Frederic Thesiger

Frederic Thesiger

British lawyer and Conservative politician
Date of Birth: 25.04.1794
Country: Great Britain

  1. Biography of Frederick Thesiger
  2. Early Life and Career
  3. Legal Career and Political Life
  4. Later Life and Legacy

Biography of Frederick Thesiger

Frederick Thesiger was a British lawyer and conservative politician, a member of the Privy Council of Great Britain, a Queen's Counsel, and a member of The Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge. He served as the Lord Chancellor of Great Britain twice. Thesiger was born in London on April 25, 1794, as the third son of Charles Thesiger, a customs controller in St Vincent, West Indies, and his wife Mary Anne Thesiger. His paternal grandfather, John Andrew Thesiger, was born in Saxony but immigrated to England and became the secretary to Lord Rockingham, who served as the country's Prime Minister twice. Thesiger's uncle, also Sir Frederick Thesiger, served in the navy and was an aide-de-camp to Lord Nelson in the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801.

Early Life and Career

Initially, Thesiger prepared for a career in the navy and served as a midshipman during the second bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807. Around the same time, his brother passed away, making Thesiger the sole heir to valuable real estate in the West Indies. It was decided that he should leave the navy and study law to later open a practice in the West Indies and personally manage his property. In 1813, Thesiger entered Gray's Inn, a corporation that trained lawyers, and in November 1818, he was called to the bar. He soon established a good reputation during the Surrey sessions and gained the right to practice in court. However, an eruption of a volcano destroyed his estate in the West Indies, dimming the prospect of moving there.

Legal Career and Political Life

In 1824, Frederick Thesiger distinguished himself by defending Joseph Hunt in a high-profile murder trial of William Weare. Although his client was found guilty of complicity, Thesiger managed to replace the death penalty with deportation to the Australian colonies, where Hunt lived a long and prosperous life. Eight years later, during an assize court session in Chelmsford, he won a difficult eviction case after three trials, which explains why, when Thesiger was elevated to the peerage, he received the title Baron Chelmsford of the County of Essex.

In 1834, he became a Queen's Counsel, and in 1840, he was elected as a Member of Parliament for Woodstock. In 1844, he became the Solicitor General but lost his seat for Woodstock and had to find another one for Abingdon after losing the support of the Duke of Marlborough. In 1845, Thesiger became the Attorney General and held the position until the fall of Robert Peel's government on July 3, 1846.

Thesiger remained in parliament, changing his constituency in 1852 and becoming a Member of Parliament for Stamford. During this period, he practiced law extensively and was involved in several high-profile cases that received widespread attention and media coverage, including the Samuel Swynfen inheritance case and the criminal prosecution of Cardinal John Henry Newman for defamation against Giacinto Achilli.

Later Life and Legacy

When Lord Derby became Prime Minister for the second time in 1858, Thesiger was appointed Lord Chancellor directly from his legal career. He served as Lord Chancellor again in 1866-1867 under Derby's government.

In 1868, Lord Derby resigned, and his successor Benjamin Disraeli wanted to appoint another politician, Lord Hugh Cairns, as Lord Chancellor. Thesiger married Anna Maria, the daughter of William Tinling, in 1822. They had four sons and three daughters. His eldest son, also Frederick, inherited the title and pursued a military career. His second son, Charles Wemyss Thesiger (1831–1903), rose to the rank of Lieutenant General. His third son, Alfred Henry Thesiger (1838-1880), became a lawyer and judge. His daughter, Julia Selina Thesiger (1833–1904), married Sir John Eardley Wilmot Inglis (1814–1862), who commanded British forces during the Siege of Lucknow in 1857. Julia later described her experiences during the siege in her diary. Lady Chelmsford passed away in April 1875 at the age of 75, and Baron Chelmsford survived her by three years, passing away on October 5, 1878, in London at the age of 84.