Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pindar, Paul

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PINDAR, Sir PAUL (1565?–1650), diplomatist, born at Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, in 1565 or 1566, was the second son of Thomas Pindar of that place, and grandson of Robert Pindar of Yorkshire. The family is said to have been long resident in Wellingborough. He was educated for the university, but, as he ‘rather inclyned to be a tradesman,’ his father apprenticed him at about the age of seventeen to Parvish, a merchant in London, who sent him when eighteen to be his factor at Venice. Pindar remained in Italy for about fifteen years, and by trading on commission and on his own account acquired ‘a very plentiful estate.’ In 1602 it was rumoured that he was acting as a banking agent in Italy for Secretary Cecil, who ‘feared to have so much money in England, lest matters should not go well’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1601–3, p. 166). From 1609 to 1611 Pindar was consul for the English merchants at Aleppo. In 1611, on the recommendation of the Turkey Company, he was sent by James I as ambassador to Turkey, and is stated (epitaph in St. Botolph's) to have been resident in this capacity for nine years, during which time he gave satisfaction by improving the Levant trade. This residence cannot, however, have been continuous, for there is evidence that he was recalled in 1616 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1611–18, p. 408, cf. p. 587), and he was certainly in England in 1620 when, on 18 July, he was knighted by James I during his western progress (Nichols, Progresses of James I, iv. 61). His final return to England seems to have taken place in 1623, when he was offered and refused the lieutenantship of the Tower.

Pindar brought home from the East some remarkable jewels, and when the Duke of Buckingham took Prince Charles abroad with him in February 1623, he carried off ‘Sir Paul Pindar's great diamonds, promising to talk with him about paying for them’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1619–23, p. 503). One fine diamond jewel, valued (in 1624) at 35,000l., was lent by Pindar to James I to wear on state occasions. This jewel, known as the ‘great diamond,’ was purchased by Charles I about July 1625 for 18,000l., though payment was deferred. It was eventually pawned in Holland for the royal service, about 1655, for the sum of 5,000l. In May 1638 Charles I procured another diamond worth 8,000l., through Pindar's agency, but payment was again deferred.

In 1624 or 1625 Pindar received (together with William Turnor) a grant from the king of the alum farm, at an annual rental of 11,000l. This manufacture had been introduced into England in the reign of James I by an Italian friend of Pindar's, and Pindar himself applied a large amount of capital in the development and support of the works. His lease of the farm appears to have expired in 1638–9, but he is found claiming rights in the farm as late as 1648 (Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. pp. 18 a, 30 b). On 6 Dec. 1626 Pindar was appointed one of the ‘commissioners to arrest all French ships and goods in England,’ and from 1626 till about 1641 he was one of the farmers of the customs. About March 1638–9 he lent to the exchequer 50,000l., and in a news-letter of April 1639 it is stated that his recent loans had mounted up to 100,000l., ‘for this Sir Paul never fails the king when he has most need’ (cf. Carew, Hinc illæ Lachrymæ, p. 23). The money appears to have been lent to the exchequer at interest at the rate of eight per cent. per annum, and on the security of the alum and sugar farms and other branches of the revenue, which, however, after the death of Charles I were diverted to other uses. In 1643 and 1644 Pindar sent considerable sums in gold to the king at Oxford for ‘the transportation of the queen and her children.’ In 1650 he made a tender of his services to Charles II, who suggested that Pindar should be treasurer of any moneys collected in London for his service.

Pindar died at night on 22 Aug. 1650, and was buried with some pomp at St. Botolph's, Bishopsgate, on 3 Sept. (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1650, p. 324) in ‘a gigantic leaden coffin,’ which is conspicuous in a vault adjoining the present crypt of the church. The funeral sermon was preached by Nehemiah Rogers at St. Botolph's on 3 Sept. 1650, and a copy in manuscript is in the library of the Religious Tract Society (Mr. W. Perkins in Northampton Mercury, 12 Nov. 1881). There is a mural monument to Pindar's memory in St. Botolph's (engraved in J. T. Smith's Antiquities of London). He had been for twenty-six years a resident in the parish, and was vestryman in 1630 and subsequent years. He made several benefactions to St. Botolph's, and presented the communion plate. He also presented church plate to All Saints, Wellingborough, and to Peterborough Cathedral, and gave at least 10,000l. for the rebuilding and embellishment of St. Paul's Cathedral (Milman, Annals of St. Paul's, p. 340). He presented to the Bodleian Library in 1611 twenty manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, &c. (Macray, Annals of the Bodleian, p. 33).

By his will, dated 24 June 1646, Pindar (who never married) left one-third of his estate to the children of his nephew, Paul Pindar. He left legacies amounting to 9,500l., and made charitable bequests to various hospitals and prisons in and near London. Pindar's estate had been valued in 1639 by his cashiers at 236,000l., exclusive of ‘desperate debts’ to the king and others. At the time of his death it was found that the desperate debts predominated. His executor and cashier, William Toomes, vainly endeavoured to get in the estate, and in 1655 committed suicide, having paid none of the debts or legacies. Pindar's affairs were then taken in hand by Sir William Powell and George Carew, but the greater part of his numerous loans to noblemen, the king, and the exchequer was never recovered. Pindar's affairs were also involved with those of Sir William Courten [q. v.], and repeated attempts were made from 1653 onwards to obtain from the Dutch East India Company compensation to the amount of 151,612l. for the confiscation in 1643 and 1644 of ships belonging to Courten and his partner.

Pindar built for himself in the early part of the seventeenth century a fine mansion in Bishopsgate Street Without. In 1787, or earlier, the main portion of the house (No. 169 in the modern numbering) was used as a tavern, under the sign of the ‘Sir Paul Pindar's Head’ (sign engraved in Gent. Mag., 1787, pt. i. p. 491); it was pulled down in 1890, and the carved oaken front is now in the Architectural Court at South Kensington Museum. The fine panelling and richly ornamented ceilings of Pindar's house, though since 1810 much mutilated, were long the admiration of London antiquaries. Views of the house may be seen in Walford's ‘Old and New London,’ ii. 151 (after J. T. Smith, 1810), and in Hugo's ‘Itinerary of Bishopsgate.’

Pindar's portrait was painted during his residence in Constantinople, and was engraved by John Simco in 1794. Pindar's name is sometimes spelt ‘Pyndar’ and ‘Pinder.’ The last-named spelling occurs in the family pedigree in the ‘Visitation of London,’ 1633 (Harleian Soc. Publ. xvii. 166).

[Carew's Hinc illæ Lacrymæ, 1681; Browne's Vox Veritatis, 1683; Lex Talionis, 1682; Calendars of State Papers, Dom. and Colonial Ser.; Allen's Hist. of London, iii. 165, 166; Bridges's Northamptonshire; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. xii. 287, 6th ser. xi. 445, xii. 10, 116, 7th ser. xii. 26, 98, 197; Northamptonshire Notes and Queries, 1886, i. 159, 160; Hugo's Illustrated Itinerary of the Ward of Bishopsgate; Brit. Mus. Cat.; authorities cited above; information from Mr. Arthur E. Wroth.]

W. W.