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He was the fifth son of Thomas Danby of Danby, Yorkshire, and his wife Mary, daughter of Sir Robert Tanfield. He adopted the legal profession, and occurs in the year-books as early as 1431 ; in 1441 he appeared in a case before the privy council, and in 1443 was made serjeant-at-law, being promoted king's serjeant soon afterwards. He seems never to have sat in parliament, but on 28 June 1452 he was raised to the bench of common pleas. Being apparently of Yorkist sympathies, he was on 11 May 1461, immediately after the accession of Edward IV, appointed chief justice of common pleas ; he was knighted soon afterwards. When Henry VI regained his throne Danby was, by patent dated 9 October 1470, continued as chief justice, but when Edward IV returned in the following year Danby ceased to be chief justice. As he disappears from the list of judges three weeks before the others were removed, the circumstance may be due to his death, and not to his disgrace ; possibly the story which Holinshed erroneously relates of Sir William Hankford, of a chief justice who in this year deliberately got himself shot by his gamekeeper, refers to Danby. The frequency with which Danby's opinion was quoted suggests that he was a judge of considerable weight. He was the judge in the recovery referred to in Taltarum's Case, which gave rise to the doctrine of the common recovery.
He married, first, in 1444, Catherine, daughter of Ralph Fitzrandal, by whom he had no issue, and secondly Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of William Aslaby ; by her he had a son, Sir James Danby, who succeeded to Thorp Perrow, Yorkshire, an estate his father had purchased, and died in 1496, and a daughter, Margaret, who married Christopher Barton. His great-grandson, Sir Christopher Danby, was, according to Paget, designed for a peerage by Henry VIII, but the intention was never carried out.
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