Heneage Finch, 1st Earl of Nottingham

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The Earl of Nottingham

Heneage Finch, 1st Earl of Nottingham by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt.jpg
The Earl of Nottingham by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt, c.1680
Lord Chancellor
In office
Preceded by The Earl of Shaftesbury
Succeeded by Sir Francis North
Lord Keeper
In office
Preceded by The Earl of Shaftesbury
Succeeded by Sir Francis North
Attorney General
In office
Preceded by Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Bt
Succeeded by Sir Francis North
Solicitor General
In office
Preceded by William Ellis
Succeeded by Sir Edward Turnour
Member of Parliament for Oxford University
In office
Servingwith Laurence Hyde
Preceded by Thomas Clayton
John Mylles
Succeeded by Laurence Hyde
Thomas Thynne
Member of Parliament for Canterbury
In office
Servingwith Sir Anthony Aucher
Preceded by Sir Edward Master
John Nutt
Succeeded by Francis Lovelace
Sir Edward Master
Personal details
Heneage Finch

(1620-12-23)23 December 1620
Eastwell, Kent
Died18 December 1682(1682-12-18) (aged 61)
Great Queen Street, London
Elizabeth Harvey
(m. 1646)
Parents Sir Heneage Finch
Frances Bell Finch
Education Westminster School
Alma mater Christ Church, Oxford

Heneage Finch, 1st Earl of Nottingham, PC (23 December 1620 18 December 1682), Lord Chancellor of England, was descended from the old family of Finch, many of whose members had attained high legal eminence, and was the eldest son of Sir Heneage Finch, Recorder of London, by his first wife Frances Bell, daughter of Sir Edmond Bell of Beaupre Hall, Norfolk. [1]


Early career

In the register of Oxford University he is entered as born in Kent, and probably his native place was Eastwell in that county. He was educated at Westminster and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he remained until he became a member of the Inner Temple in 1638. He was called to the bar in 1645, and soon obtained a lucrative practice. [1]


In April 1660, he was elected Member of Parliament for Canterbury and Mitchell in the Convention Parliament and chose to sit for Canterbury. [2] Shortly afterwards was appointed Solicitor General, being created a baronet the day after he was knighted. In May 1661 he was elected MP for Oxford University in the Cavalier Parliament. [2] In 1665 the university created him a D.C.L. In 1670 he became Attorney General, and in 1675 Lord Chancellor. He was created Baron Finch in January 1673 and Earl of Nottingham in May 1681. [3]

Popish Plot

During the Popish Plot, he played an active part in the interrogation of witnesses and preparation of the Crown's evidence. He is said to have been somewhat sceptical about much of the evidence, and drew up a private report referring to the difficulties with Titus Oates' evidence. [4] In general he behaved with moderation and restraint during the Plot, as shown most notably in his impartial conduct, as Lord High Steward, of the trial of William Howard, 1st Viscount Stafford, (apart from a curious remark that it was now clear that the Great Fire of London was a Catholic conspiracy). [5] Kenyon notes that during the examination of the informer Miles Prance, Finch threatened him with the rack, [6] but such a lapse was most uncharacteristic of Finch, who was a humane and civilised man; in any case the threat could hardly have been serious since the use of the rack had been declared illegal in 1628.

Finch and Nottingham House, now Kensington Palace

The original early 17th-century building was constructed in the village of Kensington as Nottingham House for the Earl of Nottingham. It was acquired from his heir, who was Secretary of State to William III, in 1689, because the King wanted a residence near London but away from the smoky air of the capital, because he was asthmatic. At that time Kensington was a suburban village location outside London, but more accessible than Hampton Court, a water journey on the Thames. A private road was laid out from the Palace to Hyde Park Corner, broad enough for several carriages to travel abreast, part of which survives today as Rotten Row. The Palace was improved and extended by Sir Christopher Wren with pavilions attached to each corner of the central block, for it now needed paired Royal Apartments approached by the Great Stairs, a council chamber, and the Chapel Royal. Then, when Wren re-oriented the house to face west, he built north and south wings to flank the approach, made into a proper cour d'honneur that was entered through an archway surmounted by a clock tower. Nevertheless, as a private domestic retreat, it was referred to as Kensington House, rather than 'Palace'. The walled kitchen gardens at Kensington House supplied fruits and vegetables for the Court of St. James's. [7]

Personal life

His daughter Elizabeth (Peter Lely) Mrs Grimston, nee Finch, afterwards Lady Elizabeth Grimston (1650-1675), by Peter Lely.jpg
His daughter Elizabeth (Peter Lely)

