KING, Thomas (aft.1647-1725), of St. Margaret’s, Westminster
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Family and Education
b. aft. 1647, ?1st s. of Thomas King† of London by ?1st w. Mary, da. of Charles Gooch of Great Yarmouth, Norf., and bro. of Dr John King, master of Charterhouse. m. 2da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. bef. July 1688.1
Ensign, 3 Ft. 1678, 2nd lt. (grenadier coy.) 1687, capt. 13 Ft. Sept. 1688; dep.-gov. Tower of London Mar. 1689–?90; capt. (and lt.-col.) Coldstream Gds. Dec. 1688; capt. 1 Ft. Gds. May 1689, lt.-col. June 1693; lt.-gov. Sheerness Dec. 1690–d.; sub-brig. 2nd tp. Horse Gds. May 1705; brevet col. ft. Sept. 1706.2
King’s father was an impecunious MP, notorious for his dependence on court handouts and widely suspected of using other people’s money for his own financial gain. He asked ministers for funds persistently, giving it as his opinion in 1678 that, had he succumbed to a recent illness, ‘my poor children [would have] been left in a sad condition for want of a settlement of my debts’. Nothing is known about King until he was commissioned in 1678. Thereafter, his army career led him into the foot guards and eventually, in 1690, to the post of lieutenant-governor of Sheerness, worth £182 10s. p.a.3
From his fortress redoubt King was able to exercise considerable influence on the nearby borough of Queenborough. In the final months of the ailing life of Caleb Banks* he was able to put this power to good use, building up an electoral interest strong enough to repulse Sir George Rooke* and the naval interest, while at the same time facing down rumours that the King, Lord Romney (Hon. Henry Sidney†), or some other superior officer would order him to withdraw from the contest. The Court need not have worried about him for King immediately demonstrated his loyalty, voting on 25 Nov. 1696 for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. However, he was not an active member, being named to only a single inquiry committee in William’s reign. The jurats of Queenborough also benefited from King’s close attention for, apart from the electoral entertainments provided by him, he also financed extensive alterations to the parish church. By virtue of his post at Sheerness, King appeared on two lists of placemen compiled in 1698. His name also figured on what was apparently a forecast of those Members likely to oppose a standing army, but according to another list he voted against the disbanding bill on 18 Jan. 1699. Clearly it was in his professional and personal interests to support his own prospects of employment, but throughout his career commentators saw King as a potential opponent of the Court. More perplexing still is an analysis of the House into ‘interests’ in 1700, which assigns his main allegiance to the Old East India Company, but with such sketchy knowledge of his background there is insufficient evidence to link King with the company by virtue of any relatives or connexions he might have had. He may, however, have been a merchant on his own account, for in February 1705 a ‘Colonel’ Thomas King, together with John Ainsworth of London, petitioned the Treasury for the abatement of customs duty on some French wine they had taken as a prize. The wine was being held at King’s warehouse in Rochester. The possibility remains that King was a sleeping partner in trading voyages, or had acquired his father’s eye for commercial opportunity, only with more success. Certainly, at his death, he was worth far more than an army officer with only a lieutenant-governor’s salary to supplement his income.4
From February 1701 to 1708, the ‘Mr King’ referred to in the Journals was usually the Whig lawyer Peter King. In matters of party strife, but where the Court had little overt interest, Thomas King sided with the Tories. Thus on 26 Feb. 1702 he voted for the motion vindicating the proceedings of the Commons in their impeachment of William III’s Whig ministers. Likewise, on 13 Feb. 1703 he voted against agreeing to the Whig-inspired amendment from the Lords on the bill enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration. However, when an issue was crucial to the Court, King could be depended upon to support the administration. Thus he was forecast in October 1704 as a probable opponent of the Tack, and on 28 Nov. did not vote for it. Also in October 1704 he had shown himself to be sensitive to the feelings of the Court in relation to the wording of Queenborough’s