Pollexfen, Henry (DNB00)

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POLLEXFEN, Sir HENRY (1632?–1691), judge, born about 1632, was eldest son of Andrew Pollexfen of Stancombe, in the parish of Sherford, Devonshire. John Pollexfen [q. v.] was a brother. Called to the bar at the Inner Temple in 1658, he became a bencher of his inn in 1674. His practice was soon extensive; known as a prominent whig, he appeared frequently for the defence in state trials. During the reigns of Charles II and James II he was counsel for Lord Arundel of Wardour on the trial of the ‘Five Popish Lords’ in 1680, for Colledge in 1681, for Fitzharris in the same year, for William Sacheverell in 1684, for the corporation of London in defence of its charter in 1682 (Burnet, folio ed. i. 532, 533, gives Pollexfen's argument in this case as communicated by himself), and for Sandys when sued for infringing the monopoly of the East India Company in 1684. He had earned the reputation of being an antagonist of the court and crown. Consequently his appearance as prosecutor for the crown, on the nomination of Chief-justice Jeffreys, against Monmouth's followers, and particularly Lady Alice Lisle, in 1685 at the assizes in the west, caused some surprise and gained him much unpopularity. The fact is probably explained by his being leader of the circuit, and he merely laid the evidence before the court (State Trials, xi. 316). In June 1688 he was employed in his accustomed kind of practice when, with Somers, for whose assistance he stipulated, he defended the seven bishops (ib. xii. 370). Upon the Revolution he was well known to be an adherent of the Prince of Orange, and to hold the opinion that the throne was left vacant by the late king (see Speaker Onslow's note to Burnet, ed. 1823, iii. 341; and Clarendon, Diary, 14 Dec. 1688). He was accordingly among those summoned by the peers to advise them in the emergency, and also sat for Exeter in the Convention parliament. In February 1689 he was knighted and appointed attorney-general, and on 4 May promoted to be chief justice of the common pleas. Next month he was summoned before the House of Lords for expelling the Duke of Grafton from the treasury office of the common pleas granted to him by the crown. As a judge he scarcely increased his fame. His reports, which begin in 1670 and were posthumously published, are inferior; and Burnet (fol. ed. i. 460, 8vo, ii. 209) describes him as ‘an honest and learned, but perplexed lawyer.’ On 15 June 1691 he died at his house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and was buried in Woodbury in Devonshire. Two engraved portraits by W. Elder and J. Savage are mentioned by Bromley.

[Foss's Judges of England; State Trials, vols. vii.–xii.; North's Lives, p. 214; Luttrell's Diary, i. 490–545, ii. 227, 231; Clarendon Correspondence, ii. 247; Prince's Worthies, p. 327.]

J. A. H.