POVEY, John (c.1649-1715), of St. James’s, Westminster, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



6 Mar. 1697 - 1700

Family and Education

b. c.1649, 1st s. of Sir John Povey of Woodseaves, nr. Market Drayton, Salop, baron of the exchequer [I] and c.j. Kb [I], by Elizabeth, da. of Guthlake Folliott of Worcester.  educ. Trinity Coll. Dublin, 19 Apr. 1666, aged 16; G. Inn 1669, called 1679.  m. 12 Nov. 1693, Mary, da. and h. of Thomas Vivian (d. 1691) of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster by Anne, da. of Justinian Povey, of Hounslow, Mdx., wid. of William Blathwayt of the Middle Temple, 2s. at least.  suc. fa. 1679.1

Offices Held

Clerk of trade and plantations c.1684–?92, assistant. sec. 1692–6; clerk to sec. at war 1684; clerk of PC extraord. 1692–7, ord. 1697–d.2


Povey’s family established a tradition of public service, and his father built a legal career in Ireland, being appointed baron of the exchequer and chief justice of the King’s bench in the 1660s. Povey entered Dublin University in 1666, but he had returned to England within three years, being admitted to Gray’s Inn in 1669 and called to the bar a decade later. In the early 1680s, however, Povey moved away from the practice of law and began to forge an administrative career which he owed to the influence of his cousin William Blathwayt*. It was presumably Blathwayt’s influence that secured for Povey the place of clerk to the Privy Council committee for trade and plantations, of which Blathwayt was secretary, and shortly after Blathwayt’s appointment in 1683 as secretary at war Povey served for a short period as the secretary’s clerk. It was Blathwayt’s support that led to Povey’s becoming agent for the colonies of Virginia, Maryland and New York at the time of the Revolution, and Povey also owed to his cousin’s influence his promotion in 1692 to assistant secretary of the trade and plantations committee. This appointment arose from the decision that Blathwayt was to accompany William III during his campaigns in the Low Countries; and in order to smooth the operation of the trade and plantations committee in Blathwayt’s absence, Povey was also created clerk extraordinary to the Privy Council. The close personal connexion between Blathwayt and Povey was emphasized at this time when the former entrusted Povey with supervising the rebuilding of his country seat of Dyrham Park, and in November 1693 the relationship between the two men was strengthened when Povey married Blathwayt’s half-sister, his own first cousin. Blathwayt was consequently angered by the failure in the summer of 1696 to appoint Povey secretary to the new Board of Trade. Povey wrote that this was despite the desire of ‘many of the commissioners . . . that I might be continued in the service’, and his exclusion, effected by Lord Somers (Sir John*), appears to have been determined by a fear that his appointment as secretary would hinder investigations into the mismanagements of the Privy Council committee of trade and plantations. Blathwayt’s attempts to reverse Povey’s exclusion, which extended to lobbying Charles Montagu*, were ineffective, and Povey reverted to serving as Blathwayt’s clerk.3

In March the following year Povey was successful at the Mitchell by-election, presumably on the interest of his wife’s family the Vivians. Though attempts at this time to secure him a grant of £1,000, in lieu of his exceptional expenses when serving the committee for trade and plantations, were delayed, he was more successful in his attempts to secure the post of clerk in ordinary to the Council. In June Povey applied to the Duke of Shrewsbury for this post, and with the support of Blathwayt, Shrewsbury and the Earl of Bridgwater (John Egerton†), and despite rival pretensions to the office by Edward Southwell*, he secured the clerkship and took the necessary oaths at a meeting of the lords justices on 27 July. The post carried a salary of £250 p.a. with an additional £100 a year. At the 1698 election Povey was again returned for Mitchell, and in September was included on a list of placemen. A comparison of the old and new Commons dating from the same month classed Povey as a Court supporter, and on 18 Jan. 1699 he voted against the third reading of the disbanding bill. Povey made little further impact on the House, though in early 1700 he was listed, not surprisingly, as a connexion of Blathwayt’s. He retired from the Commons at the first 1701 election, but continued to serve as clerk of the Council until his death on 24 Apr. 1715. In his will Povey directed that property he had in the Cornish parishes of St. Wenn and Enoder (near Mitchell) should be sold for the benefit of his sons.4

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Richard Harrison


  • 1. F. E. Ball, Judges in Ire. i. 279, 287, 289, 311, 350–1; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 755; G. A. Jacobsen, William Blathwayt, 61.
  • 2. Jacobsen, 250, 408; CSP Dom. 1697, p. 270.
  • 3. Ball, 279, 287, 289, 311, 350–1; Jnl. Cork Hist. and Arch. Soc. ser. 2, vii. 97; Jacobsen, 61, 107–8, 140, 250, 298–303, 348, 383, 408, 411, 692; Huntington Lib. Ellesmere mss EL 9626, Povey to Francis Nicholson, 4 July 1696; 9735, Blathwayt to Bridgwater, 2/12 Aug. 1697; 9736, Bridgwater to Blathwayt, 10 Aug. 1697 (draft).
  • 4. Jacobsen, 319; Add. 34355, f. 33; HMC Buccleuch, ii. 483–5, 494, 508; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/119, James Vernon I* to Shrewsbury, 17 June 1697; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, i. 289–90, 310; Cal. Treas. Bks. xvii. 969; xxx. 64; PCC 99 Fagg.