Christopher Bernevall

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Christopher Bernevall, or Barnewall (1370–1446) was an Irish politician and judge of the fifteenth century who held the offices of Vice-Treasurer of Ireland and Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. He was deeply involved in the political controversies of his time, and was a leading opponent of the powerful Anglo-Irish magnate James Butler, 4th Earl of Ormond. His elder son Nicholas also held office as Lord Chief Justice; his younger son Robert was created the first Baron Trimleston.


He was born at Crickstown in County Meath, the elder son of Nicholas de Bernevall, whose wife was a Clifford. His younger brother founded the Kingsland branch of the family.[1]

He married Matilda (or Maud) Drake, a member of the influential Drake family of Drakerath, County Meath, who was probably a sister of John Drake, Mayor of Dublin. The most notable of his children were his eldest son Sir Nicholas Barnewall, who like his father was Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, and his younger son Robert, 1st Baron Trimleston.[2]


He was appointed King's Serjeant in 1422 and held that office until 1434 when he became second justice of the Court of King's Bench (Ireland); he was appointed Lord Chief Justice of Ireland the following year and with one short gap served in that office until his death in October 1446.[3] He was Vice-Treasurer of Ireland in 1430, 1432 and 1435.

Butler–Talbot feud[edit]

Bernevall was regarded as a highly "political" judge and his career reflects the bitter political of the time. Fifteenth-century Ireland was deeply troubled by the long feud between James Butler, 4th Earl of Ormond and his faction on the one hand, and Richard Talbot, Archbishop of Dublin and his brother John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury on the other. While some judges, notably the Cornwalsh family, which produced two Chief Barons in turn, were supporters of Ormond, Bernevall was a strong supporter of the Talbot faction.[4] He is said to have enjoyed the confidence of the English Crown and was a close associate of Giles Thorndon, the much harassed Treasurer of Ireland. In 1444 Thorndon fled from Ireland, unable to bear any more dissension. He attempted to appoint Bernevall as his Deputy, but Ormond promptly declared the appointment illegal.[5] Numerous accusations of wrongdoing were made against Bernevall,[6] but no action was taken, either because he enjoyed the confidence of the Crown, or because the Ormond–Talbot feud was at last dying away. Bernevall died two years later, still in office.[7]


  1. ^ Lodge, John and Archdall, Mervyn Peerage of Ireland 6 Volumes 1789 Vol.5 p.30
  2. ^ Lodge and Archdall, p.30
  3. ^ Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221-1921 John Murray London 1926 Vol.1 p. 176
  4. ^ Otway-Ruthven A.J. History of Medieval Ireland Barnes and Noble reissue 1993 p.371
  5. ^ Otway-Ruthven p. 375
  6. ^ Griffiths, Ralph A. The Reign of Henry VI-the Exercise of Royal Authority Ernest Benn Ltd. 1981 p.417
  7. ^ Ball p.176
Legal offices
Preceded by
Stephen de Bray
Lord Chief Justice of Ireland
Succeeded by
William Boys
Preceded by
William Boys
Lord Chief Justice of Ireland
Succeeded by
Richard Bye