GAWDY, Francis (d.1605), of Wallington and Shouldham, Norf.
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Family and Education
s. of Thomas Gawdy of Harleston by his 3rd w. Elizabeth, da. of Oliver (or Thomas) Shires. educ. I. Temple 1549, called, bencher by 1558. m. 1563, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Christopher Coningsby of Wellington, 1da.1 Kntd. 23 July 1603.
Gawdy had apparently no personal connexion with Morpeth, which belonged to Lord Dacre. In 1571 Thomas, 4th Duke of Norfolk, the guardian of George, 5th Lord Dacre during his minority, had the patronage, and nominated Gawdy, a London lawyer with property in Norfolk and Suffolk. There is no mention of him in the Commons Journals for 1571, but after he became a serjeant, and later a judge, there are references to him as an assistant to House of Lords committees, as a receiver of petitions, and as a messenger to the Commons from the Lords. As Queen’s serjeant and later as a judge (an office he seems to have wished to avoid), Gawdy officiated at the trials of Mary Stuart (1586), William Davison (1587) and Sir John Perrot (1592). In June 1600 he was one of the special commissioners for the examination of the 2nd Earl of Essex, and acted as adviser to the peers at the Earl’s trial in the following February. There is a story that on his deathbed he referred to his last famous case, that of Sir Walter Ralegh in November 1603, saying that ‘the justice of England was never so depraved and injured’ as by Ralegh’s condemnation. From about 1584 he was also regularly employed as a justice of assize, generally on the home or eastern circuit. In July 1597 business at the Sussex assizes had to be re-arranged because of his illness.5
A few references to Gawdy’s private life have survived. He was a relatively wealthy man, able to lend Philip, Earl of Arundel nearly £200. His wife went mad, ‘to him for many years a perpetual affliction’, according to Spelman, who thought it a judgment on him for his family’s having speculated in monastic property at Shouldham priory and elsewhere. The only child of the marriage, a daughter Elizabeth, married Sir William Hatton (formerly Newport), nephew and heir of (Sir) Christopher Hatton I Christopher Hatton I to whom, as lord chancellor, Gawdy probably owed his appointment as a judge. In June 1589 Hatton led the dancing at the wedding celebrations at Holdenby. Local gentlemen who quarrelled with Gawdy found him ready to go to law. Nicholas Hare wrote to Bassingbourne Gawdy I in June 1579 that his dispute with Serjeant Gawdy was to be heard at the next assizes, adding that if the serjeant had been ‘as reasonable as he is learned, or as a great many be of his kindred’, the case need never have come to court. In the event Chancery intervened to stop the assize proceedings. Gawdy was knighted before James I’s coronation, having previously said he would decline the honour. On 28 Oct. 1603 he had an audience of the King, who said that he ‘wished him not to be discontented in regard of the place of lord chief baron [of the Exchequer] which was partly promised him, for he meant to reserve him for a better place when it should happen’. He bought the ‘better place’, that of lord chief justice of the common pleas, in August 1605 ‘at a dear rate’, but had exercised it for on