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April 30. 1596. Queen

keeps Great Seal in her

own cus


Great Seal delivered to Sir THOMAS

ON the death of Sir John Puckering, Queen Elizabeth, according to her usual practice, was herself Chancellor; but on this occasion only for a very short time, having speedily made up her mind as to the mode in which the office was to be disposed of. On Saturday, the 1st of May, she sent Sir John Fortescue to York House for the "Clavis Regni," and he, having received it from the officers of the late Lord Keeper, brought it to her at Greenwich. At the palace there a sealing took place on the 3d of May, when Lord Cobham and Lord Buckhurst, by her orders, and in her presence and in her name, sealed all writs and processes ready to be issued, restoring the Seal to its silken purse, and leaving it with her Majesty, who kept it in her bed-chamber.*

Three days afterwards she delivered it, with the applause of the whole nation, to Sir THOMAS EGERTON, and he held it EGERTON. uninterruptedly for a period of twenty-one years.


son of Sir Richard


It is refreshing, now, to have to contemplate the life of a man remarkable alike for talent, learning, and probity, who raised himself from obscurity by his own exertions, and who reached the highest honours without affixing any stain on his character and with merit so acknowledged that he did not even excite the envy of rivals.

He was the natural son of Sir Richard Egerton, of an old knightly race in Cheshire, and was born in the parish of Doddlestone, in that county, in the year 1540. His mother's name was Sparks, from whom he is said to have inherited great beauty of countenance. The tradition of the country

* Rot. Cl. 38 Eliz. p. 14.

†The place where his parents met is still pointed out to travellers under the name of "Gallantry Banke."

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is that he was nursed by a farmer's wife at Lower Kinnerton, CHAP.
in the neighbourhood, and that being carried, while a child,
to Doddleston Hall, which he afterwards purchased when
desire to rise in the world,

Chancellor, he expressed an eager
and to become the owner of it. He appears to have been
very tenderly and carefully reared, and to have been acknow-
ledged and cherished by his father's family. From their
kindness, he had the advantage of a regular education. Every
thing else he achieved for himself.


His study of law.

Having been well grounded in Latin and Greek under His educaprivate tuition, in his sixteenth year he was entered of Brasen Nose College, Oxford. Here he remained three years, to the great contentment of his teachers; and, besides extending his knowledge of the classics, he particularly distinguished himself by his proficiency in the logic of Aristotle, which then constituted, and still constitutes, so important a branch of the studies of that University. He was destined to the profession of the law, for which it was well judged that, by his habits and turn of mind, he was apt; and having taken his bachelor's degree, he was removed to Lincoln's Inn. He now not only gave himself to the perusal of Bracton and Fleta, but he diligently attended the lectures of the "Readers," and the "Mootings," to which students were admitted in his Inn; and he was present at all remarkable pleadings and trials which took place at Westminster. It is related, that he first gave earnest of his future eminence by interposing as Amicus Curiæ, while yet a student, when a verdict was about to be pronounced which would have ruined a worthy old lady who kept a house of public entertainment in Smithfield. Three graziers had deposited a sum of money with her, to be returned to them on their joint application. One of them, fraudulently pretending that he had authority to receive it, induced her to give him the whole of the money, and absconded with it. The other two brought their action against her; and (as the story goes) were about to recover, when young Egerton begged permission to befriend the Court, by pointing out a fatal objection which had escaped her Counsel as well as my Lord Judge. Said he: "This money, by the contract, was to be returned to three, but two only sue; -where

Anecdote terfering, while a stu

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Called to



Queen's counsel.

is the third? let him appear with the others; till then the money cannot be demanded from her." This turned the fortune of the day; the plaintiffs were nonsuited, and our young student was from that day considered to be of great mark and likelihood.*

He by no means confined himself, like Serjeant Puckering, to the learning of real actions, but made himself a general jurist; and although, happily, there was not then such a custom as has been established within the last forty years, for young gentlemen to prepare themselves for the Court of Chancery exclusively, by spending their whole time, while they are keeping terms, in drawing bills and answers, he paid more attention than perhaps any one before him had done to the nature, extent, and history, of the equitable jurisdiction of the Lord Chancellor; and he now laid the foundation of that knowledge which he afterwards displayed in his writings on this subject, and in his decrees when he himself held the Great Scal.t

Being called to the bar, he soon got into respectable practice, which steadily increased. In a few years, although he never took the degree of the coif, and therefore he could not practise in the Court of Common Pleas, there were few cases of importance in the Court of Queen's Bench, in the Chancery, or the Exchequer, in which he was not counsel.

