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Sir John Bankes, portrait by Gilbert Jackson.
Sir John Bankes (1589–28 December 1644) was Attorney General and Chief Justice to King Charles I of England during the English Civil War. He was one of the most prominent members of the Bankes family of Dorsetmarker. Corfe Castle, his family seat was destroyed during a long siege, in which his wife became known as Brave Dame Mary.

Early life

Sir John was admitted a commoner of Queens College, Oxford, in 1604, at 15 years of age, but left the university before he took a degree, and settled in Gray's Inn, where he distinguished himself by his uncommon application to the study of the law, in which he acquired great eminence and reputation. He was Lent reader and treasurer to that society, and received the honour of knighthood. He was also appointed attorney to Prince Charles. In September 1634 he became attorney-general to the King, which situation he held during the litigation of Mr. Hampden's famous cause of ship money; and his argument upon that great question is still extant.

Corfe Castle

Sir John Bankes purchased Corfe Castlemarker with all its manors, rights, and privileges in 1635 from the Lady Elizabeth Coke, who was the first of this family to settle in the county of Dorset. His ancestors for many generations held property in and near Keswickmarker in Cumberlandmarker. The Title deeds and grants from the Crown of the black lead mine at Borrowdale date back as far as Henry VI. and Edward IV and were again renewed under the seal of James I.

Lord Chief Justice and death

In January 1640 he was made Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and afterwards followed his majesty from Westminster to Yorkmarker; having left his lady Mary Bankes to defend Corfe Castle, which she did with great courage, until it was betrayed into the hands of the rebels. His name is signed to the engagement with the lords at York, in June 1642. In the same year he was sworn of the privy council, and the degree of LL.D. conferred upon him at Oxfordmarker, where he died on 28 December 1644, aged 55, and was buried in the cathedral of Christ Church, where is a monument to his memory. In 1644, he was at first mentioned in the list of those persons meant to be excepted out of the general pardon; his name was afterwards struck out of that list, but he was notwithstanding impeached of high treason. His estates and property however passed to his eldest son Sir Ralph Bankes, who became an MP and built the estate of Kingston Lacymarker.


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