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William de Skipwith (died after 1392) was a fourteenth-century English judge, who also served as a judge in Ireland. He held the office of Chief Baron of the Exchequer 1362-5. He suffered temporary disgrace when he was removed from office for corruption, but he was restored to favour, became Lord Chief Justice of Ireland 1370-2,[1] and later returned to the English bench. He appears to have been the only High Court judge to have escaped impeachment by the English Parliament of 1388.

Contents

FamilyEdit

He was the younger son of William de Skipwith and Margaret Fitzsimon. The Skipwiths came from Skipwith in North Yorkshire : the family were descended from Robert de Stuteville, lord of the manor of Skipwith in the reign of Henry III;[2] the Fitzsimons were from Ormsby in Lincolnshire, where the de Skipwiths later settled. On the death of his elder brother, William inherited the family estates.[3]

Early careerEdit

He was probably educated at Grays Inn. He became Sergeant-at-law in 1354 and was knighted and made a justice of the Court of Common Pleas in 1359. He became Chief Baron in 1362, and trier of petitions in Parliament.[4]

Disgrace and returnEdit

In 1365 Skipwith and the Lord Chief Justice, Henry Green, were removed from office for having acted "contrary to law and justice", and having unlawfully obtained large sums of money. Green never held office again but Skipwith was only in temporary disgrace.[4] In 1370 he was appointed Lord Chief Justice of Ireland and received 40 marks to cover his expenses.[1] In 1373 he is recorded sitting on a commission of gaol delivery in Dublin.[5] In 1376 he was restored to his old seat on the Court of Common Pleas in England, and remained in office until 1388.[4] He regularly appeared in Parliament as a trier of petitions and sat on various judicial commissions.

Merciless ParliamentEdit

When Richard II summoned the High Court judges in August 1387 to give their opinion on the lawfulness of the actions of the powerful commission of nobles known as the Lords Appellant, Skipwith pleaded illness as an excuse for non-attendance.[6] As a result, he avoided participating in the judgment against the Lords Appellant, condemning them for treason and authorising their arrest, which the judges later claimed they had been coerced into giving. His decision not to attend was a wise one, since when the judges were impeached by the Merciless Parliament in 1388, Skipwith escaped censure. He and his eldest son swore to uphold the Lords Appellant, but he retired from the Bench soon afterwards.[4] He was still living in 1392.

 
King Richard II, who presided in person over the Merciless Parliament

DescendantsEdit

He married Alice de Hiltoft of Ingoldmells, Lincolnshire. They had several daughters and two surviving sons, William, who died without issue, and John (died 1422), ancestor of the Skipwith Baronets of Metheringham.[4]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221-1921 John Murray London 1926 Vol.1 p. 86
  2. ^ Kingsford, Charles Lethbridge "William de Skipwith" Dictionary of National Biography 1885-1900 Vol. 52 p.356
  3. ^ Kingsford p.356
  4. ^ a b c d e Kingsford p.357
  5. ^ Ball p.86
  6. ^ Kingsford p. 357
Legal offices
Preceded by
John Keppock
Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench for Ireland
1370-72
Succeeded by
John Keppock