Shelley, William (1480?-1549?) (DNB00)

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SHELLEY, Sir WILLIAM (1480?–1549?), judge, born about 1480, was the eldest son of Sir John Shelley (d. 3 Jan. 1526) and his wife Elizabeth (d. 31 July 1513), daughter and heir of John de Michelgrove in the parish of Clapham, Sussex (reproductions of monumental brasses in Addit. MS. 32490). The Shelleys are said, on the suspicious authority of the ‘Battle Abbey Roll,’ to have been descended from a companion of William the Conqueror, and uncorroborated family tradition assigns important diplomatic and other positions to various early members of the family. The name was perhaps derived from Shelley Park, near Lewes, which has long since disappeared. It is attributed to the William de Conches who is said to have been a professor at Paris and to have died about 1155 [see William]. A John and a Thomas Shelley were executed in 1400 by Henry IV for their adherence to the cause of Richard II, and their brother Sir William was ancestor of the judge. His son Sir John, who was M.P. for Rye between 1415 and 1423, married Beatrice, daughter of Sir John Hawkwood [q. v.], the famous soldier. Of the judge's six brothers, one, John, became a knight of the order of St. John, and was killed in defending Rhodes against the Turks in 1522; from another, Edward, who is variously given as second, third, or fourth son, came the baronets of Castle Goring, Sussex (created 1806), and Percy Bysshe Shelley, the poet. The youngest brother, John Shelley, died in 1554. The settlement of an estate which he purchased on the dissolution of Sion monastery led to the important lawsuit known as ‘Shelley's case,’ and the decision known as the ‘rule in Shelley's case’ (see Coke, Reports, i. 94; Chitty, Equity Index, 4th ed. vi. 6307–6318; American and English Encycl. of Law, xxii. 493–524; Stephen, Comment, 12th ed. i. 323–5; Hayes, Observations on Suggestions for abolishing the Rule in Shelley's Case, 1829).

Although the eldest son, William was sent to the Inner Temple not to make a profession of law but in order to understand his own affairs, and according to his son it was against his will that he was made serjeant, and judge, by Henry VIII (Sir Richard Shelley, Letters, p. 15). From the beginning of Henry's reign he appears on commissions of the peace for Sussex and other counties; in 1517 he was autumn reader in the Inner Temple, and about the same time became one of the judges of the sheriff's court in London. In 1520 he was appointed recorder of that city, and in May 1521 was placed on the special commission of oyer and terminer to find an indictment against Edward Stafford, duke of Buckingham [q. v.] In the same year he took the degree of the coif. In 1523 he is erroneously said to have been returned to parliament for London (Foss; but cf. Off. Ret. i. 369). In 1527 he was raised to the bench as judge of the common pleas, and in 1529 he was sent to demand from Wolsey the surrender of York House, afterwards Whitehall. Soon afterwards he entertained Henry VIII at Michelgrove. He was summoned to parliament on 9 Aug. 1529, and again on 27 April 1536. He was hostile to the Reformation, and is said to have suffered from Cromwell's antipathy; but his name appears in most of the important state trials of the period—in that of the Charterhouse monks and Fisher (1535), of Weston, Norris, Lord Rochford, and Anne Boleyn (May 1536), and Sir Geoffrey Pole, Sir Edward Neville, and Sir Nicholas Carew (1538–9). In 1547 he was consulted by Henry VIII's executors about the provisions of his will. He died between 3 Nov. 1548 and 10 May 1549.

Shelley married Alice (d. 1536?), daughter of Sir Henry Belknap, great-grandson of Sir Robert de Bealknap [q. v.] of Knelle in the parish of Beckley, Sussex. By her he had four sons: John (d. 15 Dec. 1550) was father of William (not to be confused with William Shelley of Hertford, also a prisoner in the Tower in 1580), who was attainted 15 Dec. 1582 for complicity in Charles Paget's treasons, but not executed, and died 15 April 1597, being succeeded by his son John, created a baronet in 1611; the second son of the judge was Sir Richard Shelley [q. v.]; the third, Sir James, was, like Sir Richard, a distinguished and widely travelled knight of St. John (cf. Notes and Queries, 1st ser. viii. 192, x. 201–2); the fourth, Sir Edward, a master of the household of Henry VIII, treasurer of the council of the north, and captain of Berwick, was killed at Pinkie on 10 Sept. 1547 (cf. Addit. MSS. 32647 ff. 66, 70, 32648 f. 12, 32653 f. 161; Chron. of Calais, p. 176, &c.; Lit. Rem. of Edward VI, Roxb. Club, pp. ccc; Cal. Hamilton Papers, passim).

[Foss's Judges of England; Lower's Sussex Worthies; Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, ed. Brewer and Gairdner, passim; Acts of the Privy Council, ed. Dasent; Rymer's Fœdera, orig. ed. vol. xiv. passim; Letters of Sir R. Shelley, 1774; Cavendish's Wolsey, p. 155; Sussex Archæol. Collections, passim; The Shelley Pedigree (separately published, also in Miscell. Genealog. et Herald. new ser. iii. 422–7, and in Pref. to Buxton Forman's Prose Works of Shelley); Collins's Baronets, i. 60–5; Berry's Sussex Genealogies; Burke's Peerage and Baronetage; Horsfield's Lewes; Holloway's Hist. of Rye, 1847; Gent. Mag. 1785 ii. 713, 1852 i. 517.]

A. F. P.