The history of the Middle Temple is a long and fascinating one. Templars held the estate of the Temple from the twelfth century until their suppression in the early fourteenth century; thereafter the lawyers came. The magnificent Tudor Hall of the Middle Temple was completed in 1574. By Elizabethan times the Inns of Court were known colloquially as the Third University of England. Many persons other than lawyers became members of Middle Temple - among them Sir Walter Raleigh, Elias Ashmole, Edward Hyde (Earl of Clarendon), William Congreve, Henry Fielding, Edmund Burke, William Cowper and William Makepeace Thackeray. Another Middle Templar and explorer was Bartholomew Gosnold, discoverer of Cape Cod, who named a nearby island Martha's Vineyard in honour of his six-year-old daughter. From those beginnings grew the thirteen American colonies, and in due course five Middle Templars signed the American Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776. Moreover, the US Constitution was drafted by a committee chaired by yet another Middle Templar, John Rutledge, who, along with six other Middle Templars, was among its 39 original signatories.The story of the Inn in modern times has seen it become one of the world's pre-eminent centres for legal education and practice. This history of the Middle Temple, written by a team of eminent lawyers and legal historians, is the product of original research in the archives of the Middle Temple and will be a treasure trove of information about the Inn, its diverse history and influence.
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About the Author
Richard Havery QC is a Bencher of the Inn and a retired judge of the Technology and Construction Court.
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HERE IS ITS AMAZING HISTORY DATING FROM THE TWELFTH CENTURY. Who would have thought it? With its long and illustrious (sometimes notorious) history, The Middle Temple is certainly known mainly to the worldwide legal fraternity - at least the English speaking part of it - as one of the world's pre-eminent centres for legal education and practice. Yet, before this quite fascinating History of the Middle Temple was published in 2011 few people, not even that many lawyers, knew how many of England's movers and shakers, who changed English history, not mention American history, for better or worse, were members of this Inn. Inn? Yes, the Middle Temple is one of the four Inns of Court situated in that part of central London known to some as 'legal London'. Dating from the twelfth century, the Middle Temple, with its associations with the Knights Templar, boasts among other beauties, a Tudor Hall competed in 1574, when Shakespeare was about ten years old. The first performance of his Twelfth Night was given here. Not surprisingly the atmosphere is collegiate, reminiscent of an Oxford college. The Middle Temple and its neighbouring Inns, Inner Temple, and Gray's and Lincoln's Inns, offer green and tranquil oases of contemplation and legal learning quite secluded from the nearby cacophony of London streets. In Elizabethan times, apparently, the Inns of Court were known colloquially as 'the Third University of England.' Understandably, the Middle Temple attracted many luminaries to its membership. There was a time when you didn't have to be a lawyer or law student to join. Among the most prominent were - and here is just a short list - Sir Walter Raleigh, William Congreve, Henry Fielding, Edmund Burke, William Cowper and William Makepeace Thackeray. (One wonders if he wrote large chunks of Vanity Fair sitting under a tree in the Middle Temple gardens.) Those of you with American connections will probably be somewhat astounded to learn that five Middle Templars signed the Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776. Another Middle Templar, John Rutledge chaired the committee which drafted the United States Constitution, along with six other Middle Templars who were among its 39 original signatories. John Collyer's most illuminating chapter on 'The American Connection ' attempts to explain exactly how the Middle Temple came to be connected so closely with such pivotal events and institutions in American history. Note, for example, the story of Sir Edwin Sandys (1561-1629) who's Virginia Charters gave to the Virginia colonists 'all the liberties, franchises and immunities of English subjects.' Predictably, the libertarian and outspoken Sir Edwin was one of those upholders of freedom of speech and of conscience who ended up in front of the Star Chamber for his egalitarian views, but who, because of his popularity was soon released. Lord Judge, the current Lord Chief Justice has called this 'a monumental work' and so it is. Like the most reliable histories, it is written on the basis of research gleaned from the study of original sources. It's eminent and certainly diligent contributors have done precisely that.