Ley, Sir James

, an eminent lawyer in the early part of the seventeenth century, was the sixth and youngest son of Henry Ley, esq. of Tesfont Evias, in Wiltshire, and was born about 1552. In 1569 he entered of Brazen-nose college, Oxford, whence he removed to Lincoln’s-inn, studied the law, and was appointed Lent reader in 1601, after which his learning and abilities raised him to the highest rank of his profession. In 1603, he was made serjeant at law, and the year following chief justice of the king’s bench in Ireland; on the ancient history | of which country he appears to have bestowed some attention, and collected with a view to publication, “The An.­nals of John Clynne, a Friar Minor of Kilkenny,” who lived in the reign of Edward III.; the “Annals of the Priory of St. John of Kilkenny,” and the “Annals of Multiferman, Rosse, and Clonmell.” All these he had caused to be transcribed, but his professional engagements prevented his preparing them for the press. They afterwards fell into the hands of Henry earl of Bath. Extracts from them are in Dublin college library.

In 1609, being then a knight, sir James was made the king’s attorney in the court of wards. In 1620 he was created a baronet; in 1621, chief justice of the court of king’s bench, England; and in 1625, lord high treasurer. From this office he was removed, under pretence of his great age, to make room for sir Richard VVeston. Lord Clarendon seems to intimate that his disability as well as age might be the cause, and that upon these accounts there was little reverence shewn towards him. This, however, is scarcely reconcileable with the honours bestowed on him immediately afterwards, for he was not only created baron Ley, and earl of Marlborough, but soon after made president of the council. Lloyd says he had better abilities for a judge than a statesman. He died at Lincoln’sinn, March 14, 1628, and was buried in the church at Westbury, where a sumptuous monument was erected to his memory. We have noticed his attention to Irish history while in that country. Lloyd has given us another trait of his character while there, which is highly honourable to him. “Here he practised the charge king James gave him at his going over (yea, what his own tender conscience gave himself), namely, not to build his estate upon the ruins of a miserable nation, hut aiming, by the impartial execution of justice, not to enrich himself, but civilize the people. But the wise king would no longer lose him out of his own land, and therefore recalled him home about the time when his father’s inheritance, by the death of his five elder brethren, descended upon him.

He wrote, or compiled, “Reports of Cases in the courts at Westminster in the reigns of king James and king Charles, with two tables; to which is added a treatise of Wards and Liveries,1659, folio. The *' Treatise of Wards“had been published separately in 1612, 12mo. | Among Hearne’s” Collection of curious Discourses," are some by sir James Leigh. 1


Ath. Ox. vol. I.—Lloyd’s State Worthies.—Ware’s Ireland, by Harris.— Park’s edition of lord Orford.