Powys, Thomas (DNB00)

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POWYS, Sir THOMAS (1649–1719), judge, second son of Thomas Powys of Henley, Shropshire, and younger brother of Sir Littleton Powys [q. v.], was born in 1649. He was educated at Shrewsbury school, and was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1673. He became solicitor-general, and was knighted on 23 April 1686, when Finch was dismissed. Burnet (Own Time, iii. 91) calls him a compliant young aspiring lawyer. Having acquiesced in the appointment of Roman catholics to office, and argued in favour of the king's dispensing power, he was promoted to be attorney-general in December 1687. He accordingly conducted the prosecution of the seven bishops in June 1688, and acted with such conspicuous moderation and fairness (ib. iii. 223) as to show his own personal disapproval of the proceedings. During the reign of William III he acquired a fair practice, especially in defence of state prisoners, among whom was Sir John Fenwick, and at the bar of both houses of parliament. He sat in parliament for Ludlow from 1701 to 1713, was made serjeant and queen's serjeant at the beginning of Anne's reign, and on 8 June 1713 a judge of the queen's bench; but as he and his brother Sir Littleton Powys too frequently formed judgments in opposition to the rest of the court, he, as the more active and able of the two, was removed, on Lord-chancellor Cowper's advice, when King George I came to England (14 Oct. 1714). His rank of king's serjeant was restored to him.

He died on 4 April 1719, and was buried at Lilford in Northamptonshire. He was twice married: first to Sarah, daughter of Ambrose Holbech of Mollington, Warwickshire; and secondly, to Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Philip Meadows [q. v.] He had issue by both; and his great-grandson Thomas Powys was created Lord Lilford in 1797.

[Foss's Judges of England; Clarendon Correspondence, ii. 507; State Trials, xii. 279; Raymond's Reports; Collins's Peerage, viii. 579; Luttrell's Brief Relation.]

J. A. H.