Hatton, Sir Christopher

, a statesman and lawyer in queen Elizabeth’s reign, was the third and youngest son, of William Hatton, of Holdenby in Northamptonshire, by Alice, daughterof Lawrence Saunders, of Horringworth, in the same county. He was entered a gentleman commoner of St. Mary Hall, Oxford, but removed, without taking a degree, to the society of the Inner Temple, not to study law, but that his mind might be enlarged by an intercourse with those who were at once men of business and of the world, for such was the character of the lawyers of that day. He came on one occasion to the court at a masque, where queen Elizabeth was struck by the elegance of his person, and his graceful dancing. It is not improbable also that his conversation corresponded with his outward appearance. He was from this time, however, in the way to preferment; from one of the queen’s pensioners he became successively a gentleman of the privy chamber, captain of the guard, vice-chamberlain, and privy-counsellor, and by these unusual gradations rose to the office of lord chancellor in 1587, when he was likewise elected a knight of the garter. His insufficiency is said at first to have created strong prejudices among the lawyers against him, founded, perhaps, on some degree of envy at his sudden advancement without the accustomed studies; but his good natural capacity supplied the place of experience and study; and his decisions were not found deficient either in point of equity or judgment. In all matters of great moment he is said to have consulted Dr. Swale, a civilian. “His station,” says one of his biographers, “was great, his dispatches were quick and weighty, his orders many, yet all consistent: being very seldom reversed ijii | thartcery, and his advice opposed more seldom in council. He was so just, that his sentence was a law to the subject, and so wise, that his opinion was an oracle to the queen.” When, in 1586, queen Elizabeth sent a new deputation to queen Mary of Scotland, informing her that the plea of that unhappy princess, either from her royal dignity, or from her imprisonment, could not be admitted, sir Christopher Hatton was one of the number, along with Burleigh, and Bromley the chancellor; and it was by Hatton’s advice chiefly, that Mary was persuaded to answer before the court, and thereby give an appearance of legal procedure to the trial.

Sir Christopher did not enjoy his high office above four years, and died unmarried, Sept. 20, 1591, of a broken heart, as usually reported, owing to the stern perseverance with which Elizabeth had demanded an old debt which he was unable to pay. Camden enumerates him among the liberal patrons of learning, and as eminent for his piety towards God, his fidelity to his country, his untainted integrity, and unparalleled charity. In his opinions respecting matters of religion, he appears to have been averse to persecution, which brought upon him the reproach of being secretly affected to popery, but of this we have no proof. As chancellor of Oxford, which office he held from 1588 to his death, he did much to reform the education and discipline of that university. He was buried under a stately monument in the choir of St. Paul’s. Wood says he wrote several things pertaining to the law, none of which are extant 2 but the following has been attributed to him, “A Treatise concerning Statutes or Acts of Parliament, and the exposition thereof,” Lond. 1677, 8vo. Warton thinks he was the undoubted writer of “the fourth act in the tragedy of Tancred and Gismund,” which bears at the end composuit Ch. Hat. This play was the joint production of five students of the Inner Temple, and was acted at that society before the queen in 1568, but not printed till 1592. It is reprinted in the second edition of Dodsley’s collection. 1


Lives of the Lord Chancellors. —Ath. Ox. vol. II. Lodge’s Illustrations, vols. II. and III, Park’s edition of Royal and Noble Authors. Lloyd’s State Worthies. Peck’s Desiderata, vol. I. Hume’s Hist. Fuller’s Worthies.