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other services that concern the king's revenue and the repair of his estate. Besides, it pleaseth his Majesty to accept well of my relations touching his business, which may seem a kind of interloping, as the merchants call it, for one that is no counsellor. But I leave all unto you, thinking myself infinitely bounden unto you for your great favours, the beams whereof I see plainly reflect upon me even from others; so that now I have no greater ambition than this, that as the king showeth himself to you the best master, so I might be found your best serIn which wish and vow I shall ever rest,
silence: the other, that there may be special care
There is another business proper for me to crave
IT MAY PLEASE YOUR MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY,
THE last day when it pleased your Majesty to express yourself towards me far above that I can deserve or could expect, I was surprised by the prince's coming in: I most humbly pray your Majesty, therefore, to accept these few lines of acknowledgment. I never had great thoughts for myself, farther than to maintain those great thoughts, which, I
IT MAY PLEASE YOUR MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY, Ar my last access to your Majesty, it was fit for me to consider the time and your journey, which maketh me now trouble your Majesty with a remnant of that I thought then to have said; besides your old warrant and commission to me, to advertise your Majesty when you are aux champs, of any thing that concerned your service and my place. I know your Majesty is nunquam minus solus, quam cum solus; and I confess, in regard of your great CXXXV. TO HIS MAJESTY, ABOUT THE CHAN, judgment, under which nothing ought to be presented but well weighed, I could almost wish that the manner of Tiberius were in use again, of whom Tacitus saith, "Mos erat quamvis præsentem scripto adire;" much more in absence. I said to your Majesty that which I do now repeat, that the evidence upon which my lord of Somerset standeth indicted is of a good strong thread, considering impoisoning is the darkest of offences; but that the thread must be well spun and woven together; for, your Majesty knoweth, it is one thing to deal with a jury of Middlesex and Londoners, and another to deal with the peers whose objects perhaps will not be so much what is before them in the present case, which I think is as odious to them as to the vulgar, but what may be hereafter. Besides, there be two disadvantages, we that shall give in evidence shall meet with, somewhat considerable; the one, that the same things often opened lose their freshness, except there be an aspersion of somewhat that is new; the other is the expectation raised, which makes things seem less than they are, because they are less than opinion. Therefore I were not your attorney, nor myself, if I should not be very careful, that in this last part, which is the pinnacle of your former justice, all things may pass sine offendiculo, sine scrupulo. Hereupon I did move two things, which having now more fully explained myself, I do in all humbleness renew. First, that your Majesty will be careful to choose a steward of judgment that may be able to moderate the evidence and cut off digressions; for I may interrupt, but I cannot Stephens's First Collection, p. 105.
confess, I have for your service. I know what honour is, and I know what the times are; but, I thank God, with me my service is the principal; and it is far from me, under honourable pretences to cover base desires; which I account them to be, when men refer too much to themselves, especially serving such a king. I am afraid of nothing but that the master of the horse, your excellent servant, and I shall fall out, who shall hold your stirrup best. But were your Majesty mounted and seated without difficulties and distastes in your business, as I desire and hope to see you; I should ex animo desire to spend the decline of my years in my studies: wherein also I should not forget to do him honour, who, besides his active and politic virtues, is the best pen of kings, and much more, the best subject of a pen. God ever preserve your Majesty.
Your Majesty's most humble subject, and more and more obliged servant,
April 1, 1616.
CXXXVI. TO SIR GEORGE VILLIERS, ABOUT THE EARL OF SOMERSET.*
I THOUGHT it convenient to give his Majesty an account of that which his Majesty gave me in charge in general, reserving the particulars for his coming; and I find it necessary to know his pleasure in some things ere I could farther proceed.
My lord chancellor and myself spent Thursday and yesterday, the whole forenoons of both days, in the examination of Sir Robert Cotton; whom we find hitherto but empty, save only in the great point of the treaty with Spain.
This examination was taken before his Majesty's warrant came to Mr. Vice-Chamberlain, for communicating unto us the secrets of the pensions; which warrant I received yesterday morning, being Friday, and a meeting was appointed at my lord chancellor's in the evening after council; upon which conference we find matter of farther examination for Sir Robert Cotton, of some new articles whereupon to examine Somerset, and of entering into examination of Sir William Mounson.
