John Fortescue (judge)
|A portrait of Fortescue by William Faithorne published in 1663 captioned "Sr John Fortescu Kt Lord Cheife Justice & Lord Chancellor of England vnder King Henry ye Sixth"|
|Chief Justice of the King's Bench|
25 January 1442 – Easter term 1460
|Appointed by||Henry VI|
|Preceded by||John Hody|
|Succeeded by||John Markham|
Norries, North Huish, Devon, England
|Died||1480 (aged 85–86)|
|Resting place||St. Eadburgha’s Church, Ebrington, Gloucestershire, England
|Alma mater||Exeter College, Oxford|
Sir John Fortescue (c. 1394 – c. 1480) was the Chief Justice of the King's Bench of England and the author of De Laudibus Legum Angliæ (Concerning the Praises of the Laws of England, first published posthumously in 1616), an influential treatise on English law. In the course of Henry VI's reign, Fortescue was appointed one of the governors of Lincoln's Inn three times. He became one of the King's Serjeants during the Easter term of 1441, and subsequently served as Chief Justice of the King's Bench from 25 January 1442 to Easter term 1460.
During the Wars of the Roses, Henry VI was deposed in 1461 by Edward of York, who ascended the throne as Edward IV. Henry and his queen, Margaret of Anjou, later fled to Scotland. Fortescue remained loyal to the King, and as a result was attainted of treason. He is believed to have been given the nominal title of Chancellor of England during the King's exile. He accompanied the Queen and her court while they remained on the Continent between 1463 and 1471, and wrote De Laudibus Legum Angliæ for the instruction of young Prince Edward. After the defeat of the House of Lancaster, he submitted to Edward IV who reversed his attainder in October 1471. He died around 1480 and was buried in St. Eadburgha's Church, the parish church of Ebrington, Gloucestershire.
Fortescue was born around 1394 at Norries, in the parish of North Huish near South Brent in Devon, England, and educated at Exeter College, Oxford. He was the second son of Sir John Fortescue, who in 1422 was appointed captain of the captured Castle of Meaux, 25 miles (40 km) northeast of Paris. His eldest brother was Henry Fortescue, Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in Ireland. The earliest surviving record of the Fortescue family relates to its 12th-century holding of the manor of Wimpstone, in the parish of Modbury, Devon.
During the reign of Henry VI, Fortescue was three times appointed one of the governors of Lincoln's Inn. During the Easter term of 1441 he was made one of the King's Serjeants, and on 25 January in the following year Chief Justice of the King's Bench, a position he held till Easter term 1460. As a judge Fortescue was recommended for his wisdom, gravity and uprightness, and he is said to have been favoured by the king.
He held his office during the remainder of the reign of Henry VI, to whom he was loyal; as a result, he was attainted of treason in the first parliament of Edward IV. When Henry subsequently fled to Scotland, he is supposed to have appointed Fortescue, who appears to have accompanied him in his flight, Chancellor of England. Fortescue referred to himself in this manner on the title page of De Laudibus Legum Angliæ, but as the King did not possess the Great Seal of England during his exile it has been suggested that the title was "nominal" and "merely illusory".
In 1463 Fortescue accompanied Queen Margaret and her court in their exile on the Continent, and returned with them to England in 1471. During their wanderings abroad he wrote for the instruction of the young Prince Edward his celebrated work De Laudibus Legum Angliæ (Concerning the Praises of the Laws of England, first published posthumously in 1616), in which he made the first expression of what would later become known as Blackstone's formulation, stating that "one would much rather that twenty guilty persons should escape the punishment of death, than that one innocent person should be condemned, and suffer capitally". On the defeat of the Lancastrian party he made his submission to Edward IV, who reversed his attainder in October 1471.
Marriage and progeny
John Fortescue married Isabella Jamys by whom he had the following progeny:
- Sir Martin Fortescue (died 1472) who married Elizabeth Denzil (or Densil/Densel), the daughter and heiress of Richard Denzil of Filleigh, Weare Giffard and Buckland Filleigh and other manors, all in Devon, in 1454. Filleigh later became the principal seat of the senior line of the Fortescue family, where the Palladian mansion Castle Hill was built c. 1730. Sir Martin Fortescue was the ancestor of the Earls Fortescue.
- Robert Fortescue, who nmarried Elizabeth Trenchard.
- Maud Fortescue, who married Robert Corbet.
- Elizabeth Fortescue, who married Edward Whalesbrough.
Death and burial
The exact date of Fortescue's death is not known, but is believed to have occurred around 1480. He was buried in St. Eadburgha's Church, the parish church of Ebrington, Gloucestershire, which manor he had purchased, and after which his descendants took the name of their title Viscount Ebrington, today used as the courtesy title of the eldest son and heir of Earl Fortescue. A painted stone effigy of John Fortescue, wearing his scarlet robes of office with collar of ermine, exists within the church, against the north wall of the chancel within the communion rails. Above it was erected in 1677 by Col. Robert Fortescue a mural monument with a biographical inscription in Latin. A smaller tablet is affixed below stating that the monument was repaired in 1765 by Matthew Fortescue, 2nd Baron Fortescue. A brass plate below states: "Restored by the Rt Honble. Hugh, 3rd Earl Fortescue, AD 1861".
