Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Povey, Thomas

POVEY, THOMAS (fl. 1658), civil servant, was grandson of John Povey, citizen and embroiderer of London, and son of Justinian Povey, auditor of the exchequer and accountant-general to Anne of Denmark (Cal. State Papers, 6 May 1606, and Addenda, 1580-1625, p. 477). He bore the same arms as Charles Povey [q. v.], with an annulet for difference. In 1633 he entered Gray's Inn, and in 1642 published 'The Moderator, expecting sudden Peace or certaine Ruine,' which drew forth three replies: ' A Sudden Answer to a Sudden Moderator' and a 'Fuller Answer' in 1642, and in 1647 'Neutrality is Malignancy, by J.M.' Povey deemed the civil wars unjustifiable, and at first joined neither party. But he was returned to the Long parliament as M.P. for Liskeard on 23 March 1646–7, and in June 1647 was sent from Westminster with a letter to the parliamentary commissioners with the army in order to promote negotiations for peace (Cal. State Papers, 1645–7, p. 593). In 1650 he was suspected of disloyalty to the council of state, and a warrant was issued for his arrest (ib. 1650, pp. 149, 516, 541). In 1657 he was a member of the council for the colonies, and at a by-election, 23 Feb. 1658–9, was elected M.P. for Bossiney. After the Restoration Povey was much favoured at court. In July 1660 he was appointed treasurer to the Duke of York, but, as affairs fell into confusion under his management, he was induced to resign on 7 July 1668, in consideration of a pension of 400l. a year. In July 1662 he had become one of the masters of requests. Meanwhile, on 20 Sept. 1661, he was made receiver-general for the rents and revenues of the plantations in Africa and America. He was also treasurer for Tangier from October 1662 till 1665, and surveyor-general of the victualling department. Pepys succeeded him in both these posts in 1665. Besides the master of requests' apartments at Whitehall, Povey had a house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, which was famous for its general elegance and the ingenious arrangements of its wine-cellars. There he dispensed a generous hospitality. Evelyn and Pepys were both frequent guests. He also inherited a villa near Hounslow, called the Priory. About 1665 he travelled in Devonshire and Cornwall, and a manuscript description in verse of his journey belongs to Lord Robartes (Boase and Courtney, Bibl. Cornub. iii. 1318). At the accession of James II he was removed, with all his colleagues, from the office of master of requests, but was awarded a pension of 100l. a year, and was continued a member of the queen dowager's council (Bramston, Autobiography, p. 314; Secret Services of Charles II and James II, pp. 167, 174, 184, 193).

Before 1665 Povey married Mary, daughter of John Adderly, and widow of John Agard of King's Bromley, Staffordshire.

Evelyn describes Povey ‘as a nice contriver of all elegancies, and exceedingly formal.’ Pepys had a very low opinion of his abilities, and says that he was cunning. In 1669 he and another described in a petition to the king an invention of their own for raising water (Cal. State Papers, July 1669). A letter-book of his, dated from 1655 to 1659, and dealing mainly with the West Indies and America, is in the British Museum (Addit. MS. 11411; others of his letters are in Egerton MS. 2395).

One of his brothers, Richard, was commissioner-general of provisions at Jamaica, and another, William, was provost-marshal at Barbados. A half-brother John, who was clerk of the privy council, and commissioner for the sick and wounded under William III, died in June 1705 (Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 564).

Among contemporary kinsmen who attained some distinction were: Sir John Povey (d. 1679), baron of the exchequer in Ireland from 26 Oct. 1663, and chief justice of the king's bench from 11 April 1673 (Smyth, Law Officers of Ireland, pp. 93, 155); Francis Povey, commander of the ordnance in Tangier, who became surveyor and controller of the ordnance in Ireland, and published in 1705 ‘The Gunner's Companion,’ with manuscript dedication to Prince George of Denmark (Brit. Mus. Cat.; Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. pt. v.; Hyde Corresp. ed. Singer, i. 412, 547–8); and another, Thomas Povey, who served nine years with the army in Flanders, and was lieutenant-governor of Massachusetts from 1702 to 1711 (Massachusetts Hist. Soc. Coll. 6th ser. iii. 98–9, 254, 336).

[Relton's Fire Insurance Companies and Charles Povey; Steinmann's Memoir of Mrs. Myddelton, 1864, p. 30; Evelyn's Diary; Pepys's Diary, pass., cf. Wheatley's edition, ii. 318; and see art. Streater, Robert.]

E. I. C.