Robert Napier (judge)

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Sir Robert Napier (died 1615),[1] was an English-born judge in Ireland.


Napier was born at Swyre in Dorset, third son of James Napier, of a branch of an old Scots family which settled in Dorset.[2] He was educated at Exeter College, Oxford, Fellow 1559, Bachelor of Arts 1562. He entered the Middle Temple in 1566, and was fined for failing to act as reader in 1588.[2] In 1593 he was knighted and sent to Ireland as Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer.

Swyre Church

As a judge Napier was universally agreed to be a failure. While some (by no means all) other English judges found the damp Irish climate a burden, most of them made the effort to perform their duties nonetheless. Napier on the other hand sent back to England a stream of complaints about his health and inadequate salary. He lobbied for a Chief Justiceship in England, and crossed regularly back to England, on one occasion being nearly shipwrecked off Holyhead.[2] In 1600 he went to England for good and refused to return to Dublin; he was suspended from office in 1601 and replaced the following year.

Napier was Sheriff of Dorset in 1606 and Chief Baron of the Exchequer in Ireland.[2] He was a member of parliament for Dorchester (1586–7),[3] Bridport (1601),[4] and Wareham (1604–6).[5]

Napier founded the fortunes of the Napier family in Dorset, acquiring extensive new estates in the county including Middlemarsh Hall, which became the family seat.[6] The Napiers also acquired an estate at Loughcrew, near Oldcastle, County Meath, which remained in the family for several generations. He is buried at Minterne Magna Church. In his will he left money for the accommodation of ten poor men in Dorchester: his son Nathaniel used it to build the Napier Almshouses in that town.


Napier married firstly Catherine Warham, by whom he had a daughter, Anne and secondly Magdalen Denton, the mother of his heir. The marriage of his only son Nathaniel to Elizabeth Gerrard caused some comment since even for the time the couple, at eleven and nine, were exceptionally young.[2]

Napier's son, Sir Nathaniel, was also a member of parliament, as was his grandson, Sir Gerrard, who was created a baronet in 1641.[7]


  1. ^ Barry 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e Ball 1926, p. 225.
  3. ^ Willis 1750, p. 110 (Elizabeth's sixth parliament).
  4. ^ Willis 1750, p. 148 (Elizabeth's tenth parliament).
  5. ^ Willis 1750, p. 159 (James's first parliament).
  6. ^ Brunton & Pennington 1954, p. 162.
  7. ^ Leigh Rayment's Peerage Pages [self-published source][better source needed]