Edward Northey (barrister)

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Sir Edward Northey
Born (1652-05-07)7 May 1652
Died 14 August 1723(1723-08-14) (aged 71)
Epsom, Surrey
Nationality British
Occupation Lawyer and politician

Sir Edward Northey (7 May 1652 – 14 August 1723) was a senior British barrister and politician during the later seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. During his career in the law, Northey filled several senior posts and eventually became Attorney General for England and Wales, serving in this capacity on two separate occasions. He also sat in parliament, retaining a position of influence following the accession of King George I by remaining neutral on significant political issues.


Edward Northey was born in 1652, the son of barrister William Northey and Elizabeth Garrett and baptised at St Mary-le-Bow in London. In preparation for a career in the law, Northey was educated at St Paul's School and Queen's College, Oxford, graduating in 1668. Entering the Middle Temple the same year, Northey was called to the bar in 1674 and remained in private practice for the next 15 years, arguing several significant cases in the House of Lords relating to King James II exercise of power.[1]

In 1687, shortly after the death of his father, Northey inherited a substantial amount of money from Lady Wentworth and married Anne Joliffe (daughter of John Jolliffe), with whom he had one son and two daughters. In 1689, Northey became attorney-general to the Duchy of Lancaster and was touted as the next solicitor-general in 1693, although not appointed. He was later involved in the case surrounding John Toland's work Christianity not Mysterious, arguing successfully that it could not be declared heretical.

In 1701, at the promotion of Thomas Trevor to be a judge, Northey was made Attorney General for England and Wales by King William III and was confirmed the following year on the ascendancy of Queen Anne, when he was also knighted. Northey retained the position for the next six years, prosecuting in many trials, including those of David Lindsay and John Tutchin, but refused to become involved in the Henry Sacheverell trial. In 1708, he was replaced by Simon Harcourt, but regained the post in 1710 and held it until 1718.[1]

In addition to regaining the attorney-generalship, Northey was also elected to parliament in 1710 as Member of Parliament for Tiverton. During his time in parliament Northey, politically a mild Tory remained largely neutral, allowing him to keep his appointments on the accession of King George I in 1714. He was vocal in his disapproval of the Duke of Marlborough in 1712, but otherwise remained non-partisan.[1]

In 1718, he was replaced as attorney-general by Nicholas Lechmere and accepted a pension of £1,500 annually. In 1722, suffering severely from an unidentified paralysing illness, Northey resigned his parliamentary seat and retired to his home in Epsom. He died there in 1723 and was buried nearby, survived by his wife and children.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Northey, Sir Edward, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Stuart Handley. Retrieved 15 July 2008
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Richard Mervin
Thomas Bere
Member of Parliament for Tiverton
With: John Worth 1710–1715
Thomas Bere 1715–1722
Succeeded by
Arthur Arscott
Thomas Bere
Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir Thomas Trevor
Attorney General
Succeeded by
Sir Simon Harcourt
Preceded by
Sir Simon Harcourt
Attorney General
Succeeded by
Sir Nicholas Lechmere