Wray, Christopher (1524-1592) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 63
Wray, Christopher (1524-1592)

by James McMullen Rigg
Contains subarticles Sir Christopher Wray (1601–1646) & Sir Drury Wray (1633–1710).

WRAY, Sir CHRISTOPHER (1524–1592), judge, third son of Thomas Wray, seneschal in 1535 of Coverham Abbey, Yorkshire, by Joan, daughter of Robert Jackson of Gatenby, Bedale, in the same county, was born at Bedale in 1524. The ancient doubts, revived by Lord Campbell (Chief Justices, i. 200), as to his legitimacy, were removed by the publication in 1857 of the wills of his mother (by her second marriage wife of John Wycliffe, auditor of issues in the Richmond district) and his brother-in-law, Ralph Gower (Richmondshire Wills and Inventories, Surtees Soc. pp. 156, 161, 194–6). The pedigree, however, was first traced with accuracy from the Wrays of Wensleydale by the Rev. Octavius Wray in the ‘Genealogist,’ ed. Marshall, iv. 278–82.

Wray was an alumnus of Buckingham (refounded during his residence as Magdalene) College, Cambridge. Though apparently no graduate, he was a loyal son to his alma mater, and set a high value on learning. Tradition ascribes to him the adornment of the college with the rich Renaissance west porch, and a deed dated 16 July 1587 shows that he had then built or rebuilt a portion of the edifice containing three stories of four rooms apiece, which were appropriated to the use of two fellows and six scholars, whose maintenance he secured by a rent-charge (see Willis and Clark, Architectural History of the University of Cambridge, ii. 364). He added another fellowship by his will; two more were founded by his wife in 1591, and a fellowship and two scholarships by his second daughter in 1625.

Wray was admitted on 6 Feb. 1544–5 student at Lincoln's Inn, where he was called to the bar in Hilary term 1549–50, was reader in autumn 1562, treasurer in 1565–6, and again reader in Lent 1567 in anticipation of his call to the degree of serjeant-at-law, which took place in the ensuing Easter term. On 18 June of the same year he was made queen's serjeant. His parliamentary career began by his return (30 Sept. 1553) for Boroughbridge, Yorkshire, which constituency he continued to represent until the death of Queen Mary. From 1563 to 1567 he sat for Great Grimsby, Lincolnshire. Like most of the gentlemen of the north, he was probably catholic at heart, but he evidently steered a wary course, for in the religious census of justices of the peace, compiled by episcopal authority in 1564, he is entered as ‘indifferent.’ In the following year he was assigned by the court of king's bench as counsel for Bonner in the proceedings on the præmunire. In the spring of 1569–70 he attended the assizes held at York, Carlisle, and Durham for the trial of the northern rebels, and was employed in receiving their submissions. Among them were his brother Thomas and his sister's son John Gower, both of whom were pardoned.

In the parliament of 1571 Wray, then member for Ludgershall, Wiltshire, was chosen speaker of the House of Commons. In his address to the throne on presentation (4 April) he expatiated with much learning and eloquence in praise of the royal supremacy in matters ecclesiastical, touched lightly but loyally on supply, and gratefully acknowledged the free course which her majesty allowed to the administration of justice. The speech introduced petitions for freedom from arrest, free access to and considerate audience by her majesty, and free speech. The first three were granted; the last only elicited an intimation that the commons would do well to meddle with no affairs of state but such as might be referred to them by ministers. The revival, in defiance of this injunction, of the whole question of the reformation of religion and church government occasioned an early dissolution (29 May). An act (13 Eliz. c. 29) confirming the charters, liberties, and privileges of the university of Cambridge owed its passage largely to Wray's influence, for which the thanks of the senate were communicated to him by letter (5 June).

Wray was appointed on 14 May 1572 justice, and on 8 Nov. 1574 chief justice, of the queen's bench. The only state trial in which as puisne he took part was that in Trinity term 1572 of John Hall and Francis Rolston for conspiracy to effect the release of Mary Queen of Scots. As chief justice, in addition to his ordinary jurisdiction he exercised functions of a somewhat multifarious character. He was a member of the commission appointed on 23 April 1577 to adjudicate on the validity of the election of John Underhill (1545?–1592) [q. v.] to the rectorship of Lincoln College, Oxford; and as assistant to the House of Lords he advised on bills, received petitions, and on one occasion (14 Sept. 1586) was placed on the commission for its adjournment. He was a strong judge, who well knew how to sustain the dignity of his office, and showed as much firmness in restraining by prohibition an excess of jurisdiction on the part of the ecclesiastical commission in 1581 as in enforcing the laws against the sectaries in that and subsequent years [see Browne, Robert; Cartwright, Thomas, (1535–1603); and Coppin or Copping, John]. It was not until towards the close of his life that he was himself added to the ecclesiastical commission (Christmas 1589).

