Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Player, Thomas
PLAYER, Sir THOMAS (1608–1672), chamberlain of London, born in 1608, was son of Robert Player of Canterbury. He matriculated from St. Alban Hall, Oxford, on 3 Feb. 1625–6, graduating B.A. on 26 Jan. 1629–30, and M.A. on 11 April 1633 (Foster, Alumni Oxonienses, 1500–1714). Player was one of the leading residents in Hackney, where he had a large house in Mare Street, and he soon occupied a prominent position in the city. He became a member of the Haberdashers' Company, and was elected by the livery chamberlain of London on 20 Oct. 1651 (City Record Common Hall Book, No. 3, f. 124). On 5 July 1660 he was, together with his son Thomas, knighted by Charles II at the Guildhall, and on 25 Oct. 1664 he was, as chamberlain, appointed official collector of the hearth-tax, which was to be devoted to the repayment of the 100,000l. lent by the city to the king, with interest at six per cent. Pepys records an interview which he and Lord Brouncker had with Player, ‘a man I have much heard of,’ respecting the credit of their tally, which had been lodged at the chamber of London as security for loans to the navy. Player was buried at Hackney church on 9 Dec. 1672. His wife Rebecca predeceased him, and was buried at Hackney on 4 Oct. 1667.
Their only son, Sir Thomas Player, (d. 1686), succeeded to the post of chamberlain of London on the resignation of his father on 13 Nov. 1672 (City Records, Repertory 78, ff. 14, 14b). He was in 1642 one of the two captains, and subsequently became colonel, of the yellow regiment of the trained bands. He was also an active member of the Honourable Artillery Company, of which he was appointed leader in 1669. He held the post until 1677, when the Duke of York took exception to his re-election, and no leader was ever after elected. He was one of the city members, both in the Westminster and Oxford parliaments (1678, 1679, and 1680–1), and helped to inflame public opinion respecting the ‘popish plot’ in the autumn of 1678 by stating in the house that protestant citizens might expect to wake up any morning with their throats cut. When, on an alarm of the king's illness, the Duke of York unexpectedly returned from Brussels in August 1679, Player led a deputation to the lord mayor to express fear of the papists, and to ask that the city guards should be doubled. In January 1682 he was included in the committee formed to contest the quo warranto brought against the charter of the city, and in October of the same year he was nominated a whig member of the committee appointed to inspect the poll at the election for the mayoralty. In June 1683 he was fined five hundred marks for participation in a riot at the Guildhall at the election of sheriffs on midsummer-day 1682 [see Pilkington, Sir Thomas]. Three months later he laid down his office of chamberlain. Player was accused of libertinism in a pasquinade entitled ‘The Last Will and Testament of the Charter of London, 1683,’ and in the second part of ‘Absalom and Achitophel’ Dryden gibbeted him among other prominent city politicians in the lines:
Next him, let railing Rabshakeh have place,
So full of zeal he hath no need of grace;
A saint that can both flesh and spirit use,
Alike haunt conventicles and the stews.
He died in the early part of January 1686, and was buried at Hackney beside his father on 20 Jan. His widow, ‘the lady Joice Player,’ was buried there on 8 Dec. in the same year.[Foster's Alumni Oxon.; State Papers, Dom. 1652, 1653, 1654, 1658, 1659, 1664–5, passim; State Papers, Colonial, America, and West Indies, 1669–74; Luttrell's Brief Historical Relation, passim; Echard's Hist. of England, iii. 671; Lysons's Environs, ii. 497; Sharpe's London and the Kingdom, ii. 458; Dr. W. Sparrow Simpson's St. Paul's an Old City Life, 1894; R. Simpson's Monuments of St. John's, Hackney, i. 106; Raikes's Hist. of the Hon. Artillery Company, i. 137, 195; Le Neve's Pedigrees of the Knights; Somers Tracts, ed. Scott, viii. 392; Members of Parliament, Official Lists, i. 536, 542, 548; Dryden's Works, ed. Scott; Twelve Bad Men, ed. Seccombe, p. 98; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. vi. 133.]