It is well known that Queen Elizabeth took a lively interest in all suits in which her revenue, or any of her rights, were concerned, and personally exercised a superintendence

This "traditionary story," although the law of it be unexceptionable, I consider an invention, as much as Miss Edgeworth's anecdote of the young barrister, who, being junior in a case at nisi prius to try the validity of a will of personal property, when it came to his turn to address the jury, made his fortune by bringing out an objection which he had carefully concealed from his leader. But the fair writer had an undoubted right to dispense both with the forms of legal process, and with professional etiquette.

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I take my anecdote from the Reverend Francis Egerton's "Life of Lord Ellesmere," the worst piece of biography I have ever had the misfortune to be condemned to read.

† On an examination of the books of the Society of Lincoln's Inn, the only entries respecting him are one of 22 Eliz,, when it was resolved that "Mr. Egerton should be called to the bench next moot, and that he should have ancientie of Mr. Clerke and Mr. Owen;" and one of 29 Eliz., when being Solicitor General, he was appointed Treasurer. He appears to have attended Councils regularly till 27th May, 35 Eliz., after which, his name is not to be found in the list of benchers present.

It is re


over the manner in which they were conducted.
lated, that happening to be in Court when Mr. Egerton was
pleading in a cause against the Crown, her Majesty ex-
claimed: "On my troth, he shall never plead against me
again," and immediately made him one of her counsel;
whereby he was entitled to wear a silk gown, and to have
precedence over other barristers. But he continued not only
to argue the cases of his clients in Court, but most laboriously
to assist in advising upon the witnesses to be called and the
evidence to be adduced;—rather mixing what we consider the
distinct functions of the attorney and the counsel.*

I give as a specimen a letter from him to a country client, respecting the progress of a suit in Chancery. There can be little doubt of his perfeet sincerity respecting the evidence of the entry to avoid the fine, but his language reminds me of an anecdote I have heard of the manner in which a similar difficulty was obviated in a case tried on the Oxford circuit. At a consultation the night before the trial, the plaintiff's attorney, whose name was Timothy Tickler, intimated that the defendant had discovered that there had been a fine levied which was to be given in evidence next day. — Counsel. "That will be fatal, unless there has been an entry to avoid the fine."- Tickler. "What is the meaning of an entry to avoid a fine?"- Counsel. "The party who claims the land, after the fine is levied goes upon the land and says, I enter to avoid all fines." The consultation broke up without a ray of hope. But next morning, a supplemental brief was delivered,-" To prove that after the fine levied in this case, an entry was duly made by the plaintiff to avoid it,-call. TIMOTHY TICKLER."

