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Family and Education
bap. 5 July 1682, 1st s. of Herbert Palmer of Wingham by Dorothy, da of John Pincheon of Writtle, Essex; gds. of Sir Thomas Palmer, 2nd Bt., of Wingham. educ. Canterbury sch.; Sutton (Kent) sch.; Caius, Camb. 1699. m. (1) 18 Nov. 1700, Elizabeth (d. 1714), da. of Sir Robert Marsham, 4th Bt.*, and sis. of Sir Robert Marsham, 5th Bt.*, 3s. d.v.p. 4da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) Susanna Cox (d. 1721), 1s. illegit.; (3) 26 May 1722, Elizabeth Markham, ‘spinster of Covent Garden’, 1da. suc. fa. 1700[–1?]; uncle Sir Henry Palmer, as 4th Bt. 19 Sept. 1706.1
Freeman, Rochester 1710.2
Commr. for stating army debts 1715–?1720.3
A ‘gentleman of a very ancient family and a large estate’, Palmer took over the position in society held by his uncle, Sir Henry Palmer, 3rd Bt., who had been for over 35 years an important figure in politics and local government in east Kent. Ten days after Palmer’s baptism, both his father and grandfather drew up documents to ensure that he was brought up a ‘true Protestant’, and not ‘perverted to the Romish or popish persuasion’. His father made Sir Henry guardian, and he in turn named four trustees including the future archbishop of Canterbury, John Tillotson. In his will, made within two years of Thomas’ marriage, Sir Henry left the bulk of his estate to his eldest nephew. The transfer of Sir Henry’s political inheritance began even before his death, for in July 1705 Palmer was added to the county bench. His first task upon succeeding his uncle was to petition the crown in November 1706 for the office of steward of the manor of Wingham, which had been in the family since 1665. More importantly, he was soon accepted as a candidate for the next general election, a meeting of Whigs at the summer assizes in August 1707 selecting Palmer and Sir Stephen Lennard, 2nd Bt.*, to contest the county.4
When the election was held, in May 1708, Palmer topped the poll, with the Earl of Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) counting his return as a ‘gain’. In his first session Palmer supported the naturalization of the Palatines. He was more active in the following session. On 9 Dec. he was named to the drafting committee for the Riverhill–Tunbridge Wells road bill. He was twice a teller: on the 20th, on the Shrewsbury election dispute, against an unsuccessful motion that the House recommit a resolution narrowing the borough’s franchise; and on 27 Jan. 1710 for reading the place bill a second time. In February–March 1710 he helped manage through the Commons an estate bill on behalf of the Emmerton family of Kent, and also voted for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. No doubt because of his identification with the Whigs, Palmer lost his seat at the 1710 general election. He did not stand in 1713, but voted for the Whig candidates in the county election of that year.5
The death of his wife in July 1714 left Palmer ‘much afflicted’, but contemporaries were apt to believe his ‘gay temper will soon wear it off’. His bereavement seems to have brought him closer to his brother-in-law and near contemporary, Sir Robert Marsham, 5th Bt., for it was reported that ‘he intends to break off housekeeping and be with Sir Robert’. It was in company with Marsham in November 1714 that Palmer went electioneering at Rochester, winning the seat at the 1715 election. He was classed as a Whig on a comparative analysis of the 1713 and 1715 Parliaments. He was rewarded with a place on the commission investigating the army debts (at a salary of £500 p.a.). Around this time he took as his second wife the actress Susanna Cox, on whom he had already fathered an illegitimate son, Herbert. Pope made this event the occasion for a snide couplet:
To P—l—r’s bed no actress comes amiss
He courts the whole Personae Dramatis.
Shortly after her death in 1721 he married again, in the Fleet, a ‘spinster of Covent Garden’, who survived him. Palmer spent some time on his Buckinghamshire property, registering a gamekeeper for his manor of Pollicott in October 1723. He died on 8 Nov. 1723, leaving his widow a life interest in the Wingham estate, which, after her death, was to pass to his son, Herbert. She also received the reversion to lands in Essex, two tenements in Mincing Lane and £2,000 in East India stock, all of which were or had been in the possession of his ‘aunt’, Lucy Mildmay (sister-in-law to his aunt Sybilla Mildmay).