The principal state trials over which he presided were those of the puritan John Stubbs or Stubbe [q. v.], the jesuit Edmund Campion [q. v.], and his harbourer, William, lord Vaux (son of Thomas, second baron Vaux of Harrowden [q. v.]), and the conspirators against the life of the queen, John Somerville [q. v.] and William Parry (d 1585) [q. v.] He also presided at the Star-chamber inquest by which (23 June 1580) the suicide and treasons of the Earl of Northumberland were certified [see Percy, Henry, eighth Earl of Northumberland]; and was a member of the commissions which attainted Northumberland's accomplice, William, grandson of Sir William Shelley [q. v.], and passed sentence of death upon Anthony Babington [q. v.] and his associates (September 1586). He was present at Fotheringay as assessor to the tribunal before which the Queen of Scots pleaded in vain for her life (14 Oct. 1586), but appears to have taken no part in the proceedings. He presided, vice Sir Thomas Bromley (1530–1587) [q. v.], absent through illness, at the subsequent trial in the Star-chamber of the unfortunate secretary of state, William Davison [q. v.], whose indiscreet zeal he blandly censured as ‘bonum sed non bene’ before pronouncing the ruthless sentence of the court (28 March 1587). The last state trials in which he took part were those of Philip Howard, thirteenth earl of Arundel [q. v.], on 18 April 1589, and of Sir John Perrot [q. v.] on 27 April 1592. At a conference with his colleagues in Michaelmas term 1590 he initiated the revision of the form of commissions of the peace, then full of corruptions and redundancies.

He died on 7 May 1592, and was buried in the church of Glentworth, Lincolnshire, where, by the aid of grants from the profits of the mint, he had built for himself a noble mansion, which was long the seat of his posterity, and of which a portion was afterwards incorporated in the modern Glentworth Hall. By his will he established a dole for the inmates of an almshouse which he had built on the estate. A sessions house at Spittal-in-the-Street was also built by him.

Wray was lord of the manors Brodsworth and Cusworth, Yorkshire, and of Ashby, Fillingham, Grainsby, and Kennington, Lincolnshire. His monument, a splendid structure in alabaster and other marbles, is in the chancel of Glentworth church. ‘Re justus, nomine verus,’ so, in allusion to his motto and with an evident play upon his name, he is characterised by the inscription. Coke (Rep. iii. 26) praises his ‘profound and judicial knowledge, accompanied with a ready and singular capacity, grave and sensible elocution, and continual and admirable patience.’ No less eulogistic, though less weighty, are the encomiums of David Lloyd (State Worthies, i. 467) and Fuller (Worthies of England, ed. 1662, p. 200). Their general accuracy is unquestionable; and though the judicial murder of Campion and the iniquitous sentence on Davison show that in crown cases Wray was by no means too scrupulous, it is unfair to apply the moral standard of the nineteenth century to a judge of the Elizabethan age.

Original portraits of Wray are at Fillingham Castle, Lincolnshire, and Sleningford Park, Yorkshire, the seats of his present representative, Mr. Seymour Berkeley Portman-Dalton, and at Trinity College, Cambridge. A copy of one of the family portraits, done in the lifetime of Sir Cecil Wray [q. v.], is at Magdalene College, Cambridge. Engraved portraits are in the British Museum, the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ (1805, ii. 1105; cf. ib. 1806, i. 115) and Dalton's ‘History of the Wrays of Glentworth’ (1880).

Wray's judgments and charges are recorded in the reports of Dyer, Plowden, Coke, and Croke, Cobbett's ‘State Trials’ (i. 1069–71, 1110–12, 1238), and Nicolas's ‘Life of Davison’ (p. 327). One of his speeches—on a call of serjeants in Michaelmas term 1578—has been preserved by Dugdale (Orig. Jurid. 1666, p. 222). His speech to the throne in 1571 may be read in Sir Simonds D'Ewes's ‘Journals of all the Parliaments during the Reign of Queen Elizabeth’ (1682, p. 141), or in Cobbett's ‘Parliamentary History’ (i. 729). For his opinions, notes of cases, letters, and other miscellaneous remains, see Peck's ‘Desiderata Curiosa’ (p. 107), University Library Cambridge MS. Ee IV. i. f. 132, Lansdowne MSS. 38 ff. 19, 55, 64, and 50 f. 57; Harleian MSS. 6993 f. 123, 6994 f. 19; Egerton MS. 1693 f. 105; Additional MSS. 33597 f. 18, 34079 f. 19; and Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. App. pp. 216, 221, 11th Rep. App. vii. 306, 12th Rep. App. iv. 90, 141, 148, 152, 14th Rep. App. viii. 257; Calendar of Cecil MSS. pt. ii. pp. 136, 137, 509.

