Page 367. " the name of the Lord Chief-Justice Jeffreys was spoken more than once, and with emphasis and deference "
Judge George Jeffreys, First Baron of Wem
Public DomainJudge George Jeffreys, First Baron of Wem - Credit: Johann Closterman

George Jeffreys (1645–1689) was a highly prominent judge in 17th Century England, with whom John Ridd has several fictional run-ins during the course of his story.  

Jeffreys' legal career began in 1668.  In 1676 he became Solicitor General to James, Duke of York.  He was knighted in 1677, and steadily accumulated power as a Chief Justice and Counsel for the Crown.  Charles II made him a Baronet in 1681, and in 1683 he became Chief Justice of the King’s Bench and a member of the Privy Council.  Following James II’s accession to the throne, the King named Jeffreys Lord Chancellor in 1685, and elevated him to the peerage as Baron Jeffreys of Wem.

Following the Monmouth rebellion in 1685, Jeffreys was sent to the West Country to try the captured rebels.  The trials became known as the Bloody Assizes - Jeffreys issued harsh sentences to nearly all defendants. About 300 rebels were executed, and 800-900 were transported to the West Indies.  For his severity, Jeffreys was nicknamed "the hanging judge."