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to this must be attributed the energetic resistance which the king and his corrupt courtiers met with in their insane crusade against the liberties of England." The parliament which, after an interval of four years, met on the 6th of April, 1614, was called, not for any purpose of general legislation, but in the expectation that by proper management it might relieve the king's necessities. Bacon, then attorney-general, sir Henry Neville, and some others, undertook to bring the Commons into a gracious frame of mind, by inducing the king to relax some of his claims of prerogative, which were called grievances, and thus to obtain a liberal supply. The scheme could not be concealed; and hence these politicians obtained the name of "undertakers." The king in his opening speech protested that it was as false as it would have been unworthy of himself, that he should employ "private undertakers" who "would do great matters." Bacon laughed at the notion that private men should undertake for all the Commons of England. In 1621 James openly acknowledged what he had before denied. Mr. Hallam points to this circumstance as showing "the rise of a systematic parliamentary influence, which was one day to become the mainspring of government." Hume says, "so ignorant were the Commons, that they knew not this incident to be the first infallible symptom of any regular or established liberty." The Commons knew better than the historian, that, whatever might have been attempted under despotic princes, there was an ancient system of "regular or established liberty," which did not require any symptoms for its manifestation. They did not acknowledge what the historian has constantly inferred, that the notion of liberty was a sudden growth of the seventeenth century; "that the constitution of England was, at that time, an inconsistent fabric, whose jarring and discordant parts would soon destroy each other." They opposed the parliamentary influence because they dreaded corruption as much as they hated tyranny. The scheme of the undertakers was entirely unsuccessful. James uttered smooth words and made specious promises; but the Commons, with one voice, passed a vote against the king's right of imposing customs at the outports, without the consent of parliament. A supply was demanded, under a threat that if it were not given the parliament should be dissolved. The house passed to the question of impositions. There were various bills in progress. After a session of two months of stormy debate, the parliament was dissolved, without a single bill being passed. It was named "the addled parliament." No other parliament was called till 1621. For eleven years. the Statute book is a blank. The king was not satisfied with the perilous measure of attempting to govern without a parliament, but he committed to the Tower five of the members of the House of Commons who had been most strenuous in their opposition. He had to supply his necessities by fines in the star-chamber, and by exercises of the prerogative which were galling and oppressive. His first great resource was a Benevolence. Mr. Oliver St. John declined to contribute, and wrote a letter setting forth his reasons for refusal. He was brought into the star-chamber, and was fined in the sum of £5000. The courtiers would think this a mild punishment for one who had presumed to doubt the right to put his hands into the pockets of his subjects of a king who

J. M. Kemble, Introduction to Twysden on "the Government of England," Camden Society, p. xix. "History of England," chap. xlvii.




had just told his disobedient parliament," my integrity is like the whiteness of my robe, my purity like the metal of gold in my crown, my firmness and clearness like the precious stones I wear, and my affections natural like the redness of my heart." Such was the gabble of this ridiculous pedant upon solemn occasions. When he sat at table, with a crowd of listeners, he discoursed largely of his divine right to implicit obedience, and of the superiority of his prerogative over the laws and customs of England. There is "a specimen of his usual liberty of talk," as Hume terms a story which Mr. Hallam deems “too trite for repetition," but which we venture to repeat. Waller, the poet, when young, stood among the spectators who were allowed to see the king dine. James, with his loud sputtering voice, asked the opinions of bishop Neile and bishop Andrews, whether he might not take his subjects' money, when he needed it, without all the fuss of parliament? Neile replied,' God forbid you should not, for you are the breath of our nostrils.' Andrews hesitated; but the king insisting upon an answer, he said, Why, then, I think your majesty may lawfully take my brother Neile's money, for he offers it.'