Wherefore, first for Somerset, being now ready to proceed to examine him, we stay only upon the duke of Lenox, who it seemeth is fallen sick and keepeth in; without whom, we neither think it warranted by his Majesty's direction, nor agreeable to his intention, that we should proceed; for that will want, which should sweeten the cup of medicine, he being his countryman and friend. Herein then we humbly crave his Majesty's direction with all convenient speed, whether we shall expect the duke's recovery, or proceed by ourselves; or that his Majesty will think of some other person, qualified according to his Majesty's just intention, to be joined with us. I remember we had speech with his Majesty of my lord Hay; and I, for my part, can think of no other, except it should be my lord chancellor of Scotland, for my lord Binning may be thought too near allied.
I am farther to know his Majesty's pleasure concerning the day; for my lord chancellor and I conceived his Majesty to have designed the Monday and Tuesday after St. George's feast; and nevertheless we conceived also, that his Majesty understood that the examinations of Somerset about this, and otherwise touching the Spanish practices, should first be put to a point; which will not be possible, as time cometh on, by reason of this accident of the duke's sickness, and the cause we find of Sir William Mounson's examination, and that divers of the peers are to be sent for from remote places.
It may please his Majesty therefore to take into consideration, whether the days may not well be put off till Wednesday and Thursday after the term, which endeth on the Monday, being the Wednesday and Thursday before Whitsuntide; or, if that please not his Majesty, in respect, it may be, his Majesty will be then in town, whereas these arraignments have been still in his Majesty's absence from town, • Stephens's First Collection, p. 108.
then to take Monday and Tuesday after Trinity Sunday, being the Monday and Tuesday before Trinity term.
Now for Sir William Mounson, if it be his Majesty's pleasure that my lord chancellor and I shall proceed to the examination of him, for that of the duke of Lenox differs, in that there is not the like cause as in that of Somerset, then his Majesty may be pleased to direct his commandment and warrant to my lord chief justice, to deliver unto me the examination he took of Sir William Mounson, that those, joined to the information which we have received from Mr. Vice-Chamberlain, may be full instructions unto us for his examination. Farther, I pray let his Majesty know, that on Thursday in the evening my lord chief justice and myself attended my lord chancellor at his house for the settling that scruple which his Majesty most justly conceived in the examination of the lady Somerset; at which time, resting on his Majesty's opinion, that that evidence, as it standeth now uncleared, must cundum leges sanæ conscientiæ " be laid aside; the question was, whether we should leave it out, or try what a re-examination of my lady Somerset would produce? Whereupon we agreed upon a re-examination of my lady Somerset, which my lord chief justice and I have appointed for Monday morning. I was bold at that meeting to put my lord chief justice a posing question; which was, Whether that opinion which his brethren had given upon the whole evidence, and he had reported to his Majesty, namely, that it was good evidence, in their opinions, to convict my lord of Somerset, was not grounded upon this part of the evidence now to be omitted, as well as upon the rest; who answered positively, No; and they never saw the exposition of the letter, but the letter only.
The same Thursday evening, before we entered into this last matter, and in the presence of Mr. Secretary Winwood, who left us when we went to the former business, we had conference concerning the frauds and abusive grants passed to the prejudice of his Majesty's state of revenue; where my lord chief justice made some relation of his collections which he had made of that kind; of which I will only say this, that I heard nothing that was new to me, and I found my lord chancellor, in divers particulars, more ready than I found him. We grew to a distribution both of times and of matters, for we agreed what to begin with presently, and what should follow, and also we had consideration what was to be holpen by law, what by equity, and what by parliament; wherein I must confess, that in the last of these, of which my lord chief justice made most account, I make most doubt. But the conclusion was, that upon this entrance I should advise and confer at large with my lord chief justice, and set things in work. The particulars I refer till his Majesty's coming.
The learned counsel have now attended me twice at my chamber, to confer upon that which his Majesty gave us in commandment for our opinion upon the case set down by my lord chancellor, whether the statutes extend to it or no; wherein we are
Yesterday my lord chancellor, the duke of Lenox, and myself, spent the whole afternoon at the Tower, in the examination of Somerset, upon the articles sent from his Majesty, and some other additionals, which were in effect contained in the former, but extended to more particularity, by occasion of somewhat discovered by Cotton's examination and Mr. Vice-Chamberlain's information.
