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first collection, p.114.
CXXXVIII. A Letter to the King, with his stephene's 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 over-reacheth 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
I say with new consult; the points whereof will be, 1. Whether
Apollo, your majesty will stay the trial, and so save them Medio tutiboth from the stage, and that public ignominy. 2. Or may stand
us itur, if it whether you will, or may fitly by law, have the trial with law: proceed, and stay or reprieve the judgment, which saveth the lands from forfeiture, and the blood from when I corruption. 3. Or whether you will have both trial that he conand judgment proceed, and save the blood only, not
fesseth, I from corrupting, but from spilling.
These be the depths of your majesty's mercy which Choice of I may not enter into : but for honour and reputation the last. they have these grounds :
and if it cannot,
am then to make
That the blood of Overbury is already revenged 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 depreThis arti- cation, as they prostrate themselves, and all that they be mended have, at your majesty's feet, imploring your mercy. in point
Secondly, That your majesty, in your own wisdom, thereof.
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, If stay of
as things stand, and which we expect, which is, that judgment can stand the lady confess; and that Somerset himself plead not law, I could guilty, and be found guilty :
In this case, first, I suppose your majesty will not case: in all think of any stay of judgment, but that the public the rest this 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; where
eyen wish it in this
article cannot be mended,
ger is well to be fore
unto 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 astringed by necessity either to acquit or condemn; but grace is free: and for my part, I think the evidence in this present case will be of such a nature.
Thirdly, it shall be my care so to moderate the Rex, manner of charging him, as it might make him not That danodious beyond the extent of mercy.
Lastly, All these points of mercy and favour are to seen, lest lie be understood with this limitation, if he do not, by his one part contemptuous and insolent carriage at the bar, make coun
pardonable himself incapable and unworthy of them. The third case is, if he should stand mute and will
other part not plead, whereof, your majesty knoweth, there hath seem to pu. been some secret question.
the spirit of In this case I should think fit, that, as in public, both revenge myself, and chiefly my lord chancellor, sitting then as This ar. lord Steward of England, should dehort and deter him ficle cannot 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 been never seen, as I conceive it, that there should be any rejecting of the verdict, or any
errors, and I on the
This is so also.
respiting of the judgment of the acquittal; so on the
other side this case requireth, that because there be REX. many high and hainous 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 shew it unto you; assuring myself that nothing is more firm than his trust, tied to your majesty's commandments.
Your majesty's most humble
Stephens's CXXXIX. To Sir GEORGE VILLIERS, about
the Earl of Somerset. tion,p.120.
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 inte
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 cncur in opinion, that the questioning and drawing him on to