Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Atkyns, Edward (1630-1698)

ATKYNS, Sir EDWARD (1630–1698), baron of the exchequer and younger son of Sir Edward Atkyns, who held a similar office, was born in 1630. He became a student at Lincoln's Inn at the age of 18, and five years later was called to the bar. In 1675 he was appointed ‘autumn reader’ at his inn of court, and in Easter term, 1679, was made a serjeant-at-law. A few weeks afterwards (22 June 1679) Atkyns, who had secured some reputation for legal learning and for hospitality, was raised to the bench as one of the barons of the exchequer, and knighted. He took a prominent part in the trial of Thomas Twining and Mary Pressicks, who were charged on 29 July 1680, at the instigation of the anti-catholic agitators of the day, with compassing the death of the king and seeking the overthrow of the protestant religion; in his summing up Atkyns placed the case before the jury with becoming impartiality. At the close of the same year he was one of the judges appointed to try Lord Stafford and other catholic peers on a charge of high treason, but he there supported his colleagues in their contention that the law, which demanded two witnesses to every overt act of treason, might on occasion be waived. On 21 April 1686, when lord chief baron Montagu was removed from the bench for refusing to certify to the legality of the dispensing power exercised by James II, Atkyns was promoted to his place. After the revolution of 1688 he consistently refused to take the oaths of allegiance to William III, and consequently resigned his office, to which Sir Robert Atkyns, his elder brother, was immediately appointed [see Atkyns, Sir Robert]. Shortly afterwards Atkyns retired from public life, and withdrew to his country seat at Pickenham, in Norfolk. Although he continued to hold Jacobite opinions, he showed no bitterness of spirit to those who differed from him, and earned the gratitude of all classes of his neighbours by his tact in settling their disputes. He died of the stone in London during October 1698.

[Foss's Judges of England, vii. 210–11; State Trials, vii. 1179, 1258; Noble's Continuation of Granger, ii. 296; Chauncy's Hertfordshire, p. 149; Blomefield's History of Norfolk, vi. 71, viii. 349, ix. 69, 70.]

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