By the death of the earl of Northampton, within a week of the dissolution of parliament, the king and his courtiers had an opportunity for a scramble to recruit their finances. The office of Lord Privy Seal having become vacant, the occasion was embraced to effect what we should now call a partial change of ministry. But this change was accomplished in a way that would be rather startling in modern times. Some of the high offices were sold. Sir Fulk Greville paid £4000 for the Chancellorship of the Exchequer. Inferior places went to the highest bidder. When Somerset sold the office of cupbearer to George Villiers, one of the sons of a Leicestershire knight, he appears to have forgotten that another might supplant him in the favour of a king who dwelt on "good looks and handsome accoutrements." + The cupbearer was a dangerous rival. "His first introduction into favour," says Clarendon, was purely from the handsomeness of his person." The history of the country, to the end of this reign, is in great part the personal history of George Villiers, the adventurer, who had in his capacity of the king's cupbearer been "admitted to that conversation and discourse with which that prince always abounded at his meals." In a few weeks, continues Clarendon, he mounted higher; "and, being knighted, without any other qualification, he was at the same time made gentleman of the bedchamber and knight of the order of the garter; and in a short time (very short for such a prodigious ascent) he was made a baron, a viscount, an earl, a marquis, and became lord high admiral of England, lord warden of the cinque-ports, master of the horse, and entirely disposed of all the graces of the king, in conferring all the honours and all the offices of three kingdoms without a rival." ‡

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The marriage of the earl of Somerset with the divorced lady Essex, on St. Stephen's day, 1613, had been preceded by the death in the Tower of Somerset's friend, sir Thomas Overbury. The incense that was offered to the royal favourite on the occasion of his marriage is almost as revolting as the marriage itself. Bacon spent £2000 upon "The Masque of Flowers," in which grave lawyers spoke the flattering words which were put into the

"Parliamentary History," vol. i. p. 1150.
"History of the Rebellion," book i.

"Nuga Antique," p. 392.




mouths of hyacinths and jonquils. Donne wrote an eclogue, in which he describes the eyes of the bride as sowing the court with stars. The Corporation of London gave the earl and countess a magnificent banquet at Guildhall; and when the lady, to go to the festival, borrowed the four superb horses in which sir Ralph Winwood, the Secretary of State, took pride, he begged her to accept them, as so great a lady should not use anything borrowed. In less than two years the same sir Ralph Winwood was labouring to discover the suspected murderers of sir Thomas Overbury. According to one account, an apothecary's boy, falling sick at Flushing, confessed that he had administered a poison to Overbury, who was then a prisoner in the Tower. According to another account, the discovery was as follows:-"It came first to light by a strange accident of sir Ralph Winwood, knt., one of the Secretaries of State, his dining with sir Jervis Elvis, lieutenant of the said Tower, at a great man's table, not far from Whitehall. For that great man, commending the same sir Jervis to sir Ralph Winwood as a person in respect of his many good qualities very worthy of his acquaintance, sir Ralph answered him, that he should willingly embrace his acquaintance, but that he could first wish he had cleared himself of a foul suspicion the world generally conceived of him, touching the death of sir Thomas Overbury. As soon as sir Jervis heard that, being very ambitious of the Secretary's friendship, he took occasion to enter into private conference with him, and therein to excuse himself to have been enforced to connive at the said murder, with much abhorring of it. He confessed the whole circumstance of the execution of it in general, and the instruments to have been set on work by Robert, Earl of Somerset, and his wife." *

The confession of Elvis, or Helwys, as thus related by D'Ewes, is not very probable. But suspicion being roused, and that suspicion pointing to the once favourite of the king-of whom, according to Clarendon, his majesty "begun to be weary,"-all the state machinery was put in action to bring the murder home to the instigators and the perpetrators. Coke, the lord chief justice, is stated by Bacon to have taken three hundred examinations. The king, according to the narrative of Roger Coke, the grandson of the great judge, was at Royston, and Somerset with him, when Winwood came to tell him what had been discovered. James immediately sent a messenger to Coke to apprehend the earl. Coke prepared a warrant, and despatched it to Royston: "The messenger went back post to Royston, and arrived there about ten in the morning. The king had a loathsome way of lolling his arms about his favourites' necks, and kissing them; and in this posture the messenger found the king with Somerset, saying, 'When shall I see thee again ?' Somerset then designing for London, when he was arrested by sir Edward's warrant. Somerset exclaimed, that never such an affront was offered to a peer of England in presence of the King. Nay, man,' said the king, 'if Coke sends for me, I must go;' and when he was gone, 'Now the Deel go with thee,' said the king, for I will never see thy face any more."" In the afternoon, according to the same account, the chief justice arrived, and then the king commanded him to search into the bottom of the conspiracy, and to spare no man, however great; concluding with an awful appeal to God to

D'Ewes, "Autobiography," vol. i. p. 68.




curse Coke if he spared any of them, and invoking the same curse upon himself if he pardoned any.

