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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 deprecannot be cation, as they prostrate themselves, and all that they have, at your majesty's feet, imploring your mercy.


in point thereof.

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.

REX. 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:

with the

even wish

it in this

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.

article can

not be


Secondly, For your mercy to be extended to both for pardon of their execution, I have partly touched in the consideration applied to the former case; where

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 manner of charging him, as it might make him not odious beyond the extent of mercy.



That dan

ger is well to be fore

seen, lest he

upon the

Lastly, All these points of mercy and favour are be understood with this limitation, if he do not, by his one part contemptuous and insolent carriage at the bar, make comm 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.

commit un-
errors, and
I on the
other part

seem to pu-

nish him in
the spirit of


be mended.

In this case I should think fit, that, as in public, both revenge myself, and chiefly my lord chancellor, sitting then as This artilord steward of England, should dehort and deter him cle 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 ver

REX. This is so


dict, 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 direc tions 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

and most bounden subject and servant,

April 28, 1616.


Stephens's CXXXIX. To Sir GEORGE VILLIERS, about the Earl of Somerset.

first collection, p. 120.


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 over work 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 expound eth 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.

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.

Stephens's CXL. To Sir GEORGE VILLIERS, of Somerset's

first collec

tion, p. 122.



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 judg


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 con

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