Roundell Palmer 1st earl of Selborne

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Selborne, Roundell Palmer, 1st earl of (1812–95). Lawyer. Palmer got off to a flying start. He was educated at both Rugby and Winchester, moved on to Christ Church, Oxford, was president of the Union, and gained a first-class degree. He studied law at Lincoln's Inn and entered Parliament in 1847 as a supporter of Sir Robert Peel. He became solicitor-general in Palmerston's administration in 1861 and moved up to attorney-general in 1863, holding the post until 1866. A strong churchman, he disapproved greatly of the disestablishment of the Irish church in 1869 and refused Gladstone's offer of the lord chancellorship, with a peerage. But on the resignation of Lord Hatherley in 1872 with failing eyesight, Palmer succeeded him as lord chancellor, holding office 1872–4 and again 1880–5. He was created baron in 1872 and advanced to earl in 1882. Increasingly uneasy at the radical trend of the Liberals, he parted with them on Irish Home Rule in 1886, writing sadly in his Memorials, ‘my idols were broken’. Henceforth he gave independent support to the Conservatives. Palmer's brilliant intellect, vast memory, and powers of application were widely recognized, and the complete reorganization of the law courts in the Judicature Act of 1873 was his work. His son and grandson also had distinguished political careers.

J. A. Cannon

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