PRICE, Robert (1653-1733), of Foxley, Yazor, Herefs.
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Family and Education
b. 14 Jan. 1653, 1st s. of Thomas Price of Y Giler, Cerrigydruidion, Denb. by Margaret, da. and coh. of Thomas Wynne of Bwlchybeudy, Cerrigydruidion. educ. Shrewsbury; Ruthin g.s.; St. John’s, Camb. 1672; L. Inn 1673, called 1679, bencher 1701; travelled abroad (France, Italy) 1677–9. m. 23 Sept. 1679, Lucy, da. and coh. of Robert Rodd (d. 1681) of Gray’s Inn and Foxley, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da. suc. gdfa. at Bwlchybeudy 1670.1
Common councilman, Hereford 1682–3, recorder 1682–Oct. 1688, ?dep. steward 1682, alderman 1683–Oct. 1688; recorder, New Radnor 1683–d.; town clerk, Gloucester 1685–7; steward, Shrewsbury 1685–Jan. 1688.2
Attorney-gen. Glam. Feb.–Dec. 1684, S. Wales Dec. 1684–9; steward to Queen Catherine of Braganza 1685–1702; member, council in the marches of Wales 1686–9; second justice, Brecon circuit 1700–June 1702; serjeant-at-law 1702; baron of Exchequer June 1702–Oct. 1726; j.c.p. Oct. 1726–d.3
Commr. building 50 new churches 1727.4
Price was a determined careerist, well able to adapt his principles to changing times. Starting out as a client of the Beauforts and an outspoken champion of high-flying constitutional legitimism, he made himself into a moderate, Harleyite Tory, and finally a willing servant of the Hanoverian regime. He had an eye for a powerful patron, and the capacity to smooth over any feelings that might have been ruffled by his occasionally sharp tongue. He was not slow to take offence himself but did not bear a grudge, preferring politic compromise to prolonged vendetta. This was his reaction, for example, to his wife’s infidelity with her cousin, the son of Thomas Neale* the ‘great projector’. Having successfully sued the younger Neale in November 1690 ‘for enticing away’ his wife, ‘and keeping her, and getting her with child’, and won £1,500 damages, Price did not divorce her but agreed on an amicable separation on reasonable terms: she received £400 a year, and an annuity of £120 in his will, with a further £160 a year allowed to their three children, who presumably remained with their mother. All previous settlements were thereby revoked, and he enjoyed untrammelled possession of her inheritance, valued at their marriage at some £13,000.5
Price’s involvement with Beaufort, and the fact that he had held legal office in Wales under James II, made it difficult for him to work a passage back to royal favour under William III. He continued on close terms with Beaufort after the Revolution, carrying on a regular correspondence until at least 1699, which kept the Duke up to date with political news, and undertaking some business transactions for the family. But he needed other friends who were acceptable to the new King. He thus applied himself to repairing his relations with the Harleys of Brampton Bryan. It was to Sir Edward Harley* that he appealed for advice in 1689 after his own defeat at the hands of Sir John Morgan* in the election for Weobley, a defeat which illustrated the difficulties he laboured under, since it seems to have been brought about primarily by the revelation that his name had been marked ‘in the King’s roll’ in 1688 as favourable to the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws. (He himself claimed that he had told James II he would ‘serve him with my life and fortune’ but only ‘provided it were not injurious to the Church of England’.) His position as recorder of New Radnor, the one local office he had managed to retain, enabled him to offer the Harleys something, namely help in their efforts to secure the return of Sir Edward’s son Robert* for the New Radnor Boroughs constituency. Price was even willing to put aside competing claims of kinship when it looked as if Robert Harley would be in conflict with Price’s ‘cousin’ Richard Williams* in the county election in 1690, though he admitted that this clash of loyalties would place him in an extremely embarrassing predicament, in which the best that he could do would be to remain neutral: ‘if my indifference may be of use to you’, he wrote to Robert Harley, ‘of that you may be secure by my