Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cæsar, Julius (1558-1636)

CÆSAR, Sir JULIUS (1558–1636), judge, was of Italian extraction, his grandfather being Pietro Maria Adelmare, a citizen of Treviso, near Venice, but descended from a family belonging to Fréjus, in Provence. This Pietro Maria Adelmare, who had some reputation as a civilian, married Paola, daughter of Giovanni Pietro Cesarini (probably of the same family as Giuliano Cesarini, cardinal of St. Angelo, and president of the council of Basle, 1431–8), and one of his sons, Cesare Adelmare, having graduated in arts and medicine at the university of Padua, migrated to England, apparently about 1550, and began practice in London as a physician. He was elected fellow in 1554, and in the following year censor of the College of Physicians, and was appointed medical adviser to Queen Mary, from whom he obtained letters of naturalisation with immunity from taxation in 1558, and from whom he on one occasion received the enormous fee of 100l. for a single attendance. Elizabeth also consulted him and requited his services by sundry leases of church lands at rents somewhat below their actual value. In 1561 he fixed his residence in Bishopsgate, having purchased a house which had formed part of the dissolved priory of St. Helen's. There he died in 1569, and was buried in the chancel of the church of St. Helen's. The name of Cæsar, by which the doctor was usually addressed by Mary and Elizabeth, was adopted by his children as a surname. His eldest son, Julius Cæsar Adelmare, was born at Tottenham in 1557–8, and baptised in the church of St. Dunstan's-in-the-East in February of that year, his sponsors being the lord treasurer, William Paulett, the Marquis of Winchester, the Earl of Arundel, and Lady Montagu as representing the queen. Shortly after his father's death his mother married Michael Lock, a zealous protestant. He was educated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, and graduated B.A. in 1575, and proceeded M.A. 1578. In 1579 he left Oxford for Paris, where he took the degrees of bachelor licentiate and doctor of both laws (civil and canon) in the spring of 1581 and received (10 May) the complimentary title of advocate in the parliament of Paris. In 1584 he took the degree of doctor of laws at Oxford. He had been admitted a member of the Inner Temple in 1580, and on 9 Oct. 1581 made one of the commissioners under the statute 28 Henry VIII, s. 15, by which the criminal jurisdiction of the admiral had been transferred to the courts of common law. On the 15th of the same month he was appointed chancellor to the master of the hospital of St. Catherine's, near the Tower of London. In 1583 he was appointed counsel to the corporation of London. This year also he was appointed, by his friend Bishop Aylmer, commissary and sequestrator-general within the archdeaconry of Essex and Colchester and some deaneries. On 30 April of the next year he succeeded Dr. Lewes as judge of the admiralty court. He was also sworn a master of the chancery on 21 June. As judge of the admiralty court he suffered more than most of her servants from the constitutional meanness of Elizabeth. There appears to have been no regular salary attached to this office, and Cæsar bitterly complains that whereas his predecessor ‘had every three years somewhat,’ he himself had not, ‘after nine years' service, received in fee, pension, or recompense to the value of one penny,’ but rather was some 4,000l. out of pocket. The suitors who had recourse to the court of admiralty were not unfrequently poor seamen or foreigners, while the number of cases in which the crown was defendant was also considerable. It seems to have been Cæsar's regular practice to aid the poor or embarrassed suitors out of his own purse, and to consider all claims substantiated against the crown as a first charge upon the fees, and the expenses of administration to have priority to his own remuneration. As early as 1587–8 we find him petitioning the queen that he might be installed in some lucrative and honorary post, such as ‘the first deanery that shall fall void either of York or of Durham, or of Bath and Wells or of Winchester,’ ‘or the first hospital that shall become void of these three, St. Katharine's, near the Tower of London, St. Crosse's, near Winton, and the hospital of Sherborne, in the bishoprick of Durham,’ or else that he might be made a ‘master of requests extraordinary.’ This petition was read and duly noted by Cecil, and there the matter rested. In October 1588 Cæsar was admitted master of the chancery in ordinary. This year, too, he was returned to parliament as senior member for Reigate. The council assumed to itself the right of reviewing his judgments. This he resented keenly in a letter dated 1 March 1588. The idea of an annual circuit round the coasts of the kingdom for the despatch of admiralty business, which had often been mooted, met with his hearty approval; and as Elizabeth ‘misliked to enter into the charge,’ he offered to travel at his own expense, adding only the proviso, ‘if I may be encouraged by so much, either commodity or credit, as will provide me an honest burial when I die, and keep my poor wife and children from open beggary.’ In the spring of the following year he was actually threatened with legal process upon a bond which he had given by way of guarantee for the payment of a sum of 420l. due from Sir Walter Leveson to a Dane, probably a suitor in the admiralty court. At length, however, the queen saw fit to confer upon him the post of master of requests. He was sworn on 10 June 1591, and admitted to the office on 7 March, having in the meanwhile (24 Jan.) been elected a bencher of his inn. The court of requests offered special facilities to poor suitors who might with advantage be transferred thither from the admiralty court. The same year, through the influence of the Scottish ambassador, Archibald Douglas, which he had bought for 500l., he obtained from the queen a grant of the reversion of the mastership of St. Catherine's Hospital. At this time he was one of the commissioners of sewers. In 1592 he was entrusted with the commission of the peace for Middlesex, and returned to parliament as senior member for Bletchingley, Surrey. In November of the following year he was elected treasurer of the Inner Temple, and on 6 Dec. governor of the mineral and battery works throughout the kingdom, and was re-elected treasurer of the Inner Temple next year. He was at this time a member of the high commission and a close friend of Whitgift (Strype, Annals (fol.), iii. 609). On 17 Aug. 1595 he was appointed master of requests in ordinary in attendance upon the person of the queen, with a salary of 100l. per annum, not, however, granted by the queen until she had forced him to disclose the precise amount which he had paid to Archibald Douglas for his interest in the matter of the St. Catherine's appointment. In this or the next year he contributed 300l. towards the erection of chambers between the Inner Temple Hall and the church, in consideration whereof he was invested with the privilege of granting admittances to the society at his discretion during his life. The chambers were known as late as Dugdale's time as Cæsar's Buildings. In 1596 the mastership of St. Catherine's Hospital fell vacant, and on 17 June he installed himself therein. Next year he was returned to parliament as senior member for Windsor. On 12 Sept. 1598 Elizabeth, then on her way to Nonsuch, paid him a visit at his house at Mitcham, spending the night of the 12th there, and dining with him next day. He tells us that he presented her with ‘a gown of cloth of silver, richly embroidered, a black network mantle, with pure gold, a taffeta hat, white, with several flowers, and a jewel of gold set therein with silver and diamonds, which entertainment of her majesty, with the charges of five former disappointments,’ cost him some 700l. In 1599 we find him associated with John Herbert, one of the masters of requests, and Robert Beale, secretary to the council of the north, in a commission to decide without appeal claims by French subjects in respect of piratical acts committed by English seamen. Next year he became the senior master of requests, being already talked of as master of the rolls. At the parliamentary election of the following year he retained his seat for Windsor. On 20 May 1603 he was knighted by the king at Greenwich. In 1606 (7 April) he succeeded Sir George Hume as chancellor and under-treasurer of the exchequer, and the following year (5 July) was sworn of the privy council. Cæsar was prompt to use the interest which he now possessed with the king on behalf of his inn. It appears to have been through Cæsar's influence that the lease of the Temple buildings was enlarged in 1608 into a fee simple, subject to a quit rent of 10l. (Dugdale, Orig. 145–6). His tenure of the office of chancellor of the exchequer coincided with the period of Salisbury's treasurership, the period during