Charles Darling, 1st Baron Darling

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"Little Darling"
Darling as caricatured by Spy (Leslie Ward) in Vanity Fair, July 1897

Charles John Darling, 1st Baron Darling, PC (1849–1936) was an English lawyer, politician and later a High Court judge.

He was educated privately, paid for by his uncle William Menelaus. After pupillage, Darling was called to the English Bar (Inner Temple) in 1874. He was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 1885,[1] and was a Conservative Member of Parliament for Deptford from 1888 until 1897, when he was appointed a Judge of the Queen's Bench Division.

As a judge, he presided over a number of important trials, including the Stinie Morrison case (1911),[2] that of 'Chicago May' Churchill.[3] and the trial for criminal libel of Noel Pemberton Billing MP (1918), brought by Maud Allan after Billing and Harold Sherwood Spencer had claimed there were 47,000 "sexual perverts" in high places who were controlled by the Germans. He also sat on the criminal appeals of Dr Hawley Crippen and Sir Roger Casement, both of which he dismissed.

He was known for his erudition and at times inappropriate wit, both on and off the bench, as well as for being impeccably dressed and wearing a silk top hat whilst riding to Court on a horse and accompanied by a liveried groom. He displayed his literary acuity in a book of essays Scintillae Juris.[4] The novelist and barrister F. C. Philips gave his opinion, 'I think that the wittiest book ever written by a legal luminary was one called "Scintillæ Juris" by Mr. Justice Darling, when he was a barrister on the Oxford Circuit. I understand that when he was raised to the Bench he stopped its circulation.'[5]

Darling was made a member of the Privy Council in 1917, entitling him to sit on the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. During the Billing trial one of the witness, Eileen Villiers-Stuart, claimed to have seen the mysterious "Black Book" in which the names of the "perverts" were listed, declared in court that Darling was one of them. She was later convicted of bigamy, and admitted that her testimony was invented.[6]

He retired from the bench in 1923, and was created Baron Darling in 1924. He was active in House of Lords debates on legal issues, including promoting the Infant Life Preservation Act 1929. He married Mary Caroline Greathed, 16 September 1885. She was the daughter of Alice Clive and Maj. Gen. William Wilberforce Harris Greathed.


  1. ^ "DARLING, Sir Charles John, Kt.; cr. 1897". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. p. 443.
  2. ^ Moulton, H. Fletcher, ed. (1922). Trial of Steine Morrison. London: W. Hodge & Co.
  3. ^ Sharpe, May Churchill (1928). Chicago May: Her Story. New York: Macaulay Co.
  4. ^ Darling, Charles J. (1877). Scintillae Juris (2nd ed.). London: Davis & Son.
  5. ^ Philips, F. C. (1914). My Varied Life. London: E. Nash. p. 271.
  6. ^ Andrew, Christopher, Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community, (1985)
  • Peter James Rainton and Peerage. com.
  • Smith, Derek Walter, "The Life of Charles Darling", Cassell & Co, London (1938).
  • Simpson, A.W.B., "A Biographical Dictionary of the Common Law", Butterworths, London, 1984, p 143.
  • Hoare, Philip, "Wilde's Last Stand", Duckworth Overlook, London 1997, 2011, pp 112–181, 217-218 (concerning the Pemberton Billing trial).
  • Gilbert, Michael (ed), "The Oxford Book of Legal Anecdotes", OUP, Oxford, 1986, pp 91–97.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William John Evelyn
Member of Parliament for Deptford
Succeeded by
Arthur Henry Aylmer Morton
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Darling
Succeeded by
Robert Charles Henry Darling