Calthrope, Sir Charles (d. 1616), judge, was a younger son of Sir Francis Calthorpe of Hempstead in Norfolk and his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Ralph Berney of Gunton, Norfolk. One source indicates that he was born in 1524, but this is unlikely unless he decided to pursue a legal career at an unusually late stage of his life. In 1560, he entered Lincoln's Inn, being called to the bar in 1569. He gained the patronage of Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, who arranged both his election as MP for Eye in Suffolk in 1572 and his appointment as high steward of Yarmouth in 1573. He also served as JP for Norfolk (1575–79). In 1580 he resigned as steward of Yarmouth having been assured of employment in Ireland. However, this appears to have fallen through and he remained in England and was elected a bencher of Furnival's Inn in 1582.
He finally came to Dublin on his appointment as attorney general of Ireland (22 June 1584) and became a loyal follower of Sir John Perrot (qv), lord deputy (1584–88). In his role as attorney general, Calthrope initiated a number of politically motivated prosecutions in the court of castle chamber designed to undermine Perrot's rivals within the government. These included the prosecutions of Perrot's most bitter enemy Adam Loftus (qv), archbishop of Dublin, along with a number of other bishops, for failure to pay first fruits, and of Henry Bird for forging Perrot's signature on official documents.
His closeness to Perrot facilitated a grant in June 1586 of a twenty-one year lease of the lands of the dissolved priory of Kilconnell, county Galway, and his appointment to a number of royal commissions. The most important of these were the commissions for the composition of Connacht (1585), for attainted lands in Munster (1586) and for arbitrating on land disputes arising from the plantation of Munster (1587). During his initial years, he was also pre-occupied with securing proper reservation of all the royal rights for attainted lands. In February 1586, he reported fraud from tenures, wardships, alienation, and intrusions and proposed the application to Ireland of the statute of uses and the statute of wills to put an end to gavelkind and Irish tenure. He reported in January 1587 that by his good services the queen had recovered arrears of £4,000, and accordingly his fees were augmented and the town of Mallow was assigned to him. However, he thought Mallow to be of little value and quickly sold it.
Like his patron Perrot, he supported Irish challenges to the proposed Munster plantation, a stance that upset the powerful treasurer of England, Lord Burghley, and the prospective undertakers. Among the latter was Sir Geoffrey Fenton (qv), the secretary of state, who criticised Calthrope for putting Perrot's interests before the queen's and for being sympathetic towards the Irish. His efforts to collect arrears owed to the queen also antagonised some of his colleagues who responded by deriding his lack of legal knowledge.
In spring 1590 Perrot's successor as lord deputy, Sir William Fitzwilliam (qv), resenting Perrot's continuing influence over Irish affairs from London, concocted a plot to frame Perrot for treason. Initially, Perrot seemed set to survive this attack; a commission was established in March to investigate Fitzwilliam's claims, but it was dominated by Perrot's clients, Calthrope amongst them. Unsurprisingly, this commission did little to further the treason charges. However, Burleigh's decision to throw his weight behind Fitzwilliam's plot transformed the situation.
Following Perrot's arrest in May 1590, Calthrope was accused of partisanship in executing his role as commissioner for investigating the charges against the former lord deputy. More ominously, on 30 November Fitzwilliam had the court of castle chamber reverse its earlier conviction of the forger Bird thereby exposing Calthrope to counter-charges. Realising that Perrot was doomed, he refused to sign a petition on his behalf and protested to Burghley that he had played only a minor role in the commission. Nonetheless, he was suspended from office on 18 March 1591 and preparations began for his trial in castle chamber. In the event, Burleigh relented once he secured Perrot's conviction for treason in June 1592 and Calthrope's trial was called off, although he did have to abase himself before Fitzwilliam. His suspension from office was lifted on 18 November. However, he had to forfeit half of his salary during his period of suspension.
Cowed by this experience, he kept a much lower profile thereafter. In 1594, he declined the post of chief justice of Munster, pleading his wife's health and his own infirmity. He attempted to secure the office of chief justice of the common pleas in 1597 but desisted when he realised that it would entail a reduction in his salary. In 1598, he was one of the examiners of Captain Thomas Lee (qv) who was accused of high treason. He did not condemn Lee outright, suspecting that some of the witnesses were biased.
He was confirmed in his office by King James I in 1604 and knighted at Dublin on 24 March 1605. The newly appointed lord deputy, Sir Arthur Chichester (qv), regarded him as a weak official, possibly due to his advanced age, and in May 1606 arranged for him to be made judge in the court of common pleas and his place as attorney to be taken by the more dynamic Sir John Davies (qv). He complained bitterly about this, explaining that the office of attorney general had been virtually worthless for the past twelve years because of the war, but was now becoming more lucrative with the advent of peace. This appears to be a reference to the unofficial financial perquisites associated with the office. The salary for his new post was £159 6s. 8d., which did not please him, but he obtained an extra allowance in consideration of his long service. By 1611, his fee as justice of the common pleas was £266.13.4. The same year, he was described as being too old and infirm to execute his office. He died 6 January 1616 and was buried at Christ Church cathedral, Dublin.
Calthrope was twice married. His first wife was Winifred, daughter of Antonio Toto of Florence, who was sergeant-painter to Henry VIII; their marriage was childless and she died 1 August 1605. His second wife was Dorothy (d. 1616), daughter of John Deane of London. He had no children.