William Peryam

William Peryam

Sir William Peryam (1534 – 9 October1604) was an English judge who, in 1593, rose to the top position of Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I.

William Peryam was born in Exeter, the eldest son of John Peryam, twice mayor of Exeter, and his wife Elizabeth, a daughter and co-heir of Robert Hone of Ottery. Through his mother's sister, Joan Bodley nee Hone, Peryam was cousin to Sir Thomas Bodley.

Like the Bodleys, the Peryams were early adherents of Protestantism and were also threatened in the time of Marian persecution. Under Elizabeth however, the family thrived, with William eventually achieving eminence in law and his younger brother John entering Parliament three times and becoming Mayor of Exeter.

Young William was first educated in Exeter and then at Exeter College, Oxford where on 25 April 1551 he was elected fellow. He resigned his fellowship some months later and went to London where he eventually studied law at the Middle Temple, being called to the bar in 1565. A slight wobble in his career occurred in 1568 when, after being summoned to Ireland by Sir Peter Carew to help him prosecute an ultimately successful claim to an Irish barony, Peryam received an unexpected appointment as judge under the president of Munster, Sir John Pollard. By writing to Sir William Cecil and earnestly petitioning the Privy Council, mentioning his wife and children and delicate state of health, Peryam seems to have been able to avoid the transfer to Ireland altogether. Thereafter his rise through the legal ranks was steady—in 1575 he became serjeant-at-law for the Michaelmas term, and on 13 February 1581, a Judge of the Common Pleas. The ultimate honor came in January 1593, when he was promoted to Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, and knighted.

The year of William Peryam's birth is known to history but, as was common in the 16th century, the day and month went unrecorded. His death, in the year of his seventieth birthday, at his house at Little Fulford near Crediton in Devon was, however, well noted. He had served at the Exchequer for eleven years and nine months, and his funeral and burial at Little Fulford church appears to have been a significant event, as it was attended not only by "the gentry, clergy, and others in these parts; but also with heralds at arms, marshalling all according to their rank and place." (Prince, John. (1701). "The Worthies of Devon")

Peryam was married three times. By his first wife, Margery Holcot, he had no issue. By his second wife, Anne Parker, he had four daughters, all of whom made advantageous marriages to west country gentry. His third wife was Elizabeth Bacon, eldest half-sister of Sir Francis Bacon, but as this was a late marriage it was also childless. His widow survived him by seventeen years.

:"..Queen Elizabeth of blessed memory, as a signal testimony of her favour and his worth, was pleased to confer upon him the honour of knighthood: but not before he had been twelve years a judge; so cautious was that wise princess in conferring titles, lest they should become cheap and contemptible." (Prince, John. (1701). "The Worthies of Devon")

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