George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys

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George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem, PC (15 May 1645 – 18 April 1689), also known as "The Hanging Judge", became notable during the reign of King James II, rising to the position of Lord Chancellor (and serving as Lord High Steward in certain instances).


Early years and education

Jeffreys was born at the family estate of Acton Hall, Wrexham in Wales, the sixth son of John and Margaret Jeffreys. His grandfather, John Jeffreys (died 1622) had been Chief Justice of the Anglesey circuit of the Great Sessions and his father, another John Jeffreys (1608–1691) was a Royalist during the English Civil War and fought for Charles I but was reconciled to The Protectorate and served as a Sheriff in 1655.

His elder brothers were to become people of note; Thomas, later Sir Thomas (knighted in 1686) was to become British Consul in Spain and the Knight of Alcantara, and William became a vicar at Holt, Wales from 1668–1675. His younger brother, James, made a good ecclesiastical career, becoming Vice-Dean of Canterbury in 1685.

George was educated at Shrewsbury School from 1652–1659, his grandfather's old school, where he was periodically tested by Philip Henry, a friend of his mother's. He attended St Paul's School, London from 1659–1661 and Westminster School, London from 1661–1662. He became an undergraduate at Trinity College Cambridge University in 1662, leaving after one year without graduating, and entering the Inner Temple for law in 1663.[1]


In 1667, he had married Sarah Neesham or Needham, by whom he had seven children before her death in 1678. She was the daughter of the poor vicar from Stoke d'Abernon. There's a family legend that Jeffreys planned to marry a daughter of the rich City merchant and had a secret correspondence with her, which Sarah her companion willingly attended; when the merchant discovered the plot he refused his home to Sarah and George did a noble act marrying the poor orphan.[2] They married in the church of All Hallows-by-the-Tower in the City of London.

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