Croke, John (1553-1620) (DNB00)

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CROKE, Sir JOHN (1553–1620), judge and recorder of London, eldest son of Sir John Croke (1530–1608), by Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Alexander Unton of Chequers, Buckinghamshire, and grandson of John Croke [q. v.], was born in 1553, and entered the Inner Temple 13 April 1570. After being called to the bar, he became bencher of his inn in 1591, Lent reader in 1596, and treasurer in 1597. Sir Christopher Hatton employed him in legal business, and in 1585 Croke was elected M.P. for Windsor. On 11 Nov. 1595 he was appointed recorder of London, and in 1597 and again in 1601 he was elected M.P. for London. In the latter parliament, which met in October 1601, Croke was chosen speaker. When presented to the queen, he spoke of the peace of the kingdom having been defended by ‘the might of our dread and sacred queen,’ and was interrupted by Elizabeth with the remark, ‘No, by the mighty hand of God, Mr. Speaker.’ In the course of the monopoly debates, Croke was directed to announce the queen's voluntary renunciation of monopoly patents, and her intention to confer no more of them. In the division on the bill for the enforcement of attendance at church, the ‘ayes’ numbered 105 and the ‘noes’ 106, and the former, expecting that Croke would side with them, claimed that he should record his vote, but he asserted that ‘he was foreclosed of his voice by taking that place which it had pleased them to impose upon him, and that he was indifferent to both parties.’ At the close of the session, 19 Dec., the lord keeper conveyed to Croke the queen's compliments on his wisdom and discretion.

After some delay caused by the death on 24 March 1603 of the queen, who had nominated him for the office, Croke became serjeant in Easter term 1603, and was knighted. He soon afterwards resigned the recordership of London, on becoming a Welsh judge, and acted as deputy for the chancellor of the exchequer, Sir George Hume, in 1604. On 25 June 1607 he became judge of the king's bench, in succession to Sir John Popham, and dying, after thirteen years of judicial service, at his house in Holborn, 23 Jan. 1619-20, was buried at Chilton. Manningham, referring to his personal appearance, describes him as 'a verry blacke man' (Diary, Camd. Soc. 74). In 1601 he gave twenty-seven books to Sir Thomas Bodley's library at Oxford, and Bodley consulted him on the endowment of the library in 1609. He published in 1602 a volume of select cases, collected by Robert Keilway, which was reprinted in 1633 and 1685.

Croke married Catherine, daughter of Sir Michael Blount of Mapledurham, Oxfordshire, lieutenant of the Tower, by whom he had five sons. Sir John, the heir, was knighted 9 July 1603, was M.P. for Shaftesbury 1628, and died 10 April 1640 at Chilton. His heir, also Sir John, lived a dissipated life. In 1667 he conspired to charge Robert Hawkins, incumbent of Chilton, with robbery. Hawkins had made himself obnoxious by pressing for payment of his salary. Having failed to bribe Lord-chief-justice Hale, who tried the case (9 March 1668-9), and soon saw through the conspiracy, Croke was ruined, sold the Chilton estates, and died in great poverty. An account of Hawkins's trial was published in 1685, and is reprinted in the State Trials.'

The judge's third son, Charles Croke, D.D. (d. 1657), was admitted student of Christ Church, Oxford, 5 Jan. 1603-4; proceeded B.A. (1608), M.A.(1611), B.D. and D.D. (1625); was tutor of his college; held the professorship of rhetoric at Gresham College, London, from 1613 to 1619; was junior proctor (1613), and fellow of Eton College (1617-1621); became rector of Waterstock, Oxfordshire, on the presentation of his uncle, Sir George Croke [q. v.], on 24 June 1616, and rector of Agmondisham, Buckinghamshire, in 1621; fled to Ireland during the civil war, and died at Carlow 10 April 1657. He took private pupils at Agmondisham, and among them were Sir William Drake, Sir Robert Croke, John Gregory, and Henry Curwen. Curwen died while in Croke's charge, and Croke published a memorial sermon (Ward, Gresham Professors; Croke, Hist. of Croke Family, i. 506-10).

Sir Unton Croke, the judge's fourth son, born about 1594, was called to the bar at the Inner Temple in 1616; became a bencher 14 June 1635; was M.P. for Wallingford in 1626, and again in the Short parliament of 1640; actively aided the parliamentarians; was created B.C.L. at Oxford in 1649; went with Whitelocke to Sweden in 1654; was promoted sergeant by Cromwell 21 Dec. 1654; was recommended by John Owen, dean of Christ Church, for a judgeship in 1655; was made commissioner for trials of persons charged with treason in 1656, and justice of the peace for Marston, Oxfordshire, where he lived in a house inherited by his wife Anne, daughter of Richard Hore. He was for a time deputy of the Earl of Pembroke in the stewardship of the university of Oxford. After the Restoration he retired from public life: The 'Thurloe Papers' (iii.) contain much of Sir Unton's correspondence with Cromwell respecting the suppression of the cavalier plot of 1655.

[Foss's Judges; Manning's Lives of the Speakers, 273-8; Croke's Hist. of Croke Family, i. 469 et seq.; Cal. State Papers, 1590-1620; Sir James Whitelocke's Liber Famelicus (Camd. Soc.), i.; D'Ewes's Parliaments of Elizabeth; Townshend's Reports of Parliament.]

S. L. L.