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solemn an assembly, I purpose to make a declara- | justice, so it is a kind of corner-stone, whereupon
justice and mercy may meet.
tion of the proceedings of this great work of justice, from the beginning to the end, wherein, nevertheless, I will be careful no ways to prevent or discover the evidence of the next day.
The proofs, which I shall read in the end for the ground of your verdict and sentence, will be very short; and, as much as may, serve to satisfy your honours and consciences for the conviction of this lady, without wasting of time in a case clear and confessed; or ripping up guiltiness against one, that hath prostrated herself by confession; or preventing or deflowering too much of the evidence. And therefore the occasion itself doth admonish me to spend this day rather in declaration, than in evidence, giving God and the king the honour, and your lordships and the hearers the contentment, to set before you the proceeding of this excellent work of the king's justice, from the beginning to the end; and so to conclude with the reading the confessions and proofs.
In this my lord chancellor and I have likewise used a point of providence: for I did forecast, that if in that narrative, by the connexion of things, any thing should be spoken, that should show him guilty, she might break forth into passionate protestations for his clearing; which, though it may be justly made light of, yet it is better avoided. Therefore my lord chancellor and I have devised, that upon the entrance into that declaration she shall, in respect of her weakness, and not to add farther affliction, be withdrawn.
It is impossible, neither is it needful, for me, to express all the particulars of my care in this business. But I divide myself into all cogitations as far as I can foresee; being very glad to find, that his Majesty doth not only accept well of my care and advices, but that he applieth his directions so fitly, as guideth me from time to time.
I have received the commissions signed.
I am not forgetful of the goods and estate of Somerset, as far as is seasonable to inquire at this time. My lord Coke taketh upon him to answer for the jewels, being the chief part of his movable value and this, I think, is done with his Majesty's privity. But my lord Coke is a good man to answer for it.
God ever preserve and prosper you. I rest
May 10, Friday at 7 of the clock in the morning .
The Charge of the Attorney-General, Sir FRANCIS BACON, against FRANCES, Countess of SOMERSET, intended to have been spoken by him at her arraignment, on Friday, May 24, 1616, in case she had pleaded not guilty.*
Ir may please your Grace, my lord high steward of England,† and you my lords the peers,
You have heard the indictment against this lady well opened; and likewise the point in law, that might make some doubt, declared and solved; wherein certainly the policy of the law of England | is much to be esteemed, which requireth and respecteth form in the indictment, and substance in the proof.
This scruple it may be hath moved this lady to plead not guilty, though for the proof I shall not need much more than her own confession, which she hath formerly made, free and voluntary, and therein given glory to God and justice. tainly confession, as it is the strongest foundation of
She pleaded guilty, on which occasion the attorneygeneral spoke a charge somewhat different from this, printed in his works.
My lords, this is now the second time ‡ within the space of thirteen years reign of our happy sovereign, that this high tribunal-seat of justice, ordained for the trial by peers, hath been opened and erected; and that, with a rare event, supplied and exercised by one and the same person; which is a great honour to you, my lord steward.
In all this mean time, the king hath reigned in his white robe, not sprinkled with any drop of blood of any of his nobles of this kingdom. Nay, such hath been the depths of his mercy, as even those noblemen's bloods, (against whom the proceeding was at Winchester,) Cobham and Grey, were attainted and corrupted, but not spilt or taken away; but that they remained rather spectacles of justice in their continual imprisonment, than monuments of justice in the memory of their suffering.
It is true, that the objects of his justice then and now were very differing. For then, it was the revenge of an offence against his own person and crown, and upon persons that were malcontents, and contraries to the state and government. But now, it is the revenge of the blood and death of a particular subject, and the cry of a prisoner. It is upon persons, that were highly in his favour; whereby his Majesty, to his great honour, hath showed to the world, as if it were written in a sunbeam, that he is truly the lieutenant of Him, with whom there is no respect of persons; that his affections royal are above his affections private ; that his favours and nearness about him are not like popish sanctuaries to privilege malefactors; and that his being the best master of the world doth not let him from being the best king of the world. His people, on the other side, may say to themselves, I will lie down in peace; for God and the king and the law protect me against great and small." It may be a discipline also to great men, especially such as are swoln in fortunes from small beginnings, that the king is as well able to level mountains, as to fill valleys, if such be their desert.