absence and silence’. The problem was solved by Harley’s decision to tackle Sir Rowland Gwynne* in the Boroughs instead, and here Price seems to have given open and, in his own view, crucial support. The first benefit he himself derived from this new friendship was that the Harleys’ ally Paul Foley I* did not challenge his election at Weobley in 1690 even though Foley’s son, Thomas II*, had been invited to oppose Price by some of the Weobley burgage-holders, anxious for a contest to boost their incomes. Price’s partner in the return was the old Roundhead and Exclusionist John Birch I*. That the two men could co-operate is an indication of Price’s political flexibility. He was still classed as a Tory in Lord Carmarthen’s (Sir Thomas Osborne†) analysis of the new Parliament, and also as a Court supporter. In April Price reported on and carried up two private estate bills, though he was otherwise inactive during this first session. It may be that his extensive legal practice took him away from the House. Throughout the 1690s he seems to have combined his work at the bar with his attendance in Parliament and customarily departed early in the spring to follow the Welsh circuits. In December 1690 he reported on two more private bills, and more significantly, reported on and carried up the bill for the speedier determining of elections, a measure designed to appeal to men of Country convictions. Again, support for this bill would not have been incompatible with his appearance on another list of supporters drawn up in mid-December by Carmarthen, presumably in connexion with the projected attack on the Marquess in the Commons. Whatever his attitude to the ministry, or to Country principles, Price was still a strong Tory in party-political matters, as evinced by his tellership on 18 Dec. against a Whig-inspired clause proposed to be added to the bill of attainder. He did not neglect his friends, either old or new: his appointment to, and evident attendance at, a committee on the Earl of Ailesbury’s (Thomas Bruce†) estate bill was probably in response to the wishes of the Beauforts, with whom Ailesbury was closely associated; while his one recorded speech of this session, on 8 Nov. 1690, was in vindication of Robert Harley at the committee hearing of the New Radnor election. He presented himself to Harley as an indefatigable and indispensible agent on Harley’s behalf in the ensuing struggle for power in the New Radnor corporation: he was, he boasted, the ‘main engine’ of the pro-Harley faction, and was ‘much in the disgrace of the adverse party’ there. Harley seems to have been almost convinced of his political reliability in a more general sense, but with a nagging reservation: in his list of April 1691 he marked Price as a member of the ‘Country’ opposition but added the qualification ‘d[oubtful]’. Price was himself responsible for sowing the seed of doubt. Sharing the view of many observers that the Harleys possessed influence at court, he wrote from the assizes in the very month in which Harley was preparing his list to ask for help in obtaining a Welsh judgeship that he mistakenly thought was likely to fall vacant. After opening on a note of breath-taking hypocrisy – ‘I am not fond of scarlet’ – he catalogued his qualifications for preferment: his having practised on the South Wales circuit ‘above 11 years, and of them seven as attorney-general, and without vanity I may say to this day the greatest gainer on the circuit’. He went on:
I need not tell you the objections against me, which with my incapacity can be but one, that is, that I was King James’s attorney. I was so for near four year[s] . . . but there was an order for my being displaced and a fiat for one Mr Progers to succeed me; and I hope, if that be original sin, that the King’s natural clemency and mercy has absolved me, if not, I hope his public grace has indemnified me . . . I leave it to your management and privacy as to anything from me, if any doubt me, being so deeply entrusted must give them an assurance. I suppose none doubts me, since I was offered to be second baron of the exchequer in Ireland; but I thought my fortune not so mean, nor precarious, nor my sins so great as to be banished for them.
