Edmund Anderson

Edmund Anderson (bef. 1530 - 1605)

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Sir Edmund Anderson aka Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas
Born before in Flixborough, Lincolnshire, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
[sibling(s) unknown]
Husband of — married about in Eyworth, Bedfordshire, Englandmapmap
Descendants descendants
Died in London, Englandmap
Profile last modified | Created 9 May 2011
This page has been accessed 3,677 times.

Categories: Clan Anderson | Witch Trials.

Edmund Anderson was involved in the English Witch Trials.
Join: Witch Trials Project
Discuss: witch_trials



The Anderson family originated in Scotland and then came to Northumberland. They settled in Lincolnshire in the 14th century and became a prominent family there.

Sir Edmund Anderson (1530 – 1 August 1605), Chief Justice of the Common Pleas under Elizabeth I, sat as judge at the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots

Sir Edmund Anderson, son of Edward Anderson, was born in Flixborough in Lincolnshire c. 1530. He received the first part of his education in the country and then spent a brief period at Lincoln College, Oxford, before entering the Inner Temple in June 1550.

In 1577, Anderson was created Sergeant-at-Law and in 1578 he was appointed Queen's Sergeant. In 1581 he was appointed Justice of Assize on the Norfolk circuit and tried Edmund Campion and others in November 1581, securing an unexpected conviction.

On the back of that success, Anderson was made Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in 1582 and was knighted. He was reappointed by James I and held office until his death. Throughout his career he played a prominent role in some of the most important political trials of Elizabeth’s reign including that of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Sir Walter Ralegh. At one point Sir Edmund presided over the trial of Davison, the Queen's secretary who was accused of erroneously issuing the warrant for the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Anderson was often described as a strict lawyer who was “completely governed by the law”. He even stated at an important trial that, “I sit here to judge of law, not logic”. In Sir Edward Coke and the Elizabeth Age by Allen D. Boyer, Sir Edmund is described as “the monster: an angry man in the courtroom and a resentful man afterward, an advocate who begrudged other lawyers' victories”.[1]

Anderson wrote two books, Reports of Many Principal Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Time of Queen Elizabeth, in the Common Bench 1644 and Resolutions and Judgments on the Cases and Matters Agitated in All the Courts of Westminster, in the latter end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1653, which are still today very influential legal references.

About 1566 Anderson married Magdalen (c.1542–1622), daughter of Christopher Smythe, of Annables in Hertfordshire, and his wife, Margaret. The couple had four sons and three daughters; one son was the MP Edward Anderson (b. 1573, d. in or before 1605), who trained as a lawyer and was advanced by his uncle Sir John Fortescue (1533–1607). In Michaelmas term 1577 Anderson was created sergeant-at-law, and on 3 February 1578 he was appointed queen's sergeant. By this time he had earned a reputation both for great learning and for religious conservatism, and in 1581 he was appointed justice of assize on the Norfolk circuit. His even-handed belligerence towards both Catholic and puritan nonconformists endeared him to Elizabeth I and her privy councillors. He tried Edmund Campion and others on 20 November 1581 and, despite the weakness of the case against the accused and their stout defence, secured an unexpected conviction..

He acquired part of the manor of Eyworth, Bedfordshire in 1594 and in 1595 he purchased the remaining part.[2]

He was buried at Eyworth, Bedfordshire on 2 Aug 1605 -"Sir Edmund Anderson, Chefe Judge of the Commun Plese"[3]

"SIR EDMUND ANDERSON (1530-1605), English lawyer, desc1931orn in 1530 at Flixborough or Broughton in that county. After studying for a short time at Lincoln College, Oxford, he became in 1550 a student of the Inner Temple. In 1579 he was appointed serjeant-at-law to Queen Elizabeth, and also an assistant judge on circuit. As a reward for his services in the trial of Edmund Campian and his followers (1581), he was, on the death of Sir James Dyer, appointed lord chief justice of the Common Pleas (1582), and was knighted. He took part in all the leading state trials which agitated England during the latter years of Elizabeth's reign. Though a great lawyer and thoroughly impartial in civil cases, he became notorious by his excessive severity and harshness when presiding over the trials of catholics and nonconformists; more markedly so in those of Sir John Perrot, Sir Walter Raleigh, and John Udall the puritan minister. Anderson was also one of the commissioners appointed to try Mary queen of Scots in 1586. He died on the 1st of August 1605 at Eyworth in Bedfordshire. In addition to Reports of Many Principal Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Time of Queen Elizabeth in the Common Bench, published after his death, he drew up several expositions of statutes enacted in Elizabeth's reign which remain in manuscript in the British Museum." [4]

On Another Note; Dedicated Witch Hunter

Per: Witch Hunts in Europe and America an Encyclopedia By William E Burns

Sir Edmund Anderson, Lord Chief Justice of Common Pleas from 1582, was a rarity among English Magistrates - a dedicated Witch Hunter.

In his most famous witch related trial, that of Elizabeth Jackson for bewitching Mary Glover in 1602, Anderson declared the following in his charge to the Jury;

"The land is full of witches, they abound in all places, I have hanged five or six and twenty of them. There is no man here can speak more of them than myself; few of them would confess it, some of them did against whom the proofs were nothing so manifest as against those that denied it."

Anderson went on to endorse the theory of the witch's mark and to argue for relaxed standards of proof in witch cases, claiming that given the power and subtlety of Satan, it was necessary to go on presumptions and circumstances rather than direct proof. He argued that if physicians could not give a natural cause or cure for Glover's bewitchment, it must be concluded to be witchcraft.

References; C L'Estrand Ewen "Witchcraft and Demonianism"


  1. WikiTree profile Anderson-4550 created through the import of Watson Family Tree Large.ged on Oct 21, 2011 by Jonathan Watson.
  2. Title: Ancestry Family Trees Publication: Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com. Original data: Family Tree files submitted by Ancestry members. Ancestry.com Address: http://www.Ancestry.com
  3. The Baronetage of England by William Betham (1801)
  4. National Portrait Gallery (London) NPG.org
  5. Sir Edward Coke and the Elizabethen Age By Allen D. Boyand
  6. Edmund Anderson (judge)
  7. Sir Edmund Anderson
  8. Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 01
  9. Witches in Early Modern England
  10. Possession & The Courts 1593-1692


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_Anderson_(judge) Edmund Anderson (judge)
  2. 'Parishes: Eyworth', in A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 2, ed. William Page (London, 1908), pp. 230-233. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/beds/vol2/pp230-233 [accessed 14 September 2018].
  3. The Parish Register of Eyworth 1538-1812 Bedfordshire County Record Office 1931 https://archive.org/stream/bedfordshirepari02bedf#page/n203
  4. http://www.theodora.com/encyclopedia/a2/sir_edmund_anderson.html Sir Edmund Anderson

See Also

  • David Ibbetson, ‘Anderson, Sir Edmund (1530?–1605)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 11 Dec 2016

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