Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Phipps, Constantine (1656-1723)

PHIPPS, Sir CONSTANTINE (1656–1723), lord chancellor of Ireland, third son of Francis Phipps, esq., of Reading in Berkshire, was born in 1656. He was educated at the free school, Reading, and was elected to a scholarship at St. John's College, Oxford, in June 1672, but requested that the election might be postponed. He adopted the profession of law, was admitted to Gray's Inn 11 Feb. 1678, and was called to the bar in 1684. He became bencher in 1706. He rose rapidly in his profession, but his Jacobite sympathies rendered promotion slow. His practice, however, was considerable, especially among the friends of the exiled house of Stuart. He acted as counsel for Lord Preston [see Graham, Richard, Viscount Preston] in 1691, and was associated with Sir Francis Pemberton [q. v.] in conducting the defence of Sir John Fenwick (1645-1697) [q. v.] in 1696. He assisted Sir Thomas Powys [q. v.] in the defence of Thomas Watson [q. v.], bishop of St. David's, deprived in 1702 for simony.

But it was his management of the defence of Dr. Henry Sacheverell [q. v.] in 1710, which chiefly devolved upon him, that attracted public attention to him, and marked him out for preferment on the accession of the tories to power. On 12 Dec. he was knighted by the queen, and kissed hands as lord chancellor of Ireland, in the place of Richard Freeman deceased. A month later he arrived in Dublin, and on 22 Jan. 1711 was sworn one of the lords justices of the kingdom in the absence of the lord lieutenant, the Duke of Ormonde. His appointment was naturally distasteful to the whig party, and their animosity towards him was intensified when he began openly to exert his influence to restore the balance of power into the hands of the tories. In July Ormonde met parliament. The session proved a stormy one, and the lord lieutenant having prorogued it, with a view to a dissolution, returned to England in December, leaving the government to Phipps and Richard Ingoldsby [q. v.] The first and indispensable step to procure a more tractable parliament was to secure tory sheriffs in the counties and tory mayors in the towns. Phipps undertook the task with alacrity, but without much success. The city of Dublin led the opposition, and elected a whig mayor, whom the government refused to recognise. The catholic mob were for the castle; the well-to-do citizens and freemen were for the corporation. Both sides were obstinate, and for nearly two years Dublin was without a municipal government. Other circumstances added to Phipps's unpopularity. During the struggle a row occurred in the theatre. The culprit was a certain Dudley Moore, who was arraigned before the queen's bench. The case was still under consideration when Phipps proceeded to lecture the mayor and corporation on the disturbed state of the metropolis, alluding especially to Moore's case. He was probably guiltless of any intention to prejudice the jurors against Moore, but his intervention was viewed in that light by his opponents, and led to a fierce pamphlet warfare. The publication of the 'Memoirs of the Chevalier de St. George' added fresh fuel to the fire. Edward Lloyd, the publisher, probably looked upon it as a mere business speculation, but it was natural that it should be regarded as piece of a sinister plan on the part of government to promote the interests of the Pretender. The unfortunate publisher was at once prosecuted for libel, and would no doubt have been punished severely had not Phipps interposed with a nolle prosequi. His conduct in this matter, added to his attempt to discourage the usual ceremony of dressing King William's statue on 4 Nov., rendered him extremely unpopular in the city.

At the general election in the autumn of 1713 he worked energetically to secure a tory majority in parliament. Curiously enough, he was sanguine of success, but his expectations were doomed to disappointment; for the whigs, having obtained an overwhelming majority, at once proceeded to denounce and even to threaten him with impeachment. They voted that he had been the principal cause of the disorders and divisions of the realm, that he was working in secret to promote the interests of the Pretender, and concluded by petitioning the queen to remove him from office. His friends in the House of Lords and in convocation, however, rallied to his support, and before long a counter address was on its way to the queen, eulogising him as a discerning and vigilant officer, a true lover of the church, and a zealous assertor of the prerogative. The death of the queen on 1 Aug. 1714, and the dissolution of parliament, solved the situation. Phipps was removed from office on 30 Sept.; and, returning to England, he at once resumed his practice at the bar. His exertions on behalf of the high-church party did not pass altogether unrecognised, and on 20 Oct. the university of Oxford conferred on him the degree of D.C.L. Except for his defence of the Earl of Wintoun [see Seton, George, fifth Earl of Wintoun] in 1716, when he was severely reprimanded by the lord high steward for beginning to speak without permission (Howell, State Trials, xv. 875), and his defence of Bishop Francis Atterbury [q. v.] in 1723, the rest of his life was uneventful. He died in the Middle Temple on 9 Oct. 1723, and was buried at Bright Waltham in Berkshire. An engraved portrait by J. Simon is mentioned by Bromley.

Phipps married, on 10 Oct. 1684, Catherine Sawyer of St. Catherine Cree Church, London. He had one son, William, who married, in 1718, Catherine Annesley, only daughter and heiress of James, third earl of Anglesey, whose son Constantine, raised to the peerage as Baron Mulgrave of New Ross, co. Wexford, was ancestor of the marquises of Normanby. Sir William Phipps, governor of Massachusetts and inventor of the diving-bell, separately noticed, was a cousin of Sir Constantine Phipps.

[Burke's Peerage; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500-1714; Hist, and Antiq. of the Town of Reading, 1835; Duhigg's Hist. of the King's Inns; Luttrell's Brief Relation; Burnet's Hist. of his own Time; Mahon's Hist. of England, i. 91; Swift's Works, ed. Scott, xvi. 64, 72, 97, 358; Campbell's Lives of the Lord Chancellors; Wyon's Hist. of Great Britain during the Reign of Queen Anne, ii. 472-2; Journals of the House of Commons, Ireland, ii. pt. i.; Froude's English in Ireland, bk. ii. ch. ii.; Lettres Historiques, vol. xlv.; A Long History of a certain Session of a certain Parliament, in a certain Kingdom (attributed to Drs. Helsham and Delancy), 1714; History of the Ministerial Conduct of the chief Governors of Ireland, London, 1754; The Conduct of the Purse of Ireland, London, 1714; Life of Aristides the Athenian, who was decreed to be banish'd for his Justice, Dublin, 1714; Liber Hib.; Howell's State Trials; Hist. MSS. Comm. 2nd Rep. p. 234, 3rd Rep. p. 426, 7th Rep. p. 761, 8th Rep. p. 74, 11th Rep. App. xi. p. 197; Brit. Mus. Addit. MSS. 21138 ff. 56-61, 21496 f. 8, 21506 f. 128, 21553 f. 74, 28227 f. 22.]

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