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NAPIER, Sir ROBERT (d. 1615), judge, was the third son of James Napier of Puncknowle, Dorset, and his wife, whose maiden name is variously given as Hilliard, Hillary, and Illery; he was a distant cousin of the Napiers of Merchiston (Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 784). Robert joined the Middle Temple, and in 1586 was elected member of parliament for Dorchester, Dorset. He was knighted by Elizabeth before 1593, when he was appointed chief baron of the exchequer in Ireland, under a writ of privy seal dated 10 April. He was not satisfied with the appointment, and complained that there was ‘little profit incident to the office, dealing in an honest and upright course;’ he consequently managed to obtain additional grants. He arrived at Dublin in August 1593, and seems to have found his chief occupation in receiving information from spies, and troubling the home government with complaints about the grants he had received. In 1595 he obtained leave to return to England for three months after Easter, and was again at the Middle Temple in June 1597, in which year he was recommended for the chief justiceship of common pleas in Ireland. This recommendation was not adopted, but Napier received further grants of lands from the government in 1599, and in 1600 was complimented on the valuable services he had performed. In 1602, however, his frequent absences in England caused dissatisfaction, and his administration does not appear to have been successful; in consequence he was discharged, and Sir Edmund Pelham [q. v.] appointed in his stead. He sat in the parliament of 1601 for Bridport, Dorset, and in that of 1603–4 for Wareham; he died on 20 Sept. 1615, and was buried in Great Minterne Church, Dorset, where there is an inscription to his memory.

Napier was a considerable benefactor to Dorchester, where he erected a handsome almshouse, called Napier's Mite, which he endowed with a fourth of the manor of Little Puddle, Dorset. Middlemarsh, which he purchased, became the family seat. He married, first, Catherine, daughter of John Wareham by whom he had one daughter, who married Sir John Ryves; secondly Magdalen, daughter of Sir Anthony Denton. She died in 1635, and was buried by her husband's side in Great Minterne Church. By her Napier had one son, Sir Nathaniel, whose sons, Robert (1611–1686) and Sir Gerard, and grandson, Sir Nathaniel (1636–1709), are separately noticed.

[Hutchins's Dorset, ed. Shipp and Hodson, passim; Burke's Extinct Baronetage; Cal. State Papers, Ireland, 1589–1603, passim; Carew MSS.; Morrin's Cal. Close and Patent Rolls, Ireland; Lascelles's Liber Munerum Hibernicorum; Smyth's Law Officers of Ireland, p. 138; Visitation of Dorset (Harl. Soc.); Official Returns of Members of Parliament.]

A. F. P.