1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Nottingham, Earls of
NOTTINGHAM, EARLS OF. The English title of earl of Nottingham has been held by different families, notably by the Mowbrays (1377 to 1475; merged in the Norfolk title from 1397), the Howards (1596—1681), and the Finches (1681; since 1729 united with that of Winchilsea). For the Howard line see the separate article below. Here only the ancestors of the Finch line are dealt with.
Heneage Finch (1621—1682), first earl of Nottingham in the Finch line, lord chancellor of England, was descended from an old family (see Finch, Finch-Hatton), many of whose members had attained to high legal eminence, and was the eldest son of Sir Heneage Finch, recorder of London, by his first wife Frances, daughter of Sir Edmund Bell of Beaupré Hall, Norfolk. In the register of Oxford university he is entered as born in Kent on the 23rd of December 1621, and probably his native place was Eastwell in that county. He was educated at Westminster and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he remained till he became a member of the Inner Temple in 1638. He was called to the bar in 1645, and soon obtained a lucrative practice. He was a member of the convention parliament of April 1660, and shortly afterwards was appointed solicitor-general, being created a baronet the day after he was knighted. In May of the following year he was chosen to represent the university of Oxford, and in 1665 the university created him a D.C.L. In 1670 he became attorney-general, and in 1675 lord chancellor. He was created Baron Finch in 1674, and earl of Nottingham in May 1681. He died in Great Queen Street, London, on the 18th of December 1682, and was buried in the church of Ravenstone in Bucks.
His contemporaries of both sides of politics agree in their high estimate of his integrity, moderation and eloquence, while his abilities as a lawyer are sufficiently attested by the fact that he is still spoken of as “the father of equity.” His most important contribution to the statute book is “The Statute of Frauds.” While attorney-general he superintended the edition of Sir Henry Hobart's Reports (1671). He also published Several Speeches and Discourses in the Tryal of the Judges of King Charles I. (1660); Speeches to both Houses of Parliament (1679); Speech at the Sentence of Viscount Stafford (1680). He left Chancery Reports in MS., and notes on Coke's Institutes.
Daniel Finch (1647—1730), second earl, son of the preceding, entered parliament for Lichfield in 1679. He was one of the privy councillors who in 1685 signed the order for the proclamation of the duke of York, but during the whole of the reign of James II. he kept away from the court. At the last moment he hesitated to join in the invitation to William of Orange, and after the abdication of James II. he was the leader of the party who were in favour of a regency. He declined the office of lord chancellor under William and Mary, but accepted that of secretary of state, retaining it till December 1693. Under Anne he in 1702 again accepted the same office in the ministry of Godolphin, but finally retired in 1704. On the accession of George I. he was made president of the council, but in 1716 he finally withdrew from office. He succeeded to the earldom of Winchilsea (with which the Nottingham title now became united) on the 9th of September 1729, and died on the 1st of January 1730.