Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thorpe, William de

THORPE or THORP, Sir WILLIAM de (fl. 1350), chief justice, appears as an advocate in 1333, as one of the king's serjeants in 1341, as the king's attorney in 1342, and in the April of that year was appointed a justice, probably of the king's bench, where he certainly sat in 1345 (Foss), though Dugdale thinks that his first appointment may have been to the common pleas. On 26 Nov. 1346 he was appointed chief justice of the king's bench, in 1347 sat on the commission for the trial of the Earls of Menteith and Fife, and opened the parliament of that and the following year. Charges of corruption in the execution of his office were made against him in 1350, he was imprisoned, and on 3 Nov. Edward III issued a writ constituting the Earls of Arundel, Warwick, and Huntingdon, and two others, commissioners to try him. He confessed that he had received bribes from five persons indicted before him at Lincoln, and was sentenced to imprisonment and forfeiture. On the 19th the king issued a second writ to the same commissioners, setting forth the advantages of Thorpe's office and the enormity of his offence, stating that when he took the oath of his office the king had told him by word of mouth that if he transgressed he should be hanged and suffer forfeiture, and demanding sentence accordingly, which was passed by the commissioners. Edward remitted the capital punishment, and issued writs for the seizure of his lands and goods. In the parliament of February 1351 the king laid the record and process in Thorpe's case before the magnates, who declared that the judgment was right and reasonable. In the course of that year Thorpe was pardoned, and a portion of his lands—the manor of Chancton in Sussex—was restored to him. He was not reinstated as chief justice, but on 24 May 1352 was appointed second baron of the exchequer, and in 1354 was chief of a commission of assize in Sussex, and was one of the triers of petitions in parliament. In 1358 he was appointed a commissioner to treat with the Duke of Brabant, and in 1359 was a member of commissions of oyer and terminer for Sussex, Kent, and other counties, if, indeed, he is to be identified with the William de Thorp of that list. But the name was too common to be certain as to this, or as to the family to which the chief justice belonged, though it seems probable that he was either of Surrey or Sussex. Blomefield suggests that he was the Sir William who was brother of Sir Robert de Thorpe (d. 1372) [q. v.], the chancellor (Hist. of Norfolk, v. 147).

[Foss's Judges, iii. 527; Rymer's Fœdera, iii. 208–10, 392, 464 (Record edit.); Cal. Rot. Pat. pp. 142, 160; Abbrev. Rot. Orig. ii. 211–212; Rot. Parl. ii. 164, 200, 227, 254, 267 (Record publ.).]

W. H.