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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 reputation they have these grounds:
but grace is free and for my part, I think the 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 atter 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
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.*
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 Majesty 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 be ing tragical enough, bitterness and insulting be for borne; 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.
caught hold of by me, and afterwards by his Ma- | him likewise to repent of his offence: that the conjesty's singular wisdom and conscience excepted to, and now is by her re-examination retracted, I have given order to sergeant Montague, within whose part it falleth, to leave it out of the evidence. I do yet crave pardon, if I do not certify touching the point of law for respiting the judgment, for I have not fully advised with my lord chancellor concerning it, but I will advertise it in time.
I send his Majesty the lord steward's commission in two several instruments, the one to remain with my lord chancellor, which is that which is written in secretary-hand for his warrant, and is to pass the signet; the other, that whereunto the great seal is to be affixed, which is in chancery-hand: his Majesty is to sign them both, and to transmit the former to the signet, if the secretaries either of them be there; and both of them are to be returned to me with all speed. I ever rest,
Your true and devoted servant,
That his lady, as he knew, and that after many oaths and imprecations to the contrary, had nevertheless in the end, being touched with remorse, confessed; that she that led him to offend, might lead * Stephens's First Collection, p. 124.
fession of one of them could not fitly do either of them much good, but the confession of both of them might work some farther effect towards both and therefore, in conclusion, we wished him not to shut the gate of your Majesty's mercy against himself, by being obdurate any longer. This was the effect of that which was spoken, part by one of us, part by another, as it fell out; adding farther, that he might well discern who spake in us in the course we held; for that commissioners for examination might not presume so far of themselves.
Not to trouble your Majesty with circumstances of his answers, the sequel was no other, but that we found him still not to come any degree farther on to confess; only his behaviour was very sober, and modest, and mild, differing apparently from other times, but yet, as it seemed, resolved to have his trial.
Then did we proceed to examine him upon divers questions touching the impoisonment, which indeed were very material and supplemental to the former evidence; wherein either his affirmatives gave some light, or his negatives do greatly falsify him in that which is apparently proved.
We made this farther observation; that when we asked him some question that did touch the prince or some foreign practice, which we did very sparingly at this time, yet he grew a little stirred, but in the questions of the impoisonment very cold and modest. Thus not thinking it necessary to trouble your Majesty with any farther particulars, we end with prayer to God ever to preserve your Majesty.
Your Majesty's most loyal and faithful servant,
IT MAY PLEASE YOUR MAJESTY,
We have done our best endeavours to perform your Majesty's commission, both in matter and manner, for the examination of my lord of Somerset; wherein that which passed, for the general, was to this effect; That he was to know his own case, for that his day of trial could not be far off; but that this day's work was that which would conduce to your Majesty's justice little or nothing, but to your mercy much, if he did lay hold upon it; and therefore might do him good, but could do him no hurt. For as for your justice, there had been taken great and grave opinion, not only of such judges as he may think violent, but of the most sad and most temperate of the kingdom, who ought to understand
CHIEF JUSTICE COKE.†
the state of the proofs, that the evidence was full to CXLII. AN EXPOSTULATION TO THE LORD convict him, so as there needeth neither confession, nor supply of examination. But for your Majesty's mercy, although he were not to expect we should make any promise, we did assure him, that your Majesty was compassionate of him if he gave you some ground whereon to work; that as long as he stood upon his innocency and trial, your Majesty was tied in honour to proceed according to justice; and that he little understood, being a close prisoner, how much the expectation of the world, besides your love to justice itself, engaged your Majesty, whatsoever your inclinations were: but nevertheless that a frank and clear confession might open the gate of mercy, and help to satisfy the point of honour.
Postscript. If it seem good unto your Majesty, we think it not amiss some preacher, well chosen, had access to my lord of Somerset for his preparing and comfort, although it be before his trial.
