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Sir Robert Joseph Phillimore

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

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SIR ROBERT JOSEPH PHILLIMORE (1810-1885), English judge, third son of a well-known ecclesiastical lawyer, Dr Joseph Phillimore, was born at Whitehall on the 5th of November 1810. Educated at Westminster and Christ Church, Oxford, where a lifelong friendship with W. E. Gladstone began, his first appointment was to a clerkship in the board of control, where he remained from 1832 to 1835. Admitted as an advocate at Doctors' Commons in 1839, he was called to the bar at the Middle Temple in 1841, and rose very rapidly in his profession. He was engaged as counsel in almost every case of importance that came before the admiralty, probate or divorce courts, and became successively master of faculties, commissary of the deans and chapters of St Paul's and Westminster, official of the archdeaconries of Middlesex and London,and chancellor of the dioceses of Chichester and Salisbury. In 1853 he entered parliament as member for Tavistock. A moderate in politics, his energies were devoted to non-party measures, and in 1854 he introduced the bill for allowing viva voce evidence in the ecclesiastical courts. He sat for Tavistock until 1857, when he offered himself as a candidate for Coventry, but was defeated. He was appointed judge of the Cinque Ports in 1855, Queen's Counsel in 1858, and advocategeneral in admiralty in 1862, and succeeded Dr Stephen Lushington (1782-1873) as judge of the court of arches five years later. Here his care, patience and courtesy, combined with unusual lucidity of expression, won general respect. In 1875, in accordance with the Public Worship Regulation Act, he resigned, and was succeeded by Lord Penzance. When the Judicature Act came into force the powers of the admiralty court were transferred to the High Court of Justice, and Sir Robert Phillimore was therefore the last judge of the historic court of the lord high admiral of England. He continued to sit as judge for the new admiralty, probate and divorce division until 1883, when he resigned. He wrote Ecclesiastical Law of the Church of England, a book which still holds its ground, Commentaries on International Law, and a translation of Lessing's Laocoon. He married, in 1844, Charlotte Anne, daughter of John Denison of Ossington Hall, Newark. He was knighted in 1862, and created a baronet in 1881. He died at Shiplake, near Henley-on-Thames, on the 4th of February 1885. His eldest son, Sir Walter G. F. Phillimore (b. 1845), also distinguished as an authority on ecclesiastical and admiralty law, became in 1897 a judge of the high court.

Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Sir Robert Joseph Phillimore'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica.​encyclopedias/​eng/​bri/​s/sir-robert-joseph-phillimore.html. 1910.