Perceval, Philip (DNB00)

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PERCEVAL, Sir PHILIP (1605–1647), politician, was born in 1605. He was the younger of the two sons of Richard Perceval [q. v.] of Tickenham, Somerset, by his second wife Alice, daughter of John Sherman of Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire. Philip's elder brother Walter and himself had been appointed by their father joint successors in his office of registrar of the Irish court of wards. Walter died in 1624, so that Philip obtained the family estates in England and Ireland, and the sole enjoyment of the Irish registrarship.

Perceval now definitely settled in Ireland, and by means of his interest at court gradually obtained a large number of additional offices. In 1625 he was made keeper of the records in Birmingham Tower. In 1628 he was joined with Henry Andrews in the offices of clerk of the crown to the Irish courts of king's bench and common pleas, and keeper of the rolls of those tribunals; and in 1629 he was made joint collector of customs at Dublin with Sir Edward Bagshawe. On 2 June 1636 he received the honour of knighthood from the hands of Lord-deputy Wentworth at Dublin. In 1638 he, with Sir James Ware [q. v.], obtained the monopoly of granting licenses for the sale of ale and brandy; in the same year he was sworn of the privy council; and in March 1641 he was made commissary-general of victuals for the king's army in Ireland.

But Perceval's energy was chiefly shown in the part he played in the prevailing jobbery connected with Irish landed estate. Holding, in this connection, the offices of general feodary of Ireland, escheator of Munster, and (1637) commissioner of survey into land titles in Tipperary and Cork, he took a prominent share in the discovery of technical defects in Irish titles; and obtained enormous transfers of forfeited lands to himself. The importance of these acquisitions, which lay mainly in Cork, Tipperary, and Wexford, may be shown by two instances. In 1630 he obtained the manors of Haggardstown, Herfaston, and Blackrath in Tipperary, and a quarter part of Kilmoyleron in co. Cork, at the quit rent of 1l. 7s. 5d. for all services, and special exemption from any taxes that might be laid thereon by parliament or any other authority. In 1637 he obtained the manor of Annagh, with numerous towns, castles, and lands adjoining it in Cork and Tipperary, the whole being, by special license of the crown, erected into the manor of Burton, with liberty to impark sixteen hundred acres, and right to enjoy numerous exceptional privileges. By 1641 he is described as being possessed of the enormous amount of seventy-eight knights' fees and a half, containing 62,502 Irish acres, making 99,900 English acres, in the finest parts of the country, above 4,000l. a year of the best rents, and a stock in woods, houses, &c., worth above 60,000l., with employments for life of the value of above 2,000l. a year, besides other employments of equal profit, which he held by an uncertain tenure. This list does not include his patrimonial estate of Burton in Somerset.

Perceval was one of the few who perceived the approach of the Irish rebellion of 1641, an event which his own extortion and chicanery had done much to produce. On its outbreak in October, however, he remained in Dublin, where, as clerk to the king's bench, he took a prominent part in drawing up the notorious list of three thousand indictments for high treason against the rebellious gentlemen. Perceval at length saw that, owing to the vacillation of the government, his own property in Munster would be left exposed to the rebel onslaught. He therefore garrisoned and provisioned his castles in this territory at his own expense. In the summer of 1642 a detachment of the confederate army under Lord Muskerry advanced into Perceval's districts. All his castles were taken, though Annagh and Liscarrol offered a stubborn resistance, the former holding out for eleven days against an attacking force of 7,500 men (20 Aug.–2 Sept. 1642). Perceval now obtained the command of a corps of firelocks from the Duke of Ormonde. He armed them at his own cost, but does not seem to have taken any active part in the fighting, during the course of which his property in Munster was utterly ruined.

Perceval was one of those who urged and assented to the ‘cessation’ of hostilities agreed on by the contending factions at Castle Martyn on 15 Sept. 1643. In 1644 conferences were opened at Oxford, with a view to a definitive treaty, between representatives of the Irish confederates and certain royal commissioners. Perceval was appointed one of the latter, at the suggestion of his friend Lord-deputy Ormonde. King Charles, who wished to use the Irish rebels against his English subjects, would have been willing to grant the former all their demands, including the toleration of catholicism. Perceval, however, shrank from so extreme a step, which would have jeopardised his own prospects, and the conferences came to nothing. As a consequence, Perceval incurred the bitterest hostility of the royalist faction. So strong was the feeling against him that he now resolved to go over to the English parliamentarian party. His overtures were favourably answered. He came to London in August 1644, was well received by the parliament, and obtained a seat in the English House of Commons as member for Newport in Cornwall.

From this time to his death Perceval remained in England. His Irish property had by now ceased to return any revenue; his losses by the war amounted on his own computation, probably an exaggeration, to the enormous sum of 248,004l. 9s. 1d.; and he found himself compelled to sell the family estate of Burton in Somerset. His position in the English parliament, moreover, was by no means easy. Perceval had thrown in his lot with the moderate presbyterians. This party was at enmity with the independents; and in July 1647, after many minor attacks, a proposal was brought forward for Perceval's expulsion from the house, on the ground of his having supported the cessation of arms in 1643. He managed to retain his place by a brilliant defence. He subsequently took a share in organising the defence of London against the independent army. But in September 1647 he found himself compelled to retire into the country. Threats of impeachment being made, he returned to meet them in London; but was taken ill soon after his arrival, and died on 10 Nov. 1647. He was buried, at the cost of the parliament, in the church of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields. His funeral sermon was preached by Primate Ussher.

Perceval was married, on 26 Oct. 1626, to Catharine, daughter of Arthur Usher. She died on 2 Jan. 1681, having borne her husband five sons and four daughters. The eldest son, John Perceval, regained most of the Irish estates, and was made a baronet on 12 Aug. 1661; Sir John's grandson was John Perceval, first earl of Egmont [q. v.]

[History of the House of Yvery; Lodge's Peerage of Ireland; Metcalfe's Book of Knights; Carte's Life and Letters of the Duke of Ormonde; Wills's Irish Nation: its History and Biography; Dr. Warner's History of Ireland; Cal. State Papers, Irish and Domestic; Gilbert's Contemporary Hist. of Affairs in Ireland, and Hist. of the Confederation; Prendergast's Report on the Carte Papers in Deputy-Keeper's Record Publications, No. xxxii. App. i. 215, and Hist. MSS. Comm. Report on Egmont Papers.]

G. P. M-y.