By his wife Anne, daughter of Nicholas Girlington of Normanby, Yorkshire, Wray had issue a son and two daughters. The elder daughter, Isabel, married, first, Godfrey Foljambe of Aldwarke, Yorkshire, and Walton, Derbyshire, who died on 14 June 1595; secondly, in or before 1600, Sir William Bowes, who succeeded his uncle Robert Bowes [q. v.] in the Scottish embassy, and died on 30 Oct. 1611; thirdly, on 7 May 1617, John, lord Darcy of Aston, commonly called Lord Darcy of the North. She died on 12 Feb. 1623. Frances, the younger daughter, married, first, in 1583, Sir George Saint Paule, bart. (so created on 29 June 1611), of Snarford, Lincolnshire, who died on 28 Oct. 1613; secondly, on 21 Dec. 1616, Robert Rich, earl of Warwick, whom she survived, dying about 1634. The son, Sir William Wray (1555–1617), was created a baronet on 25 Nov. 1611, and married, first, in 1580, Lucy, eldest daughter of Sir Edward Montagu of Boughton, son of Sir Edward Montagu [q. v.], by whom he was father of Sir John Wray [q. v.]; and, secondly, about 1600, Frances, daughter of Sir William Drury of Hawsted, Suffolk, and widow of Sir Nicholas Clifford, by whom he was father of

Sir Christopher Wray (1601–1646), of Ashby and Barlings, Lincolnshire, born in 1601, and knighted on 12 Nov. 1623. He successfully resisted the levy of shipmoney in 1636, represented Great Grimsby in the Long parliament, was deputy lieutenant of Lincolnshire under the militia ordinance, and co-operated in the field with John Hotham [q. v.] He was appointed on 15 April 1645 commissioner of the admiralty, and on 5 Dec. following commissioner resident with the Scottish forces before Newark. He died on 8 Feb. 1645–6, leaving by his wife Albinia (married on 3 Aug. 1623), daughter of Sir Edward Cecil (afterwards Baron Cecil of Putney and Viscount Wimbledon), six sons and six daughters [cf. Vane, Sir Henry the younger]. The eldest son, Sir William Wray, bart. (so created in June 1660), died in October 1669, leaving, with other issue by his wife Olympia, second daughter of Sir Humphrey Tufton, bart., of The Mote, Kent, a son, Sir Christopher Wray, bart., who on the extinction of the male line of the elder branch of the family succeeded in 1672 to the Glentworth baronetcy, and died without issue in August 1679. On the death about March 1685–6 of his only surviving brother and successor in title, Sir William Wray, bart., the junior baronetcy became extinct.

Sir Drury Wray (1633–1710), third son of Sir Christopher Wray (1601–1646), by his wife Albinia Cecil, born on 29 July 1633, obtained in 1674 grants of land in the counties of Limerick and Tipperary, which he forfeited by his loyalty to James II, on whose side he fought at the battle of the Boyne. He succeeded his nephew, Sir Baptist Edward Wray, as ninth baronet of Glentworth about 1689, and died on 30 Oct. 1710, leaving, with female issue by his wife Anne, daughter of Thomas Casey of Rathcannon, co. Limerick, two sons, both of whom died without issue after succeeding to the baronetcy, the younger, Sir Cecil Wray, the eleventh baronet, on 9 May 1736, having acquired by entail the Glentworth and other estates. The title and estates thus passed to Sir Drury Wray's grand-nephew, Sir John Wray, bart., of Sleningford, Yorkshire, father of Sir Cecil Wray [q. v.] [Lincoln's Inn Adm. Reg. i. 55, and Black Books, i. 293, 336, 338, 349, 352–3; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547–92; 4th Rep. of the Deputy-Keeper of the Public Records, App. ii. 270–82; Rymer's Fœdera, ed. Sanderson, xv. 773; Cal. Chanc. Proceedings (Eliz.), iii. 245, 287; Charity Comm. 32nd Rep. pt. iv. pp. 412, 453; Coke's Institutes, pt. iv. p. 171; Dugdale's Chron. Ser. pp. 92–4; Metcalfe's Book of Knights; Archæologia, xi. 23, xxx. 105, xli. 369; Monro's Acta Cancellariæ, p. 444; Jones's Index to Records, called Originalia and Memoranda (1793); Sharp's Memorials of the Rebellion in 1569, p. 225; Comm. Journ. i. 82; Analyt. Index to Remembrancia; Manningham's Diary (Camden Soc.); Camden Misc. ix., ‘Letters from the Bishops to the Privy Council, 1564,’ p. 27; Cartwright's Chapters of the History of Yorkshire, p. 60; D'Ewes's Journals of all the Parliaments during the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, pp. 312, 323, 345, 377, 420; Ducatus Lancastriæ, ii. 206; Cooper's Annals of Cambridge, ii. 409–10, 493; Strype's Works; Acts of the Privy Council, new ser. vol. vii. et seq.; Cal. Inner Temple Records, i. 406; Surtees's Durham, ii. 223–6; Plantagenet Harrison's Yorkshire, p. 43; Allen's Lincolnshire, ii. 38; Lodge's Illustrations of British History, ii. 382; Leland's Collectanea, ed. Hearne, v. 241; Camden's Britannia, ed. Gough, ii. 133, 266; Nichols's Progr. Eliz. ii. 496, James I, ii. 135; Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting, ed. Wornum; Court and Times of James I, i. 449; Wotton's Baronetage (1741), i. 242; Burke's Extinct Baronetage; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr.; Foss's Lives of the Judges.]

J. M. R.