Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book Extract: From Chaloner Chute to Sir Loveban Lislebone Long: A History of 16th and 17th Century Lawmen with Riotous Names

Sir Orlando Bridgeman (1606 –1674) 1st Baronet SL, English common law jurist, socialite, civil works advocate, crime fighter, lawyer, and beloved politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1640 to 1642.

Orlando Bridgeman (born Orlando Jones) was born shortly after the turn of the century into a wealthy family of highly regarded socialites and philanthropists. Tragically, as a child he witnessed his parents, John , Bishop of Chester, and Elizabeth , daughter of Reverend William Helyar, murdered at the hands of local brigands. Orlando narrowly escaped their gruesome fate by posing as an elderly female papist, before ultimately taking shelter under a bridge over the nearby River Douglas for 47 days and nights. Initially fearing the bridge, like a Bangladeshi batsman facing Shaoib Akhtar, he ultimately drew strength from his fear, then used his power over fear and his knowledge of bridges and their mysterious ways to his advantage. Re-emerging into society, he renamed himself Bridgeman, and dedicated his life to fighting for the causes his parents had so proudly supported.

Bridgeman fought many battles for the public good, most notably as a staunch Royalist in the English Civil War, his views a great source of comfort to myself, John, Tony and the other monarchist leaders during the dark days of Australia’s republican referendum period.

In April 1640, Bridgeman was elected Member of Parliament for Wigan in the Short Parliament. Despite widespread respect for his work as a wealthy vigilante, then, as now, the election in Wigan was dominated by concerns around Rugby League. Thankfully, Bridgeman’s platform, which was based around a desire to reduce teams from 45 players a side to the more exciting 38 a side format, was well received by an electorate starved of exciting football. Bridgeman spent time as an administrator of the Wigan Gentleman's Rugby League Football and Sandwich Commission before he was embroiled in a scandal over player payments exceeding the salary cap, which ultimately made his position untenable and led to an ignominious second rugby league life as a side-line commentator.

In 1642 he formed the “Ye Olde Justice League” with Lord Strange at Chester against the parliamentary forces of evil. “Lord Strange and Bridgeman” was later serialised into a popular comic strip in which they did battle against not only parliamentarians, but also characters many claim to be the earliest incarnations of Magneto and Dr Freeze. In time he received many honours, being knighted in 1643, acting as Custos Rotulorum of Cheshire, appointed Serjeant-at-Law, Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer and Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. In the late 1980s he had a popular US basketball team named after him.
Aside from his more celebrated work as a crime fighter, Bridgeman was highly regarded in his time for his participation in the trial of the Regicides of King Charles I in 1660, a trial marked by the courage of those involved as they stood up for what was right by flip flopping back to the victors in a hysterical, grasping and unseemly attempt at self preservation. Bridgeman also devised complex legal instruments for the conveyance of land, instruments which have sadly fallen into disuse and which all of us who have waded through the simplistic nightmare that is Torrens System lament to this day.

Sadly, Bridgeman is credited with creating the Rule Against Perpetuities. The Rule Against Perpetuities is rightly considered a disaster, the first in a long line of intrusions by equitable concerns of "public policy" into contract law. When did it become against the public interest to draft contracts that ensure the remoteness of vesting? Beats me. At least he had the decency to take into account a period of gestation to cover a posthumous birth.

That one blemish aside, Bridgeman is rightly regarded as a great lawman of the 17th century and the only legal superhero who took his name from a vital piece of civic infrastructure.

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