Soon afterwards Price’s diplomatic talents were taxed again by a dispute over a vacant seat at Weobley, between the Foleys and John Birch II, nephew and heir of the former parliamentary colleague whose death had caused the by-election. Price’s natural inclination to sit on the fence was not even dispelled by the provocation of hearing that Thomas Foley II had offered Birch a deal which involved combining forces against Price at a subsequent election. Indeed, this intelligence provided Price with an excellent pretext to demur when the Harleys recommended Foley, and since they were equally embarrassed at being forced to choose between allies, his refusal did not cost him their goodwill.6
Price’s ability to forget old quarrels was once again demonstrated early in the next session, when on 9 Nov. 1691 he moved for a breach of privilege on behalf of his old antagonist at Weobley, Sir John Morgan. Price’s tellership on 2 Jan. 1692, in favour of agreeing with a resolution of the committee of supply stating the charge of infantry regiments in Ireland for the ensuing year, appears to show him fleetingly on the Court side, in opposition to two Tories. Party loyalties had reasserted themselves by 5 Feb., however, when he was one of a number of Members to speak against a Whig proposal to reintroduce into the bill vesting the Irish forfeited estates in the King and Queen a clause deleted by the committee, ‘for forfeiting the remainders on estates tail’. As well as his customary role on private bills, where presumably his professional expertise was of particular value, he also reported on a measure relating to the administration of the law, the bill for the more effectual punishment of offenders (27 Jan.). By the autumn of 1692 there was no doubting his political sympathies: probably abandoning any hopes of restoration to office under an increasingly Whiggish ministry, he now adopted a firm, even strident, oppositionist attitude. He spoke on the Country and Tory side on 28 Nov. 1692 in the debate on the treason trials bill, and regarded the bill for the better preservation of the King and Queen and their government, with its imposition of a new oath of allegiance, as ‘wicked’. He seems also to have supported the place and triennial bills. His letters to Beaufort show his support for the investigations into maladministration in Ireland: he was particularly hard on the Herefordshire Whig, Lord Coningsby (Thomas*), whose defence against charges of corruption he described as ‘weak and silly’. Over the supply, he reported that ‘we’, meaning the Country party, ‘have been fencing to keep off excise, but are mastered by an usual number’, while on 14 Feb. he spoke against committing the bill for taking the public accounts, but from a Country point of view, arguing only for a postponement until the commissioners ‘had brought in their observations on the accounts, that they may be of some use to the House’. His most forthright contribution was probably his speech on 1 Mar., against the bill of indemnity, when he announced that he
was against the whole bill, for that it remits all the extravagant actions done by great men, and puts it in the power of six Privy Councillors to imprison whom they please, and renders the English liberties thereby very precarious.
On all these major issues Price was clearly acting in close concert with Robert Harley and Paul Foley I, and it is therefore no surprise to find him joining in the chorus of Herefordshire gentlemen urging Sir Edward Harley to put himself forward as a candidate for the vacant seat as knight of the shire in the early months of 1693. His other recorded speech in this session, on 6 Mar., was on a matter of considerable local significance: against a bill brought in on behalf of the Earl of Pembroke (Thomas Herbert†), to set aside amendments made to recoveries and writs of fine in Wales. In this session Price also reported on yet another private bill (25 Feb.), and reported on and carried up a further measure of legal reform, the bill to regulate proceedings in the crown office of the court of King’s bench (4, 7 Mar.).7
Price seems to have been relatively inactive during the 1693–4 session, apart from taking a leading role in December 1693–January 1694 in managing a bill for the better execution of justice in Wales. However, the following year he was to make something of a political splash with his strongly worded opposition to the royal grant to the Earl of Portland of the two lordships of Denbigh and of Bromfield and Yale. Price’s passions had already been aroused by the proceedings over the Lancashire Plot. He regarded the trials of the alleged plotters as having been scandalously unfair and the witnesses against them ‘base’. But he did not make his presence felt in the ensuing parliamentary session, in which he reported on and carried up a bill exempting apothecaries from parish office, before being granted leave of absence on 6 Mar. to follow the circuit. Rather, it