James William Colvile

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The Right Honourable
Sir James William Colvile
Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
Personal details
Born (1810-01-12)12 January 1810
Died 6 December 1880(1880-12-06) (aged 70)
Spouse(s) Frances Elinor Grant
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge

Sir James William Colvile (12 January 1810 – 6 December 1880) was a British lawyer, civil servant and then judge in India, and a judge on the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the court of last resort for the British colonies.


He was born the eldest son of Alexander Wedderburn Colvile of Ochiltree and Crombie, Fife and educated at Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated MA in 1834. He trained as a barrister and was called to the bar in 1835.[1]

He practised at Lincoln's Inn for ten years before being appointed Advocate General to the East India Company in 1845. He went to Calcutta and was appointed Puisne Judge to the Supreme Court of Bengal in 1848 and Chief Justice of the Court of Calcutta in 1855. He was knighted in 1848.[1]

He was the first Vice Chancellor of the University of Calcutta. He served in this office for two years, from January 24, 1857 to January 24, 1859.[2] He was president of The Asiatic Society.[1]

He retired and returned to England in 1859. He was made a Privy Councillor, initially as an Assessor to the Judicial Committee of the Council of India appeals, and eventually as a full member of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.[1] He gave the decision of the Judicial Committee in Dow v. Black, an important constitutional case from Canada.

In April, 1875 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society.[3]

He died in London, of heart failure on 6 December 1880.[1]


He married in 1857 Frances Elinor, daughter of Sir John Peter Grant, K.C.B., G.C.M.G., of Rothiemurchus, lieutenant-governor of Lower Bengal. They had one son, Andrew John Wedderburn, born in 1859, who died in 1876.[1]



 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHamilton, John Andrew (1887). "Colvile, James William". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography 11. London: Smith, Elder & Co. p. 417.