CAESAR, Sir Charles (1590-1642), of Benington, Herts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. 27 Jan. 1590, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Sir Julius Caesar* and his 1st w. Dorcas, da. of Sir Richard Martin, master of the Mint, and wid. of Richard Lusher of M. Temple; half-bro. of Robert*.1 educ. Magdalen, Oxf. 1602, BA 1605, MA (All Souls) 1608, BCL 1608, DCL 1612;2 I. Temple 1611;3 Paris c.1611.4 m. (1) 19 Dec. 1613,5 Anne (d. 13 June 1625), da. of Sir Peter Vanlore of London, merchant, 3s. d.v.p. 3da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) 1626, Jane (d. 16 June 1661), da. of Sir Edward Barkham of London, Draper and alderman, 6s. (3 d.v.p.) 4da. d.v.p.6 kntd. 9 Oct. 1613;7 suc. fa. 1636. d. 6 Dec. 1642.8

Offices Held

Fell., All Souls, Oxf. by 1607-11;9 member, Doctors’ Commons 1613-at least 1641, treas. 1636.10

Adv., Ct. of Arches from 1613;11 master in Chancery extraordinary 1613-15, in ordinary 1615-39;12 member, High Commission, Canterbury prov. 1620-at least 1633;13 judge of audience and master of the faculties 1626-39;14 master of the Rolls 1639-d.15

J.p. Herts. by 1614-at least 1640, Mdx. 1639-at least 1640, Surrey aft. 1640-July 1642;16 commr. sewers, Herts. 1617, Lincs., Notts. 1639-d.,17 piracy, Mdx. 1617-39, Kent, Surr. 1617-33, London 1619-39, Essex 1619-33,18 survey, L. Inn Fields, London 1618,19 swans, Essex, Herts., Mdx. 1619,20 subsidy, Herts. 1621-2, 1624,21 highway repairs 1622;22 surveyor of woods, Essex by 1624;23 commr. Forced Loan, Herts. 1627,24 oyer and terminer, London and Mdx. 1639-at least 1641, Home circ. 1639-?d.,25 assessment, Herts. 1641-2,26 array, Herts. and Mdx. June 1642-?d.27

Dep. gov. Mineral and Battery Co. 1621-35, 1637-?d., asst. 1635-7.28


Given his very full education, Caesar was clearly a man of some erudition, though his distinguished father, Sir Julius, undoubtedly used his position as a senior lawyer and government minister to advance the young man’s career. In 1605 the king was prevailed upon to nominate Caesar for a fellowship at All Soul’s, Oxford, though the college apparently took over a year to comply with the request.29 Sir Julius himself arranged his heir’s admission to the Inner Temple in 1611, though as a civil lawyer Caesar associated himself with Doctors’ Commons once he secured his doctorate in the following year. An advocate in the ecclesiastical Court of Arches from 1613, Caesar was knighted the same year in the presence of the Privy Council.30 After his stepsister, Lady Vere, proved implacably opposed to marrying him, Caesar secured a wealthy City bride instead, and early in 1614 he was provided with a country estate when Sir Julius purchased Benington manor for him.31

Caesar probably owed his election at Weymouth in 1614 to an intervention by his father, who certainly corresponded with the borough at the time of its 1610 by-elections.32 However, he also possessed kinship ties with an important Dorset gentry family, the Trenchards, which may have assisted his candidature.33 He is not known to have spoken in the Commons, and his only appointment, on 16 May, was to help scrutinize the bill concerning the almshouses at East Grinstead, Sussex founded by the 2nd earl of Dorset (Robert Sackville*).34 Caesar became a full master in Chancery in 1615, and consequently attended the House of Lords as an assistant throughout the 1620s.35 During the 1621 Parliament he promoted a bill to settle a disputed Hertfordshire land transaction involving himself and his father-in-law. Although this measure passed successfully through the Lords, it was lost in committee in the Commons after Sir Edward Coke and Edward Alford used its first reading debate on 31 May to complain about Chancery masters’ fees.36 The bill was reintroduced during the following Parliament, when it reached the statute book.37