But to come to the present case; the great frame of justice, my lords, in this present action, hath a
+ Thomas Egerton, viscount Ellesmere, lord high chancellor. The first time was on the trials of the lords Cobham and Grey, in November, 1603.
vault, and it hath a stage: a vault, wherein these | should embrace it willingly; but he must let his works of darkness were contrived; and a stage with steps, by which they were brought to light. And therefore I will bring this work of justice to the period of this day; and then go on with this day's work.
lordship know, that there did lie a heavy imputation upon that gentleman, Helwisse; for that Sir Thomas Overbury, his prisoner, was thought to have come to a violent and untimely death. When this speech was reported back by my lord of Shrewsbury to Helwisse, perculit illico animum, he was stricken with it; and being a politic man, and of likelihood doubting, that the matter would break forth at one time or other, and that others might have the start of him, and thinking to make his own case by his own tale, resolved with himself, upon this occasion, to discover to my lord of Shrewsbury and that counsellor, that there was an attempt, whereto he was privy, to have poisoned Overbury by the hands of his under-keeper, Weston; but that he checked it, and put it by, and dissuaded it, and related so much to him indeed: but then he left it thus, that was but an attempt, or untimely birth, never executed; and, as if his own fault had been no more, but that he was honest in forbidding, but fearful of revealing and impeaching or accusing great persons and so with this fine point thought to save himself.
Sir Thomas Overbury was murdered by poison in the 15th of September, 1613, 11 Reg. This foul and cruel murder did, for a time, cry secretly in the ears of God: but God gave no answer to it otherwise than by that voice, which sometimes he useth, which is vox populi, the speech of the people. For there went then a murmur, that Overbury was poisoned; and yet this same submiss and soft voice of God, the speech of the vulgar people, was not without a counter-tenor or counter-blast of the devil, who is the common author both of murder and slander: for it was given out, that Overbury was dead of a foul disease, and his body, which they had made a corpus Judaicum with their poisons, so as it had no whole part, must be said to be leprosed with vice, and so his name poisoned as well as his body. For as to dissoluteness, I never heard the gentleman noted with it: his faults were insolency, and turbulency, and the like of that kind: the other part of the soul, not the voluptuous.
But that great counsellor of state wisely considering, that by the lieutenant's own tale it could not be simply a permission or weakness; for that Weston was never displaced by the lieutenant, notwithstanding that attempt; and coupling the sequel by the beginning, thought it matter fit to be brought before his Majesty, by whose appointment Helwisse set down the like declaration in writing.
Meantime, there was some industry used, of which I will not now speak, to lull asleep those, that were the revengers of blood; the father and the brother of the murdered. And in these terms things stood by the space almost of two years: during which time, God so blinded the two great procurers, and dazzled them with their own greatness, and bind and nail fast the actors and instruments, with security upon their protection, as neither the one looked about them, nor the other stirred or fled, nor were conveyed away; but remained here still, as under a privy arrest of God's judgments; insomuch as Franklin, that should have been sent over to the Palsgrave with good store of money, was, by God's providence, and the accident of a marriage of his, diverted and stayed.
Upon this ground, the king playeth Solomon's part, Gloria Dei celare rem; et Gloria Regis investigare rem; and sets down certain papers of his own hand, which I might term to be claves justitiæ, keys of justice; and may serve for a precedent both for princes to imitate, and for a direction for judges to follow: and his Majesty carried the balance with a constant and steady hand, evenly and without prejudice, whether it were a true accusation of the one part, or a practice and factious device of the other: which writing, because I am not able to express according to the worth thereof, I will desire your lordship anon to hear read.
But about the beginning of the progress last summer, God's judgments began to come out of their depths and as the revealing of murders is commonly such, as a man may say, a Domino hoc factum est; it is God's work, and it is marvellous in our eyes; so in this particular it was most admirable; for it came forth by a compliment and matter of courtesy.
My lord of Shrewsbury, that is now with God, recommended to a counsellor of state, of especial trust by his place, the late lieutenant Helwisse,† only for acquaintance as an honest worthy gentleman; and desired him to know him, and to be acquainted with him. That counsellor answered him civilly, that my lord did him a favour; and that he Gilbert, earl of Shrewsbury, knight of the garter, who died May 8, 1616.
+ Sir Gervase Helwisse, appointed lieutenant of the Tower, upon the removal of Sir William Waad, on the 6th of May, 1613. [Reliquia Wottonianæ, p. 412, 3d edit. 1672.] Mr. Chamberlain, in a MS. letter to Sir Dudley Carleton, dated at London, May 13, 1613, speaks of Sir Gervase's promotion in these terms: "One Sir Gervase Helwisse of Lincolnshire, somewhat an unknown man, is put into the place [of Sir W.
This excellent foundation of justice being laid by bis Majesty's own hand, it was referred unto some counsellors to examine farther, who gained some degrees of light from Weston, but yet left it imperfect.