Fortescue's masterly vindication of the laws of England, received with great favour by experts, did not appear in print until 1616 in the reign of Henry VIII. It was subsequently reprinted many times.
Another work by Fortescue, written in English, was published in 1714 by a descendant, John Fortescue Aland, under the title The Difference between an Absolute and a Limited Monarchy. In the Cotton library there is a manuscript of this work, and its title indicates that it was addressed to Henry VI. However, many passages show plainly that it was written in favour of Edward IV. A revised edition of this work, with a historical and biographical introduction, was published in 1885 by Charles Plummer under the title The Governance of England.
- Edward Foss (1851), The Judges of England: With Sketches of their Lives, and Miscellaneous Notices Connected with the Courts at Westminster, from the Time of the Conquest 4, London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, pp. 308–315 at 308–309, OCLC 23361486.
- Foss, pp. 309–310.
- Foss, pp. 310–312.
- John Fortescue (1616), De laudibus legum Angliæ writen by Sir Iohn Fortescue L. Ch. Iustice, and after L. Chancellor to K. Henry VI. Hereto are ioind the two Summes of Sir Ralph de Hengham L. Ch. Iustice to K. Edward I. commonly calld Hengham magna, and Hengham parua. Neuer before publisht. Notes both on Fortescue and Hengham are added, London: [Printed by Adam Islip?] for the Companie of Stationers, OCLC 837172477.
- Foss, pp. 313–314.
- P. W. Montague-Smith, ed. (1968), Debrett's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage and Companionage 1968: With Her Majesty's Royal Warrant Holders: Comprises Information Concerning the Peerage, Privy Councillors, Baronets, Knights, and Companions of Orders, Surrey: Kelly's Directories, p. 461, OCLC 8972816.
- John FORTESCUE (Sir Chief Justice), Tudor Place, archived from the original on 9 May 2013, retrieved 5 December 2013.
- Marriage settlement dated 10 September 1454.
- Anne Mannooch Welch (1901), "Sir John Fortescue, Buried at Ebrington Gloucestershire" (PDF), Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 24: 193–250, archived from the original on 5 December 2013.
- Foss, p. 314; a photograph can be seen at Painted stone effigy of Lord Chief Justice Sir John Fortescue c1478 on Flickr.
- John Fortescue (1714), John Fortescue Aland, ed., The Difference between an Absolute and Limited Monarchy: As It More Particularly Regards the English Constitution. Being a Treatise Written by Sir John Fortescue, Kt. Lord Chief Justice, and Lord High Chancellor of England, under King Henry VI. Faithfully Transcribed from the MS. Copy in the Bodleian Library, and Collated with Three Other MSS. Publish'd with Some Remarks by John Fortescue-Aland, of the Inner-Temple, Esq; F.R.S., London: John Fortescue Aland; printed by W. Bowyer in White-Fryars, for E. Parker at the Bible and Crown in Lombard-Street, and T. Ward in the Inner-Temple-Lane, OCLC 642421515.
- John Fortescue (1885), Charles Plummer, ed., The Governance of England, otherwise Called the Difference between an Absolute and a Limited Monarchy, Oxford: Clarendon Press, OCLC 457292673.
- Thomas (Fortescue) Lord Clermont (1869), "Life of Sir John Fortescue", The Works of Sir John Fortescue, Knight, Chief Justice of England and Lord Chancellor to King Henry the Sixth, London: Printed for private distribution, OCLC 47732533.
- See, for example, John Fortescue Society Dinner, Exeter College, Oxford, 2013, archived from the original on 18 October 2013.
- Fortescue, John (1885), "Introduction", in Plummer, Charles, The Governance of England, otherwise Called the Difference between an Absolute and a Limited Monarchy, Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp. 1–105, OCLC 457292673.
- Fortescue, Thomas, Lord Clermont (1869), "Life of Sir John Fortescue", The Works of Sir John Fortescue, Knight, Chief Justice of England and Lord Chancellor to King Henry the Sixth 1, London: Printed for private distribution, pp. 1–55, OCLC 47732533.
- Gairdner, James, ed. (1901–1908), The Paston Letters: 1422–1509 A.D. A Reprint of the Edition of 1872–5, which Contained Upwards of Five Hundred Letters, etc., till then Unpublished, to which are Now Added Others in a Supplement after the Introduction, London: Archibald Constable and Co. Ltd., OCLC 351642996 .
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to John Fortescue (judge).|
- Gill, Paul E. (1968), Sir John Fortescue: Chief Justice of the King's Bench, Polemicist of the Succession Problem, Governmental Reformer, and Political Theorist [unpublished Ph.D. thesis], State College, Penn.: Pennsylvania State University, OCLC 13557234.
- Gill, Paul E. (1971), "Politics and Propaganda in Fifteenth-century England: The Polemical Writings of Sir John Fortescue", Speculum XLVI: 333–347 – discusses Fortescue's role in the succession crisis between the Houses of Lancaster and York.
Sir John Hody
|Lord Chief Justice
Sir John Markham