Sir John Heale, Serjeant-at-Law

In: Devonshire gleanings from Manningham’s Diary.
ransactions of the Devonshire Association, 1875, Vol VII, pp. 383-384.


W. Pengelly

Prepared by Michael Steer

The author has provided a biographical excerpt, that he calls a ‘Gleaning’ from the "Diary of John Manningham, of the Middle Temple, and of Bradbourne, Kent, Barrister-at-Law, 1602-1603, His paper was presented at the Association’s 1875 Torrington meeting. Sir John Heale, or Hele (1541/2-1608), barrister, was the 4th son of Nicholas Hele of Hele, Devon, and his second wife, Margaret, daughter of Richard Dune (Downe or Down) of Holes-worthy, sixth son overall. Wikipedia suggests c. 1543 but also declares c. 1541 as his year of birth. History of Parliament suggests c. 1542. Both are based on his monument. His year of birth, although estimated, is relatively consistent in source and based on the entry on his monument. A Serjeant-at-Law, commonly known simply as a Serjeant, was a member of an order of barristers. The position of Serjeant-at-Law (servientes ad legem), or Sergeant-Counterwas centuries old; there are writs dating to 1300 which identify them as descended from figures in France before the Norman Conquest. The 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 article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several sources. [Everything within brackets is editorial, All else is from the Diary]

[Sir John Heale, Serjeant-at-Law. Died 4th June in the 66th year of his age. He was buried in Wemberry Church. Mr. Sergeant Heale appears in the following entry only]:-

"Sergeant Heale, since he became the Queens Sergeant, came to the Lord Keeper, desyring that he would heareafter give him more gratious hearinge; otherwise, his clients already beginning to fall from him, he would nowe betake himself to his ease in the country, and leave this troublesome kinde of lyfe. The Lord Keeper made him no other answere but said, yf that were his resolucion he doubted not but the blessing of Issakar would light upon him. Vide Gen. xlix. 14 : ' Issachar shall be a strong asse couching downe betweene two burdens; and he shall see that rest is good; and that the land is pleasaunt, and he shall bowe his shoulders to beare, and he shal be subiect unto tribute. ' " pp. 36-7.

[Mr. Bruce remarks] " Sergeant Hele was one of the legal butts of the time. (See Foss's Judges, VI. 141; Egerton Papers, pp. 315, 391, 399.)"

[Prince says "Serjeant Hele was a person not only of exact skill and judgment in the nicest points of the law, but of great integrity and faithfulness to his client: However he could not escape, in his time, the envy of the world, which follows Vertue as close as the shadow doth the body; if therefore some have endeavoured to load his memory with any undecent or uncharitable reflections, that of Solomon may excuse him, 'Who can stand before envy ?"' ("Worthies of Devon," p. 486.)]