After it was referred to Sir Edward Coke, chief justice of the king's bench, as a person best practised in legal examinations, who took a great deal of indefatigable pains in it, without intermission, having, as I have heard him say, taken at least three hundred examinations in this business.
But these things were not done in a corner. need not speak of them. It is true, that my lord Waad's] by the favour of the lord chamberlain [earl of Somerset] and his lady. The gentleman is of too mild and gentle a disposition for such an office. He is my old friend and acquaintance in France, and lately renewed in town, where he hath lived past a year, nor followed the court many a day." Sir Henry Wotton, in a letter of the fourteenth of May, 1613, [ubi supra, p. 13.] says, that Sir Gervase had been before one of the pensioners.
chief justice, in the dawning and opening of the | light, finding, that the matter touched upon these great persons, very discreetly became suitor to the king to have greater persons than his own rank joined with him. Whereupon, your lordship, my lord high steward of England, to whom the king commonly resorteth in arduis, and my lord steward of the king's house, and my lord Zouch, were joined with him.
Neither wanted there this while practice to suppress testimony, to deface writings, to weaken the king's resolution, to slander the justice, and the like. Nay, when it came to the first solemn act of justice, which was the arraignment of Weston, he had his lesson to stand mute; which had arrested the wheel of justice. But this dumb devil, by the means of some discreet divines, and the potent charm of justice, together, was cast out. Neither did this poisonous adder stop his ear to those charms, but relented, and yielded to his trial.
Then follow the proceedings of justice against the other offenders, Turner, Helwisse, Franklin.
But all these being but the organs and instruments of this fact, the actors and not the authors, justice could not have been crowned without this last act against these great persons. Else Weston's censure or prediction might have been verified, when he said, he hoped the small flies should not be caught, and the great escape. Wherein the king being in great straits, between the defacing of his honour and of his creature, hath, according as he useth to do, chosen the better part, reserving always mercy to himself.
cautions of these poisons; that they might not be too swift, lest the world should startle at it by the suddenness of the despatch: but they must abide long in the body, and work by degrees and for this purpose there must be essays of them upon poor beasts, &c.
And lastly, I shall show you the rewards of this impoisonment, first demanded by Weston, and denied, because the deed was not done; but after the deed done and perpetrated, that Overbury was dead, then performed and paid to the value of 180.
And so without farther aggravation of that, which in itself bears its own tragedy, I will conclude with the confessions of this lady herself, which is the strongest support of justice; and yet is the foot-stool of mercy. For as the Scripture says, mercy and truth have kissed each other;" there is no meeting or greeting of mercy, till there be a confession, or trial of truth. For these read, Franklin, November 16, Franklin, November 17, Rich. Weston, October 1, Rich. Weston, October 2, Will. Weston, October 2, Richard Weston, October 3, Helwisse, October 2,
The Countess's letter without date.
SIR FRANCIS BACON TO THE KING.*
The time also of this justice hath had its true motions. The time until this lady's deliverance was due unto honour, christianity, and humanity, in respect of her great belly. The time since was due to another kind of deliverance too; which was, that some causes of estate, that were in the womb, might likewise be brought forth, not for matter of justice, but for reason of state. Likewise this last procrastination of days had the like weighty grounds and causes. And this is the true and brief representation of this extreme work of the king's justice.
IT MAY PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENT MAJESTY, ACCORDING to your Majesty's reference signified by Sir Roger Wilbraham, I have considered of the petition of Sir Gilbert Houghton, your Majesty's servant, for a licence of sole transportation of tallow, butter, and hides, &c. out of your realm of Ireland; and have had conference with the lord Chichester, late lord deputy of Ireland, and likewise with Sir John Davies, your Majesty's attorney there: And this is that which I find:
First, that hides and skins may not be meddled withal, being a staple commodity of the kingdom, wherein the towns are principally interested.
Now for the evidence against this lady, I am sorry I must rip it up. I shall first show you the purveyance or provisions of the poisons; that they were seven in number brought to this lady, and by her billetted and laid up till they might be used; and this done with an oath or vow of secrecy, which is like the Egyptian darkness, a gross and palpable darkness, that may be felt.