MY VERY GOOD LORD,
THOUGH it be true, that "he who considereth the wind and the rain, shall neither sow nor reap;' yet "there is a season for every action," and so "there is a time to speak, and a time to keep silence." There is a time when the words of a poor simple man may profit; and that poor man in "The Preacher," which delivered the city by his wisdom, found that without this opportunity the owner both of wisdom and eloquence lose but their labour, and cannot charm the deaf adder. God therefore, before his Son that bringeth mercy, sent his servant the trumpeter of repentance to level every high hill, to prepare the way before him, making it smooth and straight: and as it is in spiritual things, where Christ never comes before his way-maker hath laid even the heart with sorrow and repentance, + Ibid. p. 126. Eccles. xi. 4.
since self-conceited and proud persons think them- | choice with men, who are the best books: for a man
selves too good and too wise to learn of their inferiors, and therefore need not the physician; so in the rules of earthly wisdom, it is not possible for nature to attain any mediocrity of perfection, before she be humbled by knowing herself and her own ignorance. Not only knowledge, but also every other gift, which we call the gifts of fortune, have power to puff up earth: afflictions only level these mole-hills of pride, plough the heart, and make it fit for wisdom to sow her seed, and for grace to bring forth her increase. Happy is that man therefore, both in regard of heavenly and earthly wisdom, that is thus wounded to be cured, thus broken to be made straight; thus made acquainted with his own imperfections that he may be perfected.
Supposing this to be the time of your affliction, that which I have propounded to myself is, by taking this seasonable advantage, like a true friend, though far unworthy to be counted so, to show you your true shape in a glass; and that not in a false one to flatter you, nor yet in one that should make you seem worse than you are, and so offend you; but in one made by the reflection of your own words and actions; from whose light proceeds the voice of the people, which is often not unfitly called the voice of God. But therein, since I have purposed a truth, I must entreat liberty to be plain, a liberty, that at this time I know not whether or no I may use safely, I am sure at other times I could not; yet of this resolve yourself, it proceedeth from love and a true desire to do you good; that you knowing the general opinion, may not altogether neglect or contemn it, but mend what you find amiss in yourself, and retain what your judgment shall approve; for to this end shall truth be delivered as naked as if yourself were to be anatomized by the hand of opinion. All men can see their own profit, that part of the wallet hangs before. A true friend (whose worthy office I would perform, since 1 fear both yourself and all great men want such, being themselves true friends to few or none) is first to show the other, and which is from your eyes.
of action and employment you seldom converse with,
First therefore behold your errors. In discourse you delight to speak too much, not to hear other men; this, some say, becomes a pleader, not a judge; for by this sometimes your affections are entangled with a love of your own arguments, though they be the weaker; and rejecting of those, which, when your affections were settled, your own judgment would allow for strongest. Thus while you speak in your own element, the law, no man ordinarily equals you; but when you wander, as you often delight to do, you wander indeed, and give never such satisfaction as the curious time requires. This is not caused by any natural defect, but first for want of election, when you, having a large and fruitful mind, should not so much labour what to speak, as to find what to leave unspoken: rich soils are often to be weeded.
Secondly, You cloy your auditory when you would be observed; speech must be either sweet or short. Thirdly, you converse with books, not men, and books especially human; and have no excellent
In your last, which might have been your best piece of service to the state, affectioned to follow that old rule, which giveth justice leaden heels and iron hands, you used too many delays till the delinquents' hands were loosed, and yours bound: in that work you seemed another Fabius, where the humour of Marcellus would have done better: what need you have sought more evidences than enough? while you pretended the finding out of more, missing your aim, you discredited what you had found. This best judgments think; though you never used such speeches as are fathered upon you, yet you might well have done it, and but rightly; for this * 10,000l. Cab.
crime was second to none, but the powder-plot: | towards land; learn of the steward to make friends that would have blown up all at one blow, a merciful cruelty; this would have done the same by degrees, a lingering but a sure way; one might by one be called out, till all opposers had been removed.
