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Robert Henley, 1st Earl of Northington

Robert Henley, 1st Earl of Northington (c. 1708 - 14 January 1772), Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, was the second son of Anthony Henley, a member of a well-to-do family in Hampshire, who was a Whig member of parliament, and a well-known wit and writer. Robert was educated at Westminster School and St Johns College, Oxford; and after gaining a fellowship at All Souls he was called to the bar in 1732. In 1747 he was elected member of parliament for Bath, of which borough he became recorder in 1751. He acquired a lucrative practice at the bar, and in 1756 was appointed Attorney-General. In the following year he was promoted to the office of Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, being the last person so designated. For three years Henley, though still a commoner, presided over the House of Lords in virtue of his office; but in 1760 he was created Baron Henley of Grainge in the county of Southampton. The delay in raising him to the peerage was due to the hostility of George II, who resented Henley's former support of the Prince of Wales's faction, known as the Leicester House party; and it was in order that he might preside as Lord High Steward at the trial of Earl Ferrers for murder in 1760 that he then received his patent. On the accession of George III the office of Lord Chancellor was conferred on Henley, and in 1764 he was created Viscount Henley and Earl of Northington. In 1765 he presided at the trial of Lord Byron for killing William Chaworth in a duel. Northington, who was a member of the group known as the King's Friends, was instrumental in procuring the dismissal of the Marquess of Rockingham and the recall of Pitt to office in 1766, and he himself joined the government as Lord President of the Council, Lord Camden becoming chancellor. He resigned office in 1767, and died at his residence in Hampshire on 14 January 1772. He married, in 1743, Jane, daughter of Sir John Huband of Ipsley, Warwickshire, by whom he had three sons and five daughters.