POPHAM, Alexander (c.1670-1705), of Littlecote Park, Littlecote, Wilts., and St. James’s Square, London
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Family and Education
b. c.1670, o. s. of Sir Francis Popham† of Littlecote Park by Helena, da. and h. of Hugh Rogers of Cannington, Som. educ. travelled abroad (Switzerland, Austria, Malta). m. lic. 25 May 1688, aged 17 (with £12,000), Lady Anne, da. of Ralph Montagu†, 1st Earl (later Duke) of Montagu, 1da. suc. gt.-uncle Henry Rogers at Cannington, Wilts. 1672, fa. 1674.1
Popham inherited the family estates while still an infant. These had recently been augmented by the addition of at least five Wiltshire manors, together with a £10,000 portion, secured by his father at his marriage in 1669. However, Popham’s succession to these estates was inhibited by a private suit of Warwick Bampfylde, and his guardians were involved in protracted Chancery proceedings regarding the yearly value of properties in Wiltshire, Berkshire and Somerset and the conditions set down in his father’s will. Although his family retained substantial influence of its own at Chippenham, the young Alexander’s return in 1690 probably owed something to the assistance of the Montagus, and in particular to his father-in-law, under whose aegis he was then acting. His politics were not clear-cut enough to allow Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) to classify him either as a Whig or as a Tory in his analysis in March 1690, and in Robert Harley’s* list of April 1691 he was still only a ‘d[oubtful]’ supporter of the Country party. In November 1691, at his father-in-law’s behest, he recommended Hon. Thomas Tollemache* at the by-election at Chippenham, and in the following March he was noted as one of the ‘competitors’ for the post of vice-chamberlain to the Queen. In December 1692 Francis Gwyn* brought in and managed on Popham’s behalf a bill to enable him to put his wife’s portion to financial use for his children, and Gwyn subsequently acted as a trustee for him. Classed with the ‘opposition’ in Grascome’s list, Popham was not an especially good attender, and on 2 Jan. 1694 he was permitted a fortnight’s leave of absence. Nevertheless, his earlier travels and ability to speak French had got him noticed, and he was added to a list of MPs with similar skills. Forecast as likely to support the Court in the division of 31 Jan. 1696 on the proposed council of trade, he signed the Association the following month. In March he voted for fixing the price of guineas at 22s. and on 25 Nov. for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. He was thrice given leave of absence in this Parliament: on 2 Feb. 1697, for a month, on health grounds; on 12 Feb. 1698, for three weeks; and on 29 Apr. 1698, without limitation, also for the recovery of his health.2
Although by 1698 Popham may have become estranged from his wife’s family, as a result of her well-publicized infidelities with Lord Romney (Henry Sidney†), he switched to a seat at Bath in that year to let in his kinsman Edward Montagu* at Chippenham. He was listed as a Court supporter, and a placeman, on a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments, but was forecast as a probable supporter of the disbanding bill. On 9 Dec. 1699, following a petition from Bath, he was among those named to draft the Avon navigation bill. Chosen ‘unanimously’ at Bath in January 1701, he was granted leave of absence on 29 Apr. 1701, again for health reasons. However, he had probably returned to London by 14 May, when he was named to the committee to draw up an address, and on the following day he led the trustees of Froxfield Hospital in Wiltshire in petitioning for a private Act to settle manors endowed upon it by Sarah, Duchess of Somerset. By June he was back in Wiltshire. Popham having been re-elected in November 1701, Bath corporation issued detailed instructions to its Members at the end of January 1702 on how they were to promote the city’s interests in the House. Specifically, they asked Popham to present a bill to the House allowing elections for the knights of the shire to be held at Bath, Wells and Taunton, on the grounds that the usual venue, Ilchester, was ‘such an odious place that there is neither drink, meat nor lodging to be had’ (see SOMERSET). In addition, he was to propose a clause to the bill for the relief of the poor (which was never presented), following numerous incidents in which people had been unable to leave Bath without financial assistance from the corporation. He voted on 26 Feb. 1702 in favour of the motion vindicating the Commons’ proceedings over the impeachment of the four Whig lords, but was marked as a likely opponent of the Tack and, having figured on Robert Harley’s lobbying list (Harley being a distant relation by marriage), he did not vote for it. On 2 Mar. 1702 he was a teller for agreeing to an amendment to the bill punishing mutiny and desertion.3
Returned at Bath in 1705, Popham died intestate a month after the election, on 16 June, and was buried at Littlecote. He was posthumously listed as ‘Low Church’ in a classification of the returns. There being no male heir, the estates reverted to his uncle and namesake, the father of Francis Popham*.4
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. PROB 6/81, f. 82; Burke, Commoners, ii. 200; HMC Buccleuch, i. 346; Mar. Lic. Vicar-Gen. (Harl. Soc. xxxi), 63; CJ, x. 737; HMC Lords, n.s. i. 300, 349; PCC 157 Eure.
- 2. Wilts. RO, 488/10; 39/18; HMC Lords n.s. i. 300, 350; HMC Buccleuch, i. 350; Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 391; Bodl. Carte 79, f. 439v; Luttrell Diary, 303; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Bentinck) mss, PWA 153.
- 3. Poems on Affairs of State ed. Ellis, v. 461; Glos. RO, D1779/X9; Add. 70036, f. 202; HMC Popham, 251–2.
- 4. PROB 6/81, f. 82; Le Neve, Mon. Angl. 1700–15, p. 108; Burke, 200.