Thomas Prince (Leveller)

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Thomas Prince ( fl. 1630–1657) was a prominent Leveller.



Prince was born in West Garforth, Yorkshire. He went to London where he apprenticed in, and in due time joined, the Worshipful Company of Clothworkers. Although a member of the Clothworkers he was a cheesemonger by trade. He settled in the parish of St Martin Orgar where, although an Independent, he stayed within the Anglican church. [1]

Worshipful Company of Clothworkers livery company in London, United Kingdom

The Worshipful Company of Clothworkers was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1528, formed by the amalgamation of its two predecessor companies, the Fullers and the Shearmen. It succeeded to the position of the Shearmen's Company and thus ranks twelfth in the order of precedence of Livery Companies of the City of London.

Prince supported the Parliamentary cause in the English Civil War and served in the Blue regiment of London's trained bands until invalided out after being badly wounded in 1643 at the First Battle of Newbury. During the war he supplied he Parliamentary armies with cheese and butter and became moderately wealthy. [1]

First Battle of Newbury Battle near Newbury, Berkshire in September 1643

The First Battle of Newbury was a battle of the First English Civil War that was fought on 20 September 1643 between a Royalist army, under the personal command of King Charles, and a Parliamentarian force led by the Earl of Essex. Following a year of Royalist successes in which they took Banbury, Oxford and Reading without conflict before storming Bristol, the Parliamentarians were left without an effective army in the field. When Charles laid siege to Gloucester, Parliament was forced to muster a force under Essex with which to beat Charles' forces off. After a long march, Essex surprised the Royalists and forced them away from Gloucester before beginning a retreat to London. Charles rallied his forces and pursued Essex, overtaking the Parliamentarian army at Newbury and forcing them to march past the Royalist force to continue their retreat.

In November 1647 he was one of the men who presented the Agreement of the People to Parliament and was one of those imprisoned for this act. By December he was free and campaigning for the Levellers cause. In 1648 he continued to agitate and became recognised by both supported and detractors as a prominent Leveller. He was appointed as one of the Levellers' treasurers and in December was a signature to the petition presented to Sir Thomas Fairfax, the Army commander, objecting to the Army's dismissal of the second Agreement of the People. [1]

In March 1649 he was arrested with the other Leveller leaders: John Lilburne, Richard Overton, and William Walwyn, and incarcerated in the Tower of London when the Levellers published a tract against the military government (the second part of) Englands New Chaines Discovered. While in the Tower the prisoners continued to publish pamphlets. Two of these can be directly linked to Prince: The Picture of the Councel of State, contains Prince's account of his arrest and examination by members of the Council of State, and The Silken Independents Snare Broken, a reply by Prince to an attack upon the Levellers by some leading London Independents. [1]

John Lilburne English political activist

John Lilburne, also known as Freeborn John, was an English political Leveller before, during and after the English Civil Wars 1642–1650. He coined the term "freeborn rights", defining them as rights with which every human being is born, as opposed to rights bestowed by government or human law. In his early life he was a Puritan, though towards the end of his life he became a Quaker. His works have been cited in opinions by the United States Supreme Court.

William Walwyn English leveller

William Walwyn was an English pamphleteer, a Leveller and a medical practitioner.

Tower of London A historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London

The Tower of London, officially Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the square mile of the City of London by the open space known as Tower Hill. It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. The castle was used as a prison from 1100 until 1952, although that was not its primary purpose. A grand palace early in its history, it served as a royal residence. As a whole, the Tower is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. There were several phases of expansion, mainly under Kings Richard I, Henry III, and Edward I in the 12th and 13th centuries. The general layout established by the late 13th century remains despite later activity on the site.

Prince was released along with the other leading Leveller prisonors after Lilburne was found not guilty of high treason at his trial in October 1649. Prince continued to live in London until at least 1657 and was mentioned by Lilburne as one who would provide security for him if he were allowed to return from exile. Prince also spoke up for Lilburne at his 1653 trial. [1]


Prince married Elizabeth; they had two children who were baptised in the parish of St Martin Orgar. One died as an infant. [1]


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Baker, P. R. S. (January 2008) [2004]. "Prince, Thomas (fl. 1630–1657)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/66672. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)