Sir Samuel Romilly

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Samuel Romilly

Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Son of Peter Romilly and Margaret Romilly
Husband of Anne Romilly
Father of John Romilly, 1st Baron Romilly, PC; Charles Romilly; William Romilly; Henry Romilly; Edward Romilly and 2 others
Brother of Thomas Peter Romilly and Catherine Roget

Managed by: Michael Lawrence Rhodes
Last Updated:

About Sir Samuel Romilly

Sir Samuel Romilly (1 March 1757 – 2 November 1818), was a British legal reformer.

Background and education

Romilly was born in Frith Street, Soho, London, the second son of Peter Romilly, a watchmaker and jeweller. His grandfather had emigrated from Montpellier after the revocation of the edict of Nantes, and had married Margaret Garnault, a Huguenot refugee like himself, but of a far wealthier family. Samuel served for a time in his father's shop; he was well-educated, becoming a good classical scholar and particularly conversant with French literature. A legacy of £2000 from one of his mother's relations led to his being articled to a solicitor and clerk in chancery with the idea of qualifying himself to purchase the office of one of the six clerks in chancery.

Legal career

In 1778, however, Romilly determined to go to the bar, and entered himself at Gray's Inn. He went to Geneva in 1781, where he made the acquaintance of the chief democratic leaders, including Étienne Dumont. Called to the bar in 1783, he went the midland circuit, but was chiefly occupied with chancery practice. On the publication of Martin Madan's Thoughts on Executive Justice, advocating the increase of capital punishments, he at once wrote and published in 1786 Observations on Madan's book.

Of more general interest is his intimacy with the great Honoré Mirabeau, to whom he was introduced in 1784. Mirabeau saw him daily for a long time and introduced him to Lord Lansdowne, who highly appreciated him, and, when Mirabeau became a political leader, it was to Romilly that he applied for an account of the procedure used in the British House of Commons.

He visited Paris in 1789, and studied the course of the Revolution there; and in 1790 he published his Thoughts on the Probable Influence of the Late Revolution in France upon Great Britain, a work of great power. His practice at the chancery bar continued largely to increase, and in 1800 he was made a King's Counsel. In 1805 he was appointed chancellor of the county palatine of Durham. Political career

Memoirs of Sir Samuel Romilly, 1840.

Romilly's great abilities were thoroughly recognized by the Whig party, to which he attached himself; and in 1806, on the accession of the "Ministry of All the Talents" to office, he was offered the post of Solicitor General, although he had never sat in the House of Commons. He accepted the office, and was knighted and brought into parliament for Queenborough. He went out of office with the government, but remained in the House of Commons, sitting successively for Horsham, Wareham and Arundel.

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Sir Samuel Romilly's Timeline

March 1, 1757
Age 40
January 10, 1802
Age 44
Age 46
October 21, 1805
Age 48
Age 50
March 21, 1810
Age 53
November 2, 1818
Age 61