Phelips, Edward (DNB00)

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PHELIPS, Sir EDWARD (1560?–1614), speaker of the House of Commons and master of the rolls, was fourth and youngest son of Thomas Phelips (1500–1588) of Montacute, Somerset, by his wife Elizabeth (d. 1598), daughter of John Smythe of Long Ashton in the same county. His father stood godfather to Thomas Coryate [q. v.], and ‘imposed upon him’ the name Thomas. Edward was born about 1560, for according to Coryate, who refers to him as ‘my illustrious Mæcenas,’ he was ‘53 or thereabouts’ in 1613. He does not appear to have been, as Foss suggests, the Edward Philipps who graduated B.A. in 1579, and M.A. on 6 Feb. 1582–3 from Broadgates Hall, Oxford. He joined the Middle Temple, where he was autumn reader in 1596. In 1601 he entered parliament as knight of the shire for Somerset. On 11 Feb. 1602–3 he was named serjeant-at-law, but, owing to the queen's death, did not proceed to his degree until the following reign. On 17 May he was made king's serjeant and knighted. In November he took part in the trial of Sir Walter Raleigh, but did not share in ‘the brutal manner in which Coke conducted the prosecution.’ He was re-elected to parliament for Somerset on 11 Feb. 1603–4, and on 19 March was elected speaker. According to Sir Julius Cæsar, he was ‘the most worthy and judicious speaker since 23 Elizabeth.’ Though his orations to the king were tedious, he did ‘his best to help the king's business through on some critical occasions.’

On 17 July 1604 he was granted the office of justice of common pleas in the county palatine of Lancaster. In this capacity he was very active against the catholics. On one occasion he condemned a man to death ‘simply for entertaining a Jesuit,’ and is said to have declared that, as the law stood, all who were present when mass was celebrated were guilty of felony. He was one of those appointed to examine the ‘gunpowder plot’ conspirators, and in January 1606 opened the indictment against Guy Fawkes. He was also chancellor to Prince Henry. On 2 Dec. 1608 he was granted the reversion of the mastership of the rolls, but did not succeed to the office until January 1611. Yelverton, Coke, and Montagu all spoke highly of his conduct as a judge, though the last admitted that he was ‘over swift in judging.’ On 14 July 1613 he was appointed ranger of all royal forests, parks, and chases in England.

Besides his house in Chancery Lane, and another at Wanstead, Essex, where he entertained the king, Phelips built a large mansion at Montacute, which is still standing, and in the possession of his descendants. He died on 11 Sept. 1614, having married, first, Margaret (d. 28 April 1590), daughter of Robert Newdegate of Newdegate, Surrey, by whom he had two sons, Sir Robert [q. v.] and Francis; secondly, Elizabeth (d. 26 March 1638), daughter of Thomas Pigott of Dodersall, Buckinghamshire. There is a portrait of Phelips at Montacute House.

[Phelips MSS. preserved at Montacute House, and calendared in Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. App.; Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1603–14; Winwood's State Papers, ii. 36, &c.; Commons Journals, passim; Parl. Hist. i. 969, 1045, &c.; State Trials, ii. 164, 1062, 1073, 1079; Official Returns of Members of Parl.; Nichols's Progresses of James I; Coryate's Crudities, passim; Spedding's Life and Letters of Bacon, iv. 57, 240; Dugdale's Origines, p. 218; Foss's Judges of England; Sandford's Genealog. Hist. p. 562; Manning's Speakers; Jardine's Gunpowder Plot, p. 45; Morris's Troubles of our Catholic Forefathers, 3rd ser. pp. 451–2; Visitation of Somerset (Harl. Soc.), p. 85; Genealogical Collections of Roman Catholic Families, ed. J. J. Howard, pt. ii. No. iv.; Gardiner's Hist. of England.]

A. F. P.