Thomas de Burley

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Thomas de Burley (died c.1371) was an English-born judge and monk in fourteenth century Ireland. He held office twice as Lord Chancellor of Ireland. He was the Irish Prior of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, whose Dublin house was at Kilmainham, from 1356 till his death. He had a reputation for corruption and vindictiveness towards his opponents.

Little is known of his life before 1356, when he was appointed both Prior of Kilmainham and Lord Chancellor of Ireland. [1] He was English by birth, and entered the Order of St. John in England. He was superseded as both Prior and Chancellor by John Frowyk, but later regained them. D'Alton tells us that he was Prior for "many years". [2] It has been suggested that he was an unwelcome choice as Prior, but this may simply reflect his later unsavoury reputation.

He clashed with many of his judicial colleagues, notably Richard White, the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, and numerous complaints were made against him of maladministration and corruption. He was removed as Lord Chancellor in 1364, after the Irish House of Commons sent a powerful delegation, including White and Maurice Fitzgerald, 4th Earl of Kildare, to England to complain of his misconduct; the precise complaint being that he had seriously misrepresented to King Edward III the state of affairs in Ireland. The King gave an order that the delegation should not be "troubled" for their mission on their return to Ireland; this suggests that they were afraid of reprisals from Burley or his allies, which in turn suggests that Burley had a name for being vindictive. [3]

He was also preceptor of the Order's house in Shropshire. [4]

In 1367 it was proposed to reappoint him Lord Chancellor in place of the quarrelsome and unpopular Thomas le Reve, Bishop of Lismore and Waterford. A brief power struggle developed, from which Burley emerged the victor. The same year he complained that the Order's manor at Leixlip was being wrongfully distrained for debts it did not owe.

In 1367-8 the Bermingham family and their retainers began a private war in County Meath. Burley was appointed to negotiate a treaty with them, together with John Fitzrichard, High Sheriff of Meath, and Robert Tyrrel, Baron of Castleknock. A parley was arranged at Carbury but the Berminghams, in breach of the agreement, took the commissioners captive. Burley was quickly released in exchange for James Bermingham, then a prisoner in Trim Castle; the others were required to pay a ransom. He does not seem to have been ill-treated by his captors. [5]

He probably died in 1371, when William Tany succeeded him as Prior.

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References

  1. Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221-1921 John Murray London 1926 Vol. 1 p.83
  2. D'Alton, John History of the County of Dublin Hodges and Smith Dublin 1836 p.615
  3. Crooks, Peter "Hobbes", "Dogs" and politics in the Ireland of Lionel of Clarence c. 1361-6 The Denis Bethell Prize Essay 2005
  4. Ball p.83
  5. D'Alton p. 616