which James's financial difficulties and the consequent tension between him and the parliament reached their extreme point. He seems to have been really little better than a clerk to the lord treasurer. In that capacity he was employed in estimating the value of the conversion of tenure by knight's service into free and common socage, together with the abolition of wardships and other incidents of the royal prerogative in connection with the great contract of 1610, and a dialogue is extant ascribed to him advocating the acceptance of the king's offer by the commons, and hinting that in case of its rejection means of raising money without the consent of parliament would be found (Parl. Deb. 1610, App. D). In 1610 the king granted him the reversion of the office of master of the rolls, expectant on the death of Sir E. Philips. In 1613 he was among the commissioners appointed by the king at the suit of the Countess of Essex to determine the question of the validity of her marriage. He seems to have formed a very decided opinion in favour of the countess's contention at an early period of the inquiry, and to have been by no means sparing in the expression of it during the argument, to Archbishop Abbott's intense disgust. At this time he occupied a house on the north side of the Strand, nearly opposite the Savoy. Here (i.e. on the north side) he laid (10 Aug. 1613) the foundation-stone of a chapel, which was consecrated by the bishop of London (John King) on 8 May 1614, and called the Cecil Chapel. In the spring of 1614 he was returned to parliament as senior member for Middlesex; in the autumn, Sir E. Philips, the master of the rolls, having died, Cæsar succeeded him, receiving the usual patent granting him the office for life on 1 Oct., and taking his seat on the 10th of the same month. On his appointment he surrendered the offices of chancellor and under-treasurer of the exchequer. Chamberlain informs us that four judges were appointed to assist and act with him. With his connection with the exchequer he entirely abandoned the idea that the king could raise supplies without the consent of parliament; we find him earnestly advising in council (24 Sept. 1615) the summoning of a new parliament for the final settlement of the financial difficulty. He was one of the commissioners who examined (19 Jan. 1615) the puritan clergyman Peacham ‘before torture, in torture, between tortures, and after torture,’ with a view to discover his supposed accomplices in the conspiracy against the king's life, in which he was suspected of being principally concerned. At the end of this year he concluded a bargain with the Earl of Essex, who was embarrassed by the necessity of repaying the countess's marriage portion for the purchase of the estate of Bennington in Hertfordshire for the sum of 14,000l. In 1616 he followed the lead of Lord-chancellor Ellesmere in censuring the judges of the king's bench and common pleas for their resistance to the king in the matter of the commendam case. In August 1618 he was associated with Sir Edward Coke in the trial of the persons indicted for the attack on the Spanish ambassador's house. He was a member of the court of Star-chamber that tried the Earl and Countess of Suffolk for peculation in the following year, and took the milder view of their offence. In 1620 he was returned to parliament as senior member for Malden, Essex. Between 21 May and 10 July of this year he was commissioned to hear causes in chancery, the period coinciding with the interval between the disgrace of Bacon and the delivery of the great seal to Lord-keeper Williams. He was one of the three liquidators appointed by the king to arrange a composition with the late chancellor's creditors, and in 1625 Bacon nominated him one of the supervisors of his will, describing him as ‘my good friend and near ally, the master of the rolls.’ In 1631 we find him named, with Archbishop Abbot and others, in a commission of inquiry into the operation and administration of the poor law. His last important public act was to assist Lord-keeper Coventry in drawing up thirty-one ordinances of procedure, intended to correct abuses which had grown up in the court of chancery, and in particular to restore the ancient brevity of the pleadings and documents generally. He died on 18 April 1636, being then seventy-nine years old, and was buried in the church of Great St. Helen's, where his monument, with an inscription wrought in the device of a deed poll, with pendant seal (the attaching cord severed), is still to be seen. His reputation for legal acumen does not stand high. Chamberlain thought that he had more of ‘confidence in his own sufficiency’ than his abilities warranted. The same person writing to Sir Dudley Carleton, under date 4 April 1624, remarks incidentally that ‘Sir Julius Cæsar is reflected on for his want of law.’ He seems, however, to have had the rare merit of being superior to corruption. Fuller gives the following account of his character: ‘A person of prodigious bounty to all of worth or want, so that he might seem to be almoner-general of the nation. The story is well known of a gentleman who once borrowing his coach (which was as well known to poor people as any hospital in England) was so rendezvoused about with beggars in London that it cost him all the money in his purse to satisfy their importunity, so that he might have hired twenty coaches on the same terms. Sir Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam, was judicious in his election when perceiving his dissolution to approach he made his last bed in effect in the house of Sir Julius.’ Aubrey, on the authority of Sir John Danvers, says that Bacon ‘in his necessity’ received 100l. from Cæsar. Cæsar married, first, in 1582, Dorcas, relict of Richard Lusher of the Middle Temple, and daughter of Sir Richard Martin, alderman of London, and master of the Mint; secondly, in 1595, Alice, daughter of Christopher Green of Manchester, and widow of John Dent of London; and thirdly, in 1615, Anne, widow of William Hungate of East Bradenham, Norfolk, sister of Lady Killegrew, and granddaughter of Sir Nicholas Bacon. The last-mentioned marriage was solemnised on 19 April at the Rolls Chapel, the bride being given away by her uncle, Sir Francis Bacon, then attorney-general. Through his first wife Cæsar acquired the little property at Mitcham, where Elizabeth visited him. She bore him five children, one daughter and four sons, of whom only one survived him, the youngest, Charles [q. v.], who became master of the rolls in 1639. By his second wife Cæsar had three sons, all of whom survived, and attained some slight distinction. By his third he had no children. Peck (Desid. Cur. lib. xiv. No. vii.) states that Cæsar ‘printed a catalogue of the books, parchments, and papers belonging to the court of requests in quarto, of singular use to antiquaries, but now almost as scarce as the manuscripts themselves.’ There can be little doubt that this work is identical with the compilation described in the catalogue of the Lansdowne MSS. in the British Museum as ‘The Ancient State Authoritie and Proceedings of the Court of Requests,’ 1597 (Lansd. MS. 125). The work consists of a brief treatise on the court of requests, its origin and functions, followed by a collection of records illustrative of the procedure of the court, ranging from the reign of Henry VII to that of Elizabeth. It is interleaved with manuscript annotations and additions. The dialogue on the great contract ascribed to him has already been mentioned. He also wrote in 1625 a treatise on the constitution and functions of the privy council, entitled ‘Concerning the Private Council of the Most High and Mighty King of Great Britain, France, Scotland, and Ireland’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1625–6, p. 138). A multitude of miscellaneous papers in his handwriting will be found in the Lansdowne and Additional MSS. in the British Museum, his library having been dispersed on the sale of the family estate at Bennington in 1744. Two relating to Prince Henry have been printed in ‘Archæologia,’ xii. 82–6, xv. 15–26.

[Sloane MS. 4160 (an extract from a manuscript by Cæsar chronicling the chief events of his life); Add. MS. 11406 contains some information concerning his ancestry; Add. MS. 12503; Munk's Coll. of Phys. i. 53; Wood's Fasti Oxon. (Bliss), i. 198, 226; Nichols's Progresses of James I, i. 155, iii. 344; Rymer's Fœdera (Sanderson), xv. 487; Willis's Not. Parl. iii. 124, 133, 137, 146; Parl. Hist. i. 973, 1171; Stephen's Hist. Crim. Law, ii. 18; Strype's Life of Aylmer (8vo), p. 46; Spedding's Life of Bacon; Cal. State Papers (Dom. 1591–1635); Court and Times of James I, i. 261, 349; Aubrey's Letters and Lives, ii. 225; Rawley's Resuscitatio (Life of Bacon); Fuller's Worthies; Manningham's Diary, 129, 138; Dugdale's Orig. 145–6, 147, 170; Biogr. Brit.; Lodge's Life, with Memoirs of his Family; Foss's Lives of the Judges; Cox's Annals of St. Helen's, Bishopsgate, p. 286 et seq.]

J. M. R.