PRICE, Thomas (1680-1706), of Foxley, Yazor, Herefs.
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Family and Education
b. 16 Jan. 1680, 1st s. of Robert Price*, and bro. of Uvedale Tomkyns Price*. educ. Westminster; L. Inn 1696; St. John’s, Camb. 1698; travelled abroad (Holland, Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Italy) 1705–d. unm.1
After their parents’ separation in about 1691 Price and his siblings seem to have lived in Bristol with their mother, whose influence upon their upbringing may not have been particularly wholesome. From his father Price received a maintenance of £80 a year, a full public education and, at the age of only 22, a place in Parliament, succeeding to the seat at Weobley that Price snr. had vacated for the post of baron of the Exchequer. Price’s activity in Parliament is difficult to distinguish from that of another Tory MP, Roger Price. However, the latter’s ill-health would suggest that it was Thomas who was the ‘Mr Price’ who acted as a teller on 28 Jan. 1703 for the motion that the Tory James Anderton* was duly elected for Ilchester, and who in the following session, on 2 Mar. 1704, told against a motion to refer a petition to the trustees for Irish forfeitures. Although noted at the beginning of the 1704–5 session as a probable opponent of the Tack, Price chose to vote in favour of it on 28 Nov. 1704, despite being lobbied by his father on behalf of the ministry. It is probable that Thomas was the ‘Mr Price’ who three days earlier had presented a private bill concerning estates in Breconshire, Herefordshire and Radnorshire, and who acted as a teller on 3 Mar. 1705 against a Whig-inspired adjournment motion in a debate arising from the Aylesbury case.2
Rather than seek re-election in 1705, Price embarked on a grand tour, setting out barely a few weeks after the end of the session. Whether this was his own idea or his father’s is unclear, but the fact that he began with a journey through Holland to Hanover, where he dined with the Electress, suggests that the baron, his eye to the political future, had at least been consulted as to the itinerary. Eventually, after further royal encounters in Berlin and Vienna, Price made his way to Italy, where the feminine company enchanted him. While he sent his father lengthy reports of palaces and churches he had visited, his letters to his sister and mother were full of praise for Italian ladies. ‘The women here are more like angels than mortals’, he wrote, and he was delighted to find that Venice ‘does not fall short of London for vice, which I reckon to be one of the best schools in Europe for the education of youth’. Intrigues and duels seem to have littered his path, and one of these amours was to prove fatal. He died in Genoa on 17 Sept. 1706. The most widely accepted version of events was that he had been shot twice in the head as he lay in bed at his lodgings, by the hand, or by the order, of an aggrieved and vengeful husband. The family preferred to believe an alternative story, that he had been poisoned by a jilted lover. There is a third possibility, however, that the ‘unknown dose’ he had received from his erstwhile inamorata was syphilis, and that under the strain of the disease and its treatment his mind gave way and he committed suicide. There was certainly a rumour at the time that he had ‘shot himself’, and the rather obscure account given by the family historian points in that direction: that towards the end ‘he found himself greatly out of order. Among other symptoms . . . his hair came out in handfuls, and the many fears he had grew too strong for him to bear’ and cost him his life. The interpretation would also explain the fact that after his death his effects were confiscated by the Genoese senate, which arranged for his body to be buried at sea.3