Ayloffe, William d. 1585, judge of the Queen's Bench, was descended from a very ancient family settled originally in Kent and subsequently in Essex, whose origin has been traced to Saxon times. On 14 Feb. 1553-4 he was admitted a student of Lincoln's Inn, where two other near relatives, bearing the same name, distinguished themselves in the sixteenth century, and in 1560 he was called to the bar. After being appointed reader at his inn of court in Lent term, 1571, he was made serjeant-at-law in 1577, at the same time as Sir Edmund Anderson, afterwards the well-known lord chief justice of the Common Pleas. A notice of a banquet in the Middle Temple hall, given by Ayloffe with other barristers upon whom a similar distinction had just been conferred, to celebrate their promotion, is preserved among the Ashmolean MSS. at Oxford (Ashm. MS. 804, ii. 1). No record is known of Ayloffe's elevation to the bench, but he is found acting as judge in the court of Queen's Bench in 1579 (Calendar of State Papers, 1547-1580, p. 637), and his judgments are reported by Dyer, Coke, and Savile after that date, which may therefore be regarded as the probable year of his appointment. He was present in 1581 at the trial of Edmund Campion and other seminary priests, and special attention is called to the part he played on that occasion in a pamphlet published by English catholics at Paris shortly afterwards, and bearing the title An Epistle of Comfort to the Reverend Priestes and to the Honorable, Worshipful and other of the Laye sort restrayned in Durance for the Catholike Fayth, 12mo. It is there stated (p. 202), on the evidence of eye-witnesses, that while sitting in court after the other judges had retired, and while the jury were considering their verdict, Ayloffe took off his glove and found his hand and ring covered with blood without any apparent cause, and that, in spite of his endeavours to wipe it away, the blood continued to flow as a miraculous sign of the injustice that polluted the judgment-seat. Some correspondence of Ayloffe and the lord mayor of London about the appointment of his brother as town clerk, are among the city archives for 1580 and 1581 (Remembrancia, pp. 149, 150, 271).
     Ayloffe died on 8 Nov. 1585. He married Jane, daughter of Sir Eustace Sulyard, by whom he had three sons. A baronetcy conferred by James I in 1612 upon William, the eldest of them, who had been knighted in 1603, continued in the family till 1781. Sir William, the first baronet, was thrice married, and a large family survived him.

     Foss's Judges of England, v. 445
     Wright's Essex, ii. 443-4
     Burke's Extinct Baronetage, p. 30
     Notes and Queries (2nd series), iii. 376.

Contributor: S. L. [Sidney Lee]

Published: 1885