VINCENT, Sir Matthias (c.1645-87), of , Islington, Mdx.

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

b. c.1645, yr. s. of John Vincent (d.1646) of Battens, North Hill, Cornw., rector of Sedgefield, co. Dur. 1644-6, by his w. Sarah. educ. Westminster 1656. m. c.1670, Mary, illegit. da. of Henry Greenhill, merchant, of Madras, India, wid. of John Gurney, merchant, of Madras, 2s. 1 other ch. Kntd. 20 Mar. 1685.1

Offices Held

Treas. Sons of the Clergy 1685-d.

Alderman, London 1686-d.


Vincent’s grandfather, an attorney, married an heiress and rebuilt Battens in His father, who inherited the estate, was disclaimed at the heralds’ visitation of 1620, and prosecuted in the court of chivalry for usurping the arms of the Surrey family. He then took orders, but being ‘unconformable in divers degrees’ could obtain no benefice before the Civil War and was much harassed by the bishops, so that it is said that his seven children were born in seven different dioceses. Vincent’s eldest brother became a fellow of All Souls in 1654, but presumably returned to Cornwall at the Restoration. Two other brothers lost their livings at Bartholomew and thereafter kept conventicles on the outskirts of London. Vincent himself was accepted as a factor by the East India Company in 1661, and achieved rapid advancement, due in part to his linguistic ability. His wife, the daughter of a high company official by a Goanese mistress, brought him ‘a great quantity of riches, goods and chattels’. She was an ardent Roman Catholic, but despite this embarrassment and the usual charges of corruption, immorality and extortion Vincent reached the summit of his career in India as chief in Bengal in 1676, and it was only when his niece married Thomas Pitt, leader of the interlopers, that he lost the confidence of the board. Orders were given for his arrest in 1681, but he took refuge in the Dutch factory, returning unscathed and enormously wealthy in 1683 on board one of Pitt’s ships.2

One of the first nabobs, Vincent lived in princely style. As treasurer of the Sons of the Clergy, he was knighted by James II soon after his accession. Six weeks later he was elected for Lostwithiel, but he took no known part in Parliament. Doubtless a court supporter, he was nominated alderman of London in 1686, but died in the following summer. In a codicil to his will witnessed by William Wake (the future primate) and Nicholas Courtney on 17 May 1687, he committed his sons to the guardianship of their uncle, the nonconformist minister. But he refused to act and the will was proved on 5 June by his widow, who had left her husband ‘upon some real or feigned grounds ... of his familiarity with another, ... carrying with her great quantities of his gold and jewels’. By the time Hals came to write his account of the family his wealth was ‘for the most part ... spent or consumed’, and none of his descendants entered Parliament.3

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. Rec. Old Westminsters; Eng. Factories in India, 1655-60, p. 253; PCC 94 Nabbs, 86 Foot, 233 Fane; Diary of Sir Streynsham Master (Indian Rec. Soc.), i. 389, 395.
  • 2. Boase, Coll. Cornub. 1150; PCC 16 Hudleston, 98 Fenner; Vis. Cornw. (Harl. Soc. ix), 294; Lysons, Cornw. clxii; DNB (Vincent, Nathaniel); CSP Dom. 1636-7, p. 410; 1656-7, pp. 146, 329; Eng. Factories in India, 1655-60, p. 253; 1670-7, p. 331; 1678-84, pp. 169, 228-9, 290-1; Gilbert, Paroch. Hist. Cornw. iv. 5; Diary of Sir William Hedges (Hakluyt Soc. lxxxvi), 13, 15-17, 184-5, 228, 290-2; Cal. Ct. Mins. E.I. Co. ed. Sainsbury, viii. 268; xi. 119-20, 316.
  • 3. Paroch. Hist. Cornw. iv. 5; PCC 86 Foot.