Hales, Christopher (DNB00)

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HALES, Sir CHRISTOPHER (d. 1541), master of the rolls, son of Thomas Hales, eldest son of Henry Hales of Hales Place, near Tenterden, Kent, by Elizabeth, daughter of John Caunton, alderman of London, was a member of Gray's Inn, where he became an ancient in 1516 and was autumn reader in 1524. In an undated letter conjecturally assigned to 1520, Prior Goldwell of Christ Church, Canterbury, wrote to the lord chancellor begging that 'Master Xpher Hales' might be appointed to adjudicate upon a case in which he was interested; in 1520-1 Hales was counsel for the corporation of Canterbury, and in 1523 he was returned to parliament for that city. On 14 Aug. 1525 he was appointed solicitor-general, and he is mentioned as one of the counsel to the Princess Mary in the same year. He was also one of the commissioners of sewers for the Thames between Greenwich and Gravesend, and in 1525 was placed with Lord Sandes, Sir William Fitzwilliam, and others, on a commission to frame ordinances for the better administration of the county of Guisnes. The commissioners met at Guisnes and promulgated on 20 Aug. 1528 'A Book of Ordinances and Decrees for the County of Guisnes,' relating chiefly to the tenure of land, which will be found in Cotton. MS. Faustina E. vii. ff. 40 et seq. They also furnished Henry VIII with a report on the state of the fortifications of Calais. Hales was appointed attorney-general on 3 June 1529, and on 30 Oct. following preferred an indictment against Cardinal Wolsey for having procured bulls from Clement VII to make himself legate, contrary to the statute of præmunire (16 Ric. II), and for other offences. He was on the commission of gaol delivery for Canterbury Castle in June 1530; was one of the commissioners appointed on 14 July following to make inquisition into the estates held by Cardinal Wolsey in Kent; and was placed on the commission of the peace for Essex on 11 Dec. of the same year. In 1532 he was one of the justices of assize for the home circuit; in 1533 he was actively engaged in investigating the case of the holy nun Elizabeth Barton [q. v.], and in 1535 he conducted the proceedings against Sir Thomas More, Bishop Fisher, and Anne Boleyn. He is mentioned as one of the commissioners of sewers for Kent in 1536, in which year he succeeded Cromwell (10 July) as master of the rolls. In 1537–8 the corporation of Canterbury presented him with a gallon of sack. This is doubtfully said to be the first recorded appearance of this wine in England. He was one of those appointed to receive the Lady Anne of Cleves on her arrival at Dover (29 Dec. 1539). In 1540 he was associated with Cranmer, Lord-chancellor Rich, and other commissioners in the work of remodelling the foundation of Canterbury Cathedral, ousting the monks and supplying their place with secular clergy. He profited largely by the dissolution of the monasteries, obtaining many grants of land which had belonged to them in Kent. He died a bachelor in June 1541, and was buried at Hackington or St. Stephen's, near Canterbury. Sir James Hales [q. v.] was his cousin.

[Hasted's Kent, ii. 576, iii. 94; Berry's County Genealogies (Kent), 210; Burke's Extinct Baronetage, Hales of Woodchurch; Dugdale's Orig. p. 292; Chron. Ser. pp. 81, 83; Douthwaite's Gray's Inn, p. 48; Christ Church Letters (Camd. Soc.), p. 79; Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. App. 151 a, 152 a, 153 a, 175; Letters and Papers, For. and Dom. Henry VIII, vol. iv. pt. i. pp. 681, 707, pt. ii. pp. 1231, 2177, 2228, pt. iii. pp. 2272, 2314, 2686, 2918, 2931, 3076, vi. 29, 86; Wriothesley's Chron. (Camd. Soc.), ii. 49; Cobbett's State Trials, i. 370, 389; Chron. of Calais (Camd. Soc.), p. 174; Narratives of the Reformation (Camd. Soc.), p. 273; Weever's Ancient Funerall Monuments, p. 260; Foss's Lives of the Judges.]

J. M. R.