On the 19th of October, on the 9th of November, and on the 16th of November, 1615, Richard Weston, James Franklin, Anne Turner, and sir Jervis Elvis, were arraigned and condemned at Guildhall, and were executed. The countess of Somerset was committed to the Tower, where she gave birth to a daughter; and her husband was also committed. On the 24th of May, 1616, the countess was arraigned before the peers. She pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to death. The motive which induced her to be accessary to this crime was set forth by the chief justice in a report to the king. The examinations, he said, disclosed that lady Frances, countess of Essex, had employed sorcery for the double purpose of estranging the affections of her husband and winning those of Rochester; that Overbury, who had exhorted

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Somerset not to think of a divorce for the wife of Essex, to be followed by his own marriage, was, through the management of the deceased earl of Northampton, committed to the Tower; that Wade, the lieutenant of the Tower, was removed to make room for Elvis; that Weston was recommended as warder of the prisoner; that the countess, by the aid of Mrs. Turner, procured poisons from Franklin; and that by Weston they were administered, with the connivance of Elvis.




The earl of Somerset was put upon his trial on the day after his countess had confessed her guilt. It is one of the disgraces of Bacon that, in managing this trial, he had tampered with the due course of justice, so as to preconcert with the king that Somerset should be convicted, but, as he says under his own hand, "It shall be my care so to moderate the manner of charging him, as it might make him not odious beyond the extent of mercy." * Somerset was convicted; and was sentenced to die. In a few days his wife received a free pardon, which was afterwards extended to himself. He obtained a large pension; and only lost his great offices. The mysterious circumstances which led to such a flagrant defiance of public opinion may be explained by a remarkable account given by sir A. Weldon. His little book, "The Court and Character of King James," was long held to be a libel upon the Stuart family; but in the words of the most temperate of historians, his statement with regard to Somerset has "received the most entire confirmation by some letters from More, lieutenant of the Tower, published in Archæologia, vol. xviii." Somerset's trial was undoubtedly so managed by Bacon as to prevent him making any imprudent disclosure, or the judges from getting any insight into that which it was not meant to reveal." The following is the narrative of Weldon, of which he says, "this is the very relation from More's own mouth" :

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"And now for the last act, enters Somerset himself on the stage, who, being told, as the manner is, by the lieutenant, that he must provide to go next day to his trial, did absolutely refuse it, and said they should carry him in his bed; that the king had assured him he should not come to any trial, neither durst the king to bring him to trial; this was in a high strain, and in a language not well understood by George More (lieutenant in Elwaies his room), that made More quiver and shake, and however he was accounted a wise man, yet was he near at his wits' end.

"Yet away goes More to Greenwich, as late as it was (being twelve at night), bounceth at the back stairs, as if mad, to whom came Jo. Leveston, one of the grooms, out of his bed, enquires the reason of that distemper at so late a season; More tells him he must speak with the king; Leveston replies, he is quiet (which in the Scottish dialect is fast asleep); More says, you must awake him; More was called in; the chamber left to the king and More, he tells the king those passages, and desired to be directed by the king, for he was gone beyond his own reason to hear such bold and undutiful expressions, from a faulty subject, against a just sovereign. The king falls into a passion of tears, On my soul, More, I wot not what to do; thou art a wise man, help me in this great strait, and thou shalt find thou dost it for a thankful master; with other sad expressions. More leaves the king in that passion, but assures him he will prove the utmost of his wit, to serve his majesty, and was really rewarded with a suit worth to him £1500 (although Annandale, his great friend, did cheat him of one half), so was there falsehood in friendship.

"Sir George More returns to Somerset about three next morning, of that day he was to come to trial; enters Somerset's chamber, tells him he had been with the king, found him a most affectionate master unto him, and

* Amos, "Great Oyer," p. 459.

"Constitutional History," vol. i. p. 353, note.

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