was as a member of a delegation of North Wales gentlemen to the Treasury in May, to protest against Portland’s grant, that he made one of his most notable speeches, enough to impress the historian Abel Boyer that he was ‘a gentleman of great parts’. Price gave a verbatim account of this speech to Beaufort, and may have had a hand in preparing the version that subsequently appeared in print. His main argument was that for the King to divest himself of the lordships, constituting as they did ‘five parts in six’ of the county of Denbighshire, would represent too great a loss to the revenue and influence of the crown. As befitted a lawyer, he emphasized the doubtful constitutional propriety of the grant, basing himself on medieval precedents, and even appealing to the outdated conventions of the ‘ancient constitution’: since the King ‘daily gives away the revenues, and more, the perpetuity of his crown revenues’, he would no longer be able to ‘live of his own’ once the present ‘long and chargeable war’ was over. There was also a somewhat archaic ring to his insinuation that Portland might become an ‘overmighty subject’: the King’s abandoning his position as landlord to the people of Denbighshire would weaken their allegiance, ‘since it is observable, that interest and property have an ascendant over duty’. But other elements in the speech had a distinctly contemporary resonance, in particular Price’s appeal to xenophobia, tinged in this case with intermittent Welsh patriotism, his harping on the theme of heavy wartime taxation, and not least the Jacobite innuendoes with which his remarks were larded. References to the fact that the lordships were the inheritance of the ‘Prince of Wales’ recalled the existence of a claimant to that title; while the statement that ‘interest and property’ could overcome ‘duty’ held certain obvious implications. Price’s explicit view of the King’s right to the throne was in fact that he held it ‘by modern contract and had but an estate for life in possession in the crown by the Act of Settlement’, an interpretation which could suit both contractarian Whig and Jacobite viewpoints. Despite the vigour with which Price and his compatriots argued their case they made no impression on King or Treasury and were obliged to take the matter before Parliament. Having been re-elected at Weobley with the support of the Foleys and of the Tory lord of the manor Lord Weymouth (Thomas Thynne†), with whom he was also ingratiating himself, Price presented to Parliament on 14 Jan. 1696 a petition against Portland’s grant, and in ‘a memorable speech’ moved for an address against it. Lord Ailesbury described this piece of oratory as ‘long, florid and substantial – more gentleman- than lawyer-like’. In it he elaborated on the points he had made to the Treasury lords, with an even stronger emphasis on their patriotic and xenophobic aspects. He introduced the idea of a ‘Welsh original contract’ which the grant infringed by in effect establishing Lord Portland as ‘quasi a Prince of Wales’:
as story tells us, we were brought to entertain a Prince of Wales by recommending him to us, as one who did not understand the English tongue; and our forefathers thence inferred, that he must be our countryman, and no foreigner, but one that understood the British language . . . I suppose this lord does not understand our language; nor is it to be supposed he will come among us to learn it! Nor shall we be fond of learning his!
Having briefly appealed in pseudo-Whig fashion to ‘another contract . . . which is the foundation of our present government; I mean the Bill of Rights and liberties, and settling the succession for the crown, which is so much forgot’, in seeking a legal restriction on the King’s capacity to grant away crown lands without parliamentary consent, he moved into a peroration of stunning vehemence:
My thoughts are troubled with strange apprehensions of our deplorable state. We are in a confederacy in war, and some of those confederates our enemies in trade, though planted among us; some of the King’s Council, some in the army, and the common traders have possessed themselves of the outskirts of this city . . . We see our good coin all gone, and our confederates openly coining base money of Dutch alloy. We see most places of power and profit given to foreigners. We see our confederates in conjunction with the Scots, to ruin an English trade . . . How can we hope for happy days in England, when this great lord and the other foreigners (though naturalized) are in the English and also in the Dutch Councils? If these strangers, though now confederates, should be of different interests, as most plainly they are in point of trade, to which interest is it to be supposed these great foreign Councillors and favourites would adhere? So that I foresee that when we are reduced to extreme poverty (as now we are very near it) we are to be supplanted by our neighbours and become a colony to the Dutch.
