Thirning, William (DNB00)

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THIRNING, WILLIAM (d. 1413), chief justice of the common pleas, probably came from Thirning in Huntingdonshire; his name occurs in connection with the manor of Hemingford Grey in that county (Cal. Inq. post mortem, iii. 218). Thirning first appears as an advocate in the year-books in 1370. In 1377 he was on the commission of peace for the county of Northampton, and on 20 Dec. of that year was engaged on a commission of oyer and terminer in the county of Bedford (Cal. Pat. Rolls, Richard II, i. 48, 95). In June 1380 he was a justice of assize for the counties of York, Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmoreland (ib. i. 516). Thirning was appointed a justice of the common pleas on 11 April 1388, and became chief justice of that court on 15 Jan. 1396. In the parliament of January 1398 the judges were asked for their opinions on the answers for which their predecessors had been condemned in 1388. Thirning replied that ‘the declaration of treason not yet declared belonged to the parliament, but that had he been a lord of parliament, if he had been asked, he should have replied in the same manner’ (Rolls of Parliament, iii. 358). On the strength of this opinion the proceedings of 1388 were reversed. Thirning's attitude on this occasion did not prevent him from taking the chief part in the quasi-judicial proceedings of the opposition of Richard II. He was one of the persons appointed to obtain Richard's renunciation of the throne on 29 Sept., and was one of the commissioners who on the following day pronounced the sentence of deposition in parliament. It is said to have been by Thirning's advice that Henry of Lancaster abandoned his idea of claiming the throne by right of conquest, the chief justice arguing that such a claim would have made all tenure of property insecure (Annales Henrici Quarti, p. 282). Thirning was the chief of the proctors sent to announce the deposition to Richard. After the reading of the formal commission, Richard refused to renounce the spiritual honour of king. Thirning then reminded him of the terms in which on 29 Sept. he had confessed he was deposed on account of his demerits. Richard demurred, saying, ‘Not so, but because my governance pleased them not.’ Thirning, however, insisted, and Richard yielded with a jest (ib. pp. 286–7; Rot. Parl. iii. 424). On 3 Nov. Thirning pronounced the decision of the king and peers against the accusers of Thomas of Gloucester (Annales Henrici Quarti, p. 315). This was his final interference in politics, but he continued to be chief justice throughout the reign of Henry IV, and on the accession of Henry V received a new patent on 2 May 1413. Thirning must have died very soon after, for his successor, Richard Norton (d. 1420) [q. v.], was appointed on 26 June of the same year, and in Trinity term of that year his widow Joan brought an action of debt.

[Annales Henrici Quarti ap. Trokelowe, Blaneford, &c. (Rolls Ser.); Rolls of Parliament; Ramsay's Lancaster and York, i. 11; Wylie's Hist. of Henry IV, i. 16–17, 33; Stubbs's Const. Hist. iii. 13–14; Foss's Judges of England.]

C. L. K.