He is full of protestations, and would fain keep that quarter towards Spain clear: using but this for argument, that he had such fortunes from his Majesty, as he could not think of bettering his conditions from Spain, because, as he said, he was no military man. He cometh nothing so far on, for that which concerneth the treaty, as Cotton, which doth much aggravate suspicion against him: the farther particulars I reserve to his Majesty's coming. In the end, tamquam obiter, but very effectually, my lord chancellor put him in mind of the state he stood in for the impoisonment; but he was little moved with it, and pretended carelessness of life, since ignominy had made him unfit for his Majesty's service. I am of opinion that the fair usage of him, as it was fit for the Spanish examinations, and for the questions touching the papers and despatches, and all that, so it was no good preparative to make him descend into himself touching his present danger; and therefore my lord chancellor and myself thought not good to insist upon it at this time.
I have received from my lord chief justice the examination of Sir William Mounson; with whom we mean to proceed to farther examination with all speed.
My lord chief justice is altered touching the reexamination of the lady, and desired me that we might stay till he spake with his Majesty, saying it could be no casting back to the business; which I did approve.
Myself with the rest of my fellows, upon due and mature advice, perfected our report touching the chancery; for the receiving whereof, I pray you *Stephens's First Collection, p. 112. + Ibid. 114. REX. I say with Apollo, "Medio tutius itur," if it may
put his Majesty in mind at his coming, to appoint some time for us to wait upon him all together, for the delivery in of the same, as we did in our former certificate.
For the revenue matters, I reserve them to his Majesty's coming; and in the mean time I doubt not but Mr. Secretary Winwood will make some kind of report thereof to his Majesty.
For the conclusion of your letter concerning my own comfort, I can but say the Psalm of "Quid retribuam ?" God that giveth me favour in his Majesty's eyes, will strengthen me in his Majesty's service. I ever rest
CXXXVIII. A LETTER TO THE KING, WITH HIS MAJESTY'S OBSERVATIONS UPON IT.† IT MAY PLEASE YOUR MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY, YOUR Majesty hath put me upon a work of providence in this great cause, which is to break and distinguish future events into present cases; and so to present them to your royal judgment, that, in this action, which hath been carried with so great prudence, justice, and clemency, there may be, for that which remaineth, as little surprise as is possible; but that things duly foreseen may have their remedies and directions in readiness; wherein I cannot forget what the poet Martial saith; “O quantum est subitis casibus ingenium!" signifying, that accident is many times more subtle than foresight, and overreacheth expectation; and besides, I know very well the meanness of my own judgment, in comprehending or forecasting what may follow.
It was your Majesty's pleasure also that I should couple the suppositions with my opinion in every of them, which is a harder task; but yet your Majesty's commandment requireth my obedience, and your trust giveth me assurance.
I will put the case, which I wish; that Somerset should make a clear confession of his offences, before he be produced to trial.
In this case it seemeth your Majesty will have a new consult; the points whereof will be, 1. Whether your Majesty will stay the trial, and so save them both from the stage, and that public ignominy. 2. Or whether you will, or may fitly by law, have the trial proceed, and stay or reprieve the judgment, which saveth the lands from forfeiture, and the blood from corruption. 3. Or whether you will have both trial and judgment proceed, and save the blood only, not from corrupting, but from spilling.‡ stand with law; and if it cannot, when I shall hear that he confesseth, I am then to make choice of the first or the last.
These be the depths of your Majesty's mercy | astringed by necessity either to acquit or condemn ; which I may not enter into: but for honour and but grace is free and for my part, I think the reputation they have these grounds: evidence in this present case will be of such a That the blood of Overbury is already revenged nature. by divers executions.
That confession and penitency are the footstools of mercy; adding this circumstance likewise, that the former offenders did none of them make a clear confession.
That the great downfal of so great persons carrieth in itself a heavy judgment, and a kind of civil death, although their lives should not be taken.
