The annual State Trials for conspiracy and treason were a very exciting time at the nineteenth-century Four Courts.
Many members of the public of all political persuasions attended to observe and comment. All tried to put their best face forward. None more so than the Judges. The style of their arrival on such occasions was so impressive as to merit the above illustration in the popular press. Not only were the judicial means of transport slightly different from today, but their parking facilities were in a different location!
When a post-Famine judiciary sought to adopt a lower-key approach, this resulted in complaints in the popular press, such as the following letter by an anonymous correspondent published in the Catholic Telegraph of 3 April 1852:
“Formerly, the Lord Chancellor, Master of the Rolls, Judges and superior officers of the courts, were in the habit of driving to court in handsome private carriages. The incomes are the same as formerly, and Free Trade has considerably reduced the price of most of the necessaries of life; yet, with one or two exceptions, the squares of the courts are now quite deserted by private equipages, and too frequently visited by inside and outside jaunting cars, which have a monopoly there.”
It seems that, in this delicately balanced political era, demonstrations of magnificence on the part of the judiciary were seen not as an indulgence, but as essential to the majesty of the law. Such pageantry, of course also gave employment to a wide variety of Dublin artisans and tradesmen!