Imágenes de páginas

Lecture lished upon the system which, making allowance for subsequent II.

changes in the manners and habits of men, prevails at the present day.” — (Vol. v., p. 110.) ?




This was

Mr. B. Coulson Robinson, who became a serjeant in 1865, published in 1889 a book entitled “Bench and Bar: Reminiscences of One of the Last of an Ancient Race.” written, it will be observed, after the Statute of 1875 made it no longer necessary that a common-law judge should be a serjeant at the time of his appointment, when it was understood that no more new serjeants wo be created, after the sale of Serjeants' Inn, and when there were “only eleven serjeants either on the bench or retired from it, and six who are still [1889] supposed to be practising serjeants, although most of them have ceased to follow up the profession” (p. 298); and hence his reference to himself as “ One of the last of an Ancient Race.” The following concise relation concerning the present and former status of a serjeant-at-law, the difference between a serjeant and a Queen's counsel, the ceremonial of taking the coif, the final sale of the Serjeants' Inn, and the practical extinction of the Order of the Coif, is extracted from it (chaps. xxii., xxiii.): –

“ It may not be out of place to describe the process of a barrister's conversion into a serjeant-at-law, and the status he thus occupies in the profession. It will not be long before there will exist no living representative of the race."

Status of serjeant. at-ia v

1 The sixteenth century was the real period when the Inns of Court were first regularly constituted, there being no books or records or reliable chronicles showing that there were before that period, even in the greater Inns, either governors, treasurers, or readers, — or indeed any regular order of government.” – Pulling, “Order of the Coif," 1884, p. 155.


“ The position of serjeant-at-law is undoubtedly the oldest, Note and was, until comparatively recent times, the very highest dignity a barrister could achieve below that of a judge. It dates from about the iniddle of the thirteenth century. Until the year 1875, the judges were invariably selected from that rank; and so strictly was the rule adhered to that even a Queen's counsel, who had spent half his life under that title, was obliged, on his appointment as judge, to become a serjeant perhaps the day before he was sworn in as a member of the bench.

“ The little round black patch on the top of the wig distinguishes a serjeant from the other members of the bar.” (pp. 290, 291.) "The position of Queen's counsel is of comparatively mod- of Queen's

counsel. ern date.

The first was Lord Bacon, who is always so called, although he never bore that title, – but his position had nothing to do with the rank as it at present exists. He acted merely as the Queen's private adviser, while the Attorney and Soli citor General were the advisers of the Government. No other appointment of Queen's or King's counsel was made for many years, until Sir Francis North (afterwards Lord Guildford) was so created in the reign of Charles II.; and from that period the title seems to have grown, and to have gradually assumed its present significance. The Queen's counsel will soon have it all their own way, for it is now resolved that no fresh serjeants are to be appointed, although the existing ones maintain the same rank and privileges they have always enjoyed. " The cause of their decline from their high estate originated Decline of

order of in the throwing open the Court of Common Pleas to the whole

serjeants. bar indiscriminately. Until the year 1846, — with a small interval from 1834 to 1839, that court was entirely monopolized by the serjeants. No other member of the bar could be heard within its precincts, although the serjeants were allowed to practise in them all. But the Common Pleas was considered to be their peculiar region, and when they (the serjeants] went into the Queen's Bench or the Exchequer they had to sit in the back rows, unless indeed they had a patent of precedence. By an order made, however, by Chief-Justice Cockburn, some time before I became a serjeant (1865], they obtained the privilege of sitting in the front one, in all the courts.

“I am often asked what is the difference between a Queen's



Difference between a Queen's counsel and a serjeant.

counsel and a serjeant. In the first place, I may state that the former is created by patent and the latter by writ under the Great Seal. As to rank, there is no difference whatever between a serjeant who has obtained a patent of precedence and a Queen's counsel; but with regard to serjeants who have no patent it is otherwise. Theirs is an intermediate grade between Her Majesty's counsel and the rest of the bar; so that every newly created Queen's counsel takes precedence of an unpatented serjeant, however long he may have worn the coif. The Queen's counsel always appear in black silk gowns, in and out of term. The serjeant has several additional robes: black cloth in term time, except on saints' days when purple cloth is worn, while black silk was the robe out of term at nisi prius, — which means trial before a jury. A scarlet gown is only worn by them at the churching of the judges at St. Paul's in Trinity term and at the Guildhall banquet, at the latter of which occasions some of them had always the privilege of attending with the judges. When I became a serjeant [1865), it was de rigueur that these habiliments should be worn at the prescribed times; but shortly afterwards the rule was gradually disregarded, and latterly black silk has been our only wear in court.

