Popham, Edward (DNB00)

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POPHAM, EDWARD (1610?–1651), admiral and general at sea, fifth and youngest son of Sir Francis Popham [q. v.], was probably born about 1610, his brother Alexander, the second son, having been born in 1605. In 1627 Edward and Alexander Popham were outlawed for debt, their property being assigned to their creditors (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 23 March, 15 Aug. 1627); but the age of even the elder of the brothers suggests that the debtors must have been other men of the same name, the Edward being possibly the man who represented Bridgwater in parlia- ment from 1620 to 1626 (Returns of Members of Parliament). In 1636 Edward Popham was serving as lieutenant of the Henrietta Maria in the fleet under the Earl of Northumberland (State Papers, Dom. Charles I, cccxliii. 72), and in March 1637 was promoted to be captain of the Fifth Whelp (ib. cccxlix. 38, 66, cccl. 49). The Whelps were by this time old and barely seaworthy; most of them had already disappeared, and in a fresh breeze off the coast of Holland, on 28 June 1637, this one, having sprung a leak, went down in the open sea, giving Popham with the ship's company barely time to save themselves in the boat. Seventeen men went down in her. After rowing for about fifty miles, they got on board an English ship which landed them at Rotterdam; thence they found their way to Helvoetsluys, where an English squadron of ships of war was lying (ib. Popham to Earl of Northumberland, 4 July 1637, ccclxiii. 29). In 1639 Popham commanded a ship, possibly the Rainbow, in the fleet with Sir John Penington [q. v.] in the Downs, and was one of those who signed the narrative of occurrences sent to the Earl of Northumberland (ib. ccccxxx. 74).

In the civil war he threw in his lot with the parliament, of which his father and brother Alexander were members. On the death of his father he succeeded him as member for Minehead. In 1642 Edward and his brother Hugh were with Alexander, then a deputy-lieutenant of Somerset, raising men for the parliament. In May 1643 Colonel Popham commanded ‘a good strength of horse and foot’ in Dorset, and relieved Dorchester, then threatened by Prince Maurice (Sir Walter Erle to Lenthall, 3 June, Hist. MSS. Comm. 13th Rep. (Welbeck Papers), i. 711). This was probably Edward, as Alexander appears to have been then in Bristol (Prynne and Walker, Trial of Fiennes, App. p. 4). In June 1644 both Pophams were, with Ludlow and some others, detached by Waller into Somersetshire, in order to raise recruits. It proved a service of some danger, as, with a body of about two hundred horse, they had to pass through a country held by the enemy (Ludlow, Memoirs, ed. Firth, i. 91–3). On 11 June 1645 Edward was desired to repair to Romsey, take command of the troops assembling there for the relief of Taunton, and follow the orders of Colonel Massey [see Massey, Sir Edward]; and on 17 June Alexander was directed to command a party of horse to Romsey, there to receive orders from Edward. It would seem that at this time Edward was considered the superior officer (Cal. State Papers, Dom.). It is thus certain that he was not at Naseby, but probable that he took part in the western campaign of July, and fought at Ilminster, Langport, and Bridgwater. It is, however, curious that as a colonel, second in command to Massey, his name is not mentioned. On 17 July 1648 he had instructions to accompany the lord admiral to sea, the Prince of Wales having a squadron on the coast [see Rich, Robert, Earl of Warwick]; but three days later they were countermanded, and Walter Strickland was sent in his stead. On 24 Feb. 1648–9 an act of parliament appointed Popham, Blake, and Deane commissioners for the immediate ordering of the fleet, and on the 26th their relative precedence was settled as here given, the seniority being assigned to Popham on account, it may be presumed, of his rank and experience in the navy, independent of the fact that his brother Alexander was a member of the council of state. Blake, too, had already served under one of the Pophams, apparently Edward, as lieutenant-colonel of his regiment, and it would seem not improbable that he was now appointed one of the commissioners for the fleet on Popham's suggestion [see Blake, Robert].

During 1649 Popham commanded in the Downs and North Sea, where privateers of all nations, with letters of marque from the Prince of Wales, were preying on the east-coast merchant ships. On 23 Aug. the corporation of Yarmouth ordered three good sheep to be sent on board his ship then in the roads as a present from the town in recognition of his good service in convoying Yarmouth ships (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. i. 320 b). Early in 1650 he was under orders to join Blake at Lisbon with a strong reinforcement. An intercepted royalist letter of date 20 Feb. has ‘Blake has gone to sea with fourteen sail. … A second fleet is preparing under Ned Popham. His brother Alexander undertakes to raise one regiment of horse, one of dragoons, and two of foot in the west; but good conditions, authentically offered, might persuade them both to do righteous things’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom.) With eight ships Popham put to sea in the last days of April, and having joined Blake, the two were together on board the Resolution when, on 26 July, Rupert tried to escape out of the Tagus. The close watch kept by the parliamentary squadron compelled him to anchor under the guns of the castle, where, by reason of a strong easterly wind, the others could not come; and two days later, finding the attempt hopeless, he went back off Lisbon (Popham and Blake to council of state, 15 Aug.; Welbeck Papers, i. 531). In November Popham returned to England (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 14 Nov.), and shortly afterwards resumed his station in the Downs in command of the ships in the North Sea. He died of fever at Dover, and in actual command if not on board his ship, on 19 Aug. 1651. The news reached London on the 22nd, and was reported to the house by Whitelocke, and at the same time Sir H. Vane was ordered ‘to go to Mrs. Popham from the council and condole with her on the loss of her husband, and to let her know what a memory they have of his services, and that they will upon all occasions be ready to show respect to his relations’ (ib. 22 Aug.). A year's salary was granted to the widow, Anne, daughter of William Carr, groom of the bedchamber. By her Popham had two children: a daughter, Letitia, and a son, Alexander, whose daughter Anne married her second cousin Francis, a grandson of Popham's brother Alexander, from whom the present Littlecote family is descended. Popham was buried at the expense of the state in Westminster Abbey in Henry VII's chapel, where a monument in black and white marble was erected to his memory. At the Restoration the body and the monument were removed, but, as Alexander Popham was still living and a member of parliament, the body was allowed to be taken away privately, and the monument to be placed in the chapel of St. John the Baptist, the inscription being, however, effaced and never being restored. A portrait by Cooper, belonging to Mr. F. Leyborne Popham, was on loan at South Kensington in 1868.

[Chester's Westminster Registers; Burke's Landed Gentry; Literæ Cromwellii, 1676, p. 15. The writer has to acknowledge valuable help from Prof. C. H. Firth.]

J. K. L.