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CHAP. (perhaps to flatter her now as she had formerly in her younger days been annoyed by such requests), proceeded humbly to petition her Majesty to make the kingdom further happy in her marriage, that so they might hope for a continual succession of those benefits in her posterity."

The Lord



of the Lord Keeper.

The Lord Keeper, after conferring with the Queen, made answer," In this her Majesty conceiveth the abundance of your inward affection grounded upon her good governance of you to be so great, that it doth not only content you to have her Majesty reign and govern over you, but also you do desire that some proceeding from her Majesty's body might by a perpetual succession reign over your posterity also—a matter greatly to move her Majesty (she saith) to incline to this your suit. Besides, her Highness is not unmindful of all the benefits that will grow to the realm by such a marriage, neither doth she forget any perils that are like to grow for want thereof. All which matters considered, her Majesty willed me to say that albeit of her own natural disposition she is not disposed or inclined to marriage, neither could she ever marry were she a private person, yet for your sakes and benefit of the realm, she is contented to dispose and incline herself to the satisfaction of your humble petition, so that all things convenient may concur that be meet for such a marriage, whereof there be very many, some touching the state of her most royal person, some touching the person of him whom God shall join, some touching the state of the whole realm; these things concurring and considered, her Majesty hath assented.”*

Parliament was not again called during the life of Sir Nicholas Bacon. He continued in a quiet manner to have considerable influence in public affairs. From the time of his restoration to the Council he was its legal adviser, and Cecil, now Lord Burghley, had been much influenced by him respecting the measures proposed to the legislature on the part of the government. Not being a Peer, he could not take a share in the Lords' debates, but presiding as Speaker on the Woolsack, he exercised a considerable influence on

* 1 Parl. Hist. 806.


their deliberations. He was supposed to have framed the CHAP. acts aimed at the Queen of Scots and her supporters. Although death saved him from the disgrace of being directly accessary to the death of this unfortunate Princess, he is chargeable with having strongly supported the policy which finally led to that catastrophe, by urging the continuation of her captivity and rigorous treatment,- by assisting in the efforts to blacken her reputation,- by resisting the recognition of her right and that of her son to succeed to the crown, and by contending, that though a captive sovereign, she ought to be treated as a rebellious subject.

Being a Commoner, he could neither act as Lord Steward, nor sit upon the trial of the Duke of Norfolk, who was the first who suffered for favouring Mary's cause; but as he put the Great Seal to the commission under which this mockery of justice was exhibited, and must have superintended and directed the whole proceeding, he is to be considered answerable for such atrocities as depriving the noble prisoner of the use of books, and debarring him from all communication with his friends from the time of his commitment to the Tower, – giving him notice of trial only the night before his arraignment,-keeping him in ignorance of the charges against him till he heard the indictment read in court,-and resting the case for the Crown on the confessions of witnesses whom the Council had ordered "to be put to the rack that they might find the taste thereof."* The religious zeal of the Lord Keeper and the Protestant ministers was now greatly exasperated, and they were eager by any expedients to crush the believers in those doctrines which they themselves had openly professed in the preceding reign.

Sir Nicholas, from his family connection with Burghley, continued opposed to the party of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Through the ill offices of this favourite he had been expelled from the Privy Council, and a great coldness ever after subsisted between them.

Although the Queen's reputation never suffered from her attentions to this old fat Lord Keeper, as it did when she

A. D. 1572.

Trial of

Duke of

Elizabeth's kindness to

the Lord Keeper.


His corpu lency.

His death.

Feb. 20. 1579.


danced and flirted with his young and handsome successor, Sir Christopher Hatton, she was latterly very kind to him, and visited him in her progresses at Redgrave and at Gorhambury. It was on one of these occasions that she remarked to him that his house was too small for him, and he answered, "Not so, Madam, your Highness has made me too great for my house." During another visit, Frank with his curly locks was introduced to her, and the lad showing from his earliest years the extraordinary genius which afterwards immortalised him, she, captivated by his manners and his answers to her questions, called him "her young Lord Keeper."

Old Sir Nicholas had grown exceedingly corpulent, insomuch that when he had walked the short distance from the Court of Chancery to the Star Chamber, it was some time after he had taken his place on the Bench there before he had sufficiently recovered his breath to go on with the business, and the Bar, before moving, waited for a signal which he gave them by thrice striking the ground with his staff.

