Littleton, Dwaud

, lord keeper of the great seal of England in the reign of Charles I. was descended, by a collateral branch, from the preceding judge Littleton, being grandson of John Littleton, parson of Mouuslow in Shropshire, and son of sir Edward | Littleton of Henley in that county, one of the justices of the inarches, and judge of North Wales. He was born in 1589, and admitted a gentleman commoner of Christchurch, Oxford, in 1606, where he took the degree of bachelor of arts in 1609. Some time after, being designed for the law by his father, he removed to the InnerTemple, and soon became eminent in his profession. In 1628, we find him in parliament; and on the 6th of May he was appointed, together with sir Edward Coke and sir Dudley Digges, to carry up the petition of right to the house of lords. He had also the management of the charge made against the duke of Buckingham, concerning king James’s death; on which occasion he behaved himself with universal applause, although he had to consult both the jealousy of the people and the honour of the court. His first preferment in the law was the appointment to succeed his father as a Welch judge; after which he was elected recorder of London, and about the same time counsel for the university of Oxford. In 1632, he was chosen summer-reader of the Inner-Temple, and in 1634, appointed solicitor-general, and received the honour of knighthood in 1635. In 1639, he was constituted lord chief-justice of the common-pleas; and, in 1640, on the flight of lord-keeper Finch from the resentment of the parliament, the great seal was put into his custody, with the same title. In February following, he was created a peer of England, by the title of lord Littleton, baron of Mounslow in Shropshire.

In this station he preserved the esteem of both parties for some time, and the two houses of parliament agreed to return their thanks by him to the king, for passing the triennial bill, and that of the subsidies; but, as he concurred in the votes for raising an army, and seizing the militia, in March 1641, measures very hostile to the royal cause, the king sent an order from York to lord Falkland, to demand the seal from him, and to consult about a successor with Hyde, afterwards earl of Clarendon; but this last step prevented the former order from being put into execution. Hyde, who always entertained a great regard for the keeper, had, upon his late behaviour, paid him a visit at Exeter-house, on which occasion the keeper freely disclosed his mind, lamenting that he had been removed from the common-pleas, of which court he was acquainted with the business aud the persons with whom he had to | deal, to an higher office, which involved him with another sort of men, and in affairs to which he was a stranger; and this without his having one friend among them, to whom he could confide any difficulty that occurred to him. Adverting likewise to the unhappy state of the king’s affairs, he said that the party in hostility to the court “would never have done what they had already, unless they had been determined to do more: that he foresaw it would not be long before a war would break out, and of what importance it was, in that season, that the great seal should be with his majesty; that the prospect of this necessity had made him comply to a certain degree with that party; that there had lately been a consultation, whether, in case the king might send for him, or the great seal be taken from him, it were advisable to keep it in some secure place, where the keeper should receive it upon occasion, they having no mind to disoblige him: that the knowledge of this had induced him to vote as he did in the late debates; and by that compliance, which he knew would give the king a bad impression of him, he had gained so much credit with them, that he should be able to preserve the seal in his own hands till his majesty should demand it, and then he would be ready to wait on the king with it, declaring that no man should be more willing to perish with and for his majesty than himself.” Mr. Hyde acquainted lord Falkland with this conference; and, being confident that the lord-keeper would keep his promise, recommended to advise his majesty to write a kind invitation to the keeper to come to York, and bring the seal with him, rather than, think of giving it to any other person. The advice was embraced by the king, who, though he still had his doubts of Littleton’s sincerity, was influenced by the reasons assigned; and accordingly the seal was sent to York on the f2d, and followed by the keeper on the 23d of May, 1642. But, notwithstanding this piece of service and eminent proof of his loyalty, at the risk of his life, he could never totally regain the king’s confidence, or the esteem of the court-party. He continued, however, to enjoy his post, in which he attended his majesty to Oxford, was there created doctor of laws, and made one of the king’s privycouncil, and colonel of a regiment of foot in the same service, some time before his death, which happened Aug. 27, 1645, at Oxford. His body was interred in the cathedral of Christ church; uu which Qccasioa a funeral oration | was pronounced by the celebrated Dr. Hammond, then orator to the university. In May 1683, a monument was erected there to his memory, by his only daughter and heiress, the lady Anne Lyttelton, widow of sir Thomas Lyttelton; and the same year came out his “Reports,” in folio,*


Besides these, we have some speeches in parliament, and several arguments and discourses, published in Rushworth, vol. I. and appendix; and by themselves in 1642, 4to, and in a book, entitled “The Sovereign’s Prerogative and Subject’s Privileges discussed,1657, folio; and “A Speech in the House of Commons at the passing of two bills,1641, 4to.

which, however, Mr. Stevens, in his introduction to lord Bacon’s Letters, edition 1702, p. 21, thinks were not composed by him, many of the cases being the same verbatim as in Hetley’s reports. Lord Clarendon says of sir Edward Littleton, that “he was a man of great reputation in the profession of the law, for learning, and all other advantages which attend the most eminent men. He was of a very good extraction in Shropshire, and inherited a fair fortune and inheritance from his father. He was a handsome and a proper man, of a very graceful presence, and notorious courage, which in his youth he had manifested with his sword. He had taken great pains in the hardest and most knotty part of the law, as well as that which was most customary; and was not only ready and expert in the books, but exceedingly versed in records, in studying and examining whereof he had kept Mr. Selden company, with whom he had great friendship, and who had much assisted him: so that he was looked upon as the best antiquary of his profession, who gave himself up to practice; and, upon the mere strength of his abilities, he had raised himself into the first of the practisers of the common law courts, and was chosen recorder of London before he was called to the bench, and grew presently into the highest practice in all the other courts, as well as those of the law.” Whitelocke also observes, that he was a man of courage, and of excellent parts and learning. But we fear he cannot be altogether acquitted of unsteadiness in some parts of his conduct, although it must at the same time be owned that when he found he could no longer retain the seal with credit, he delivered it, with his own hands, to his unhappy sovereign, and died firmly attached to his cause.

He was twice married; first to Anne, daughter of Johiv Lyttelton, by whom he had a son and two daughters, who | all died infants. His second wife was the lady Sidney Calverley, relict of sir George Calverley of Cheshire, and daughter of sir William Jones, judge of the king’s-bench, by whom he had the above-mentioned Anna, whose son Edward died in 1664, and lies interred in the Temple church. In the south window of the Inner Temple hall, is a fine shield of the keeper’s arms, with fifteen quarterings, distinguished by a crescent within a mullet, which shews him to have been a second son of the third house. 1


Biog. Brit. Lloyd’s State Worthies. Lloyd’s Memoirs, fol. 582. Ath. Ox. vol. II. Bridgman’s Legal Bibliography. Park’s edition of the Royal and Noble Authors.