Prideaux, Edmond (DNB00)

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PRIDEAUX, Sir EDMOND (d. 1659), lawyer and politician, second son of Sir Edmond Prideaux, bart., an eminent lawyer, of the Inner Temple and member of an ancient family originally of Prideaux Castle, Cornwall, by his second wife, Catherine, daughter of Piers Edgecombe of Mount Edgecumbe in Devonshire, was born at his father's seat, Netherton, near Honiton. He graduated M.A. at Cambridge, and on 6 July 1625 was admitted ad eundem at Oxford (Wood, Fasti, ed. Bliss, i. 424). On 23 Nov. 1623 he was called to the bar at the Inner Temple: his practice was chiefly in chancery. He became recorder of Exeter, and subsequently, in 1649, of Bristol (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1639, p. 368). He was returned to the Long parliament for Lyme Regis (which seat he held till his death), and forthwith took sides against the king. His subscription for the defence of parliament, in 1642, was 100l. (Notes and Queries, 1st ser. xii. 359). By his own side he was regarded as one of the persons best informed as to the state of feeling in the west of England. For three years, from 10 Nov. 1643 until it was transferred to the custody of the speakers of the two houses, he was one of the commissioners in charge of the great seal of parliament, an office worth 1,500l. a year, and, as a mark of respect, was, by order of the House of Commons, called Within the bar with precedence next after the solicitor-general. He had also been one of the commissioners appointed to negotiate with the.king's commissioners at Uxbridge in January 1645. On 12 Oct. 1648 he was appointed by parliament solicitor-general (Whitelocke, p. 357). This office he resigned when the king's trial became imminent; Cook was solicitor-general on that occasion and subsequently (ib. p. 368 ; State Trials, iv. 1167, v. 1209). But Frideaux did not lose favour with his party. On 9 April 1649 he was appointed attorney-general, and remained in that office for the rest of his life.

For many years Prideaux was intimately and profitably connected with the postal service. The question of the validity of patents for the conduct of posts was raised in both houses of parliament in connection with the sequestration, in 1640 (Rymer, Foedera, xx. 429), of Thomas Witherings office, granted in 1633. Prideaux served as chairman of the committee appointed in 1642 upon the rates of inland letters {Commons^ Journals, 28 March 1642). In 1644 he was appointed, by resolution of both houses, 'master of the posts, messengers, and couriers' (Journals, 7 Sept. 1644) ; and he continued at intervals, as directed by the House of Commons or otherwise, to manage the postal service. He was ordered to arrange a post to Hull and York, and also to Lyme Regis, in 1644; in 1649 to Chester, Holyhead, and Ireland, and also to Bideford; in 1650 to Kendal, and in 1651 to Carlisle. By 1649 he is said to have established a regular weekly service throughout the kingdom. Rumour assigned to his office an income of 15,000l. a year. Blackstone (Commentaries, bk. i. c. 8, § iv.) states that his reforms saved the country 5,000l. a year; at any rate it was so profitable as to excite rivalry. 'Encouraged by the opinion of the judges given in the House of Lords in the case of the Earl of Warwick v. Witherings, 9 July 1646, that the clause in Witherings's patent for restraint of carrying letters was void,' Oxenbridge, Thomson, and others endeavoured to carry on a cheap and speedy post of their own, and Prideaux met them by a variety of devices, some in the way of ordinary competition, others in the shape of abuses of power and breaches of the law (Green, State Papers, Domestic, 1654, p. 22). The common council of London endeavoured, in 1650, to organise the carriage of letters, but Prideaux brought the matter before parliamenti which referred the question to the council of state, 21 March 1652, and on the same day the council made an order that Mr. Attorney-general Prideaux should take care of the business of the inland post, and be accountable for the profits quarterly, and a committee was appointed to confer with him as to the management of the post. After various claims had been considered, parliament, on 21 March 1652, resolved that the office of postmaster ought to be in the sole disposal of the house, and the Irish and the Scotch committee, to which the question was referred, reported in favour of letting contracts for the carriage of letters. Prideaux contended that the office of postmaster and the carrying of letters were two distinct things, and that the resolution of parliament of 1652 referred to the former only; but eventually all previous grants were held to be set aside by that resolution, and contracts were let for the inland and foreign mails to John Manley in 1653 (Green, State Papers, Domestic, 1652-3, pp. 109, 366, 448, 450, 455). The loss entailed affected Prideaux little ; his legal practice continued to be large and lucrative, being worth 5,000l. a year. He bought Ford Abbey, at Thomecombe, Devonshire, and built a large house there. On 31 May 1658 he was made a baronet for 'his voluntary offer for the mainteyning of thirty foot-souldiers in his highnes army in Ireland' (Public Records, 5th Rep. App. p. 273).

He died, leaving a great fortune, on 19 Aug. 1659(Green, State Papers, Domestic, 1658-9, p. 324). He appears to have been a sound chancery lawyer and highly esteemed by his party as a man of religion as well as learning. He was twice married: first, to a daughter of a gentleman named Collins of Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire; and, secondly, to Mary, daughter of a gentleman named Every of Cottey in Somerset. By the latter he had one son, to whom Tillotson, afterwards archbishop, was tutor; he took part in Monmouth's rebellion, and bribed Jeffreys heavily to save his life (Echard, iii. 775).

[Foss's Judges of England ; Wotton's Baronetage, i. 517, 518; Parl. Hist. iii. 1429, 1480, 1532, 1606; Thurloe's State Papers, ed. 1742, iii. 371, 377, 402; Encycl. Brit. 9th Post Office, by E. Edwards; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. iii. 267-8; Prince's Worthies of Devon, p. 509 (quoting a pamphlet, 'Names of such members of the House of Commons as held places contrary to tho self-denying ordinance'); Rushworth, iii. 242 ; T. E. P. Prideaux's Pedigree of Prideaux, 1889 ; Joyce's Hist, of Post Office.]

J. A. H.