Bethell, Sir Richard
b. 1800-06-30
d. 1873
Richard Bethell was born on 30 June 1800 in Bradford-On-Avon, Wiltshire. Academically gifted from a young age, Bethell entered Wadham College, Oxford University at age 14 to study law. Bethell was admitted to Middle Temple in 1820, and finished his studies by 1823. Bethell would continue to practice law as a solicitor and judge, as well as take part in politics as a Liberal representative.1
In 1840, Bethell was appointed to the Queen's Counsel by Lord Cottenham.2 Bethell then entered the British House of Commons as the representative from Aylesbury in 1851, and was named the Vice-Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The following year, Bethell was made Solicitor General and received a knighthood. In 1856, Bethell was promoted to Attorney General.3
Bethell was consulted on various legal issues regarding the colony of British Columbia. In 1854, Bethell wrote to Sir George Grey about the legality of establishing a Supreme Court of Civil Justice on Vancouver Island, as had been proposed by Governor James Douglas.4 Bethell deemed that the Ordinance or Act establishing a Supreme Court on the island could not be properly assented to by the Crown nor could it have the force of law.5 In 1856, Bethell wrote Permanent Under Secratery Merivale discussing the legal limits of the Governor's power on Vancouver Island.6 The same year, Bethell was involved in the discussion about which offices would be the benefactors of the revenue from the purchase of the Hudson's Bay land on Vancouver Island by the British government. Also, the Hudson's Bay Company wanted to know if they had any claim to land on British Columbia, as their trading rights there predated the terms set by the Treaty of Oregon of 1846. Bethell responded that they had no claim to land in British Columbia.7
Bethell took the title of 1st Baron of Westbury and assumed the role of Lord Chancellor of Great Britain in 1861. Bethell resigned from this role in 1865, but maintained a political profile in the House of Lords until his death in 1873.8
Mentions of this person in the documents
People in this document

Douglas, James

Grey, George

Merivale, Herman

Places in this document

British Columbia

Vancouver Island