KELYNG, John (1607-71), of Hatton Garden, London and Southill, Beds.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1661 - 18 June 1663

Family and Education

bap. 19 July 1607, o.s. of John Kelyng of Hertford by Alice, da. of Gregory Waterhouse of Halifax, Yorks. educ. Trinity Coll. Camb. 1623; I. Temple 1624, called 1632. m. (1) by 1634, Martha (d. 18 July 1660), da. of Sir Thomas Boteler of Biddenham, Beds., 4s. (3 d.v.p.) 4da.; (2) Mary (d. 24 Sept. 1667), da. of William Jesson, Draper, of London, wid. of Oliver Boteler of Harrold, Beds., 1da.; (3) 23 Mar. 1668, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Francis Bassett of Tehidy, Illogan, Cornw., s.p. suc. fa. 1642; kntd. 21 Jan. 1662.1

Offices Held

Steward of borough court, Hertford 1637-44; bencher, I. Temple May 1660; j.p. Beds. July 1660-d.; commr. for oyer and terminer, Norfolk circuit July 1660, assessment, Beds. Aug. 1660-9, Bedford 1661-3; freeman, Bedford 1661; commr. for loyal and indigent officers, Beds. 1662.2

Serjeant-at-law July 1660, King’s serjeant 1661-3; j.K.b. 18 June 1663, c.j. 1665-d.


No connexion has been found between Kelyng and John Keling, the crown lawyer who sat for Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1625-6, though they were both barristers of the Inner Temple. Kelyng succeeded his father as steward of Hertford, refused the Protestation in 1642, and was imprisoned by the Long Parliament for inciting the grand jury to oppose the militia ordinance. Clarendon described him as ‘a person of eminent learning [and] eminent suffering, [who] never wore his gown after the rebellion, but was always in gaol’. He probably leased Southill during the Interregnum, though the freehold was not purchased until 1667.3

Kelyng was one of the first group of serjeants to be appointed after the Restoration, and acted as crown counsel at the trials of the regicides Francis Hacker and William Heveningham. He was involved in a double return with Sir Samuel Luke at Bedford in 1661, and seated on the merits of the return. Although a bigoted Anglican, he was listed by Lord Wharton among his friends. A moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was appointed to 53 committees. Early in the first session he was among those given the responsibility for drawing up a proviso to the security bill and managing a conference. His other committees included those for the corporations bill and the bill of pains and penalties. He was among those instructed to peruse a proviso to the bill against mischief from Quakers and to prepare reasons for a conference. He was largely responsible for drafting the uniformity bill, reporting a conference on 10 Apr. 1662. He served on the committee to consider the bill for the execution of those under attainder, and his conduct of the prosecution of Sir Henry Vane has been condemned as ‘unfeelingly harsh and insulting’. On 2 Apr. 1663 he attended a conference to receive the King’s answer to the petition of both Houses against priests and Jesuits. He was appointed to the committees to provide remedies against meetings of dissenters, to bring in a bill for restricting the grant of offices to loyalists, and to inquire into the conduct of Sir Richard Temple. During the session he was raised to the bench, on which his conduct seems to have been marked by lack of discretion, violent outbursts of temper, and an insulting manner generally. Charged with mishandling juries, aiding arbitrary government, and having ‘undervalued, vilified and condemned Magna Carta’, he appeared at the bar of the House on 13 Dec. 1667. After hearing ‘a very modest and fair answer to two or three of the charges against him’, the Commons declared that ‘the precedents and practice of fining or imprisoning jurors is illegal’, but decided to proceed no further ‘out of particular respect to him and the mediation of a great many’. Shortly before his death he appeared before the Lords to apologize publicly to Lord Holles (Denzil Holles) for affronting him during a trial in the King’s bench. He died in his house in Hatton Garden and was buried on 13 May 1671 at St. Andrew, Holborn, the only member of his family to sit in Parliament.4

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: Leonard Naylor / Geoffrey Jaggar


This biography is based on E. Stockdale, ‘Sir John Kelyng, Chief Justice of the King’s Bench 1665-71’, (Beds. Hist. Rec. Soc. lix), 43-53.

  • 1. Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 150.
  • 2. Chauncy, Herts. i. 492; Bedford Corp. Minute Bk. (Beds. Hist. Rec. Soc. xxvi), 148.
  • 3. CJ, ii. 597; VCH Beds. iii. 258.
  • 4. CJ, viii. 250, 279; ix. 4, 35, 37; Burnet, i. 326; Milward, 88, 159-60, 162-3, 166-9; Pepys Diary, 17 Oct., 13 Dec. 1667; HMC Kenyon, 81; LJ, xii. 452.