This speech aroused the prejudices of its audience to such a degree that the motion passed nem. con. It was later published as ‘the speech of a bold Briton . . . against a Dutch Prince of Wales’. Naturally enough, it was ‘highly resented’ by King William. Prior to this date Price had presented a bill to reverse a judgment given against the former Speaker Sir William Williams, 1st Bt.*, a collaborator in the agitation against Portland’s grant, and ‘for ascertaining the rights and freedoms of parliaments’ (7 Dec. 1695). Forecast as likely to oppose the Court in the division on the proposed council of trade on 31 Jan. 1696, Price made the most outspoken speech of any Tory against imposing on the councillors an oath of abjuration. He first quoted the comment by General Monck (George†) in a debate in 1659 on a similar oath, ‘that they had more reason to repent of old oaths than contrive new ones’, at which Hon. Goodwin Wharton* moved that he be called to the bar for ‘inferring’ that his hearers should repent of their oaths to King William. He had no sooner defended himself, denying that he had intended any ‘inferences’ or that he himself repented of his oath, than he was in hot water again, remarking that ‘multiplicity and variety of oaths were exploded in all ages as crimen laesae conscientiae and it was an hard thing to swear to rights that were moot points’. This time it was Charles Montagu* who moved that he be called to the bar, claiming that Price had implied that William’s right to the throne was a moot point. Price explained
that he meant that rights might be moot points to those who understood not the laws. Yet this did not satisfy, and the thing was some while debated, and if it had not been that the House was favourable to him he had been sent to the Tower.
He subsequently compounded suspicions of his loyalty to King William by being, as he put it, one of ‘the unfortunate gentlemen who could not subscribe the Association at the table of the House of Commons’. After reporting from the committee on the Wye and Lugg navigation bill (13 Feb.), a measure of major importance in his own county, he was given leave of absence for three weeks on 7 Mar., possibly to conduct his legal practice. It is thus probable that his appearance on the list of those who voted in late March against fixing the price of guineas at 22s. was a compiler’s error, although his correspondence indicates that had he been present he would have opposed it.8
Price made several speeches during the proceedings on the attainder of Sir John Fenwick† in November 1696, all of them tackling points of detail in a lawyerly fashion, and exposing defects in the ministers’ handling of the case. On 13 Nov. he argued that Fenwick be given more time to produce his witnesses, and criticized the way the bill had been drafted, while in later debates he opposed admitting Goodman’s information as evidence, and reading the record of the conviction of Peter Cook. At one point he observed that only ‘martial law’ would justify ‘the taking away a man’s life upon extraordinary evidence’. Naturally, he voted against the bill at its third reading on 25 Nov. He was associated with two bills in this session: that regulating the courts of great sessions in Wales, which he was an obvious choice to prepare and which he presented to the House, after a spell of illness, on 14 Jan. 1697, and a private estate bill, which he reported on 27 Feb., at which time he was also granted leave of absence for three weeks. His letters to Beaufort at this time show him to have shared Country party apprehensions that there would be an attempt to impose a ‘general excise’; to have been unsympathetic to the King’s request for an increase in the civil list, which he felt would not have been necessary ‘if less land and money had been given’ away; to have opposed attempts ‘to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act under colour of detaining some of the assassinators longer in prison’; and to have recoiled with contempt from proposals for a general naturalization bill, an old bugbear, since it would in his opinion ‘bring few rich and all the poor of other countries to make our own poorer, as we see by the French refugees whom we maintain and starve our own poor’. He also expressed his relief when he thought that government attempts to apprehend on suspicion of treason the Catholic Marquess of Powis’ heir apparent, Lord Montgomery, had proved ineffective. Price’s correspondence with Lord Weymouth, whose friendship he appears to have become increasingly keen to cultivate, seems to have followed much the same lines, with one possible exception. A letter to Weymouth at the conclusion of the peace of Ryswick in 1697 tailored its comments to suit the particular