Fitzroy Kelly

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Sir Fitzroy Kelly
Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer
In office
1866 – 18 September 1880
Preceded bySir Frederick Pollock
Succeeded byOffice abolished
Personal details
Born(1796-10-09)9 October 1796
London, England
Died18 September 1880(1880-09-18) (aged 83)
Brighton, Sussex
Political partyTory

Sir Fitzroy Edward Kelly (9 October 1796 – 18 September 1880) was an English commercial lawyer, Tory politician and judge. He was the last Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer

Background and education[edit]

Kelly was born in London, the son of Robert Hawke Kelly (died in or before 1807), a captain in the Royal Navy. His mother was the novelist Isabella Kelly, daughter of Captain William Fordyce, Groom of the Privy Chamber to George III. In 1824, he was called to the bar by Lincoln's Inn, having already gained a reputation as a skilled special pleader.[1]


Sir Fitzroy Kelly, 1847
Vanity Fair caricature, November 1871

In 1834 Kelly was made a King's Counsel, remarkably after only ten years' call. A strong Tory, he was returned as Member of Parliament for Ipswich in 1835, but was unseated on petition. In 1837 however he again became member for that town.[2] From 1843 to 1847 he was MP for Cambridge,[3] and in 1852 was elected member for Harwich, but with a vacancy suddenly occurring in East Suffolk, he preferred to contest that seat and was elected.[1]

Most of his legal cases were of a commercial nature, but one was one of the great criminal poisoning crimes of the early Victorian period. In March 1845 Kelly defended John Tawell, the "Quaker murderer," was in fact no longer a member of the Quakers, though he did try to return to that group. Tawell had poisoned his mistress, Sarah Hart, and fled from Salt Hill in Aylesbury by train. However, a description of Tawell was sent to London by electric telegraph, and he was captured. Kelly did the best he could for his client, but he was not accustomed to criminal defence. His argument that Sarah Hart had eaten too many apple pips and been poisoned by the prussic acid in the pips led to the nickname "Apple-pip," which followed Kelly for the rest of his life. Despite his endeavours, his client was found guilty and hanged.

Kelly was Solicitor-General in 1845 (when he was knighted) and again from February to December 1852, during which time he was junior to Attorney-General Sir Frederic Thesiger in the prosecution of John Henry Newman for libel, the Achilli trial.[citation needed] In 1858–1859 he was Attorney General in Lord Derby's second ministry. In 1866 he was raised to the bench as the last Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer and made a member of the Privy Council, entitling him to sit on the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.[1]

Kelly died at Brighton on 18 September 1880, aged 83.[2] He was buried on the western side of Highgate Cemetery.

Grave of Sir Fitzroy Edward Kelly in Highgate Cemetery


Coat of arms of Fitzroy Kelly
A griffin passant.
Azure two lions rampant respectant Or supporting on their paws a castle Argent.
Turris Fortis Mihi Deus[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Chisholm 1911.
  2. ^ a b Allen, C. J. W. (2004) "Kelly, Sir Fitzroy Edward (1796–1880)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press
  3. ^ "The city of Cambridge: Parliamentary representation Pages 68-76 A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge". British History Online. Victoria County History, 1959. Retrieved 26 December 2022.
  4. ^ Debrett's Illustrated House of Commons and Judicial Bench. 1867.


External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Ipswich
With: Robert Adam Dundas
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Ipswich
With: Thomas Milner Gibson 1838–1839;
Thomas John Cochrane 1839–1841
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Cambridge
With: John Manners-Sutton
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Harwich
With: John Bagshaw
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for East Suffolk
With: Sir Edward Gooch, Bt 1852;
John Henniker-Major, 1852–1866
Succeeded by
Legal offices
Preceded by Solicitor-General for England
Succeeded by
Preceded by Solicitor-General for England
Succeeded by
Preceded by Attorney-General for England
Succeeded by
Preceded by Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer
Office abolished