1617, James Cavell asks to be excused from attending court in person

John Clavell, esquire. SP 14/90 f. 120 (1617)

To the right honourable Sir Julius Cesar knight master of the rolles.

The humble peticion of John Clavell esquier

The defendant dwelling an hundred myles from this court was served with a subpoena but the daye before the returne therof, yet in obedience to the sayd processe hath made his apparaunce by attorney, the waters beinge soe daingerous to passe that many have peryshed therbye.

Wherfore the petycioner most humbly prayeth he may aunswere by commissyon [ret xv…as?] next

[paratext: Let a dedimus potestatem be granted, the peticoners staying sutes at lawe in the meane tyme, if there be any; the other party naming a comissioner if he will. The answer to be returned under a counsellors hand 15 February 1616. / Julius Caesar / Peticion pro dedimus]

Report by Barbara Prynn

The Clavells were a powerful family in Dorset from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century. They owned land and intermarried with other powerful families. The places where they lived – and in some cases had large houses – such as Symondesbury or Wootton Glanville, are all about one hundred miles from London. Their genealogy is complicated with distant cousins sometimes inheriting because of the deaths of a whole generation of sons of the family before their father’s death. They also used the same first names in many generations including for distant cousins. There are a number of ‘Johns’ during the early seventeenth century, but it does not seem possible with any degree of accuracy to say which one was the John Clavell who sent this petition.(1)

The recipient of this petition, Sir Julius Caesar, was born in 1558 and died in 1636. He was the eldest son of Cesare Adelmare, physician to Queen Mary, of St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate. His father had come from Treviso in the Venetian Republic. His mother was Margery Perient. He was at Magdalen Hall in Oxford and subsequently at Clement’s Inn and the Inner Temple. He was called to the bar in 1591. Caesar was married three times and had many children. He was knighted in 1603. He held many legal appointments, and became Master of the Rolls in 1614.(2)

We can see that the petition was granted, because the addendum to the petition states that a ‘dedimus potestatem’ was granted. ‘In law, dedimus potestatem (Latin for “we have given the power”) is a writ whereby commission is given to one or more private persons for the expedition of some act normally performed by a judge. It is granted most commonly upon the suggestion that a party, who is to do something before a judge or in a court, is too weak to travel. Its use is various, such as to take a personal answer to a bill in chancery, to examine witnesses, levy a fine, etc.'(3)


(1) Based on searches of findmypast.co.uk and ancestry.co.uk

(2) ‘CAESAR, Sir Julius (1558-1636), of Mitcham, Surr.; the Inner Temple, London; the Rolls House, Chancery Lane, London; Doctors’ Commons, London; The Strand, Westminster; later of Humberton Street, Hackney, Mdx.’, in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010, www.histparl.ac.uk/volume/1604-1629/member/caesar-sir-julius-1558-1636

(3) Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dedimus_potestatem


This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, 1600-1625’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.