Price, Robert (DNB00)

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PRICE, ROBERT (1655–1733), judge, born in the parish of Cerrig-y-Druidion, Denbighshire, on 14 Jan. 1655, was the second son of Thomas Price of Geeler, Denbighshire, by his wife Margaret, daughter and heiress of Thomas Vynne of Bwlch-y-Beudy in the same county. He was educated at Ruthin and St. John's College, Cambridge, where he was admitted on 28 March 1672, but left without taking any degree. He entered Lincoln's Inn as a student on 8 May 1673, and was called to the bar in July 1679. Previously to his call Price made the grand tour of France and Italy. While at Rome his Coke upon Littleton was mistaken for an English bible, and he was carried before the pope. After convincing his accusers of their error, he made a present of the book to the pope, by whom it was placed in the Vatican library (Life, p. 59). In 1682 Price was made attorney-general for South Wales, and elected an alderman of the city of Hereford. He was appointed recorder of Radnor in 1683, steward to the queen-dowager in 1684, town clerk of the city of Gloucester in 1685, and king's counsel at Ludlow in 1686. Price represented Weobley in the Short parliament of James II. He resigned the town-clerkship of Gloucester in 1688 (Shower, Reports, 1794, ii. 490), and on the accession of William III was deprived of his Welsh attorney-generalship. At the general election in February 1690 he was again returned to the House of Commons for Weobley, and continued to represent that borough until the dissolution in December 1700. He was one of the counsel for Charles, fifth baron Mohun, who was acquitted by the House of Lords of the murder of William Mountfort the actor in 1693 (Howell, State Trials, 1812, xii. 949–1050). On 10 May 1695 Price was heard before the lords of the treasury in opposition to the grant made by the king to the Earl of Portland of the lordships of Denbigh, Bromfield, and Yale. On 14 Jan. 1696 he presented a petition of the freeholders and inhabitants of Denbighshire to the House of Commons against the grant, and his motion for an address to the king was carried unanimously. On the 23rd the speaker informed the house that the king had promised to recall the grant, and to find some other way of showing his favour to the earl (Parl. Hist. v. 978–86; Journals of the House of Commons, xi. 390, 394–5, 409). Price's successful exertions against this exorbitant grant gained him the title of ‘the patriot of his native country.’ His two speeches on the subject were printed after William's death in 1702, under the title of ‘Gloria Cambriæ; or the Speech of a bold Briton in Parliament against a Dutch Prince of Wales’ (see the Somers Collection of Tracts, 1814, xi. 387–393). In the session of 1696–7 Price took an active part in the discussion of Sir John Fenwick's case (Parl. Hist. v. 1010–1, 1041, 1045). In 1700 he was made a judge of the Brecknock circuit, and at the general election in December 1701 was again returned to the House of Commons for Weobley. He was appointed a baron of the exchequer in the place of Sir Henry Hatsell [q. v.] on 24 June 1702, having received the order of the coif on the previous day. He was never knighted. He differed from the majority of the judges in the case of Ashby v. White, and agreed with Baron Smith that a writ of error was not a writ of right, but of grace (Luttrell, v. 524). Price and Sir Robert Eyre [q. v.] were the only two judges who pronounced against the king's claim of prerogative with regard to the education of his grandchildren (Howell, State Trials, xv. 1224–9). Price succeeded Sir Robert Dormer [q. v.] as a justice of the common pleas on 16 Oct. 1726. He died at Kensington, after a long judicial career of over thirty years, on 2 Feb. 1733, aged 78; he was buried at Yazor in Herefordshire.

Price was a consistent tory, and an honest and painstaking judge. He married, on 23 Sept. 1679, Lucy, eldest daughter of Robert Rodd of Foxley, Herefordshire, and his wife Anna Sophia, daughter of Thomas Neale of Warnford, Hampshire, by whom he had two sons—viz. (1) Thomas, born on 16 Jan. 1680, M.P. for Weobley, 1702–5; he died unmarried at Genoa on 17 Sept. 1706; and (2) Uvedale Tomkyns, who married Anne, daughter and coheiress of Lord Arthur Somerset, second son of Henry, first duke of Beaufort, and died on 17 March 1764—and one daughter, Lucy, who married, in 1702, Bamfylde Rodd of the Rodd, Herefordshire, and Stoke Canon, Devonshire. In November 1690 Price obtained 1,500l. damages in an action for crim. con. against ‘Mr. Neal the groom-porter's son’ (Luttrell, ii. 231). Price does not appear to have obtained a divorce from his wife, to whom he bequeathed a legacy of 20l. ‘to buy her mourning.’ He also charged his estates by his will with the payment to her of an annuity of 120l., ‘pursuant to a former agreement and settlement between us.’ Price erected and endowed an almshouse for six poor people in the parish of Cerrig-y-Druidion, and in 1717 built the mansion-house at Foxley, which remained in the possession of his descendants until 1855, when it was purchased by Mr. John Davenport of Westwood, Staffordshire.

There are engravings of him by Vertue after Kneller, and by King after Dandridge. A letter written by Price to Dr. White Kennett, afterwards bishop of Peterborough, relating to the licensing of schoolmasters, is printed in Sir Henry Ellis's ‘Original Letters of Eminent Literary Men’ (Camden Soc. Publ. 1843, p. 335).

[The Life of the late Honourable Robert Price, &c., 1734; Foss's Judges of England, 1864, viii. 149–53; Williams's Biogr. Dict. of Eminent Welshmen, 1852, 419–20; D'Israeli's Curiosities of Literature, 1834, vi. 258–61; Noble's Continuation of Granger's Biogr. Hist. of England, 1806, iii. 200–3; Robinson's Mansions and Manors of Herefordshire, 1873, pp. 242, 317–18; Debrett's Baronetage, 1835, pp. 426–7; Mayor's Admissions to the College of St. John the Evangelist, Cambridge, 1882–93, pt. ii. pp. 38–9; Lincoln's Inn Registers; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parl. pt. i. pp. 553, 566, 574, 581, 595; Haydn's Book of Dignities, 1890; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. ii. 24, 3rd ser. ix. 217.]

G. F. R. B.