Secondly, I shall show you the exhibiting and sorting of this same number or volley of poisons. White arsenic was fit for salt, because it is of like body and colour. The poison of great spiders, and of the venomous fly cantharides, was fit for pigs' sauce, or partridge sauce, because it resembled pepper. As for mercury-water and other poisons they might be fit for tarts, which is a kind of hotchpot, wherein no one colour is so proper and some of these were delivered by the hands of this lady, and some by her direction. Thirdly, I shall prove and observe unto you the
That for tallow, butter, beef, not understanding it of live cattle, and pipe-staves, for upon these things we fell, although they were not all contained in the petition, but in respect hides were more worth than all the rest, they were thought of by way of some supply; these commodities are such, as the kingdom may well spare, and in that respect fit to be transported; wherein nevertheless some consideration may be had of the profit, that shall be taken upon the licence. Neither do I find, that the farmers of the customs there, of which some of them were before me, did much stand upon it, but seemed rather to give way to it.
I find also, that at this time all these commodities are free to be transported by proclamation, so as no profit can be made of it, except there be first a restraint; which restraint I think fitter to be by * From the collections of the late Robert Stephens, Esq.
some prohibition in the letters patents, than by any new proclamation; and the said letters patents to pass rather here, than there, as it was in the licence of wines granted to the lady Arbella; but then those letters patents to be enrolled in the chancery of Ireland, whereby exemplifications of them may be taken to be sent to the ports.
by my lord Roos, who was the first mover of this stone, to write a letter, which himself would deliver to the master of the horse, who doth me the honour to wish me very well: and I have obeyed his lordship, and beseech your honour, that you will be pleased to prevent, or to accompany, or second it with your commendation, lest otherwise the many
All which nevertheless I submit to your Majesty's words, that I have used, have but the virtue of a better judgment. single 0, or cypher. But indeed, if I had not been
5 June, 1616.
Your Majesty's most humble bounden subject over-weighed by the authority of my lord Roos's
His Majesty's being now in progress will give some impediment to my suit, unless either it be my good fortune, that your honour do attend his person; or else that you will be pleased to command some one of the many servants your honour hath in court, to procure the expedition of my cause, wherein I can foresee no difficulty, when I consider the interest, which your honour alloweth me in your favour, and my innocent carriage abroad for so many years; whereunto all his Majesty's ministers, who have known me, I am sure, will give an attestation, according to the contents of my letter to his Grace of Canterbury.
If I durst, I would most humbly entreat your honour to be pleased, that some servant of yours may speedily advertise me, whether or no his Grace of Canterbury hath received my letter; what his answer was; and what I may hope in this my suit. I remember, that the last words, which I had the honour to hear from your mouth, were, that if I continued any time free both from disloyalty and priesthood, your honour would be pleased to make yourself the intercessor for my return. Any letter sent to Mr. Trumball for me will come safely and speedily to my hands.
MR. TOBIE MATTHEW, TO SIR FRANCIS
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR HONOur,
Suca as know your honour, may congratulate with you the favour, which you have lately received from his Majesty, of being made a counsellor of state; but as for me, I must have leave to congratulate with the council-table, in being so happy as to have you for an assessor. I hope these are but beginnings, and that the marriage, which now I perceive that fortune is about to make with virtue, will be consummate in your person. I cannot dissemble, though I am ashamed to mention, the excessive honour, which you have vouchsafed to do unto my picture. But shame ought not to be so hateful as sin; and without sin I know not how to conceal the extreme obligation into which I am entered thereby, which is incomparably more than I can express, and no less than as much as I am able to conceive. And as the copy is more fortunate than the original, because it hath the honour to be under your eye; so the original being much more truly yours than the copy can be, aspires by having the happiness to see you, to put the picture out of countenance.
I understand by Sir George Petre,† who is arrived here at the Spa, and is so wise as to honour you extremely, though he have not the fortune to be known to your honour, that he had heard how my lord of Canterbury had been moved in my behalf; and that he gave way unto my return. This, if it be true, cannot have happened without some endeavour of your honour; and therefore, howsoever I have not been particularly advertised, that your honour had delivered my letter to his Grace; yet now methinks I do as good as know it, and dare adventure to present you with my humblest thanks for the favour. But the main point is, how his Majesty should be moved: wherein my friends are straining courtesy; and unless I have your honour for a master of the ceremonies, to take order, who shall begin, all the benefit, that I can reap by this negotiation, will be to have the reputation of little judgment in attempting that which I was not able to obtain; and that howsoever I have shot fair, I know not how to hit the mark. I have been directed
The term doth now last with your honour all the year long; and therefore the sooner I make an end, the better service I shall do you. I presume to kiss your hands, and continue
Your honour's most entirely, and humbly ever at commandment,
TOBIE MATTHEW. Spa, this 16th of July, stylo novo, 1616. POSTSC. It is no small penance that I am forced to apparel my mind in my man's hand, when it speaks to your honour. But God Almighty will have it so, through the shaking I have in my right hand; and I do little less than want the use of my fore finger.
