Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Earle, Erasmus

EARLE, ERASMUS (1590–1667), serjeant-at-law, only son of Thomas Earle of Sall, Norfolk, was born at Sall in 1590 and educated at Norwich grammar school. He was admitted a student of Lincoln's Inn on 7 April 1612, and subsequently called to the bar there. Sir Julius Caesar [q. v.] appointed him steward of his manors of East Bradenham and Huntingfield Hall in 1626. He was a bencher of his inn between 1635 and 1641 inclusive, and was reader there in the autumn of 1639. In 1644 he was appointed with Thurloe secretary to the English (as distinguished from the Scotch) commissioners for the treaty of Uxbridge. On 4 Jan. 1646–7 he was returned to parliament for the city of Norwich. On 12 Oct. 1648 he was called to the degree of serjeant-at-law. The same year he was appointed steward, and the following year recorder of the city of Norwich. The latter office he held until 1653. The only public act of importance which marked his tenure of this office was the trial (for which he received a special commission) of some rioters who had done much mischief in the streets of Norwich by way of showing their disgust at the suspension of the mayor by the parliament and their sympathy with the royalist cause. On Christmas day 1648 Earle passed sentence of death on several of the ringleaders. Oliver Cromwell, on assuming the protectorate (16 Dec. 1653), appointed Earle one of the counsel to the state, an office which he also held under Richard Cromwell, but he does not figure in any of the state trials of the period. On the Restoration he was again called to the degree of serjeant-at-law (22 June 1660) (Siderfin's Reports, 3). Though his name does not appear much in the reports, he amassed by his practice a considerable fortune, and having purchased the manor of Heydon, Norfolk, founded the county family of Earle of Heydon Hall. He died on 7 Sept. 1667, and was buried in the parish church of Heydon. By his wife, Frances, daughter of James Fountaine of Sall, Norfolk, he had four sons and two daughters. A collection of his papers is in the possession of the Misses Boycott at Hereford, and they are described in the ‘Hist. MSS. Comm.’ 10th Rep. App. iv. Among them are some love letters addressed by Earle to Miss Fountaine, and these formed the subject of an article in the ‘National Review’ for February 1887, entitled ‘A Lawyer's Love Letters.’

[Blomefield's Norfolk (1806), iii. 396, 398, vi. 246; Dugdale's Orig. 255, 266; Whitelocke's Mem. 127, 342; Rushworth, pt. iv. vol. ii. 1292; Lists of Members of Parl. (Official Return of); Cal. State Papers, Dom. (1651) p. 170, (1657–8) p. 121, (1658–9) pp. 67, 375.]

J. M. R.