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Thomas Egerton Ellesmere, Baron

Ellesmere, Thomas Egerton, Baron, 1540?–1617, jurist and statesman. A distinguished early career at law brought him appointment (1581) as solicitor general, and he became a favorite and adviser of Queen Elizabeth I. In 1592 he was appointed attorney general and in 1596 lord keeper of the great seal. A friend of Robert Devereux, 2d earl of Essex, he tried to curb the earl's impetuosity, was lenient to him at the time of his first trial (1600), but abandoned him after his rebellion (1601) and was a witness against him in the trial that resulted in his execution. On his accession in 1603, James I made Egerton Baron Ellesmere and lord chancellor. A staunch supporter of royal prerogative, he championed the courts of chancery and high commission against those of common law and helped to secure the dismissal (1616) of Sir Edward Coke. As a man of learning and an incorruptible judge, he was highly regarded by such contemporaries as Francis Bacon and Ben Jonson. John Donne was Egerton's secretary (1597–1601) and married his niece. Ellesmere was created Viscount Brackley in 1616.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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