James Burge

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James Burge QC

Charles George James Burge, Q.C. (8 October 1906 – 6 September 1990 in London, England) was an English criminal law barrister, remembered for his defence of Stephen Ward in the Profumo Affair in 1963. He is also remembered as John Mortimer's original inspiration for the fictional barrister Horace Rumpole in Rumpole of the Bailey.[1]

Burge was educated at Christ's College, Cambridge, as an undergraduate commoner.

Ward was prosecuted for living on earnings from prostitution. He was defended by Burge, who, known as a mercurial Old Bailey junior, never quite recovered from the professional consequences of defending him in the scandal. Ward took an overdose of sleeping tablets near the end of the trial, he was found guilty of some charges in his absence, but died without regaining consciousness. It was Burge to whom Mandy Rice-Davies made her famous reply "He would, wouldn't he."

Author and fellow barrister John Mortimer stated on several occasions that there were elements of Burge, especially Burge’s independence and total dedication to often unprepossessing clients, that he incorporated into the famous fictional character Rumpole of the Bailey. Mortimer's 2009 obituary in The Daily Telegraph confirmed that Rumpole was, in part, based on a chance meeting in court with James Burge:

In the early 1970s Mortimer was appearing for some football hooligans when James Burge, with whom he was sharing the defence, told him: "I’m really an anarchist at heart, but I don’t think even my darling old Prince Peter Kropotkin would have approved of this lot." "And there," Mortimer realised, "I had Rumpole."[1]

Burge practiced in the chambers of RE Seaton, QC, an established "criminal set" in Queen Elizabeth Building, Temple, London.

He died at age 83, on 6 September 1990 and was cremated in Xàbia, Spain.