Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thynne, Thomas (1648-1682)

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THYNNE, THOMAS, of Longleat (1648–1682), 'Tom of Ten Thousand,' born in 1648, was the eldest son of Sir Thomas Thynne of Richmond, Surrey, by the daughter and heiress of Walter Balanquil, dean of Durham. He matriculated from Christ Church, Oxford, on 14 Dec. 1666, and two years later entered at the Middle Temple. On the death of his uncle, Sir James Thynne, in 1670, he succeeded to the Longleat estates. He also took his place in parliament as one of the representatives of Wiltshire, and continued to sit for the county till his death. He at first attached himself to the Duke of York, but, in consequence of some quarrel, he joined the opposition and became Monmouth's 'wealthy western friend,' the Issachar of 'Absalom and Achitophel.' In January or February 1680 he, with Sir Walter St. John and Sir Edward Hungerford, presented to Charles II a petition from Wiltshire praying for the redress of grievances and the punishment of popish plotters. The king said the petition came from 'a company of loose and disaffected persons.' He did not meddle with their affairs and desired them not to meddle with his, especially in a matter 'so essentially a part of his prerogative' (Echard). Thynne was one of ten lords and ten commoners who, on 30 June, met at the court of requests, and proposed to give an information against the Duke of York as a papist to the grand jury of Middlesex. In the next year he was a member of that body when they ignored the bill against Shaftesbury. In November 1681 he was removed from the command of the Wiltshire militia for his hostility to the court. On his return from banishment Monmouth was entertained at Longleat, to which he often paid informal visits. In the summer of 1681 Thynne privately married the widow of Lord Ogle, Elizabeth, daughter of Josceline, eleventh and last earl of Northumberland, and heiress of the Percy estates [see under Seymour, Charles, sixth Duke of Somerset]. Immediately after the marriage she went to stay at the Hague for a year with Lady Temple [see under Temple, Sir William (1628-1699], The marriage was not consummated. Thynne claimed his wife's property, but the claim was contested by her kindred, and the best civilians of Doctors' Commons were retained on each side (Echard; Luttrell). The proctors decided in favour of Thynne, and at the end of the year it was reported that his wife would return to live with him. The lady was only fifteen, and had certainly not been consulted in the matter. One of her unsuccessful suitors, a Swedish nobleman, Count John Philip Königsmark, sent two challenges to Thynne by a certain Captain Vratz, one of his followers. According to Echard, Königsmark and the captain were residing in France, and Thynne replied by sending six men to France to murder both of them. In January 1682 Königsmark and Vratz returned to England, and Vratz again tried to bring about a duel, this time between Thynne and himself. On the evening of Sunday, 12 Feb., when Thynne was riding in his coach down Pall Mall, Vratz rode up with two men and stopped the horses; one of the two retainers, a Pole, fired at Thynne with a blunderbuss and mortally wounded him. Within twenty-four hours the assassins were arrested, a hue and cry having been granted by Sir John Reresby. On the Monday, Reresby was taking their examinations at his own house, when he was sent for by the king, who examined the men himself before a council summoned for the purpose. On the same day Thynne expired. From the confessions of the Swedish lieutenant Stern and Boroski, the Pole, Königsmark seemed to be implicated, but he was found to have fled. On the Sunday following the murder he was taken in disguise at Gravesend, when just about to embark on a Swedish vessel. On the following day, 20 Feb., he underwent an examination, which Reresby says was 'very superficial,' before the king and council, and having been again examined by Lord-chief-justice Pemberton, was committed to Newgate. True bills having been found against them at Hick's Hall, the three assassins were tried on 27 Feb. at the Old Bailey for the murder, and Königsmark as an accessory. Vratz, Stern, and Boroski were convicted and condemned to death, but Königsmark was acquitted, though strong circumstantial evidence against him was adduced. The acquittal was both unpopular and unexpected, but the court was known to favour the count, for whom some of the foreign ambassadors are even said to have interceded. It is not improbable, as Luttrell hints, that the jury, half of whom were foreigners, were corrupted; and Reresby expressly states that he himself was offered a bribe before the sitting of the grand jury. The assassins were executed on 10 March on the spot where the murder was committed (near the site of the present United Service Club). Königsmark immediately left the country, and, after a distinguished military career, was killed at the siege of Argos in August 1686 (cf. Vizetelly, Count Königsmark, 1890).

The murder acquired a particular significance from the political and social position of Thynne. The whigs at first endeavoured to represent the crime as an attempt on the life of Monmouth, who had only recently left Thynne's coach, and who afterwards attended his deathbed; but, notwithstanding the anxiety of the court and the somewhat partial character of the trial, there is nothing whatever to give colour to such a supposition. Some connected it with the fact of Thynne's seduction of a lady who had resisted Monmouth's advances; and others suspected of complicity the young Lady Ogle herself, who was said to have looked with favour upon Königsmark. This latter calumny was revived by Dean Swift in his 'Windsor Prophecy,' when the lady had become the powerful whig Duchess of Somerset. It is certain that Thynne did not deserve the eulogies showered upon him, much less the monument now to be seen in the southern aisle of Westminster Abbey. Underneath his recumbent figure is a representation of the crime, and a cherub points towards a florid inscription which the discretion of Dean Sprat caused to be replaced by the existing brief epitaph. An engraving of it is in Dart's 'Westminster Abbey' (vol. ii.) In strong contradiction to monument and eulogies are Rochester's lines quoted by Granger:

Who'd be a wit in Dryden's cudgel'd skin,
Or who'd be rich and senseless like Tom———?

His wealth, attested by the popular sobriquet 'Tom of Ten Thousand,' seems to have been almost his sole claim to consideration. At Longleat he built some handsome rooms, and had a road to Frome laid down. He was succeeded in the Longleat estates by his cousin, Sir Thomas Thynne, bart. (afterwards Viscount Weymouth) [q. v.]

Portraits of Thynne, painted by Lely and Kneller, were engraved by A. Browne and by R. White.

[Botfield's Stemmata Botvilliana; Jackson's Hist. of Longleat; Luttrell's Brief Hist. Relation, i. 144, 163 et seq.; Sir J. Reresby's Memoirs, 1735, pp. 135–44; Evelyn's Diary; Echard's Hist. of Engl. pp. 865, 987, 1019; Kennett's Hist. of Engl. iii. 402; State Trials, ix. 1–126, with Sir J. Hawles's Remarks; Granger's Biogr. Hist. iii. 400; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; An Elegy on the Famous Thos. Thin by Geo. Gittos, 1681–2; The Matchless Murder, 1682; Sir R. C. Hoare's Modern Wilts, vol. i. (Heytesbury Hundred); Burke's Romance of the Aristocracy, i. 1–14; Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. pp. 479, 497.]

G. Le G. N.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.265
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
367 i 28 Thynne, Thomas: for Balanquil read Balcanquhall
368 ii 10 for Kennet's read Kennett's