concerns evoked by Weymouth’s brand of evangelical High Churchmanship, in so far as Price stated his reservations about the effect of the peace on the plight of Protestants in Europe threatened with persecution, in Germany and in Louis XIV’s dominions. Whether or not this anxiety was genuine, it did not prevent him from welcoming the opportunity offered by the peace for a reduction in the military establishment. He identified himself with the opposition to a standing army in December 1697, describing the case made by the Court spokesmen against reducing the land forces as ‘faint’. In January 1698 he reported to Beaufort with some pleasure that ‘we’ in the Country party ‘had like to have given little Montagu [Charles] a fall. He reflected upon the House, as if many were Jacobites, upon which he was called to the bar and with much ado escaped it.’ He presented a bill on 9 Feb. to explain the Act for the relief of creditors, while on 12 Mar. he received his by now customary leave of absence to go on the western circuit. He was back in London before the end of the session, however, and on the news of the passage through the Lords of the bill to establish the New East India Company penned the bitter remark: ‘Montagu triumphs with his unjust success to the ruin of thousands.’9
Classed as a supporter of the Country party in a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments compiled after the 1698 election, Price took a prominent part in the renewed campaign against a standing army. He wrote to Beaufort:
We have great fortune if this army does not make us slaves. The Whigs with a noble spirit of liberty opposed in King Charles II’s time a few guards as badges of tyranny, a destruction of our constitution and foundation of a standing army. The same men are now for a standing army as our preservation. It is an age of miracles, nothing so extravagant that we may not expect to see. Surely patriots grow servile flatterers, old Commonwealthsmen declare for prerogative.
He was present at the crucial debate on the bill at its third reading on 18 Jan. 1699, after which he described the pro-ministerial arguments as ‘so weak that they were fully answered’. The following day, he told Beaufort, ‘we met, several of us, and have, within very few, fixed the names of those who voted pro and con’. This may, as one modern historian thinks, have been the origin of the published ‘black list’ of Court supporters. On the other great questions of the session, Price clearly pursued the path of opposition: he supported the Country-led inquiries into naval corruption, and in debates over the East India trade favoured the Old Company against the New. He presented two bills, a private bill (8 Feb. 1699) and a measure to prevent the ‘malicious burning’ of houses, crops and ‘agricultural improvements’ (15 Feb.). Although, as he observed, ‘the Parliament is very severe with men of the gown’, he remained intent on ‘breaking school’ and secured his leave of absence on 14 Mar. As the next session approached, his letters to Beaufort displayed an undiminished commitment to Country campaigns against Court corruption. Over the Irish forfeitures, for instance, he regarded the report of the commissioners of inquiry as having provided ‘a very exact account . . . of the plunder and cheats that were committed there’. In particular, King William’s grant to Lady Orkney, his mistress, of the private estate of King James was an act ‘not paralleled by any of his royal predecessors’. For all these bold words, Price’s contribution to the last session of the 1698 Parliament was not very substantial. The only item of legislation for which he was responsible was a private bill (8 Feb. 1700). At this time he was listed among the opposition.10
Two significant developments during 1700 helped change the course of Price’s political career and, more specifically, cool his partisan ardour. The first was the death of Beaufort, which left him free to pursue the alternative patrons whose friendship he had been soliciting for some years, especially Robert Harley. The second was his appointment as a Welsh judge, for which he professed to regard Harley as responsible. He certainly consulted Harley as to whether he should accept the post and afterwards told him that ‘it was your friendship and the dependence on your judgments stocked me with confidence to embrace the trust and honour’. At the same time, like other Country party men taking office, he was aware of the criticism to which he was laying himself open: ‘I hope none will attribute it to my covetousness or that it will in any sort bias me against my country.’ One effect of the appointment was that it released him from any urgent necessity of seeking re-election to Parliament. Having withdrawn late in the day from the first 1701 election, he was returned in a contest at Weobley in the second election of that year. Harley included him among the Tories in his analysis of the new Parliament, and Price did indeed vote with the Tories on 26 Feb. 1702, in support of the motion vindicating the Commons in its prosecution of the impeachments of the four Whig lords. He was probably the ‘Mr Price’ who acted as a teller twice on questions relating to the Irish forfeitures on 21 and 22 May. King William’s death found Price at Worcester. Considering that he was now an office-holder, his comments on this occasion were perhaps unwarrantably sharp. ‘I never saw so few mourners’, he informed Robert Harley; ‘nay, them of the godly part . . . said their friend[s?] had lost a friend, which I believe to be true and is too well known’. He then went on to request Harley’s help to retain his post under the new Queen. In fact he was even more fortunate, securing promotion to the Exchequer, possibly through Harley’s influence. In order for his appointment to go through, he took the coif, and the motto selected for his presentation rings on this occasion not only expressed Tory optimism on the accession of Queen Anne but recalled his reputation as a ‘Cambro-British’ patriot: ‘Regina et lege gaudet Britannia’.11
Price remained enough of a Tory partisan to take a different line from most of his fellow judges on the case of the men of Aylesbury in 1704–5, giving his opinion in January 1704 against the issuing of a writ of error against the Queen’s bench judgment (see AYLESBURY, Bucks.) and thus upholding the privilege of the Commons to be the sole judge of their own elections. During the summer of 1705 he gave an ‘extraordinary . . . charge’ to the grand jury at the Winchester assizes ‘in which among other things he took notice of the slanders and aspersions which the fanatic party in the libels etc. cast on the Church of England, and reminded them that the present liberty which they enjoyed was purely the effect of the bounty of the Church of England’. But he was, at the same time, becoming ever more closely associated with Harley. In August 1704, hearing of a possible vacancy elsewhere on the bench, he wrote to Harley: ‘I have no friend but yourself and if I might have a remove to the common pleas it would be to my advantage.’ He assisted Harley in lobbying against the Tack in October–November 1704, and two years later claimed that he used his influence while on circuit to promote acceptance of a union with Scotland. He was now openly critical of the intemperate attack on Dissenters made by high-flying clergymen like Henry Sacheverell. Even after Harley’s fall from power in 1708 Price may still have maintained his distance from the High Tories, for he opposed Charles Caesar* at the Weobley by-election that year. However, this attitude could well have been occasioned solely by resentment at Caesar’s intrusion into the borough as a foreigner. Price was at the same time anxious to help the extreme Tory Lord Bulkeley (Richard, 4th Viscount*) in his struggles against the Whigs in Anglesey. Tipped at one stage as a possible lord chancellor in Harley’s new administration in 1710, he was, or so his biographer alleged, frequently consulted by the lord treasurer on ‘the most important matters of state’, and before Harley’s resignation in 1714 was thought likely to succeed as lord chief baron of the Exchequer.12
Price had taken pains to establish himself in the good graces of the Hanoverian court before the death of Queen Anne. His elder son had visited the Electress Sophia in 1705; the younger had entered into a correspondence with her on political subjects in 1713. With his talent for time-serving, he was able to keep his job after George I’s accession, and even acted, with some enthusiasm, as one of the judges of the Jacobite rebels at Carlisle in 1716. Typically, he never forfeited his friendship with the Harleys. He was advanced to be a judge of the common pleas by George II, in whose favour he had given his opinion in 1718 in the dispute over the education of the royal children, and held this place until his death, at Kensington, on 2 Feb. 1733. He was buried at Yazor, near the house he had rebuilt at considerable expense after the Hanoverian succession. His will made numerous bequests to the poor, including a sum for the upkeep of almshouses he had erected in his ancestral parish in Denbighshire, and a maintenance for a minister to read morning and evening prayers in a Hereford church. His wife received merely an annuity of £120, ‘pursuant to a former agreement’ between them.13
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. E. Curll, Life of Robert Price (1734), 2–3; DWB, 790; Chirk Cast