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John Finch: Wikis


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Sir John Finch.

John Finch, Baron Finch of Fordwich (17 September 1584 – 27 November 1660), was an English judge, and Speaker of the House of Commons.


Political career

John Finch was admitted to Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1596.[1] He was called to the bar in November 1611.[2] He was returned to Parliament for Canterbury in 1614, and became recorder of the same place in 1617. He attracted the notice of King Charles I in 1625, when the latter visited Canterbury and was received with an address by Finch in his capacity as recorder. The following year Charles knighted him and appointed him kings counsel and attorney-general.

In 1628 he was elected Speaker, a post which he retained until 1629 when Parliament was dissolved. He was held down in his chair by Holles and others on the occasion of Sir John Eliot's resolution on tonnage and poundage.

Judicial career

In 1634 he was appointed chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas, and distinguished himself by the active zeal with which he upheld the king's prerogative. Notable also was the brutality which characterized his conduct as chief justice, particularly in the cases of William Prynne and John Langton.

He presided over the trial of John Hampden, who resisted the payment of ship money, and was chiefly responsible for the decision of the judges that ship-money was constitutional. As a reward for his services he was, in 1640, appointed Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England, and was also created Baron Finch of Fordwich. He had, however, become so unpopular that one of the first acts of the Long Parliament, which met in the same year was his impeachment. His estates were sequestrated and he took refuge in Holland. The Great Seal was passed to Edward Littleton.

When he was allowed to return to England is uncertain, but in 1660 he was one of the commissioners for the trial of the regicides, though he does not appear to have taken much part in the proceedings. He died on the 27th of November 1660 and was buried in St Martins church near Canterbury, his peerage becoming extinct.

See also


  1. ^ John Finch in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
  2. ^ Louis A. Knafla, ‘Finch, John, Baron Finch of Fordwich (1584–1660)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008
Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir Robert Heath
Chief Justice of the Common Pleas
Succeeded by
Sir Edward Littleton
Political offices
Preceded by
Lord Coventry
Lord Keeper
Succeeded by
Sir Edward Littleton
Peerage of England
New creation Baron Finch of Fordwich


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