All which may satisfy honour for sparing their lives. But if your Majesty's mercy should extend to the first degree, which is the highest, of sparing the stage and the trial; then three things are to be considered:
First, That they make such a submission or deprecation, as they prostrate themselves, and all that they have, at your Majesty's feet, imploring your mercy.
Secondly, That your Majesty, in your own wisdom, do advise what course you will take, for the utter extinguishing of all hopes of resuscitating of their fortunes and favour; whereof if there should be the least conceit, it will leave in men a great deal of envy and discontent.
And lastly; whether your Majesty will not suffer it to be thought abroad, that there is cause of farther examination of Somerset, concerning matters of estate, after he shall begin once to be a confessant, and so make as well a politic ground, as a ground of clemency, for farther stay.
And for the second degree, of proceeding to trial, and staying judgment, I must better inform myself by precedents, and advise with my lord chancellor.
The second case is, if that fall out which is likest, as things stand, and which we expect, which is, that the lady confess; and that Somerset himself plead not guilty, and be found guilty :†
In this case, first, I suppose your Majesty will not think of any stay of judgment, but that the public process of justice pass on.
Secondly, For your mercy to be extended to both for pardon of their execution, I have partly touched in the considerations applied to the former case; whereunto may be added, that as there is ground of mercy for her, upon her penitency and free confession, and will be much more upon his finding guilty; because the malice on his part will be thought the deeper source of the offence; so there will be ground for mercy on his part, upon the nature of the proof; and because it rests chiefly upon presumptions. For certainly there may be an evidence so balanced, as it may have sufficient matter for the conscience of the peers to convict him, and yet leave sufficient matter in the conscience of a king upon the same evidence to pardon his life; because the peers are
REX. This article cannot be mended in point thereof. REX. If stay of judgment can stand with the law, I could even wish it in this case: in all the rest this article cannot be mended.
REX. That danger is well to be foreseen, lest he upon
Thirdly, 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.
Lastly, All these points of mercy and favour are to be understood with this limitation, if he do not by his contemptuous and insolent carriage at the bar, make himself incapable and unworthy of them.‡ The third case is, if he should stand mute and will not plead, whereof, your Majesty knoweth, there hath been some secret question.
In this case I should think fit, that, as in public, both myself, and chiefly my lord chancellor, sitting then as lord steward of England, should dehort and deter him from that desperation; so nevertheless, that as much should be done for him, as was done for Weston; which was to adjourn the court for some days, upon a christian ground, that he may have time to turn from that mind of destroying himself; during which time your Majesty's farther pleasure may be known.§
The fourth case is that which I should be very sorry it should happen, but it is a future contingent; that is, if the peers should acquit him and find him not guilty.
In this case the lord steward must be provided what to do. For as it hath never been seen, as I conceive it, that there should be any rejecting of the verdict, or any respiting of the judgment of the acquittal; so on the other side this case requireth, that because there be many high and heinous offences, though not capital, for which he may be questioned in the star-chamber, or otherwise, that there be some touch of that in general at the conclusion, by my lord steward of England; and that therefore he be remanded to the Tower as close prisoner.||
For the matter of examination, or other proceedings, my lord chancellor with my advice hath set down, To-morrow, being Monday, for the re-examination of the lady :
Wednesday next, for the meeting of the judges concerning the evidence :
Thursday, for the examination of Somerset himself, according to your Majesty's instructions:
Which three parts, when they shall be performed, I will give your Majesty advertisement with speed, and in the mean time be glad to receive from your Majesty, whom it is my part to inform truly, such directions or significations of your pleasure as this advertisement may induce, and that with speed, because the time cometh on. Well remembering who is the person whom your Majesty admitted to this secret, I have sent this letter open unto him, that he may take your Majesty's times to report it, or show it unto you; assuring myself that nothing is
the one part commit unpardonable errors, and I on the other part seem to punish him in the spirit of revenge. REX. This article cannot be mended. REX. This is so also.
more firm than his trust, tied to your Majesty's commandments.
Your Majesty's most humble and most bounden
April 28, 1616.