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The right worshipp." Richard Brereton, esq., thes be delivered at Worsley." "Your cause touchinge Pendleton Heye hath bene twyse hearde, upon Thursdaye last, and this Saterdaye, beinge the xyth of this October, and hath houlden the Court bothe the same dayes without dealinge in any other matter. Yt hath sythens fallen out very well, and this daye, when I expected an order for you, Mr. Sherington dyd stande upon a relesse, which he supposeth to have bene made by your grandmother to Mr. Tyldesleye, and a fyne, with proclam. levyed by Mr. Tyldesleye to Mr. Sherington, beyen selfe in the viijth yere of the quene's Maty raigne; which fyne as yt came unloked for, and for my parte was never hearde of before, so I affyrmed that you had made severall entries to avoyde the same and all such lyke incombrances; which, yf you can prove, the opynyon of the Court semeth to waye fullye with you, and so all your counsell thynke. The Courte, therfore, is desyrous to be satysfyed by some prooffe to be made by you touchinge that poynt: twoo wytnesses alone wyll suffyse. You maye at your choyse eyther sende them by thes, or else have a commyssion returnable the next terme, wherin Mr. Sherington must then joyne with you. Wherfore, in myne opynyon, the better waye bothe for spedye procedinge, and ease of charge, is to sende upp twoo by thes so soon as you can. I woulde you shoulde make choyse of twoo such as are of good credyte and understandinge, which can depose the fyrst entree which you made into Pelton Heye after your grandmother's death, which (as I thynke) was before you came to your full age; yf the same can also testyfye the other entrees which you made synce, it will be the better. I thynke Mr. Wyll. Leycester and James Russell have bene with you at all the entrees you have made. Such as you sende may


His mode

of conducting suits.


June 28.

1581. Made Solicitor


In the year 1581, there was a move in the law on the death of Sir William Cordwell, the Master of the Rolls, when Gerrard, the Attorney General, succeeded him; Popham, the Solicitor General, was made Attorney; and Egerton, who, on account of his unrivalled eminence, had been long destined to the honours of the law, both by the Queen and the voice of his profession, was the new Solicitor General. He held this office near twelve years, during which time he took a very

brynge the notes which you dyd sette downe of the tyme and manner of your entree into Pelton Heye, and also a copye of the offyce roule after the death of your grandmother, by which it maye appere what daye and yere she dyed. I doe thynke that this course wyll be lesse charge then to have a commission, besydes the delaye, and as yet nothing is sayed of the fyne which was levyed for the assuring of your Aunt Dorothye's annuytye, which I feare more then all the rest, and which, by longe delaye, maye happelye come to lyght. Yf that fyne be not objected, I doubt not but before therde of this terme, upon prooffe of your entree, you shall have such an order for Pelton Heye, as you shall have no cause to myslyke.

For Swynton Moore this daye, at rysinge of the Court, the matter was a litle entred into, but for want of tyme, deferred untyll Thursdaye next, and is then to receyve order, for that I suspecte (as I have done alwayes) that you are lyke to be dismissed to the common lawe; but what maye be done shall, for now I begynne to learne to playe the Solycytor pretylye. Your wytnesses are all charged with perjurye by Mr. Sherington, for it semeth he is perswaded that no man can speake true. Yf you shoulde deale with his wytnesses in lyke sort, I thynke you shoulde but requyte hym as he deserveth, but of that you maye consyder, and lette me knowe your mynde before thende of the terme.

“Thus, in hast, I take my leave, with my hartye commendations to you and your wyffe, and Mr. Wyll. Leycester, and all other my frendes. Lyncolne's Inne, this Saterdaye, 15° Octobris, 1580.

"Your's assured, in all I can,


"After I had wrytten thus much, and so had fynyshed my letter, I had understandinge that Mr. Sherington meant to stande upon the former oulde tytle of Worsley of Brothes, and that you were not the right heyre, and so to call in question your tytle and the oulde poynt of the bastardye agayne. For doubt of this you shall doe well to sende uppe the Pope's bull touching that mariage, and the copye of the recorde in the seconde yeare of Kinge Henrye the Fourthe's tyme, by which your auncestor recovered in the assyse agaynst Worseley of Brothes. Yf you sende uppe also the copye of the receverye at Lancaster, and the copye of the indenture inrolled at Chester, and dedes of refeffment made ao 9 H. 8., you shall doe well. You have all but the dede of refeffment layed togyther to have used the same at Lancaster agaynst Tho. Brereton, and the dede of refeffinent I thought good to suppresse and not to shewe in that matter, but now, for the better answering of all thes and such lyke quarrellinge objections, I woulde have you to sende all uppe to me, and then they maye be used as occasyon shall requyre. And so I bidd you agayne fare well.

tobris, 1580.

16 Oc

From Lord Francis Egerton's MSS.

Your's, all I can,

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