KING, Thomas (d.1688), of London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

m. (1) 18 Jan. 1647, Mary, da. of Charles Gooch, merchant, of Great Yarmouth, Norf., 1s.; (2) Alice, 2s.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Yarmouth 1647; commr. for assessment, Essex Aug. 1660-79, Harwich 1663-79, corporations, Essex 1662-3; dep. collector of hearth-tax, Suff. 1666-7; commr. for recusants, Essex 1675.2

Gent. of privy chamber 1671-85.


Nothing is known of King before 1647 when he married into a prominent Yarmouth merchant family and became a victualler to the parliamentary navy. But he later claimed that during the second Civil War he ‘ventured estate and liberty to relieve the King with provisions from Yarmouth in Colchester siege’. He transferred his business activities to Harwich in 1650, where several families of the name were already established. But he never attained municipal office, and there is no evidence that he was related to a namesake who served as mayor in 1651-2, while he described Captain John King, who commanded the Harwich garrison under the Protectorate, as a villain. His own newly built house and warehouse, he complained, were wrested from him by Cromwell in 1657 to make way for a new dockyard, and he apparently moved to London, though he represented the borough in Richard Cromwell’s Parliament.3

King regained his seat in 1661, and became a moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament. He was appointed to 110 committees and thrice acted as teller. Under the Clarendon Administration his activities were almost entirely mercantile. As the ‘moving spirit’ in the Royal Fishery project, it was probably King who introduced into the House on 5 Mar. 1662 a bill to confirm the charter. He was one of the four Members ordered to compare the texts. In the same session he acted as teller against including tin in the bill to prevent customs fraud and for a temporary suspension of the Merchant Adventurers monopoly of cloth exports. He moved the rejection of a proviso to the hearth-tax bill proposed by Sir Thomas Littleton, 2nd Bt., and his Harwich premises were restored to him, though he did not retain them long. But he was regarded with such suspicion in government circles that he deemed it necessary to inform Clarendon by letter that he was not the brother of the Presbyterian Edward King. His proposals for the fisheries, he asserted, would increase trade, employ the poor, promote seamanship and encourage shipping. He suggested a joint stock company to build fishing busses, offered to lay out money himself, provided he got royal financial backing, and advised bringing over Dutch families to promote the project. Lord Treasurer Southampton encouraged the scheme, with the result that in September the Government advanced £9,000, to be supplemented by a voluntary subscription, for the construction of ten busses at Harwich and Deptford. King served on committees to consider improvements in the customs and defects in the hearth-tax in 1663, and on those to settle the disputes over the Yarmouth herring trade (24 Nov. 1664) and a petition on naval debts (14 Jan. 1665). Meanwhile Samuel Pepys had prepared a highly critical report on the finances of the Royal Fishery. Only £1,076 of the voluntary subscription had been paid in, but more had been collected, of which King retained £429 and the Earl of Pembroke, the nominal governor, a considerable sum. According to Pepys, instead of handing over the money, King had ‘insinuated in his accounts’ that he had assigned to the Fishing Company the lease of his house in Harwich, which was said to be worth £700. ‘It may be fit’, wrote Pepys, ‘to inquire whether this house was not long ago otherwise disposed of by him, and is since fallen to his Majesty and now actually employed by the officers of the navy in his Majesty’s service.’ Pepys also drew attention to another instance whereby King was defrauding the Company, and finally suggested improved methods of collection and accounting.4

King’s financial unreliability was now notorious. As a deputy collector of the hearth-tax for Suffolk, he was accused by his partners of withholding funds during the three-year farm, but he seems to have escaped any serious consequences. Probably an opponent of Clarendon, in 1667 he was named to the committees to inquire into the sale of Dunkirk, to report on the proceedings in Lord Mordaunt’s impeachment, to consider the public accounts bill, to hear a petition from Cirencester against the hearth-tax, and to examine the case of the French merchants. He was named to committees to consider a petition for the encouragement of navigation, to bring in a bill for the use of prize ships and to consider the bills for settling the balance of trade with Scotland. He was teller on 9 Mar. 1670 for the unsuccessful motion to proceed with the debate on union with Scotland before considering the conventicles bill. He was twice among those appointed to bring in a bill to regulate the making of brandy, and helped to consider four bills for the repair of Yarmouth pier and harbour. On 2 Apr. 1670 he was among those charged with preparing reasons for the rejection of the Lords’ proviso on behalf of Norwich. As a Member who had usually voted for supply he was on both lists of the court party in 1669-71, and he was given further protection against his creditors by a post in the privy chamber. He was less active politically after the collapse of the Cabal ministry. His principal committees in 1673 were to consider the bill for the prevention of abuses in parliamentary elections, to bring in the general naturalization bill, and to draft an address on the state of Ireland. In 1674 he was added to the committee for the general test bill and appointed to that to consider the charges of corruption brought by Thomas Master I. In the debate of 26 Apr. 1675 on Danby’s impeachment he declared, in his only recorded speech, that