Another distinction is, that the serjeant holds a rank quite independent of the profession, while a Queen's counsel has no recognized position out of it, so that, while in general society a serjeant would rank above a Queen's counsel, in matters relating to the profession he would rank below him, --- unless he had a patent of precedence; then their relative positions would depend on the date of their respective appointments. And, again, the serjeants are also quite independent of the sovereign, while, as I have said before, the Queen's counsel are always assumed to be in the service of Her Majesty, as her private advisers, though I need hardly say they are very seldom honored with her confidence. 1 When I was called to the bar there were sixty

1 “The serjeant differs in many important respects from the King's counsel. He has to take a very remarkable and ample oath, by which he binds himself to plead for all, however humble their condition.” Woolrych, "Lives of Eminent Serjeants-at-Law,” vol. i., Introduction, p. 27, where the form of the oath is given. See also form of oath: Foss, vol. i., p. 24 ; Preface to 10 Coke Reports, p. xxii. Form of writ: Foss, vol. i., p 24; 1b, vol. iv., p. 21 ; Manning, “Serviens ad Legem,” p. 33. Coif and dress: Foss, vol. i, p. 25 ; Ib , vol. iv., p. 243; Pulling, passim and illustrations. Rings: Foss, vol. iv., p. 242; ante, pp. 53, 54, and note.

als on crea

three Queen's counsel; there are now about three hundred.” Note

B. (pp. 293–296.)

“ The power of conferring the coif rested — in fact, still exists with the Lord Chancellor, but he never exercises it except at the recommendation of the chief-justice of the Common Pleas.” (p. 300.)

“On the creation of a serjeant, a number of gold rings (about Ceremoni. twenty-eight) had to be bestowed by him on several persons of

tion of a different grades, — the Queen, the Chancellor, the judges, and I serjeantthink the masters of the Common Pleas. Even the chief usher at-law. of that court received one, but it dwindled down to a hoop of not much greater breadth than a curtain ring and about one tenth of its thickness. Her Majesty's ring was a very massive affair, – nearly an inch long, — with enamel in the middle and massive gold ends; on the former was engraved, as indeed was the case with all of them, a motto specially chosen for the occasion. The Chancellor's and the judge's rings were about one third of an inch in breadth, but luckily for me not very thick, as I had to pay for them. The greater number I never saw, for the goldsmith always undertook to distribute the gifts to those who by immemorial custom had a claim to them. It was only the Queen’s, the Lord Chancellor's and the colt's of which we had personal inspection. I may state that the colt' is generally a young professional friend, who attends the new serjeant on his being sworn in before the Lord Chancellor, and who is an ancient and necessary appendage to the ceremony. He walks in (pone) behind his principal, and it is said that the term 'colt' is merely a parody on that Latin word.

6. The ceremonial itself is very simple. You go in full official dress with your colt before the Chancellor in his private room, where the Queen's writ conferring the rank upon you is read. The oath of allegiance is then administered by the Chancellor; after which you kneel down before him, and he pins the coif (consisting of a patch of black silk with a white crimped border) on the top of your wig, and you become a serjeantat-law. You are henceforth addressed by the judges who are serjeants as ' brother, but the relationship ends there; we never take the same liberty. In court we address them as

my lord,' and in private as “judge.'

“On rising from your knees and receiving the congratula

[ocr errors]




tions of the Lord Chancellor, the colt advances and presents the Queen's ring to the Chancellor, requesting him to beg Her Majesty's acceptance of it in the name of his principal; another is presented to the Chancellor, and a third is kept by the colt as his own perquisite.

“ The next thing to be done was to get yourself proposed as a member of the mess at Serjeants’ Inn, - that is, if you

wished it, which, of course, every newly-made serjeant did. But it was not compulsory. There were formerly three different clubs or societies of serjeants, each called Serjeants’ Inn. One in Holborn, near Hatton Garden, which has, I believe, for centuries ceased to exist; another in Fleet Street, which, although bearing the name, has for many years had no connection with the serjeants in fact. The only recognized Inn of late years was that in Chancery Lane, the whole of which was sold a few years ago, and the proceeds divided amongst the serjeants. Of this sale I shall have a few words to say presently. The property consisted of a long range of buildings in Chancery Lane, let out in offices, an ancient and not very picturesque hall, a remarkably handsome dining-room, a reading-room, spacious kitchens and cellars, and other conveniences adapted to an ordinary club-house.

« On being elected to the mess a practising serjeant had to pay an entrance fee of three hundred and fifty pounds; a judicial

that is, any one so created as a preparative to a judge. ship — paid five hundred pounds; and, for some time after my joining, every member paid fifteen pounds a year as commons, but this sum at last dwindled down to zero, and we paid nothing for our board or for the other conveniences the Inn afforded us." (pp. 301-304.) 1


1 “Previous to the actual call or creation of serjeants,” says Pulling, "there were in former times stately ceremonies of the Inns of Court; the newly elected serjeants assembling each in the hall of the Inn, when learned addresses were delivered, and a purse of gold de regardo or by way of retaining fee given to each of the new serjeants, who were then rung out of the society by the chapel bell, a usage kept up, at all events at Lincoln's Inn, to a very recent time.” “The Order of the Coif," p. 229.

Lord Campbell being appointed chief-justice of the Queen's Bench, writes, March 5, 1850 : “This morning began with ‘ringing me out' of Lincoln's Inn. The prospect of the ceremony made me rather uncomfortable from the time I knew Brougham was to preside in it. ... Brougham tried to play me

« AnteriorContinuar »