BEDINGFIELD, Henry (1632-87), of Halesworth, Suff.
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Family and Education
bap. 9 Dec. 1632, 4th s. of John Bedingfield (d.1680) of Lincoln’s Inn and Halesworth by Joyce, da. and coh. of Edmund Morgan of Lambeth, Surr.; bro. of Sir Robert Bedingfield. educ. Caius, Camb. 1650; L. Inn 1650, called 1657. m. c.1667, his cos. Mary, da. of Robert Bedingfield, DD, rector of Newton, Cambs. 1631-51, 2da. Kntd. 14 Nov. 1684.1
Freeman, Dunwich 1658, commr. for assessment 1677-80, recorder ?1680-6; bencher, L. Inn 1683; recorder, Southwold 1684-d.; dep. steward, Great Yarmouth 1684-d.; j.p. Suff. 1685-d.2
Serjeant-at-law 1684; j.c.p. 13 Feb. 1686, c.j. 21 Apr. 1686-d.
Bedingfield was descended from a prolific family which had held manorial property in Suffolk since 1309. His grandfather sat for Eye in 1586, and two of his uncles represented Dunwich, seven miles from Halesworth, in early Stuart Parliaments. The family was parliamentary in sympathy during the Civil War, but his father avoided commitment, though he twice served as treasurer of Lincoln’s Inn during the Interregnum.3
Bedinfield himself, ‘a grave but rather heavy lawyer’, at least in his riper years, was, unlike the elder generation, ‘a good churchman and loyal by principle’. Returned for Dunwich at the general election of 1660, he made no recorded speeches and was named to no committees in the Convention, though he was doubtless a court supporter. With his colleague John Rous I he certified a petition from the borough for a reduction in its fee-farm rent. Although his father succeeded Francis Bacon as recorder in August, Bedingfield did not stand again, giving way in 1661 to Richard Coke, of a Cavalier family. Little is known of the next 20 years of his life, but in 1683 he presented a loyal address from Dunwich abhorring the Rye House Plot, and in the following year, probably on the recommendation of Lord Keeper Guilford ( Sir Francis North), he was made serjeant-at-law and knighted. He might have been raised to the bench, but his brother, a London woollen-draper, was a crony of Judge Jeffreys, whom Bedingfield feared to offend by accepting further patronage from any other source.4
Bedingfield was returned for Aldeburgh as a court candidate at the general election of 1685, and became a moderately active Member of James II’s Parliament. He was appointed to the committees for bills to prevent clandestine marriages and to relieve London widows and orphans. He took the chair on the bill for the repair of Yarmouth pier and harbour, which he carried to the Lords on 15 June. After Guilford’s death he was raised to the bench, but in somewhat invidious circumstances, for he replaced a judge dismissed for opposing the dispensing power. In his brief tenure of office he had no occasion himself to pronounce officially on the issue, and ‘gave his judgment only in private discourse and conference’. He died of apoplexy on 6 Feb. 1687 immediately after receiving the sacrament at Serjeants’ Inn. He was buried at Halesworth under an inscription which describes him as ‘notable for legal learning, piety, and counsel, upright yet extremely gentle in manner, and always faithful to his God, his prince, and his friends’. His brother was returned for Hedon in 1701.5