m. Bef 1600
m. 5 Aug 1624
m. 1 Apr 1635
m. bef 1662
Facts and Events
The proper spelling of this surname is Prince and it was so written by his immediate and collateral forebares, but Gov. Thomas chose to write it as Prence.
Life in New England
Thomas emigrated to America in 1621 on the ship Fortune, and arrived in Plymouth in November 1621, just days after the first Thanksgiving. He was allowed to join with Bradford, Allerton and Standish as a member of the Trade Monopoly. Later, in 1644, he and several other prominent families left Plymouth for better land and founded the community of Eastham, Massachusetts. He became governor in 1634; and after the death of Governor Bradford in 1653, he became the undisputed leader of the Plymouth Colony. 
In 1621 he went to Plymouth Colony, where he gained prominence and was one of eight colonial "undertakers" who assumed (1627) the colony's debt to the London merchants who had backed the establishment of the colony. He held various offices, including the governorship (1634–35, 1638, 1657–73). Prence supervised (1641) the building of the first bark constructed in the colony and established (1650) the Cape Cod fisheries. As governor he served with credit through a period of Indian wars and internal religious troubles and was noted for his successful effort to secure public revenues in support of schools.
In 1635, he moved to Duxbury, in 1644 to Eastham, and in 1663, was induced to move back to Plymouth by a gift of a large farm at "Plain Dealing."
When he was elected governor, Prence was notable for his especial hatred of heretics, particularly Quakers. He also despised the ignorant, making a concerted effort to raise more money for schools in order to ensure that future generations would be better educated. George Willison in Saints and Strangers noted that in 1646, Thomas Prence was opposed to religious tolerance and, in 1657, was a leader in Quaker and Baptist persecutions. In Duxbury, the policy of Gov. Prence "met stiff opposition led by Henry and Arthur Howland and others. Henry Howland was up on the malicious charge of 'improperlie entertaining' a neighbor's wife, and his young son, Zoeth, was put in the stocks for saying that he 'would not goe to meeting to hear lyes, and that the Divill could preach as good a sermon as the ministers,' with which many townspeople seemed to agree, choosing to pay a fine rather than attend public worship." Imagine Gov. Prence's feelings when he discovered that "one of his chief enemy's sons, young Arthur Howland, was surreptitiously courting his daughter Elizabeth. As the law forbad 'making motion of marriage' to a girl without her parents' consent, the irascible old governor promptly hauled the 'impudent' youth into court and fined him five pounds for 'inveigeling' his daughter. The young lovers were not discouraged and remained constant, for seven years later Arthur was again in court, was fined and put under bond of 50 pounds 'to refrain and desist.' The couple continued to behave 'disorderlie and unrighteously,' finally breaking the iron will of the old governor." They were married and, "in good time the names of their children, Thomas Howland and Prence (Prince) Howland, were inscribed on the baptismal roll of the church." 
For many years it was unclear how many times Gov. Prence had married. It was known that he had at least two wives, Patience Brewster and Mary Collier. Because Thomas Prence called Samuel Freeman his son-in-law, some researchers proposed that Prence had married Samuel's mother Apphia Freeman as a third wife. Others, notably Frederick Freeman in the Freeman Genealogy, advanced various arguments to refute this. The biggest stumbling block to accepting three marriages, however, was the known facts that Prence's second wife was named Mary and his widow was also named Mary. To have married Apphia Freeman as his third wife, Prence would then have had to have married yet a fourth time to still end up with a widow named Mary. In 1903, Ella Florence Elliott was able to show that the widow Mary was a different Mary from his second wife, based on clauses in Prence's will and items in the widow Prence's inventory that clearly indicated she had been a widow before marrying Prence, something that was not true of second wife Mary Collier. This incredibly detailed discussion had gone on for decades before Ms. Elliott's Mayflower Descendant article [6:230-35] finally allowed all the pieces to fall into place. Thus, Thomas Prence m. (1) Patience Brewster, m. (2) Mary Collier, m. (3) Apphia (Quick) Freeman (divorced from Samuel), m. (4) Mary (Burr) Howes (widow of Thomas).
Establishing the probable date of marriage for Apphia and Thomas Prence has significant implications for the parentage of Prence's last three children (Judith, Elizabeth and Sarah). Apphia is last seen as a Freeman 1 July 1644, about a year before the birth of Prence's seventh child, and at the end of a six- year hiatus in the birthdates of his children. She is called "Mrs. Freeman" as late as 15 October 1646 in a deed where she appears as an abutter, but this does not necessarily imply that she had not remarried by this date, since it was not unusual for archaic bounds to be used in this sort of description [ SLR 1:78].
In a letter dated at Plymouth 8 June 1647, Thomas Prence wrote to John Winthrop that "since my parting company [with you] I have almost met with Jacob's trial in his travel between Bethel and Ephrath: God's having been heavy upon my wife and that for diverse months and is not yet removed" [WP 5:169]. In Genesis 35:16-19 Jacob's favorite wife Rachel died between Bethel and Ephrath after giving birth to a son she named Benoni, but he called Benjamin. Prence here is referring to the birth of his own daughter Elizabeth, apparently a difficult childbirth. 
Source:Mayflower Descendant, p. 3:203 has a transcription of his will from which this abstract is made.
Thomas Prence "died the 29th of March 1673 and was Interred the 8th of April following", "a very awfull frowne of God upon this chh & colony in the death of Mr Thomas Prince the governour in the 73d yeare of his Age".
Will of Thomas Prence Esq'r, dated 13 Mar 1672/73, proved 5 Jun 1673, mentions "Mary my beloved wife", "Daughter Jane the wife of Marke Snow", "my Daughter Mary Tracye", "my Daughter Sarah howes", "my Daughter Elizabeth howland", "my Daughter Judith Barker", "my Grandchild Theophilus Mayo", "my Grandchild Sussana Prence the Daughter of my Deceased son Thomas Prence", "seaven Daughters, hannah, Marcye, Jane, Mary, Elizabeth, Sarah, and Judith". A supplement dated 28 Mar 1673 mentions "my son, mr John ffreeman", "my brother Thomas Clarke".
The inventory of Thomas Prence's estate was taken "by Thomas Cushman Ephraim Tinkham senir and William Crow the 23 dy of Aprill 1673". His goods totaled £422 10 7, and the debts £54 9 6. 
For more information, see the EN Wikipedia article Thomas Prence.
Gilmore, Albert F., Keene Descendants, 1975.
Hinchman, Lydia, Early Settlers of Nantucket, 1901.
New England Historic and Genealogical Register, Vol. VI, p. 234.
Savage, James, Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1986, Vol. III, pp. 477.
Willison, George, Saints and Strangers, New York: Reynal and Hitchcock, pp. 380, 381, and 445.