On 30 July 1646, he was married to Elizabeth Harvey, daughter of William Harvey's younger brother Daniel, and his wife Elizabeth Kinnersley. [8] Together, Elizabeth and Heneage were the parents of five children, including: [9]

Lord Nottingham died in Great Queen Street, London on 18 December 1682. He was buried in the church of Ravenstone in Buckinghamshire. His son Daniel inherited his earldom, and would later also inherit the Earldom of Winchelsea. [10]


According to the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, his contemporaries of both sides of politics agree in their high estimate of his integrity, moderation and eloquence, while his abilities as a lawyer are sufficiently attested by the fact that he is still spoken of as the father of equity. His most important contribution to the statute book is The Statute of Frauds. While attorney-general he superintended the edition of Sir Henry Hobart's Reports (1671). He also published Several Speeches and Discourses in the Tryal of the Judges of King Charles 1. (1660); Speeches to both Houses of Parliament (1679); Speech at the Sentence of Viscount Stafford (1680). He left Chancery Reports in MS., and notes on Coke's Institutes. [12]

Related Research Articles

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Earl of Winchilsea is a title in the Peerage of England held by the Finch-Hatton family. It has been united with the title of Earl of Nottingham under a single holder since 1729. The Finch family is believed to be descended from Henry FitzHerbert, Lord Chamberlain to Henry I. The name change to Finch came in the 1350s after marriage to an heiress by a member of the Finch family. In 1660 the 3rd Earl of Winchilsea was created Baron FitzHerbert of Eastwell, Kent, in recompense for his efficient aid in the Restoration of the Monarchy. The Herbert family of Wales, Earls of Pembroke, share common ancestry but bear differenced arms. A later member of the family, Sir William Finch, was knighted in 1513. His son Sir Thomas Finch, was also knighted for his share in suppressing Sir Thomas Wyatt's insurrection against Queen Mary I, and was the son-in-law of Sir Thomas Moyle, some of whose lands Finch's wife inherited. Thomas's eldest son Moyle Finch represented Weymouth, Kent and Winchelsea in the House of Commons. In 1611 he was created a baronet, of Eastwell in the County of Kent.

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Earl of Nottingham is a title that has been created seven times in the Peerage of England. It was first created for John de Mowbray in 1377, at the coronation of Richard II. As this creation could only pass to his legitimate heirs, it went extinct on his death in 1383. It was re-created for his elder brother Thomas de Mowbray in the same year, however. This branch of the family became Dukes of Norfolk, and the title would descend with them until John de Mowbray died without male heirs in 1476.

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  1. 1 2 Chisholm 1911, p. 824.
  2. 1 2 History of Parliament Online - Finch, Heneage
  3. Chisholm 1911, pp. 824–825.
  4. Kenyon, J.P. The Popish Plot Phoenix Press Reissue 2000 p. 86
  5. Kenyon p. 232
  6. Kenyon p. 153
  7. Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Nottingham, Earls of". Encyclopædia Britannica . 19 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 824–825.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Power, D’Arcy: "William Harvey“, Longmans Green & Co., New York, 1898, Page 7.
  9. "Nottingham, Earl of (E, 1681)". www.cracroftspeerage.co.uk. Heraldic Media Limited. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  10. 1 2 "Winchilsea, Earl of (E, 1628)". www.cracroftspeerage.co.uk. Heraldic Media Limited. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  11. "Aylesford, Earl of (GB, 1714)". www.cracroftspeerage.co.uk. Heraldic Media Limited. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  12. Chisholm 1911, p. 825.
Legal offices
Preceded by
William Ellis
Solicitor General
Succeeded by
Sir Edward Turnour
Preceded by
Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Bt
Attorney General
Succeeded by
Sir Francis North
Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Shaftesbury
(Lord Chancellor)
Lord Keeper
Succeeded by
Sir Francis North
(Lord Keeper)
Lord Chancellor
Parliament of England
Preceded by
Sir Edward Master
John Nutt
Member of Parliament for Canterbury
With: Sir Anthony Aucher
Succeeded by
Francis Lovelace
Sir Edward Master
Preceded by
Thomas Clayton
John Mylles
Member of Parliament for Oxford University
With: Laurence Hyde
Succeeded by
Laurence Hyde
Thomas Thynne
Peerage of England
New title Earl of Nottingham
7th creation
Succeeded by
Daniel Finch
Baron Finch of Daventry
Baronetage of England
New title Baronet
(of Raunston, Buckinghamshire)
Succeeded by
Daniel Finch