Edward Sugden, 1st Baron St Leonards

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The Lord Saint Leonards
Lord High Chancellor of Ireland
In office
MonarchWilliam IV
Prime MinisterSir Robert Peel, Bt
Preceded byThe Lord Plunket
Succeeded byThe Lord Plunket
In office
Prime MinisterSir Robert Peel, Bt
Preceded byThe Lord Campbell
Succeeded byMaziere Brady
Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain
In office
27 February 1852 – 17 December 1852
Prime MinisterThe Earl of Derby
Preceded byThe Lord Truro
Succeeded byThe Lord Cranworth
Personal details
Edward Burtenshaw Sugden

(1781-02-12)12 February 1781
Died29 January 1875(1875-01-29) (aged 93)
Political party
Winifred Knapp
(m. 1808; died 1861)

Edward Burtenshaw Sugden, 1st Baron Saint Leonards, Kt, DL, PC (Ire), PC (12 February 1781 – 29 January 1875) was a British lawyer, judge and Conservative politician.


Sugden was the son of a high-class hairdresser and wig-maker in Westminster, London. Details of his education are said to be "obscure". It appears that he was mostly self-taught, although he also attended a private school.

His humble origins and rapid rise were frequently remarked upon by his contemporaries: when he first attempted to enter Parliament, he was heckled at hustings for being the son of a barber. Later, Thomas Fowell Buxton would write that "there are few instances in modern times of a rise equal to that of Sir Edward Sugden".

Legal and political career[edit]

After practising for some years as a conveyancer, Sugden was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1807, having already published his well-known Concise and Practical Treatise on the Law of Vendors and Purchasers of Estates. In 1822 he was made King's Counsel. He was returned at different times for various boroughs to the House of Commons, where he made himself prominent by his opposition to the Reform Bill of 1832.[1] He was appointed Solicitor General in 1829, receiving the customary knighthood.[2] As Solicitor-General he took a narrow view of Jewish emancipation, arguing that "They had possessed nothing; they held nothing. They had no civil rights; they never had any."[3]

In 1834–5 Sugden was made Lord Chancellor of Ireland in Peel's first ministry, and was sworn of the Privy Council on 15 December 1834. Sugden was again the Irish Lord Chancellor in Peel's second ministry, serving from 1841 to 1846. In 1849, Sugden published A Treatise on the Law of Property as administered in the House of Lords, in which he criticised the decisions given in the House of Lords when acting as a Court of Appeal. In Lord Derby's first government in 1852 he became Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain and was raised to the peerage as Baron Saint Leonards, of Slaugham in the County of Sussex.[4] In this position he devoted himself with energy and vigour to the reform of the law (note his important dissenting opinion in Jorden v Money (1854) 5 HL Cas 185); Lord Derby on his return to power in 1858 again offered him the same office, which from considerations of health he declined. He continued, however, to take an active interest especially in the legal matters that came before the House of Lords, and bestowed his particular attention on the reform of the law of property.[1] He championed the fulfilment of the will of J. M. W. Turner with regard to his art bequests in 1857–70.


Considerations on the rate of interest, 1816 (Milano, Fondazione Mansutti).

Lord Saint Leonards was the author of various important legal publications, many of which have passed through several editions. Besides the treatise on purchasers already mentioned, they include Powers, Cases decided by the House of Lords, Gilbert on Uses, New Real Property Laws and Handybook of Property Law, Misrepresentations in Campbells Lives of Lyndhurst and Brougham, corrected by St Leonards.[1]


Lord Saint Leonards married Winifred, daughter of John Knapp, in 1808. She died in May 1861, Lord Saint Leonards died at Boyle Farm, Thames Ditton, in January 1875, aged 93, and was succeeded in the barony by his grandson, Edward.

Inheritance dispute[edit]

After his death his will was missing but his daughter, Charlotte Sugden, was able to recollect the contents of a most intricate document, and in the action of Sugden v. Lord Saint Leonards (L.R. 1 P.D. 154) the Court of Chancery accepted her evidence and granted probate, admitting into the probate a paper propounded as containing the provisions of the lost will. This decision established the proposition that the contents of a lost will, that can be proven to have existed, may be proved by secondary evidence, even of a single witness.[1] Charlotte Sugden submitted sworn testimony that Lord Saint Leonards was in the habit of reading his will every night, such that his daughter had to listen to it and over some years memorised it. This decision became a well known fact and narrow precedent in legal circles, departing from provisions of the Wills Act 1837 which remained the principal legislation governing an area shaped by equity and later by common law.[5]


Coat of arms of Edward Sugden, 1st Baron St Leonards
A Leopard's Head erased Sable spotted and gorged with a Baron's Coronet Or
Azure on a Fess Or between in chief two Maidens' Heads couped at the shoulders proper and in base a Leopard's Head erased of the second spotted Sable an Annulet Gules
On either side a Leopard Or pellety and gorged with a Baron's Coronet of the first lined Azure
Labore Vinces[6]


  1. ^ a b c d Chisholm 1911.
  2. ^ "No. 18587". The London Gazette. 23 June 1829. p. 1157.
  3. ^ Hansard, 2nd Series, xxiii, 1330.
  4. ^ "No. 21297". The London Gazette. 2 March 1852. p. 670.
  5. ^ H.E. Malden (editor) (1911). "Parishes: Thames Ditton". A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 21 November 2012.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  6. ^ http://www.cracroftspeerage.co.uk/online/content/saintleonards1852.htm


External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis
With: John Gordon from 1826
Fowell Buxton 1818–1832
Masterton Ure 1813–1832
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Preceded by Member of Parliament for St Mawes
With: George Grenville Wandisford Pigott
Constituency abolished
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Ripon
With: Thomas Pemberton
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Legal offices
Preceded by Solicitor General for England and Wales
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Political offices
Preceded by Lord High Chancellor of Ireland
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Preceded by Lord High Chancellor of Ireland
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Preceded by Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain
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Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron St Leonards
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