loyal address on the summer’s military victories. King was not above using his political loyalty as a lever to secure a commission as brevet colonel, having, as he put it, ‘vindicated’ himself over the Tack. This vote notwithstanding, the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) shrewdly perceived that self-interest bound King firmly to the Court: in July 1705 he insisted to Godolphin that King be refused leave to sell his company in the guards since, if permission were granted, ‘he will go very wrong in Parliament’. King’s vote against the Tack secured his seat at the 1705 election, while his erstwhile partner and superior at Sheerness, Robert Crawford*, a Tacker, was defeated. The Whigs were not enthusiastic about King’s return, Lord Halifax (Charles Montagu*) remarking to Marlborough’s duchess that he was ‘more worthless’ than Crawford. King was classed as a placeman and Low Church on two lists of 1705 and was probably on hand to vote on 25 Oct. for the Court candidate as Speaker. He was absent on 18 Feb. 1706 from the division over the ‘place clause’ of the regency bill, and may well have been absent from London altogether, since on the following day he was one of those Members noticed by the Whigs for non-attendance at the committee of elections which heard the appeal of the Whig James Herbert* against the return for Bewdley of the Tory Salwey Winnington*. Alternatively, as the Whigs themselves thought, King’s sympathies may have lain with the Tories. Significantly, on two analyses taken early in 1708, he was classed as a Tory, and in the election of that year, a high-point of Whig success at the polls, he was supplanted by the new governor of Sheerness, Henry Withers*.5
King retained his post at Sheerness, however, and, in the more propitious circumstances of 1710, reclaimed his parliamentary seat. The compiler of the ‘Hanover list’ failed to place him in either party camp, but he was among those designated ‘worthy patriots’ in the 1710–11 session for their role in helping to detect the mismanagements of the previous administration. On 18 June 1713 he voted against the French commerce bill, earning the assignation ‘Whig’ from the compiler of the division list. Despite this vote he was still marked as a Tory on the Worsley list and on a comparative analysis of the 1713 and 1715 Parliaments. However, a third commentator tempered his assessment of King’s Toryism with the word ‘whimsical’. King retained both his office and his parliamentary seat in 1715, but was defeated in 1722. He died ‘at his house in Petty France’ on either 17 or 27 July 1725 and, according to Abel Boyer, ‘left a considerable estate to his wife and daughter’. There can be no disputing King’s wealth as detailed in his will. The Thomas King who in 1694 subscribed over £500 to the Bank of England was probably not this Member, who had stock in the Million Bank worth £2,000 and Bank bills and lottery tickets worth £12,000, plus £50 p.a. for the remaining years of a parliamentary fund. His landed wealth consisted of an estate in Montgomeryshire and Merioneth, rented out for £513 p.a., which had been purchased from the executors of the Earl of Castlemaine [I] (Roger), and a claim on lands in Wimpole, Cambridgeshire, which he had an agreement to convey to the 2nd Earl of Oxford (Edward, Lord Harley*) in return for £8,000. The main beneficiary was not his wife but a Mrs Margaret Saville who received a life interest, remaindered to King’s daughter, Mary. (The Mary King who married Sir Francis Dashwood, 1st Bt.*, was probably not this Mary but the daughter of Major Charles King.) His other daughter, Elizabeth, had predeceased him.6
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. PCC 157 Romney; Secret Service Moneys (Cam. Soc. lii), 207.
- 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 717.
- 3. Egerton 3338, f. 103.
- 4. BL, Althorp mss, Crawford to Mq. of Halifax (William Savile*), 22 Aug., 19 Sept., 1 Oct. 1696, Rooke to same, 3, 9 Oct. 1696; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/11, James Vernon I* to Shrewsbury, 24 Oct. 1696; Hasted, Kent, vi. 244; Cal. Treas. Bks. xix. 519; xx. 235, 257.
- 5. Add. 38891, f. 328; 61458, ff. 160–1; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1702–7, p. 378; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 470; Bull. IHR, xlv. 49.
- 6. The Gen. n.s. vi. 210; Boyer, Pol. State, xxx. 102; DZA, Bonet despatch 6/16 July 1694; PCC 157 Romney; Cal. Treas. Bks. xvi. 168.