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Philip Yorke Hardwicke Edit Profile

lawyer , politician , Lord Chancellor

Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke, was an English lawyer and politician who served as Lord Chancellor.

He was a close confidant of the Duke of Newcastle, Prime Minister between 1754 and 1756 and 1757 until 1762.


He was a son of Philip Yorke, an attorney, was born at Dover, on the 1st of December 1690.

Through his mother, Elizabeth, daughter and co-heiress of Richard Gibbon of Rolvenden, Kent, he was connected with the family of Gibbon the historian.

Charles Yorke (q. v. ), the second son, became like his father lord chancellor; the third, Joseph, was a diplomatist, and was created Lord Dover; while James, the fifth son, became bishop of Ely.

Hardwicke was succeeded in the earldom by his eldest son, Philip Yorke (1720 - 1795), 2nd earl of Hardwicke, born on the 19th of March 1720, and educated at Cambridge.


A son of Philip Yorke, an attorney, he was born around 1st of December, 1690 at Dover. At the age of fourteen, after a not very thorough education at a private school at Bethnal Green, where, however, he showed exceptional promise, he entered an attorney's office in London.


In 1715 he was called to the bar, where his progress was, says Lord Campbell, " more rapid than that of any other debutant in the annals of our profession, " his advancement being greatly furthered by the patronage of Macclesfield, who became lord chancellor in 1718, when Yorke transferred his practice from the king's bench to the court of chancery, though he continued to go on the western circuit.

He was excused, on the ground of his personal friendship, from acting for the crown in the.

He resisted Carteret's motion to reduce the army in 1738, and the resolutions hostile to Spain over the affair of Captain Jenkins's ears.

But when Walpole bent before the storm and declared war against Spain, Hardwicke advocated energetic measures for its conduct; and he tried to keep the peace between Newcastle and Walpole.

There is no sufficient ground for Horace Walpole's charge that the fall of Sir Robert was brought about by Hardwicke's treachery.

For many years from this time he was the controlling power in the government.

He took a just view of the crisis, and his policy for meeting it was on the whole statesmanlike.

After Culloden he presided at the trial of the Scottish Jacobite peers, his conduct of which, though judicially impartial, was neither dignified nor generous; and he must be held partly responsible for the unnecessary severity meted out to the rebels, and especially for the cruel, though not illegal, executions on obsolete attainders of Charles Radcliffe and (in 1753) of Archibald Cameron.

On the other hand his legislation in 1748 for disarming the Highlanders and prohibiting the use of the tartan in their dress was vexatious without being effective.

Hardwicke supported Chesterfield's reform of the calendar in 1751; in 1753 his bill for legalizing the naturalization of Jews in England had to be dropped on account of the popular clamour it excited; but he successfully carried a salutary reform of the marriage law, which became the basis of all subsequent legislation on the subject.

On the death of Pelham in 1754 Hardwicke obtained for Newcastle the post of prime minister, and for reward was created earl of Hardwicke and Viscount Royston; and when in November 1756 the weakness of the ministry and the threatening aspect of foreign affairs compelled Newcastle to resign, Hardwicke retired with him.

He played an important and disinterested part in negotiating the coalition between Newcastle and Pitt in 1757, when he accepted a seat in Pitt's cabinet without returning to the woolsack.

After the accession of George III.

Hardwicke opposed the ministry of Lord Bute on the peace with France in 1762, and on the cider tax in the following year.

Although for a lengthy period Hardwicke was an influential minister, he was not a statesman of the first rank.

On the other hand he was one of the greatest judges who ever sat on the English bench.

His decisions have been, and ever will continue to be, appealed to as fixing the limits and establishing the principles of the great juridical system called Equity, which now not only in this country and in our colonies, but over the whole extent of the United States of America, regulates property and personal rights more than the ancient common law.

Hardwicke had prepared himself for this great and enduring service to English jurisprudence by study of the historical foundations of the chancellor's equitable jurisdiction, combined with profound1 Lord Campbell, Lives of the Lord Chancellors, v. 43 (London, 1846).

He was styled Viscount Royston from 1754 till 1764, when he succeeded to the earldom.

He represented Reigate (1831) and Cambridgeshire (1832 - 1834) in the House of Commons; and after succeeding to the earldom in 1834, was appointed a lord in waiting by Sir Robert Peel in 1841.

In 1858 he retired from the active list with the rank of rear-admiral, becoming vice-admiral in the same year, and admiral in 1863.


  • Lord Hardwicke is remembered as one of the two authors of the Yorke–Talbot slavery opinion whilst he was a crown law officer in 1729. The opinion was sought to determinate the legality of slavery and Hardwicke (then Philip Yorke) and Charles Talbot opined that it was legal.

    The opinion was disseminated and relied upon widely. Lord Hardwicke would subsequently endorse the views in the opinion in a judicial capacity in Pearne v Lisle (1749) Amb 75, 27 ER 47.

    He rendered valuable service to Walpole's government by his support of the bill for prohibiting loans to foreign powers (1730), of the increase of the army (1732) and of the excise bill (1733).



He was M. P. for- Cambridgeshire, following the Whig traditions of his family. ; but after his succession to the earldom in 1790 he supported Pitt, and took office in 1801 as lord lieutenant of Ireland (1801 - 1806), where he supported Catholic emancipation.


His recorded judgments-which, as Lord Campbell observes, " certainly do come up to every idea we can form of judicial excellence "-combine luminous method of arrangement with elegance and lucidity of language. Nor was the creation of modern English equity Lord Hardwicke's only service to the administration of justice.

Born within two years of the death of Judge Jeffreys his influence was powerful in obliterating the evil traditions of the judicial bench under the Stuart monarchy, and in establishing the modern conception of the duties and demeanour of English judges.

While still at the bar Lord Chesterfield praised his conduct of crown prosecutions as a contrast to the former " bloodhounds of the crown "; and he described Sir Philip Yorke as " naturally humane, moderate and decent. "

On the bench he had complete control over his temper; he was always urbane and decorous and usually dignified.


He sat in the House of Commons as member for Reigate (1741 - 1747), and afterwards for Cambridgeshire; and he kept notes of the debates which were afterwards embodied in Cobbett's Parliamentary History.

In 1741 he became a fellow of the Royal Society


His domestic life' was happy and virtuous.

His chief fault was avarice, which perhaps makes it the more creditable that, though a colleague of Walpole, he was never suspected of corruption.

But he had a keen and steady eye to his own advantage, and hd was said to be jealous of all who might become his rivals for power.

His manners, too, were arrogant.


On 16 May 1719 he married Margaret, daughter of Charles Cocks (by his wife Mary Cocks, sister of Lord Chancellor Somers) and widow of William Lygon (who died without issue in 1716), by whom he had five sons and two daughters.

His eldest daughter, Elizabeth, married Lord Anson; and the second, Margaret, married Sir Gilbert Heathcote.

Philip Yorke

an attorney

Elizabeth Gibbon

Margaret Cocks

Lady Margaret Yorke

Lady Elizabeth Yorke

Hon. John Yorke

Hon. Joseph Yorke

Philip Yorke, Viscount Royston

Hon. Charles Yorke

Hon. James Yorke