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Sir William Horne (1774-1860)

This article was written by William Prideaux Courtney and was published 1891.


This lithograph, "Castor and Pollux" (Sir William Horne and Thomas Denman, 1st Baron Denman) was produced by John ('HB') Doyle, published 24 August 1832.

Sir William Horne, lawyer, born in 1774, was second son of the Rev. Thomas Horne, who kept a private school at Chiswick, where Lord Lyndhurst was educated. He was admitted student at Lincoln's Inn on 3 June 1793, and called to the bar on 23 June 1798. Twenty years later (1818) he became a king's counsel, and on 6 November 1818 was made a bencher of his inn (Lincoln's Inn Registers). After he had been for many years distinguished as a leader in the court of chancery he was created in 1830 attorney-general to Queen Adelaide. When Brougham became lord chancellor a law officer was necessary to assist him in the court of chancery, and Horne was appointed.

He became solicitor-general on 26 November 1830, and was knighted in the same month; but his abilities made him no match for Sugden in the courts, and in the House of Commons he was deficient in adroitness. He sat for Helston in Cornwall from 1812 to 1818, and now that he was an officer of the crown a seat was found for him at Bletchingley, Surrey, from 18 February to the dissolution on 23 April 1831, and for Newtown in the Isle of Wight for the parliament of 1831-2. After the Reform Bill he represented the new constituency of Marylebone (1833-4). When Denman succeeded as lord chief justice, Brougham made a vain attempt to induce Sir John Bayley to retire from the court of exchequer to make way for Horne there.

Horne was raised to the post of attorney-general (November 1832), and Campbell took the vacant place of solicitor-general, with the understanding that he should ‘conduct all government prosecutions in the king's bench and be consulted separately when necessary.’ Campbell was not long in pressing his claims to promotion, and Bayley was at last forced into resignation in Horne's favour (February 1834). Horne had ‘conscientious scruples against pronouncing sentence of death, and therefore could not go the circuit or sit in a criminal court.’ After a conversation with the lord chancellor, he imagined that the court was to be remodelled, and that he would not be called upon to undertake these duties; but this plan, if ever entertained by Brougham, proved impracticable, and it was at last intimated to Horne that he must either resign or be superseded. He replied ‘with great spirit’ that he would vacate his office, and thereupon withdrew to private practice. After several years he accepted from Lord Cottenham, on 23 July 1839, the post of master in chancery, and held it until 1853.

Horne died at 49 Upper Harley Street, London, on 13 July 1860. Campbell acknowledged Horne's ‘many valuable qualities,’ and Brougham referred to the ‘abominable treatment of Horne’ and his ‘admirable and truly unexampled behaviour.’ His wife, a Miss Hesse, whom he married in 1800, died there on 12 November 1849. They had a large family. His third son, Francis Woodley Horne, a major in the 7th hussars, was killed in the Indian mutiny on the River Raptee in 1858, and is commemorated on a tablet in Little Berkhampstead Church.


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