1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Littleton, Edward, Baron

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LITTLETON (or Lyttelton), EDWARD, Baron (1589–1645), son of Sir Edward Littleton (d. 1621) chief-justice of North Wales, was born at Munslow in Shropshire; he was educated at Oxford and became a lawyer, succeeding his father as chief-justice of North Wales. In 1625 he became a member of parliament and acted in 1628 as chairman of the committee of grievances upon whose report the Petition of Right was based. As a member of the party opposed to the arbitrary measures of Charles I. Littleton had shown more moderation than some of his colleagues, and in 1634, three years after he had been chosen recorder of London, the king attached him to his own side by appointing him solicitor-general. In the famous case about ship-money Sir Edward argued against Hampden. In 1640 he was made chief-justice of the common pleas and in 1641 lord keeper of the great seal, being created a peer as Baron Lyttelton. About this time, the lord keeper began to display a certain amount of indifference to the royal cause. In January 1642 he refused to put the great seal to the proclamation for the arrest of the five members and he also incurred the displeasure of Charles by voting for the militia ordinance. However, he assured his friend Edward Hyde, afterwards earl of Clarendon, that he had only taken this step to allay the suspicions of the parliamentary party who contemplated depriving him of the seal, and he undertook to send this to the king. He fulfilled his promise, and in May 1642 he himself joined Charles at York, but it was some time before he regained the favour of the king and the custody of the seal. Littleton died at Oxford on the 27th of August 1645; he left no sons and his barony became extinct. His only daughter, Anne, married her cousin Sir Thomas Littleton, Bart. (d. 1681), and their son Sir Thomas Littleton (c. 1647–1710), was speaker of the House of Commons from 1698 to 1700, and treasurer of the navy from 1700 to 1710. Macaulay thus sums up the character of Speaker Littleton and his relations to the Whigs: “He was one of their ablest, most zealous and most steadfast friends; and had been, both in the House of Commons and at the board of treasury, an invaluable second to Montague” (the earl of Halifax).