CXXXIX. TO SIR GEORGE VILLIERS, ABOUT THE EARL OF SOMERSET.* SIR,
I HAVE received my letter from his Majesty with his marginal notes, which shall be my directions, being glad to perceive I understand his Majesty so well. That same little charm, which may be secretly infused into Somerset's ear some few hours before his trial, was excellently well thought of by his Majesty; and I do approve it both for matter and time; only if it seem good to his Majesty I would wish it a little enlarged for if it be no more than to spare his blood, he hath a kind of proud humour which may overwork the medicine. Therefore I could wish it were made a little stronger, by giving him some hopes that his Majesty will be good to his lady and child; and that time, when justice and his Majesty's honour is once saved and satisfied, may produce farther fruit of his Majesty's compassion: which was to be seen in the example of Southampton, whom his Majesty after attainder restored; and Cobham and Gray, to whom his Majesty, notwithstanding they were offenders against his own person, yet he spared their lives; and for Gray, his Majesty gave him back some part of his estate, and was upon point to deliver him much more. He having been so highly in his Majesty's favour, may hope well, if he hurt not himself by his public misdemeanor.
For the person that should deliver this message, I am not so well seen in the region of his friends, as to be able to make choice of a particular; my lord treasurer, the lord Knollys, or any of his nearest friends, should not be trusted with it, for they may go too far, and perhaps work contrary to his Majesty's ends. Those which occur to me, are my lord Hay, my lord Burleigh, of England I mean, and Sir Robert Carre.
My lady Somerset hath been re-examined, and his Majesty is found both a true prophet and a most just king in that scruple he made; for now she expoundeth the word He, that should send the tarts to Elwys's wife, to be of Overbury, and not of Somerset; but for the person that should bid her, she said it was Northampton or Weston, not pitching upon certainty, which giveth some advantage to the evidence.
Yesterday being Wednesday, I spent four or five hours with the judges whom his Majesty designed to take consideration with, the four judges of the king's bench, of the evidence against Somerset: they all concur in opinion, that the questioning and drawing him on to trial is most honourable and just, and that the evidence is fair and good.
* Stephens's First Collection, p. 120.
His Majesty's letter to the judges concerning the Commendams was full of magnanimity and wisdom. I perceive his Majesty is never less alone, than when he is alone; for I am sure there was nobody by him to inform him, which made me admire it the more..
The judges have given a day over, till the second Saturday of the next term: so as that matter may endure farther consideration, for his Majesty not only not to lose ground, but to win ground.
To-morrow is appointed for the examination of Somerset, which by some infirmity of the duke of Lenox was put off from this day. When this is done, I will write more fully, ever resting Your true and devoted servant,
May 2, 1616.
CXL. TO SIR GEORGE VILLIERS, OF SOMERSET'S ARRAIGNMENT.†
I AM far enough from opinion, that the redintegration or resuscitation of Somerset's fortune can ever stand with his Majesty's honour and safety; and therein I think I expressed myself fully to his Ma-. jesty in one of my former letters; and I know well any expectation or thought abroad will do much hurt. But yet the glimmering of that which the king hath done to others, by way of talk to him, cannot hurt, as I conceive; but I would not have that part of the message as from the king, but added by the messenger as from himself. This I remit to his Majesty's princely judgment.
For the person, though he trust the lieutenant well, yet it must be some new man; for in these cases, that which is ordinary worketh not so great impressions as that which is new and extraordinary.
The time I wish to be the Tuesday, being the even of his lady's arraignment: for, as his Majesty first conceived, I would not have it stay in his stomach too long, lest it sour in the digestion; and to be too near the time, may be thought but to tune him for that day.
I send here withal the substance of that which I purpose to say nakedly, and only in that part which is of tenderness; for that I conceive was his Majesty's meaning.
It will be necessary, because I have distributed parts to the two sergeants, as that paper doth express, and they understand nothing of his Majesty's pleasure of the manner of carrying the evidence more than they may guess by observation of my example, which they may ascribe as much to my nature as to direction; therefore that his Majesty would be pleased to write some few words to us all, signed with his own hand, that, the matter itself being tragical enough, bitterness and insulting be forborne; and that we remember our part to be to make him delinquent to the peers, and not odious to the people. That part of the evidence of the lady's exposition of the pronoun, he, which was first Stephens's First Collection, p. 122.