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John Doddridge
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John Doddridge

Sir John Doddridge (Doderidge or Dodderidge) (1555 1628) was an English lawyer, judge and Member of Parliament, known also as an antiquarian and writer. From a habit of shutting his eyes while listening intently to a case, he acquired the nickname of 'the sleeping judge.' As a lawyer he was influenced by humanist ideas, and was familiar with Aristotle, and the debates of the period between his supporters and the Ramists. He was also a believer in both the rationality of the English common law and its connection with custom.[1]

John Doddridge.



He was son of Richard Doddridge, merchant, of Barnstaple, and was educated at Exeter College, Oxford, where he graduated BA on 16 February 1577, entering the Middle Temple about the same time. In 1588 he was elected Member of Parliament for Barnstaple.[2] He early became a member of the Society of Antiquaries, then recently founded. In 1602 and 1603 he delivered some lectures at New Inn on the law of advowsons. In Lent 1603 he discharged the duties of reader at his inn.

On 20 January 1604 he took the degree of serjeant-at-law, and.about the same time he was appointed Serjeant to Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales. He was relieved of the status of Serjeant and appointed solicitor-general on 29 October 1604. Between 1603 and 1611 he sat in parliament as member for Horsham, Sussex. He took part in the conference in the Painted Chamber at Westminster, held 25 February 1606, on the question whether Englishmen and Scotchmen born after the accession of James I to the English throne were naturalised by that event in the other kingdom. Doddridge adopted the common-law view that no such reciprocal naturalisation took place, and the majority in the conference were with him. The question was, however, subsequently decided in the opposite sense by Lord Chancellor Ellesmere and twelve judges in the exchequer chamber (Calvin's Case).

Dorothy Doddridge
Dorothy Doddridge
Doddridge was knighted on 5 July 1607, and created a justice of the king's bench on 25 November 1612. On 4 February 1614 the university of Oxford conferred on him the degree of MA Unlike Sir Edward Coke, he showed no reluctance to give extrajudicial opinions; Francis Bacon wrote to the king with reference to Peacham's Case that Doddridge was ready to give an opinion in secret. Nevertheless he signed the letter refusing to stay proceedings at the instance of the king in the Commendam Case (27 April 1616). On being summoned to the king's presence, all the judges except Coke receded from the position they had taken in the letter; Doddridge went further to accommodate the king.(Unclear- further than what?)

Doddridge sat on the commission appointed in October 1621 to examine into the right of the archbishop George Abbot to install the newly elected bishops John Williams, John Davenant, and Valentine Cary who objected to be consecrated by him on account of his accidental homicide in a hunting accident. Directed at the time of interest in the Spanish Match (August 1623) by warrant under the great seal to soften the rigour of the statutes against recusants, Doddridge, according to Yonge, was hoped to discover a way to dispense with the statutes altogether. He concurred in the judgment delivered by Chief-justice Nicholas Hyde on 28 November 1627 in Darnell's Case, refusing to admit to bail the five knights committed to prison for refusing to subscribe the forced loan of that year, and he was arraigned by the House of Lords in April of the following year to justify his conduct. His plea was that the ' king holds of none but God.'

He died on 13 September 1628, at his house Great Fosters, near Egham, and was buried in Exeter Cathedral. He married three times, his last wife being Dorothy, daughter of Sir Amias Bampfield of North Molton, Devon, widow of Edward Hancock of Combe Martin. He left no issue.


Doddridge is the author of the following posthumous works:

  • The Lawyer's Light (a manual for students), London, 1629.
  • History of Wales, Cornwall, and Chester (chiefly from records at the Tower), London, 1630.
  • A Compleat Parson (based on his lectures on advowsons), London, 1630; 2nd ed. 1641.
  • The English Lawyer (including a reprint of the Lawyer's Light and a treatise for practitioners and judges), London, 1631.
  • Law of Nobility and Peerage, London, 1658.

Thomas Hearne's Curious Discourses contain two brief tracts by Doddridge: (1) Of the Dimensions of the Land of England; (2) A Consideration of the Office and Duty of the Heralds in England. A Dissertation on Parliament was published as the work of Doddridge by his nephew John Doddridge of the Middle Temple, in a volume entitled Opinions of sundry learned Antiquaries touching the Antiquity, Power, &c. of the High Court of Parliament in England, London, 1658: reprinted in 1679. It is of doubtful authenticity. The original edition of the work on deeds known as Sheppard's Touchstone of Common Assurances, and the work on the Office of Executor, assigned by Anthony Wood to Thomas Wentworth, both of which were published anonymously in 1641, have been ascribed to Doddridge. A small treatise on the royal prerogative (Harl. MS. 5220) also purports to be his work.



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