he would take time to consider of these articles, and not proceed hastily upon them. He has known great good the Lord Treasurer has done. He has paid off the navy and the army. These articles are high and should be well considered of.

In 1675 he served on the committees for appropriating the customs to the use of the navy, and for considering a test to vindicate Members from accusations of corruption. He was granted £300 p.a. from the excise ‘over and above all the money he had received’. His subservience to the Court and his notorious penury were satirized in The Chequer Inn, a poem on the Members trying to prevent Danby’s impeachment

But King, God save him, though so crammed,
The cheer into his breeches rammed,
That buttery were and larder;
And of more provand to dispose,
Had sewed on too his double hose,
For times, thou knowest, grow harder.

At the end of the parliamentary session in November 1675, King, driven by financial necessity, first entered a claim for £238 6s. parliamentary wages, on the grounds that constant attendance in Parliament necessitated residence ‘in and about the cities of London and Westminster, whereby his own private affairs were neglected’. He was included in the working lists, and in 1676 Sir Richard Wiseman considered him ‘a certain vote’. Shaftesbury marked him ‘thrice vile’, and in Flagellum Parliamentarium he was described as ‘a poor beggarly fellow who sold his vote to the treasurer for £50 bribe’. The author of A Seasonable Argument, even more contemptuously, called him ‘a pensioner for £50 a session, etc., meat and drink, and now and then a suit of clothes’. The corporation alleged inability to meet King’s claim, though in 1677 they deposited £90 with Sir Anthony Deane to be invested on their behalf. During the winter he almost died of pleurisy, but ‘crept to the House’ to vote for the Government in a vital division. He appeared on both lists of the court party in 1678. Among his later committees were those to take account of the additional excise and to inquire into the Popish Plot.5

King is unlikely to have stood again, and his rejection by the Harwich corporation led him to revive his claim for parliamentary wages, now increased to £383 6s. On 2 Dec. 1679 he petitioned for a writ in Chancery which was granted three months later. But the claim was settled out of court by the 2nd Duke of Albemarle (Christopher Monck). King continued to receive secret service payments until his death. Between February 1680 and April 1688 he received £2,486, either ‘in consideration of his pretension to interest money’ for a debt due to him from Charles I, or ‘as of free gift and royal bounty’. He died between April and October 1688, in which latter month £50 bounty was paid to his widow. His son Thomas, an army officer, sat for Queenborough with one interval from 1696 to 1722.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: Gillian Hampson / Geoffrey Jaggar


  • 1. Yarmouth Freemen (Norf. Arch. Soc. 1910), 56, 78; PCC 157 Romney; Secret Service Moneys (Cam. Soc. lii), 207; Al. Carthusiani, 39.
  • 2. CJ, viii. 287; Cal. Treas. Bks. ii. 62; iii. 291, 1201.
  • 3. Cal. Cl. SP, v. 217, 219; CSP Dom. 1650, pp. 79, 82; Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 368.
  • 4. PC2/56/25; Pepys Diary, 10, 25 Oct. 1664; CJ, viii. 390, 399; Cal. Cl. SP, v. 217, 219, 234; VCH Essex, ii. 286-7; Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 338; CSP Dom. 1661-2, pp. 477, 499; J. R. Elder, Royal Fishery Companies, 103-4.
  • 5. Cal. Treas. Bks. ii. 62; iii. 291, 1201; iv. 871; v. 335; Pepys Diary, 9 Nov. 1667; CJ, ix. 153; Grey iii. 44; Poems on Affairs of State, i. 258; Harwich bor. recs. 57/3, 17, 19; 98/4/113; Eg. 3338, f. 103.
  • 6. Harwich bor. recs. 57/5; 68/5; 98/4/66; 133/8; G. W. Sanders, Orders in Chancery, i. 353; EHR, lxvi. 47-48; Secret Service Moneys, passim.