Besides, that other plot was scandalous to Rome, making popery odious in the sight of the whole world: this hath been scandalous to the truth of the whole gospel; and since the first nullity to this instant, when justice hath her hands bound, the devil could not have invented a more mischievous practice to our state and church than this hath been, is, and is like to be. God avert the evil.
of the unrighteous mammon. Those Spaniards in Mexico who were chased of the Indians, tell us what to do with our goods in our extremity; they being to pass over a river in their flight, as many as cast away their gold swam over safe; but some more covetous, keeping their gold, were either drowned with it, or overtaken and slain by the savages: you have received, now learn to give. The beaver learns us this lesson, who being hunted for his stones, bites them off: you cannot but have much of your estate, pardon my plainness, ill got; think how much of that you never spake for, how much by speaking unjustly or in unjust causes. Account it then a blessing of God, if thus it may be laid out for your good, and not left for your heir, to hasten the wasting of much of the rest, perhaps of all: for so we see God oftentimes proceeds in judgment with many hasty gatherers: you have enough to spare, being well laid, to turn the tide, and fetch all things again. But if you escape, I suppose it worthy of an If, since you know the old use, that none called in question must go away uncensured, yet consider that accusations make wounds, and leave scars; and though you see the toil behind your back, yourself free, and the covert before, yet remember there are stands trust not a reconciled enemy; but think the peace is but to secure you for farther advantage, or expect a second and a third encounter; the main battle, the wings are yet unbroken, they may charge you at an instant, or Death before them; walk therefore circumspectly, and if at length, by means of our endeavours and yours, you recover the favour that you have lost, give God the glory in action, not in words only; and remember us with sense of your past misfortune, whose estate hath, and may hereafter lie in the power of your breath.
There is a great mercy in despatch, delays are tortures, wherewith by degrees we are rent out of our estates; do not you, if you be restored, as some others do, fly from the service of virtue to serve the time, as if they repented their goodness, or meant not to make a second hazard in God's house; but rather let this cross make you zealous in God's cause, sensible in ours, and more sensible in all; which express thus. You have been a great enemy to papists; if you love God be so still, but more indeed than heretofore: for much of your zeal was heretofore wasted in words: call to remembrance that they were the persons that prophesied of that cross of yours long before it happened; they saw the storm coming, being the principal contrivers and fartherers of the plot, the men that blew the coals, heat the iron, and made all things ready; they owe you a good turn, and will, if they can, pay it you; you see their hearts by their deeds, prove then your faith so to the best good work you can do, is to do the best you can against them, that is, to see the law severely, justly, and diligently executed.
And now we beseech you, my lord, be sensible tice maketh it bitter, and delays make it sour." Essay LVI.
But herein you committed another fault: that as you were too open in your proceedings, and so taught them thereby to defend themselves; so you gave them time to undermine justice, and to work upon all advantages both of affections, and honour, and opportunity, and breach of friendship; which they have so well followed, sparing neither pains nor costs, that it almost seemeth a higher offence in you to have done so much indeed, than that you have done no more: you stopt the confessions and accusations of some, who perhaps, had they been suffered, would have spoken enough to have removed some stumbling-blocks out of your way; and that you did not this in the favour of any one, but of I know not what present unadvised humours, supposing enough behind to discover all; which fell not out so. Howsoever, as the apostle saith in another case, 66 you went not rightly to the truth;" and therefore, though you were to be commended for what you did, yet you were to be reprehended for many circumstances in the doing; and doubtless God hath an eye in this cross to your negligence, and the briers are left to be pricks in your sides and thorns in your eyes. But that which we commend you for, are those excellent parts in nature, and knowledge in the law, which you are endowed withal; but these are only good in their good use. Wherefore we thank you heartily for standing stoutly in the commonwealth's behalf; hoping it proceedeth not from a disposition to oppose greatness, as your enemies say, but to do justice, and deliver truth indifferently without respect of persons; and in this we pray for your prosperity, and are sorry that your good actions should not always succeed happily. But in the carriage of this you were faulty; for you took it in hand in an evil time, both in respect of the present business which was interrupted, and in regard of his present sickness whom it concerned whereby you disunited your strength, and made a gap for the enemies to pass out at, and to return and assault you.
But now since the case so standeth, we desire you to give way to power, and so to fight that you be not utterly broken, but reserved entirely to serve the commonwealth again, and to do what good you can, since you cannot do all the good you would; and since you are fallen upon this rock, cast out the goods to save the bottom; stop the leaks and make
My lord Bacon observes elsewhere, that the Scripture saith, there be that turn judgment into wormwood; and saith P. 304. be, surely there be "also that turn it into vinegar; for injus