Wilhelm Otto Adolf Julius Danckwerts

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About Wilhelm Otto Adolf Julius Danckwerts

William Otto Adolph Julius Danckwerts

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Vanity Fair caricature, 1898William Otto Adolph Julius Danckwerts KC (1853 – April 25, 1914) was a noted British lawyer.

He was born Wilhelm Otto Adolf Julius in Heidelberg, Germany but emigrated to South Africa with his parents in 1857.

He was educated at the school of the Reverend Robert Templeton in the village of Bedford in the eastern Cape Colony, and then at Gill College. He entered Peterhouse, Cambridge in 1873, graduating with a B.A. in 1877. He studied law at the Inner Temple, was called to the bar in 1878, and became King's Counsel in 1900.

Early in his career, he acted for the prosecution in the cause célèbre of R v Dudley and Stephens.

He was counsel to Commissioners of Works and Public Buildings, and junior counsel to the Inland Revenue from 1895 to 1900.

Although he rose to the top of his profession and earned a high income for his day (£20,000 a year), he never became a judge.


He was the eldest son of Adolph Victor Danckwertz (also known as Viktor Adolf Danckwerts), a German doctor living in Somerset East, South Africa.

Adolph Danckwerts was one of four doctors attached to the British German Legion which was recruited for service in the Crimean War. At the end of that war many of these men were resettled in the Cape Colony.[1] [2]

He married Caroline Mary Lowther. His son Sir Harold Otto Danckwerts (1888–1978) became a lawyer, judge and Privy Counsellor; another son, Rear-Admiral Victor Hilary Danckwerts (1890–1944)[3], was Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Fleet and the father of his grandson Peter Victor Danckwerts, chemical engineer and George Cross recipient.


^ Jane McSporran. "Great achievers educated at a small East Cape village school". http://www.genesreunited.co.uk/boards.page/board/general_topics/thread/1140724. Retrieved 2011-03-18.

^ "William Otto DANCKWERTS - From Barnyard to London Bar", an article by Mr. Justice Leslie Blackwell in "Personality", 26th February, 1970, cited in Jane McSporran, "Great achievers educated at a small East Cape village".

^ "Royal Navy (RN) Officers 1939-1945: D'Aet to Davi". World War II unit histories & officers. http://www.unithistories.com/officers/RN_officersD.html. Retrieved 2011-03-18.

(obituary) T. A. Walker, 542; The Times, Apr. 27, 1914, cited in Alumni Cantabrigienses. [edit] External links Foster, Joseph (1885). "Danckwerts, William Otto Adolph Julius". Men-at-the-Bar (second ed.). London: Hazell, Watson, and Viney. p. 113.


Venn, J.; Venn, J. A., eds. (1922–1958). "Danckwaerts [Danckwerts], Wilhelmotto Adolph Julius". Alumni Cantabrigienses (10 vols) (online ed.). Cambridge University Press


William Otto Adolph Julius Danckwerts

Jane McSporran. "Great achievers educated at a small East Cape village school".

When Doctor DANCKWERTS settled in a practice in Somerset East, his son William Otto went to Templeton's school in Bedford. At the age of seventeen he went to the diamond fields in Kimberley. He was well suited to the life - apparently able to shoot a green parrot on the wing, and with a stock whip flick the ear of an ox in the leading span of a team. William was, however, not destined for the life of a farmer or a diamond field overseer, and at the age of eighteen he went to Cambridge, where he entered Peterhouse College.

In spite of his rural colonial background he graduated with Honours in Mathematics and took his M.A. a few years later. He was called to the English Bar in 1878, where, though lacking influence and expectations, he attained a position of leadership. Even in those early days he was known for his quickness of temper and irritable disposition. ASQUITH, with whom he had studied, said of him in later years that every man who aspired to succeed at the Bar had sooner or later to earn "the danger, the multiform and manifold danger of an encounter with DANCKWERTS".

DANCKWERTS. Q.C., although he came to earn a large income for his times - twenty thousand pounds a year - and although he rose to the very top of his profession and achieved the highest professional honours, due to his fiery temper and pugnacity, frequently quarrelling with both his adversaries in court and with the Bench, never actually became a Judge.

His struggles for leadership of the London Bar included involvement in some notable cases, in particular his appearance for the prosecution in one of the most remarkable cases ever heard in England. Three men and a boy had been cast adrift from a yacht in the South Atlantic without food and water. At last in the very extremity of hunger and on the point of death, they decided to kill the weakest, the cabin boy, and fed on his body.

The story leaked out when the men were rescued and returned to England, and DANCKWERTS had to go to Exeter to prosecute the three survivors for murder. He received threats of being lynched, as the cabin boy came from a village near Exeter, but he was undeterred. The case was without precedent, and although DANCKWERTS allowed one of the men to turn informer and give evidence against the other two, the question arose, for the first time in English law, whether it is lawful to kill in order to live, and it was argued, on behalf of the accused, that killing was no murder if done in self-protection.

The case eventually appeared before a full Court in London, and the judges ruled that it is never lawful to take life for one's own benefit. The two men were convicted of murder, but reprieved after only six months in prison.

William Otto died in 1914 at the age of sixty. He had married Caroline Mary LOWTHER, the daughter of General William LOWTHER and Amelia PAINTER, who was the sister of William Otto's father. Dr Viktor DANCKWERTS' second wife, Emily PAINTER, whom he had married after the death of his German born wife Ida Sophia. Emily and Amelia were daughters of Richard Joseph PAINTER who had come to the Cape Colony in 1820 at the age of seventeen years, and later bought the farm "Yellowwood Trees" between Adelaide and Fort Beaufort.

William and Caroline's son Harold was of equal ability to his father, but of milder disposition. He became a judge - Lord Justice DANCKWERTS, a member of the Privy Council and the English Court of Appeal.

Both father and son were men of distinction but and received a widely differing early education - the father educated at the Templeton School in the village of Bedford in the Eastern Cape Colony, and the son at Eton.

The Reverend Robert TEMPLETON must indeed have been a remarkable educator.

Ref: 1 "William Otto DANCKWERTS - From Barnyard to London Bar", an article by Mr.Justice Leslie Blackwell in "Personality". 26th February, 1970. 2. Dictionary of South African Biography, Vol.1.

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Wilhelm Otto Adolf Julius Danckwerts's Timeline

August 30, 1853
Heidelberg, Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
February 23, 1888
Age 34
January 11, 1890
Age 36
Greater London, UK
January 24, 1891
Age 37
April 25, 1914
Age 60
England, United Kingdom