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There have been a number of men referred to as Sir John Ernle or Ernley over the centuries. All were members of the gentry family of Ernle of Sussex and Wiltshiremarker.

The earliest to play a nationally significant rôle in English history was Sir John Ernley (or Ernle)(1464/5-1520) who served as Solicitor General from 1507 to 1514, Attorney General from 1509-1518, and Lord Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas from 1519 to 1520 under Henry VII of England and his son Henry VIII of England. His detailed career is to be found in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. He belonged to the Sussex branch of the family, and is often confused with his elder brother, of the same name, John Ernle, The Elder, Esq., of Fosburymarker and Bishop's Canningsmarker, Wiltshire, (b. 1461/2), the ancestor of the Wiltshire branch of the family, including the two men who follow. Both men were sons of a third man of the same name, John Ernle, Esq., of Sidlesham, Sussex (d. 1465), and his wife, Margaret, daughter of Nicholas Morley, Esq., of Glynde Place, Sussex, and his wife, the heiress of Glynde Place, Joan, daughter of John Waleys, of Glynde Place.

The second nationally prominent man to be known as Sir John Ernle, was the Right Honourable Sir John Ernle, P.C. (1620–1697). This Sir John Ernle was Chancellor of the Exchequer of Englandmarker from May 2, 1676 to April 9, 1689. He served during the reigns of King Charles II and King James II. He was named one of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty on September 26, 1677. He was the only member of the plantation committee, which dealt with the American colonies, to attend all the three sessions of July 9, 26, 1677, though he usually attended only a quarter of those meetings. He was named a Privy Councillor in 1679 and was a member of the House of Commonsmarker. A free school for 5 boys founded by Sir John Ernle of Whetham continued in his home county, Wiltshire, until 1829.

According to John Aubrey's Natural History of Wiltshire, a third Sir John Ernle was Sir John Ernle (1647-1686), Knight, of Burytown, Bury Blunsdon (otherwise called Broad Blunsdon), Wiltshire, son of the Chancellor of the Exchequer mentioned above. This Sir John Ernle served as a Royal Navy captain in the Anglo-Dutch Wars, including his command of HMS Dover at the Battle of Solebaymarker.

"Sir John Ernele, great-grandson of Sir John Ernele above sayd, and eldest sonn of Sir John Ernele, late Chancellour of the Exchequer, had the command of a flag-ship, and was eminent in some sea services. He married the daughter and heir of Sir John Kerle [modern Kyrle] of .... [Much Marcle] in Herefordshire."

Oliver Lawson Dick's 1949 edition of John Aubrey's Brief Lives contains a note about this younger Sir John Ernle (p. 350):

ERNLE, SIR JOHN (1647-86), of Exeter College, Oxford, and Lincoln's Inn, sat as MP for Calne.

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