Thomas Bryan, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas

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Thomas Bryan, II

Also Known As: "Thomas Brien", "Thomas Brian", "Thomas Brienne", "Thomas de Bryan", "Thomas Bryen", "Sir Thomas Bryan Chief Justice"
Birthplace: Cheddington, Buckinghamshire, England
Death: Died in Ireland
Immediate Family:

Son of Edmund Bryan, I and Alice Bures Bryan
Husband of Margaret Bryan
Father of Joan Bryan,; Elizabeth de Bryan; Sir Thomas Bryan, II, Kt. and Edmund Bryan, II

Occupation: Chief Justice of Common Pleas, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas Court Ireland., Knight’s Serjeant and Knight of the Bath. Chief Justice of the common plea’s.
Managed by: Ann Margrethe Nilsen
Last Updated:

About Thomas Bryan, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas

Sir Thomas Bryan ("King's Serjeant" & "Knight of the Bath") was a British justice born to common blood, most likely to the son of John Bryan, who was a fishmonger. Thomas assumed the arms of Guy Bryan, Baron when he became a person of some importance. It is suggested that Thomas Bryan, KS, KB went to university before beginning legal studies in the 1440s, becoming a student at Gray's Inn, progressing rapidly; by 1456 he was already a Bencher (or Master of the Bench is a senior member of an Inn of Court in England and Wales, and is an office for life once elected) and was acting as a Feoffee for the Inn. He was at this point serving as legal counsel for various London companies, including as a steward for St Bartholomew's Hospital. He was appointed "Common Serjeant of London"(full title The Serjeant-at-Law in the Common Hall is an ancient British legal office and is the second most senior permanent judge of the Central Criminal Court after the Recorder of London, acting as deputy to that office, and sitting as a judge in the trial of criminal offences). in 1460, a position he held until he was made a "Serjeant-at-law" in 1463, followed by a further promotion to "King's Serjeant" in 1470. After the accession of Edward IV of England" in 1471 Bryan was made "Chief Justice of the Common Pleas", and was appointed a "Knight of the Bath" in 1475. Bryan served as Chief Justice of the Common Pleas from 1471 for 29 years until his death in 1500.

A Feoffee is a trustee who holds a fief (or "fee"), or estate in land, for the use of a beneficial owner. The practice of granting legal seizin in one's land-holdings ("holdings" as only the king himself "owned" land by his allodial title) to a group of trusted friends or relatives or other allies whilst retaining use of the lands, began to be widespread by about 1375. The purpose of such an action was two-fold: Akin to modern tax-avoidance, it was a legal loop-hole to avoid the suffering of the customary feudal incidents, namely the payment of feudal relief on an inheritance, the temporary loss of control of a fiefdom through wardship where the landholder was under the age of majority of 21, and the forcible marriage of a young heiress. Secondly, the land-holder was able effectively to bequeath his land to whomsoever he wished, and was no longer bound by the custom of primogeniture where the eldest son alone had the right, on payment of the appropriate feudal relief, to inherit.

The Serjeants-at-Law (SL) was an order of barristers at the English bar. Serjeants were the oldest formally created order in England, having been brought into existence as a body by Henry II. The order rose during the 16th century as a small, elite group of lawyers who took much of the work in the central common law courts. The Serjeants had for many centuries exclusive jurisdiction over the Court of Common Pleas, being the only lawyers allowed to argue a case there.

A King's Serjeant was a Serjeant-at-Law appointed to serve the Crown as a legal adviser to the monarch and their government in the same way as the Attorney-General for England and Wales. The King's Serjeant (who had the postnominal KS, or QS during the reign of a female monarch) would represent the Crown in court, acting as prosecutors in criminal cases and representatives in civil ones, and would have higher powers and ranking in the lower courts than the Attorney or Solicitor General. King's Serjeants also worked as legal advisers in the House of Lords, and were not allowed to act in cases against the Crown or do anything that would harm it.

The Chief Justice of Common Pleas was the head of the Court of Common Pleas, also known as the Common Bench or Common Place, the second-highest common law court in the English legal system until 1875.

In the Middle Ages, knighthood was often conferred with elaborate ceremonies involving the knight-to-be taking a bath (possibly symbolic of spiritual purification), during which he was instructed in the duties of knighthood by more senior knights. He was then put to bed to dry. Clothed in a special robe, he was led with music to the chapel where he spent the night in a vigil. At dawn he made confession and attended Mass, then retired to his bed to sleep until it was fully daylight. He was then brought before the King, who after instructing two senior knights to buckle the spurs to the knight-elect's heels, fastened a belt around his waist, then struck him on the neck (with either a hand or a sword), thus making him a knight.

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Thomas Bryan, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas's Timeline

June 1, 1438
Cheddington, Buckinghamshire, England
Age 24
Cheddington, Buckinghamshire, , England
Age 24
Cheddington, Buckinghamshire, , England
June 1, 1464
Age 26
Cheddington, Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire, England
Age 42
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England
December 11, 1500
Age 62
Lord Chief Justice