Sir George Villiers, who was appointed to that office, Jan. 4, 1615-16.
TO SIR FRANCIS BACON, ATTORNEY-
IT MAY PLEASE YOUR HONour,
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR HONOUR,
I PRESUMED to importune your honour with a letter of the 16th of this month, whereby I signified how I had written to the master of the horse, that he would be pleased to move his Majesty for my return into England; and how that I had done it upon the direction of my lord Roos, who offered to be the deliverer thereof. Withal I told your honour, that I expressed thereby an act rather of obedience than prudence, as not holding his lordship a fit man, whom, by presenting that letter, the king might peradventure discover to be my favourer in this business. In regard whereof I besought him, that, howsoever I had complied with his command in writing, yet he would forbear the delivery; and I gave him divers reasons for it. And both in contemplation of those reasons, as also of the hazard of miscarriage, that letters do run into between these parts and those, I have now thought fit to send your honour this enclosed, accompanied with a most humble entreaty, that you will be pleased to put it into the master of the horse's hands, with such a recommendation as you can give. Having read it, your honour may be pleased to seal it: and if his honour have received the former by other hands, this may serve in the nature of a duplicate or copy: if not, it may be the original. And indeed, though it should be but the copy, if it may be touched by your honour, it would have both greater grace and greater life, than the principal itself; and therefore, howsoever, I humbly pray, that this may be delivered.
I HAVE been made happy by your honour's noble and dear lines of the two and twentieth of July; and the joy that I took therein, was only kept from excess by the notice they gave me of some intentions and advices of your honour, which you have been pleased to impart to others of my friends, with a meaning, that they should acquaint me with them: whereof they have entirely failed. And therefore if still it should import me to understand what they were, I must be enforced to beg the knowledge of them from yourself. Your honour hath, by this short letter, delivered me otherwise from a great deal of laborious suspense. For, besides the great hope you give me of being so shortly able to do you reverence, I am come to know, that by the diligence of your favour towards me, my lord of Canterbury hath been drawn to give way, and the master of the horse hath been induced to move. That motion, I trust, will be granted howsoever; but I should be out of fear thereof, if when he moves the king, your honour would cast to be present; that if his Majesty should make any difficulty, some such reply, as is wont to come from you, in such cases, may have power to discharge it.
I have been told rather confidently than credibly, for in truth I am hardly drawn to believe it, that Sir Henry Goodere should under-hand, upon the reason of certain accounts, that run between him and me, wherein I might justly lose my right, if I had so little wit, as to trouble your honour's infinite If my business should be remitted to the council business, by a particular relation thereof, oppose table, which yet, I hope, will not be, I am most a himself to my return; and perform ill offices in constranger to my lord chancellor and my lord cham-formity of that unkind affection, which he is said to berlain, of whom yet I trust, by means of your bear me. But, as I said, I cannot absolutely believe honour's good word in my behalf, that I shall re- it, though yet I could not so far despise the informceive no impediment. ation, as not to acquaint your honour with what I heard. I offer it not as a ruled case, but only as a query, as I have also done to Mr. Secretary Lake, in this letter, which I humbly pray your honour may be given him, together with your best advice, how my business is to be carried in this conjuncture of his Majesty's drawing near to London, at which time I shall receive my sentence. I have learned from your honour to be confident, that it will be pronounced in my favour; but if the will of God should be otherwise, I shall yet frame for myself a good proportion of contentment; since, howsoever I was so unfortunate, as that I might not enjoy my country, yet withal, I was so happy, as that my return thither such a person as yourself vouchsafed to bear me. was desired and negotiated by the affection, which When his Majesty shall be moved, if he chance to make difficulty about my return, and offer to impose any condition, which, it is known, I cannot draw myself to digest; I desire it may be remembered, that my case is common with many of his subjects, who
The bearer, Mr. Becher,+ can say what my carriage hath been in France under the eye of several ambassadors; which makes me the more glad to use him in the delivery of this letter to your honour: and if your honour may be pleased to command me any thing, he will convey it to my knowledge.
I hear, to my unspeakable joy of heart, how much power you have with the master of the horse; and how much immediate favour you have also with his most excellent Majesty so that I cannot but hope for all good success, when I consider withal the protection, whereinto you have been pleased to take
Most humble and most obliged of your honour's
TOBIE MATTHEW. Spa, this last of July, stylo novo, 1616.
TO SIR FRANCIS BACON, ATTORNEY-
*William, earl of Pembroke.
William, afterwards knighted. He had been secretary to Sir George Calvert, ambassador to the court of France, and
was afterwards agent at that court; and at last made clerk of the council.