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Hardinge Giffard, 1st Earl of Halsbury

The Earl of Halsbury

Hardinge Giffard, 1st Earl of Halsbury.jpg
Lord Chancellor
Lord High Steward for the trial of:
In office
24 June 1885 – 28 January 1886
Prime MinisterThe Marquess of Salisbury
Preceded byThe Earl of Selborne
Succeeded byThe Lord Herschell
In office
3 August 1886 – 11 August 1892
Prime MinisterThe Marquess of Salisbury
Preceded byThe Lord Herschell
Succeeded byThe Lord Herschell
In office
29 June 1895 – 4 December 1905
Edward VII
Prime MinisterThe Marquess of Salisbury
Arthur Balfour
Preceded byThe Lord Herschell
Succeeded byThe Lord Loreburn
Personal details
Born3 September 1823 (1823-09-03)
Died11 December 1921 (1921-12-12) (aged 98)
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)(1) Caroline Humphreys
(d. 1873)
(2) Wilhelmina Woodfall
(d. 1927)
Alma materMerton College, Oxford

Hardinge Stanley Giffard, 1st Earl of Halsbury, PC QC later KC (3 September 1823 – 11 December 1921) was a British lawyer and Conservative politician. He served three times as Lord Chancellor, for a total of seventeen years.

Early life and legal career

Born in Pentonville, London, Giffard was the third son of Stanley Lees Giffard, editor of the Standard, by his wife Susanna, daughter of Francis Moran, Downhill, Ballina, County Mayo. His mother died when he was five, and his father married his cousin, Mary Anne Giffard. He was educated by his father at home, before entering Merton College, Oxford, where he obtained a fourth-class degree in literae humaniores in 1845. Between 1845 and 1848, he helped his father edit the Standard.

Having entered the Inner Temple as a student in 1848, he was called to the bar there in 1850. Giffard joined the Western, then the South Wales circuits. Afterwards he had a large practice at the Central Criminal Court and the Middlesex sessions, and he was for several years junior prosecuting counsel to the Treasury. He was engaged in most of the celebrated trials of his time, including the Overend and Gurney and the Tichborne cases. He became Queen's Counsel in 1865, and a bencher of the Inner Temple.

Political career

Giffard twice contested Cardiff for the Conservatives in 1868 and 1874, but he was still without a seat in the House of Commons when he was appointed Solicitor General by Disraeli in 1875 and received the customary knighthood. He also failed to gain a seat in a by-election in Horsham in 1876. In 1877 he succeeded in obtaining a seat, when he was returned for Launceston, which he continued to represent until his elevation to the peerage.

Image of Hardinge Giffard, 1st Earl of Halsbury from Halsbury's Laws of England, 1st ed, Vol 1.

In 1885, Giffard was appointed Lord Chancellor in Lord Salisbury's first administration, and was created Baron Halsbury, of Halsbury in the County of Devon, thus forming a remarkable exception to the rule that no criminal lawyer could ever reach the woolsack. He resumed the position in 1886 and held it until 1892 and again from 1895 to 1905, his tenure of the office, broken only by the brief Liberal ministries of 1886 and 1892–1895, being longer than that of any Lord Chancellor since Lord Eldon. In 1898 he was created Earl of Halsbury and Viscount Tiverton, of Tiverton in the County of Devon.

During the crisis over the Parliament Act 1911, Halsbury was one of the principal leaders of the rebel faction of Tory peers—labelled the "Ditchers"—that resolved on all out opposition to the government's bill whatever happened. At a meeting of Conservative peers on 21 July of that year, Halsbury shouted out "I will divide even if I am alone". As Halsbury left the meeting a reporter asked him what was going to happen. Halsbury immediately replied: "Government by a Cabinet controlled by rank socialists".[1] Halsbury was also President of the Royal Society of Literature, Grand Warden of English Freemasons, and High Steward of the University of Oxford.

Halsbury's lasting legacy was the compilation of a complete digest of "Halsbury's Laws of England" (1907-1917), a major reference work published in many volumes and often called simply "Halsbury's". "Halsbury's Laws" was followed by a second multiple-volume reference work in 1929, "Halsbury's Statutes", and later by "Halsbury's Statutory Instruments".


Halsbury married firstly Caroline, daughter of William Corne Humphreys, in 1852. There were no children from this marriage. Caroline died in September 1873. Halsbury married secondly Wilhelmina, daughter of Henry Woodfall, in 1874. He died in December 1921, aged 98, and was succeeded by his only son from his second marriage, Hardinge. The Countess of Halsbury died in December 1927.


Among cases in which Halsbury delivered judgement are:

In Popular Culture

His name was often attached to legal writs, and was familiar to the population. Arthur Conan Doyle mentions him in this connection in Chapter XIV of his 1899 novel ‘Duet’.

“And now Frank was to learn what it meant to be entangled in an intricate clumsy old machine, incredibly cumbrous and at the same time incredibly powerful, jolting along with its absurd forms and abominable English towards an end which might or might not be just, but was most certainly ruinously expensive. The game began by a direct letter from the Queen, of all people, an honour which Frank had never aspired to before, and certainly never did again.

Victoria, by the grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen, Defender of the Faith, remarked abruptly to Frank Crosse of Woking, in the county of Surrey, 'We command you that within eight days of the service of this writ on you, inclusive of the day of such service, you cause an appearance to be entered for you in an action at the suit of the Hotspur Insurance Company, Limited.' If he didn't do so, Her Majesty remarked that several very unpleasant things might occur, and Hardinge Stanley, Earl of Halsbury, corroborated Her Majesty. Maude was frightened to death when she saw the document, and felt as if unawares they must have butted up against the British Constitution, but Owen explained that it was only a little legal firework, which meant that there might be some trouble later.”


  1. ^ George Dangerfield, The Strange Death of Liberal England (Serif, 2001), p. 54.
  2. ^ "Report 63 (1988) – Jurisdiction of Local Courts Over Foreign Land". Law Reform Commission, New South Wales. 30 May 2001. Retrieved 1 September 2008. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)


External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
James Henry Deakin
Member of Parliament for Launceston
Succeeded by
Richard Webster
Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir John Holker
Solicitor General for England and Wales
Succeeded by
Sir Farrer Herschell
Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Selborne
Lord Chancellor
Succeeded by
The Lord Herschell
Preceded by
The Lord Herschell
Lord Chancellor
Lord Chancellor
Succeeded by
The Lord Loreburn
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Earl of Halsbury
Succeeded by
Hardinge Giffard
Baron Halsbury