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But he had enjoyed remarkably good health, and he might still have done the duties of his office satisfactorily for years to come, had it not happened that in the beginning of February, 1579, while under the operation of having his hair and his beard trimmed, he fell asleep. The awe-struck barber desisted from his task, and remained silent. The contemporary accounts state, that, from "the sultriness of the weather, the windows of the room were open," which, considering the season of the year, I do not exactly understand. However this may be, the Lord Keeper continued long asleep in a current of air, and when he awoke he found himself chilled and very much disordered. To the question, "Why did you suffer me to sleep thus exposed?" the answer was, "I durst not disturb you." Sir Nicholas replied,-"By your civility I lose my life." He was immediately carried to his bed, and in a few days he expired.

He was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral, where a monument to his memory stood till the great fire of London, -with the following epitaph from the pen of his friend, George Buch


"Hic Nicolaum ne Baconum conditum
Existima illum, tam diu Britannici
Regni secundum columen, exitium malis
Bonis asylum; cæca quem non extulit
Ad hunc honorem sors, sed æquitas, fides
Doctrina, pietas, unica et prudentia.
Neu morte raptum crede, quia unica brevi
Vita perennes emeruit duas; agit
Vitam secundam cælites inter animus;
Fama implet orbem vita quæ illi tertia est.
Hac positum in ara est corpus olim animi domus,
Ara dicata sempiternæ memoriæ."

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"Vir by Camden.

The character of Lord Keeper Bacon, by Camden, is very Character flattering, notwithstanding the sneer at his obesity*, præpinguis, ingenio acerrimo, singulari prudentia, summâ eloquentiâ, tenaci memoriâ et sacris conciliis alterum columen."

His son bears the most honourable testimony to his sincerity By his son. of mind and straightforward conduct—abstaining from ascrib

ing to him brilliant qualities which he knew did not belong

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to him: "He was a plain man, direct and constant, without all finesse and doubleness, and one that was of a mind that a man in his private proceedings, and in the proceedings of state, should rest on the soundness and strength of his own courses, and not upon practice to circumvent others, according to the sentence of Solomon, Vir prudens advertit ad gressus suos; stultus autem divertit ad dolos, insomuch that the Bishop of Ross, a subtle and observing man, said of him that he could fasten no words upon him, and that it was impossible to come within him, because he offered no play; and the Queen Mother of France, a very politic Princess, said of him that he should have been of the Council of Spain, because he despised the occurrents and rested on the first plot."†

The most valuable tribute to his memory is from Hayward, By Hayhis contemporary, who describes him as "a man of greate di- ward. ligence and ability in his place, whose goodnesse preserved his greatnesse from suspicion, envye, and hate." ‡

The Lord Keeper's figure seems to have been the subject of much jesting at Court. The Queen herself, alluding to it, said, "Sir Nicholas's soul lodges well," whereat, no doubt, the lords with white staves and the ladies in waiting laughed consumedly. Fuller describes him as a man "cui fuit ingenium subtile in corpore crasso."

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† Observations on a Libel. Bac. Works, Ed. 1819. vol. iii. p. 96.

Hayward's Annals of Elizabeth, published by Camden Society, p. 13.


His scholarship.

His oratory.

His high qualifica

tions as a


His writ


Amidst the drudgery of business and the cares of state, he kept up his classical learning, and was a patron of learned men, who repaid him for his condescension by their flattery. "I have come," said one of them, "to the Lord Keeper, and found him sitting in his gallery alone with the works of Quintilian before him. Indeed he was a most eloquent man, of rare wisdom and learning as ever I knew England to breed, and one that joyed as much in learned men and good witsfrom whose lips I have seen to proceed more grace and natural eloquence than from all the orators of Oxford and Cambridge."*

In his own time he was "famous for set speeches, and gained the reputation of a witty and weighty orator;" but I have been obliged to express my opinion, that the specimens of his eloquence transmitted to us are exceedingly dull and tiresome, having neither the point and quaintness of the preceding age, nor showing any approach to the vigour and eloquence which distinguished the latter half of the reign of Elizabeth. †

No judicial decision of his, either in the Court of Chancery or in the Star Chamber, is preserved, although we meet with much general commendation of his conduct as a Judge. He had the admirable qualities of patience and regularity; and he would often say, "Let us stay a little that we may have done the sooner,"- truly thinking, that an irregular attempt to shorten a cause generally makes it last twice as long as it would have done if regularly heard to its conclusion. When Lord Bacon, in his admirable essay "on Judicature," draws the picture of a good Judge, he is supposed to have intended to delineate his sire. The old gentleman's manner, however, seems to have had about it something of the ridiculous, for the saying went, "that some seemed wiser than they were, but the Lord Keeper was wiser than he seemed."

He wrote "A Treatise of Treason," and other works which have deservedly perished. Only two of his publications are


There are references to a MS. collection of his speeches said to be in the public library at Cambridge, but after a most diligent search, which I have caused to be made, it is not to be found.

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