Ellis, William (1609-1680) (DNB00)

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ELLIS, Sir WILLIAM (1609–1680), judge, second son of Sir Thomas Ellis of Grantham, Lincolnshire, and probably nephew of Sir William Ellis, one of the council of the north in 1619, born in 1609, was educated at Caius College, Cambridge, graduating B.A. in 1632 and M.A. in 1636. Having entered Gray's Inn on 6 Nov. 1627 he was called to the bar on 9 Feb. 1634. He represented Boston, Lincolnshire, in the Short parliament of 1640, and also in the Long parliament. His name does not appear in Rushworth's list (Hist. Coll. vii. 1355) of the members excluded by Colonel Pride on 6 Dec. 1648; but it is not unlikely that he was one of those 'others from the Inns of Court' who 'had liberty granted to go to their chambers on their parole' on the 12th, as he was readmitted to the House of Commons on 4 June 1649 (ib. 1361). On 24 May 1654 he was appointed solicitor-general. Shortly afterwards he was elected an ancient of his inn. As solicitor-general he took part in the prosecution of Gerhard, Vowell, and Somerset Fox on the charge of corresponding with Charles Stuart and conspiring to assassinate the Protector. The trial took place in June 1654. Gerhard and Vowell were convicted and beheaded. The same year he was again returned to parliament for Boston, and in 1656 for Grantham. He was a member of the committee appointed to frame statutes for Durham College in March 1655-6. In June 1658 he was engaged in the prosecution of Dr. Hewet and John Mordant, charged with levying war against the Protector. Hewet was found guilty and Mordant acquitted. One of Cromwell's latest acts was to sign a patent creating Ellis a baronet, but it is doubtful whether it passed the great seal. He was continued in the office of solicitor-general by Richard Cromwell. At the election in January 1658-9 he retained his seat for Grantham. In the protracted debate on the competency of the Scottish members he spoke at length in support of their claims (18 March 1658-9), observing that the 'argument that the Act of Union is no good law, this argument makes way for Charles Stuart' (Burton, Diary, iv. 181). Re-elected for Grantham in 1660 he was excluded from the house on the score of his opinions. In autumn 1664 he was appointed reader at Gray's Inn, of which he had been elected a bencher in 1659; on 26 Aug. 1669 he took the degree of serjeant-at-law, and on 10 April 1671 he was advanced to the rank of king's Serjeant and knighted. He was raised to the bench in 1673, taking his seat in the court of common pleas on the first day of Hilary term. The only case of public interest which came before him during his tenure of office was that of Barnardiston v. Swaine (State Trials, vi. 1070), an election case. Sir Samuel Barnardiston and Lord Huntingtower contested the county of Suffolk in 1673. Barnardiston having the majority of votes. Lord Huntingtower induced the sheriff to falsify the return, and took his seat in the house. There the case was decided by an election committee, and Barnardiston declared elected. Accordingly he sued Lord Huntingtower for 'trespass on the case,' and recovered 1,000l. damages in the king's bench. The case was, however, removed on writ of error to the exchequer chamber, where the majority, Ellis and Atkins dissenting, reversed the judgment of the king's bench. Ellis was removed in 1676, without reason assigned, but reinstated on 5 May 1679, having been returned to parliament for Boston in the preceding February. He died on 3 Dec. 1680 at his chambers in Serjeants' Inn, according to Sir Thomas

Ray Raymond, 'grandævus senectute, viz. ætat. 71.' His arms are emblazoned in the bay window of Gray's Inn Hall.

[Cal. State Papers, Dom. (1640-1) p. 310, (1655-6) p. 218; Grad. Cant.; Douthwaite's Gray's Inn; Willis's Not. Parl. iii. 233, 246, 263. 276; Lists of Members of Parliament (official return of); 4th Rep. Dep. Keeper Pat. Rec. App. ii. 190; Foss's Live of the Judges; Wood's Fasti (Bliss), i. 446; Noble's Cromwell, i. 437, 442; Parl. Hist. iv. 4, 1080; Sir Thomas Raymond's Rep. 217, 251, 407.]

J. M. R.