HALES, Christopher (by 1488-1541), of Hackington, near Canterbury, Kent.
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Family and Education
b. by 1488, s. of Thomas Hales, educ. G. Inn. m. Elizabeth, da. of John Caunton of London, 1s. 4da. Kntd. by Nov. 1538.2
Autumn reader, G. Inn 1524/25.3
Commr. subsidy, Kent 1515; other commissions 1526-d.; attorney-gen. to 3rd Duke of Buckingham by 1521; member, council of Princess Mary 1525; solicitor-gen. 1525; j.p. Kent 1526-d., Essex 1530-2, Herts. 1531, Mdx. 1531, 1537-d., Surr. 1531, 1538-d., Suss. 1531-2, 1538; attorney-gen. 1529; master of the rolls 1536; receiver of petitions in the Lords, Parlt. of 1539.4
Christopher Hales was probably a native of Tenterden, Kent, as was his cousin John Hales I, whose career his own was to parallel. He followed his cousin at Gray’s Inn, where he was an ancient in 1516 and Autumn reader eight or nine years later, joined him in 1517-18 as learned counsel to Rye (to which he later added a similar appointment to all the Cinque Ports), and was made solicitor-general three years after John Hales had become a baron of the Exchequer. By what seems a corollary he also succeeded in 1523 to his cousin’s seat in the Commons for Canterbury, where both had been established since at least 1509. Some two years before his election the city had paid Hales for his advice in its dispute with the prior of St. Gregory’s, and from 1526 he was to be retained as its counsel at a fee of 20s. a year. He received wages for his attendance in Parliament, sharing with his fellow-Member John Bridges the £8 which remained due to them in 1524. Disqualified from re-election by his office under the crown, he was summoned to the next three Parliaments by writ of assistance and in the last of them he was named a trier of petitions. In April 1540 a bill against maintenance, embracery and purchase of titles was committed to him.5
Hales’s first known appointments were those of attorney-general to the Duke of Buckingham and of the duke’s receiver in London and Middlesex, both of which he was holding in 1521. Within four years he was one of Princess Mary’s council, but although in 1526 he was appointed a resident counsellor to her in the marches it is doubtful whether he spent any time at Ludlow; he was, however, sent to survey Calais and Guisnes in 1525 and 1528-9. As attorney-general he preferred indictments against Wolsey, Adam Travers and Bishop Nykke of Norwich on charges of praemunire and against More for refusing the oath of supremacy, and as master of the rolls he took part in the treason trials of 1538 and 1539. His closeness to Cromwell, whose servant Nicholas Caunton’s sister he married and with whom he exchanged frequent letters and amiable admonitions, led to his being made with Sir Richard Rich a target by the Lincolnshire rebels of 1536, who were nevertheless wide of the mark in seeing him as a maker rather than as a mere executant of policy.6
Hales continued to be much involved in the affairs of his own county. On the eve of the Dissolution he was steward of six houses in the diocese of Canterbury, including Christchurch and St. Augustine’s within the city, as well as of Cobham college in Rochester diocese, and by 1538 he had succeeded Sir Edward Neville as steward of the bishop of Rochester’s lands. (From 1529 until his death he was also steward of the bishop of Winchester’s manor of Southwark.) His combination of legal office and local standing appears to have given Hales a lien on one of the parliamentary seats for Rochester: when in 1533 Cromwell made proposals for filling vacancies in the Commons the one at Rochester was marked ‘nota for Mr Attorney’. Whether or how Hales used the nomination is not clear, for Edmund Page, who is thought to have been by-elected, had no known connexion with him save as a neighbour, and the names of the Rochester Members for the two succeeding Parliaments are lost. Hales was certainly not slow to solicit favours: he asked for the office of custos rotulorum of Kent for himself, and among those which he sought for friends was that of common serjeant of London for William Walsingham of Gray’s Inn. He also looked after his interests in Parliament: an Act of 1536 (28 Hen. VIII, c.50) for the exchange of lands between the King, the archbishop of Canterbury and Cromwell contained a proviso that he and his heirs should retain a manor formerly belonging to St. Gregory’s priory, Canterbury, and one of 1539 assuring him another manor in Kent by grant of the abbot of St. Albans had been introduced in the Lords by Cromwell and read there three times on the same day before being passed by the Commons and given the royal assent. He was also one of the named beneficiaries of the Act of the same year (31 Hen. VIII, c.3) freeing lands in Kent from gavelkind.7
The string of manors and other properties, chiefly in Kent, which Hales had acquired were, so far as they lay in that county, listed in two inquisitions post mortem of June and July 1541, the first for the county, the second for Canterbury. His will of 6 Feb. 1541 is quoted in both. To his wife Elizabeth he left the house in which he dwelt and all his other property in Hackington, and to his four daughters £100 each for their marriages. The King was to have the wardship of his only son John if he died while John was under age, which he did on 20 Apr. 1541 when his son was nine years old. The wardship having been granted in 1542 to John Culpeper, John Hales was married to one Dorothy but died in 1546 leaving his three surviving sisters coheirs to himself and their father.8
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: Helen Miller
- 1. Canterbury chamberlains’ accts. 1522-4.
- 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. lxxiv), 78; C142/64/102; LP Hen. VIII, xiii; DNB.
- 3. Dugdale, Origines Juridiciales, 292; Chronica Ser. 81; G.I. Adm. 2.
- 4. Statutes, iii. 168; C. Rawcliffe, The Staffords, Earls of Stafford and Dukes of Buckingham, 1394-1521, pp. 162, 198, 228; LP Hen. VIII, iii-viii, xi-xvi; Arch. Cant. vii. 281-7; LJ, i. 103.
- 5. Rye chamberlains’ accts. 3, f. 52v; Cinque Ports White and Black Bks. (Kent Arch. Soc. recs. br. xix), 192; LP Hen. VIII, i, vii; Canterbury chamberlains’ accts. 1523-4, 1526-7 to 1539-40; C218/1; Rymer, Foedera, vi(3), 5; LJ, i. 103, 131.
- 6. LP Hen. VIII, iii-xiii; SP1/29, f. 179; Elton, Policy and Police, 295, 311, 404.
- 7. Val. Eccles. i. 16, 22, 26, 42, 53, 59, 105, 430; LP Hen. VIII, vii, viii, xii-xiv, add.; Eccles. 2/155873, 155883; LJ, i. 113-14.
- 8. C142/63/12, 64/102, 84/82; Harl. Ch. 76D.38, 77E.32; LP Hen. VIII, xvii.