Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cavendish, John (d.1381)

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CAVENDISH, Sir JOHN (d. 1381), judge, is said to have been the son of Roger or Robert de Gernum, and grandson of Ralph de Gernum, justice itinerant in the reign of Henry III, but to have assumed his wife's name of Cavendish on his marriage. Probably, however, he was the son of John de ‘Cavendych,’ who appears as surety for Thomas de Letchford, member of parliament for Lynne in 1322. As early as 1348 mention is made of a pleader whose name is indicated by the abbreviation Caund. (subsequently Cand.), which unquestionably stands for Caundish or Candish. In 1352 he was one of the collectors of the tenth and the fifteenth for Essex and Suffolk. In 1359 one John de Odyngseles, knight, conveyed, by fine, the manor of Overhall and Cavendish to John Cavendish and Alice his wife, probably by way of what we should now call marriage settlement. Cavendish was serjeant-at-law as early as 1366. He did not cease to plead until 1372, but from 1370 to 1372 inclusive he acted as justice of assize in some of the eastern counties. Dugdale designates him chief justice of the king's bench as early as 1366. This is certainly a mistake, but the date may mark his appointment to be justice of assize. He became a puisne judge of the common pleas on 27 Nov. 1371, and next year (15 July) was created chief justice of the king's bench. No fine appears to have been levied before him earlier than the ensuing October, and it is in the parliament of this year that he makes his first appearance as a trier of petitions. He was reappointed chief justice of the king's bench on the accession of Richard II, 1378, with a salary of a hundred marks. He continued in office until 1381, when (15 June) he was brutally murdered at Bury St. Edmunds, together with his friend Sir John of Cambridge, prior of the abbey, by the insurgent peasantry under Jack Straw. In the preceding year he had been elected chancellor of the university of Cambridge. Shortly before his death he made his will, a somewhat quaintly worded instrument, by which, after an exordium in Latin, bequeathing his soul to God, and directing his body to be buried beside his wife in the chancel of the church at Cavendish, he continues, in Norman French, to give ‘un lit de worstede’ and some cattle to his son Andrew, ‘un lit vermayl et un coupe d'argent en ou est emprente une rose, c'est assavoir ceo que jeo avois de don de la Countesse de la Marche,’ to Rose, Andrew's wife, to their daughter Margaret ‘un lit de saperye poudre des popingays,’ and the rest of his personalty to charitable uses. His judgments bulk largely in the year-books of the latter years of Edward III's reign. One of them has acquired a kind of immortality. A lady alleging her minority in order to defeat a grant of land made by her and her husband, offered, as there was some difficulty in proving the fact, to abide by Cavendish's verdict, but he declined to express any opinion, remarking: ‘Il n'ad nul home en Engleterre que luy adjudge a droit deins age ou de plein age, car ascuns femes que sont de age de xxx ans voile apperer d'age de xviii’ (Year-book, 50 Edw. III, pl. 12).

[Archæologia, xi. 50–6; Year-books, 21 Edw. III, Mich. Term, pl. 81, 38 Edw. III, Hil. Term, pl. 15, 40 Edw. III ad fin., 45 Edw. III, Trin. Term, pl. 23, 50 Edw. III, Trin. Term, pl. 12; Brantingham's Issue Roll (Devon), p. 360; Rot. Parl. ii. 309, 455; Kals. and Invs. Exch. (Palgrave), i. 239; Parl. Writs, ii. div. ii. pl. i. 652; Dugdale's Orig. 45, Chron. Ser. 50; Fuller's Hist. Univ. Cambr. p. 53; Knighton and Walsingham, anno 1381; Holinshed, ii. 744; Foss's Lives of the Judges.]

J. M. R.