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Portrait of Francis North, 1st Baron Guilford by John Riley, circa 1682

Francis North, 1st Baron Guilford PC KC[1](22 October 1637– 5 September 1685) was the third son of Dudley, 4th Baron North, and Anne Montagu, and was created Baron Guilford in 1683, after becoming Lord Keeper of the Great Seal in succession to Lord Nottingham.[2]


Guilford had been an eminent lawyer, Solicitor-General (1671), Attorney-General (1673), and Chief Justice of the Common Pleas (1675), and in 1679 was made a member of the Council of Thirty and, on its dissolution, of the Cabinet. He was a man of wide culture and a staunch royalist,[2] although he opposed the absolutist tendencies of Sunderland.

Guilford sat as a judge at some of the Popish Plot trials, and like his colleagues has been accused of excessive credulity in believing the absurd lies of Titus Oates and other informers.[3] On the other hand it has been argued that the senior Chief Justice, Sir William Scroggs, so dominated proceedings that the other judges had little influence.[4] If North succumbed to the prevailing hysteria, so did many others: his brother Roger wrote that "it was a time when wise men behaved like stark fools".[5]

Guilford was hostile to Lord Jeffreys, and regarded the future Lord Chief Justice, Sir Robert Wright, as utterly unfit for any judicial office (he was well qualified to assess Wright's ability since Wright as a young barrister had relied on North to write his legal opinions for him).[6] He has been criticised for remaining in office after Wright was made Chief Justice over his vehement objections, especially as it must have been clear that he no longer had any influence over judicial appointments.[7] On the other hand he may have felt that keeping Jeffreys out of the Chancellorship was a sufficient justification for clinging to office.

Guilford was generally respected for integrity, but was sometimes accused of self-importance and a lack of a sense of humour; for example he showed excessive agitation at the ridiculous rumour spread by Sunderland and Jeffreys that he had been seen riding on a rhinoceros.[8] Sunderland hated North with a passion, describing him as the most unfit man who ever held his office: "partial, unreasonable, corrupt, arbitrary and ignorant".[9]

Guilford died at Wroxton, rather unexpectedly, on 5 September 1685, aged only 47; apart perhaps from stress and overwork, the reasons for his early death are unclear. His last words were "it will not do".[10]


In 1672 he married Lady Frances Pope, daughter and co-heiress of Thomas Pope, 3rd Earl of Downe, who inherited the Wroxton estate, and he was succeeded as 2nd baron by his son Francis (1673–1729).[2]


  1. ^ Lundy 2011, p. 3023 § 30223 cites Mosley 2003, p. 1691
  2. ^ a b c Public Domain One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Guilford, Barons and Earls of". Encyclopædia Britannica 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 691.  This cites:
    • Lives of the Norths by the Hon. R. North, edited by A. Jessopp (1890).
    • E. Foss, The Judges of England, vol. vii. (1848–1864).
  3. ^ Kenyon 2000, p. 180.
  4. ^ Kenyon 2000, p. 134.
  5. ^ Kenyon 2000, p. xv.
  6. ^ Milne-Tyte 1989, pp. 82-83.
  7. ^ Milne-Tyte 1989, p. 94.
  8. ^ Milne-Tyte 1989, p. 95.
  9. ^ Kenyon 1992, p. 91.
  10. ^ Milne-Tyte 1989, p. 140.


  • Kenyon, J.P. (1992). Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland (reprint ed.). Longmans Green and Co. 
  • Kenyon, J.P. (2000). The Popish Plot (reissue ed.). Phoenix Press. 
  • Lundy, Darryl (10 April 2011). "Francis North, 1st Baron of Guilford". The Peerage. p. 3023 § 30223.  Endnotes:
    • Mosley, Charles, ed. (2003). Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage 2 (107th in 3 volumes ed.). Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage. p. 1691. 
  • Milne-Tyte, Robert (1989). Bloody Jeffreys- the Hanging Judge. London: André Deutsch. 
Parliament of England
Preceded by
Sir Robert Wright
John Coke
Member of Parliament for Kings Lynn
With: Sir Robert Wright
Succeeded by
Sir Robert Wright
Robert Coke
Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir Edward Turnour
Solicitor General
Succeeded by
Sir William Jones
Preceded by
Sir Heneage Finch
Attorney General
Succeeded by
Sir William Jones
Preceded by
Sir John Vaughan
Chief Justice of the Common Pleas
Succeeded by
Sir Francis Pemberton
Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Nottingham
Lord Keeper
Succeeded by
The Lord Jeffreys
Peerage of England
New creation Baron Guilford
Succeeded by
Francis North

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.