CROKE, George (c.1560-1642), of Serjeants' Inn, London; Waterstock and Studley, Oxon.
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Family and Education
b. c.1560, 3rd s. of John Croke II of Chilton, Bucks. by Elizabeth, da. of Sir Alexander Unton of Chequers, Bucks. and Wadley, Berks.; bro. of John III. educ. Thame sch.; Christ Church, Oxf. 1575; I. Temple 1575, called 1584. m. c.1610, Mary, da. of Sir Thomas Bennet, ld. mayor of London, 1s. 3da. Kntd. 1623.
Bencher, I. Temple 1597, Autumn reader 1599, 1608, treasurer 1609-10, double reader 1617; serjeant-at-law and King’s serjeant 1623; justice of common pleas 1625, of King’s bench 1628.1
Croke was brought into Parliament for Bere Alston by his relative Charles Blount, 8th Lord Mountjoy. He served on the committees concerning tillage (13 Dec. 1597), lewd and wandering persons (20 Dec.), costs in civil lawsuits 27 Jan. 1598, and on two conferences with the Lords 16 Jan. (on defence) and 3 Feb. (on wine casks). He was probably the ‘Mr. George Cooke’ who was appointed to the committee on tellers and receivers on 12 Dec.2
Croke began reporting law cases in 1581, and is mentioned as an advocate in his own reports in 1588. He established a lucrative practice and built up estates in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. He was associated with the Hampden family, was named as overseer in the will of William Hampden and must have known John Hampden† for whom he later gave judgment in the ship-money case. Croke’s marriage ‘fell out unexpected to his friends that conceived a purpose in him never to have married’, she being some 20 years of age and he ‘an ancient bachelor’.
Croke’s law reports, published after his death in a translation from the law French by Harbottle Grimston his son-in-law, soon occupied a considerable place in the authoritative literature of the common law. The 12 active years which he spent on the King’s bench coincided with some of the great constitutional cases of the century. He is best remembered in connexion with ship-money. In 1637 Charles submitted the question to the judges, all of whom—save for Croke and Sir Richard Hutton—agreed that the King could demand such financial aid from his subjects in time of danger. The two dissidents signed this general statement in the belief that they were bound to yield to the majority opinion. However, when the problem came before him judicially in the Hampden case, he made an outright statement declaring that there was no precedent for such a prosecution and that only Parliament might set a charge upon a subject. ‘The King has ship money by hook but not by Croke’, said the wits. In 1641 Croke retired, retaining the title, salary and allowances of a judge. He died at Waterstock 16 Feb. 1642, leaving two wills, the first being concerned with the disposal of land to his wife and son Thomas. In the second, made 1640 and proved 3 May 1642, he asked to be buried without ‘heraldry’, hearse or any ‘unnecessary ceremonies’. The widow was appointed sole executrix.3
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
- 1. This biography is based on: DNB; J. W. Wallace, Reporters, ed. Heard, 198-205; W. S. Holdsworth, Hist. Eng. Law, v. 343, 353; A. Croke, Hist. Croke Fam. i. 561-605; Foss, Judges, vi. 293-7.
- 2. D’Ewes, 572, 575, 581, 589, 592.
- 3. VCH Bucks. iv. 257; VCH Oxon. v. 63, 68; J. Forster, Sir John Eliot, ii. 344n; PCC 58 Campbell.