Caesar enjoyed a successful career in the fields of ecclesiastical and maritime law, his progress smoothed not just by his father’s patronage but also by his own personality. In 1618 the newsletter writer John Chamberlain recorded a visit by ‘courteous Sir Charles Caesar’ to Bishop Lancelot Andrewes, while two years later the judge Sir John Davies* praised his ‘discretion and sweetness of manners’ during the summer assizes.38 These were valuable qualities in the uncertain world of Caroline ecclesiastical government. Caesar became judge of the Court of Audience in 1626 through the patronage of the Calvinist Archbishop Abbot, but he proved equally capable of working with the latter’s Arminian successor, William Laud, despite allegedly making the court a haven for puritans.39 In 1635 he was accused of partiality while hearing a tithe dispute involving his half-brother Robert, but he was not in general regarded as corrupt.40 Rather, critics such as George Garrard* dismissed him as ‘a very ass’, and ‘the very anvil on which doctors of law of his society played’, an allusion both to Doctors’ Commons and to his prominent role in the Battery Company. Accordingly, Garrard was outraged when Caesar emulated his late father by obtaining the prestigious mastership of the Rolls in 1639, in succession to Sir Dudley Digges*. Now a very wealthy man as a result of the deaths of his uncle, Henry Caesar, dean of Ely, and of Sir Julius himself, Caesar outbid his rivals by offering the Crown £15,000, though he reportedly borrowed £10,000 from the St. Paul’s Cathedral repair fund in the short term.41

Under pressure from Laud, Caesar lent the king £2,000 in 1640 towards the costs of the Bishops’ Wars, apparently employing money assigned to charitable purposes by his uncle, the dean, though these bequests were subsequently honoured.42 In the following year he was impeached by the Long Parliament for his part in the High Commission trial of the puritan pamphleteer, John Bastwick, but died of smallpox in December 1642 before proceedings commenced. Caesar was buried at Benington, his predictably flattering epitaph describing him as ‘an equal distributor of unsuspected justice, ... just without corruption, merciful without affectation’.43 His son and heir, Henry, twice represented Hertfordshire in the Commons between 1660 and 1668.44

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. R. Clutterbuck, Herts. ii. 286; J. Craig, The Mint, 142; B.P. Levack, Civil Lawyers, 215.
  • 2. Al. Ox.
  • 3. CITR, ii. 57.
  • 4. L.M. Hill, Bench and Bureaucracy, 250.
  • 5. St. Katharine by the Tower (Harl. Soc. Reg. lxxv), 89.
  • 6. Clutterbuck, ii. 284, 286; A.B. Beaven, Aldermen of London, i. 102.
  • 7. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 153.
  • 8. Clutterbuck, ii. 286.
  • 9. Levack, 215.
  • 10. G.D. Squibb, Doctors’ Commons, 170; Levack, 215.
  • 11. LPL, Abbot reg. i. f. 164.
  • 12. C216/1/49; T.D. Hardy, Cat. Principal Officers of Chancery, 89, 91.
  • 13. R.G. Usher, Rise and Fall of High Commission, 347; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. iv. 36.
  • 14. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 474; 1639, p. 3.
  • 15. Rymer, ix. pt. 2, p. 248.
  • 16. C66/1988; 66/2859; C231/5, pp. 354, 532.
  • 17. C181/2, f. 297v; 181/5, ff. 149, 223.
  • 18. C181/299v, 339; 181/4, f. 138v; 181/5, f. 130v.
  • 19. Rymer, vii. pt. 3, p. 83.
  • 20. C181/2, f. 340v.
  • 21. C212/22/20-1, 23.
  • 22. C181/3, f. 69v.
  • 23. Add. 12496, f. 59.
  • 24. C193/12/2, f. 23v.
  • 25. C181/5, ff. 130v, 138v, 213-14, 222.
  • 26. SR, v. 62, 84, 151.
  • 27. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 28. BL, ms Loan 16, pt. 2, ff. 3v, 73-4v, 90.
  • 29. HMC Hatfield, xvii. 481.
  • 30. Hill, 250.
  • 31. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 477; VCH Herts. iii. 75; Hill, 251.
  • 32. SP14/55/20.
  • 33. The Gen. n.s. xvii. 102-3; Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. xlii), 139.
  • 34. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 258.
  • 35. LJ, iii. 7a.
  • 36. CJ, i. 632a-b, 654a; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 134.
  • 37. LJ, iii. 284b; CJ, i. 773a, 778b, 784a; HLRO, O.A. 21 Jas.I, c. 54.
  • 38. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 189; Add. 12,504, f. 152.
  • 39. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 377; 1637-8, pp. 572-3; 1639, p. 3.
  • 40. Ibid. 1635, p. 125.
  • 41. Ibid. 1638-9, pp. 622-3; 1639, p. 3; Hill, 251-4.
  • 42. CSP Dom. 1639-40, p. 532; E. Lodge, Life of Sir Julius Caesar, 47-8.
  • 43. CSP Dom. 1640-1, p. 479; Clutterbuck, ii. 284, 290.
  • 44. HP Commons, 1660-90, ii. 1-2.