William Ballantine (1812—1887), English serjeant-at-law, was born in London on the 3rd of January 1812, being the son of a London police-magistrate.
He was educated at St Paul’s School, and called to the bar in 1834. He began in early life a varied acquaintance with dramatic and literary society, and his experience, combined with his own pushing character and acute intellect, helped to obtain for him very soon a large practice, particularly in criminal cases. He became known as a formidable cross-examiner, his great rival being Serjeant Parry (1816—1880).
The three great cases of his career were:
his successful prosecution of the murderer Franz Muller in 1864,
his skilful defence of the Tichborne claimant in 1871, and
his defence of the gaekwar of Baroda in 1875, his fee in this last case being one of the largest ever known.
Ballantine became a serjeant-at-law in 1856. He died at Margate on the 9th January, 1887, having previously published more than one volume of reminiscences. Serjeant Ballantine’s private life was decidedly Bohemian; and though he earned large sums, he died very poor.