Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cæsar, Charles

CÆSAR, Sir CHARLES (1590–1642), judge, the third son of Sir Julius Cæsar [q. v.] by his first wife, born 27 Jan. 1589–90, was educated at All Souls College, Oxford, of which, on the recommendation of the king, he was elected a fellow in 1605, graduating B.A. He proceeded M.A. in 1607, resigned his fellowship in 1611, and took the degree of doctor of both laws (civil and canon) on 7 Dec. 1612. On 9 Oct. 1613 he was knighted at Theobalds. In the parliament of 1614 he sat as member for Weymouth. On 9 May 1615 he was appointed a master of chancery. Having devoted himself to the practice of the ecclesiastical law, he was created by the Archbishop of Canterbury (Abbott) judge of the court of audience and master of the faculties, both of which offices he was permitted to retain on the suspension of the archbishop in 1627 (Cobbett, State Trials, ii. 1452), and the latter of which, as probably also the former, he held until his death (Wood, Fasti Oxon., ed. Bliss, i. 328). From the fact that we find him on 10 June 1626 associated with Baron Trevor in carrying the Duke of Buckingham's answer to his impeachment from the upper to the lower house, it may be inferred that he then held the post of judge of the court of audience. On 17 Dec. 1633 he was made a member of the high commission, and from that time until his appointment to the mastership of the rolls he is not unfrequently mentioned in the acts of commission in a way which shows that under it he exercised a jurisdiction similar to that which in the court of chancery was then vested in a master. He sat in 1635–6 as a member of a special tribunal, composed of doctors of the civil law and judges and advocates of the court of arches, to try the question whether tobacco could rightly be considered contraband of war by the law of nations, or as falling within the purview of the fourth article of the treaty concluded between England and Spain in 1630, whereby it was made a breach of neutrality for either of the contracting parties to supply the enemies of the other with ‘victual’ (commeatus). The question arose from a man-of-war of Dunkirk having captured an English merchantman laden with leaf tobacco from Amsterdam, and bound presumably for France (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1635–6, p. 208, where the destination of the vessel is not stated), and the Dunkirk court and also the court of appeal at Brussels having adjudged her and her cargo lawful prize. The English court decided that the judgment was contrary alike to the law of nations and to the treaty. The mastership of the rolls falling vacant by the death of Sir Dudley Digges in March 1638–9, the king let it be known that it would only be parted with for a handsome consideration. Cæsar sounded Laud as to its probable price, and was told plainly ‘that as things then stood, that place was not like to go without more money than he thought any wise man would give for it.’ Cæsar, however, was not daunted. His competitors were Sir Edward Leech, who offered 7,000l. down, and 6,000l. to follow in May; Sir Thomas Hatton, who offered his wife's house, and money besides (how much is not known); and Lord-chief-justice Finch, and Sir Ralph Freeman, a master of requests; the amounts offered by the two last mentioned we do not know. Cæsar, however, cut them all out by bidding 15,000l. (10,000l. payable at once in hard cash), and agreeing to lend the king 2,000l. towards the expenses of his meditated journey into Scotland. This latter sum appears to have been trust money in his hands as executor of his uncle, Henry Cæsar [q. v.], dean of Ely, which he was bound by the terms of the dean's will to confer upon some college to be selected by himself. A warrant was issued for its repayment on 10 March of the following year. The money, however, was never repaid, although repeated applications to the treasury were made by himself and by his wife and son after his death.

Cæsar died on 6 Dec. 1642 of the smallpox, and was buried at Bennington, Hertfordshire. His epitaph magniloquently designates him ‘an equal distributor of unsuspected justice;’ on the other hand, George Gerrard, the master of the Charterhouse, writing to Viscount Conway and Killultagh, under date 28 March 1639, curtly characterises him as ‘a very ass,’ adding that he was ‘the very anvil on which the doctors of the law of his society played.’ He married twice: first, Anne, daughter of Sir Peter Vanlore, merchant of London, who died on 13 June 1625; secondly, in 1626, Jane, daughter of Sir Edward Barkham, knight, lord mayor of London in 1622. She died on 16 June 1661, and was buried at Bennington. In all he had fifteen children, six by his first wife, and nine by his second; but only five survived him, three of these being sons, and of these the eldest, Julius, died a few days after his father, and of the same complaint.

[Willis's Not. Parl. iii. 173; Archives of All Souls College, pp. 307, 308, 380; Wood's Fasti Oxon. (Bliss), i. 296, 328, 348; Hardy's Catalogue of Lord Chancellors, &c., p. 89; Nichols's Progresses of James I, ii. 677; Parl. Hist. ii. 191; Commons' Journals, i. 257; Cobbett's State Trials, ii. 417; Rymer's Fœdera (Sanderson), xix. 221–2; Dugdale's Chron. Ser. iii.; Cal. State Papers (Dom. 1625–1640); Foss's Judges of England; Lodge's Life of Sir J. Cæsar, with Memoirs of his Family.]

J. M. R.