Bankes, Sir John

, lord chief justice of the common pleas, in the reign of king Charles I. was descended from a good family seated at Keswick, in Cumberland, where he was born, in A. D. 1589. The first part of his education he received at a grammar-school in his own county, whence, in 1604, he removed to Queen’s college, in Oxford, being then about fifteen, -and there, for spine time, pursued his studies. He left the university without a degree, and taking chambers in Grays inn, he applied himself to the law, in which science he quickly became eminent. His extraordinary diligence in his profession, his grave appearance, and excellent reputation, recommended him early to his sovereign, Charles I. by whom he was firsi made attorney to the prince. He was next year, 1630, lent-reader at Gray’s inn, and in 1631, treasurer of that society. In August 1634, he was knighted, and made attorney -general, in the place of Mr. Noy, deceased. He discharged this arduous employment, in those perilous times, with great reputation, till in hilary term 1640, he was made chief justice of the common, in the room of Sir Edward Littleton, now lord keeper. In this high station he acted also with universal approbation, remaining at London after the king was compelled to leave it, in order to discharge the duties of his office. But when he once understood that his continuance amongst them was looked on by some as owning the cause of the Parliamentarians, he retired to York. So just an idea the king had of this act of loyalty, that when he had thoughts of removing the lord-keeper, he at the same time was inclined to deliver the great seal to the lord chief-justice Bankes, whose integrity was generally confessed; but he was by some suspected (though wrongfully as it afterwards appeared) in point of courage. He subscribed the declaration made June 15, 1642, by the lords and gentlemen then with his majesty at York; and yet his conduct was so free from aspersion, that even the Parliament in their proposals to the king, in January 1643, desired he might be continued in his office. Beforethis, | viz January 31, 1642, the university of Oxford, to manifest their high respect for him, created him LL. D. His majesty also caused him to be sworn of his privy council, and always testified a great regard for his advice. In the summer circuit he lost all his credit at Westminster, for having declared from the bench at Salisbury, that the actions of Essex, Manchester, and Waller, were treasonable, the commons voted him, and the rest of the judges in that sentiment, traitors. In the mean time, lady Bankes with her family being at Sir John’s seat, Corffe-castle, in the Isle of Purbeck, in Dorsetshire, the friends of the Parliament, who had already reduced all the sea coasts but that place, resolved tft reduce it likewise. The courageous lady Bankes, though she had about her only her children, a few servants and tenants, and little hopes of relief, yet refused to surrender the fortress. Upon this*, sir W. Earl, and Thomas Trenchard, esq. who commanded the Parliament forces, had recourse to very rough measures. Thrice they attempted the place by surprize, and as often were repulsed with loss, though the first time lady Bankes had but five men in the place, and during the whole time her garrison never exceeded forty. Then they interdicted her the markets, and at length formally besieged the house with a very considerable force, a train of artillery, and a great quantity of ammunition. This forced the little town dependant on the castle to surrender, which inclined the besiegers to be remiss, of which lady Bankes taking advantage, procured a supply of provision an-d ammunition, which enabled her still to hold out. At last, the gallant earl of Carnarvon, having with a considerable body of horse and dragoons, cleared a great part of the west, came into the neighbourhood of Purbeck, and sir W. Earl raised his siege, August 4, 1643, so precipitately, that he left his tents standing, together with his ammunition and artillery, all which fell into the hands of lady Bankes’s household. There is no question but this action was very pleasing to the king, at Oxford, where sir John continued in the discharge of his duty, as a privy counsellor, till the last day of his life, vis. December 28, 1644. But that be ever had any other preferment, much less was chief-­justice of the king’s bench, as Wood has affirmed, is certainly erroneous. He was interred with great solemnity in the cathedral of Christ-church, and a monument erected to his memory, with an inscription, signifying his | titles, &c. and that he was distinguished by his knowledge, integrity, and fidelity. He left a numerous posterity, both male and female. By his will, he gave Carious sums to pious and charitable uses. 1


Biog. Brit. Wood’s Fasti, vol. II. Lloyd’s State Worthies and Memoirs, fol.