Rainsford, Richard (DNB00)

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RAINSFORD, Sir RICHARD (1605–1680), judge, second son of Robert Rainsford of Staverton, Northamptonshire, by his first wife, Mary, daughter of Thomas Kirton of Thorpe-Mandeville in the same county, was born in 1605. He matriculated at Oxford from Exeter College on 13 Dec. 1622, but left the university without a degree. In 1630 he was elected recorder of Daventry, being then a student of Lincoln's Inn, where he was called to the bar on 16 Oct. 1632, and elected treasurer in 1660. In 1653 he was elected recorder of Northampton, which borough he represented in the Convention parliament of 1660, and also in Charles II's first parliament, until his elevation to the bench. As he was designated a member of the projected order of Knights of the Royal Oak, it is probable that during the interregnum he had shown himself a king's friend. On 26 Oct. 1660 he was sworn serjeant-at-law, and on 16 Nov. 1663 was raised to the exchequer bench, having in the interval received the honour of knighthood. Rainsford presided over the commission which sat at Dublin during the earlier months of 1663 to supervise the execution of the Act of Settlement, and on his return to England was raised to the exchequer bench, 16 Nov. the same year.

He was one of Sir Matthew Hale's colleagues in the commission which sat at Clifford's Inn, 1667–72, to determine the legal questions arising out of the rebuilding of the quarters of London destroyed by the great fire. In the meantime he was transferred to the king's bench, 6 Feb. 1668–9, and on 12 April 1676 he succeeded Hale as lord chief justice. On the return to Lord Shaftesbury's writ of habeas corpus he decided, 29 June 1677, an important point of constitutional law, viz. that the courts of law have no jurisdiction, during the parliamentary session, to discharge a peer committed by order of the House of Lords, even though the warrant of commitment be such as would be void if issued by an ordinary tribunal [see Cooper, Anthony Ashley, first Earl of Shaftesbury]. Rainsford was removed to make room for Sir William Scroggs in June 1678. He died at Dallington, Northamptonshire, where he had his seat and founded an almshouse. His remains were interred in Dallington church.

Rainsford married at Kingsthorpe, on 30 May 1637, Catherine, daughter of Rev. Samuel Clerke, D.D., rector of St. Peter's, Northampton, who survived him, and died on 1 June 1698. By her he had, with five daughters, six sons. Most of his children died early. His eldest son, Richard, matriculated at Oxford from Queen's College on 15 June 1657, represented Northampton in the first parliament of James II, 1685–7, and died on 17 March 1702–3.

Rainsford's portrait, by Gerard Soest, is at Lincoln's Inn; another, by Michael Wright, is at the Guildhall; a third, by Claret, was engraved by Tompson (Bromley).

[Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Lincoln's Inn Reg.; Baker's Northamptonshire, i. 131; Bridges's Northamptonshire, i. 495; Siderfin's Rep. pp. 153, 408; Wotton's Baronetage, iv. 371; Dugdale's Chron. Ser. p. 113; Parl. Hist. iv. 5; Lists of Members of Parl. (official); Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1663–4 p. 341, 1665–6 p. 496, 1670 Addenda, p. 694; Sir Thomas Raymond's Rep. pp. 4, 175, 294; North's Lives, i. 130; Carte's Life of Ormonde, ii. 261; Howell's State Trials, vi. 1296; Hatton Corresp. (Camden Soc.), i. 162, 164; Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. App. p. 493, 8th Rep. App. pt. i. p. 112, 9th Rep. App. pt. ii. pp. 16, 81, 104, 11th Rep. App. pt. ii. p. 29; Campbell's Lives of the Chief Justices; Foss's Lives of the Judges.]

J. M. R.