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June 5. 1600.

Trial of

fore Lord


and other Commissioners.

by his protestations, that she released him from his imprisonment under the Lord Keeper, and allowed him to reside in his own house in the Strand, and he probably would have escaped with entire impunity had not the complaints of his family and friends raised such a public clamour against the harsh treatment of the individual, who had the rare fortune to be much beloved by the people as well as by the Sovereign. She at last ordered him to be tried not before the Star Chamber, or any recognised tribunal, but before eighteen Commissioners, consisting of the Lord Keeper, the Lord Treasurer, the Lord Admiral, most of the great officers of state, and five of the Judges. They assembled in the hall of York House, and sat in chairs at a long table for eleven hours, from eight in the morning till seven at night.

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His treatment gives us a strange notion of the manners of the times. At his entrance the Commissioners all remained Essex be covered, and gave no sign of salutation or courtesy. He knelt at the upper end of the table, and for a good while without a cushion. He was at last supplied with one on the motion of the Archbishop of Canterbury; but he was suffered to kneel till after the Lord Keeper had expounded the nature of the Commission, and till the end of the speech of the Queen's Serjeant, who opened the case for the Crown. He was then allowed to stand up, and by-and-by, through the interference of the Archbishop, he was indulged with liberty to sit on a stool.

His defence.


to him.

He opened his defence by offering thanks to God for his mercy, and to the Queen for her clemency towards him, and was proceeding to justify his conduct, when the Lord Keeper admonition (probably from a friendly motive) interrupted him, telling him "this was not the course that was likely to do him good; that he began well by submitting himself to her Majesty's mercy and pardon, which himself and the rest of the Lords were glad to hear, and no doubt her princely and gracious nature was by that way most likely to be inclined to favour; that all estimation of his offence was but the lessening of her Majesty's mercy in pardoning; that he, with all the other Lords, would clear him of all suspicion of disloyalty, and that

therefore he might do well to spare the rest of his speech, and save time, and commit himself to her Majesty's mercy."



Essex replying" that he spoke nothing but only to clear himself from a malicious corrupt affection," the Lord Keeper told him, that "if he meant the crime of disloyalty, it was that which he needed not to fear, all that was now laid to him being contempt and disobedience, and that it was absurd to cover direct disobedience by a pretended intention to obey. If the Earl of Leicester did evil in coming over contrary to the Queen's commandment, the Earl of Essex did more in imitating the Earl of Leicester, and was so much the more to be punished for it." After a warm panegyric on the Queen and her Irish government, he then proceeded to pronounce sentence, which, he said, "in the Star Chamber must have been the heaviest fine ever yet imposed, and perpetual imprisonment in the Tower; but in this mode of proceeding the The senCourt, out of favour to him, merely ordered that he should not execute the office of Privy Councillor, nor of Earl Marshal of England, nor Master of the Ordnance; and that he should return to his own house, there to remain a prisoner during the Queen's pleasure."

The sentence, or "censure," as it was called, so pronounced by the Lord Keeper was dictated by the Queen, who, to bring him again near her person, had directed that the office of "Master of the Horse" should not be included among those for which he was disqualified; and the Court may be absolved from any great violation of the constitution on this occasion, as the whole of the punishment might have been inflicted lawfully by her own authority — with the exception of the imprisonment, which she immediately remitted.


But Egerton had still to pass through extraordinary scenes in connection with Essex, to whom Elizabeth now behaved with a mixture of fondness and severity, which drove him to destruction. He for some time seemed completely restored to her favour, and then she refused to renew his monopoly of Sweet Wines, saying that "an ungovernable beast must be stinted in his provender." He thought that she had completely Essex's resurrendered herself to the Cecils and Sir Walter Raleigh, and he entered into the conspiracy to raise the city of


CHAP. London, where he was so popular, and by force to get her person into his power, and to rid himself of his enemies.


Lord Keeper sent to Es

sex House to quell it.

The Lord


On the memorable Sunday, the 8th of February, 1601, when he had collected a large force in Essex House, in the Strand, and was about to execute his project with the assistance of the Earls of Southampton and Rutland,--the Queen being informed of these designs, and having ordered the Lord Mayor and Aldermen to take measures to secure the peace of the city, she directed the Lord Keeper, with Chief Justice Popham, the Earl of Worcester, and Sir William Knollys controller of the household, to repair to Essex House, and demanding admittance, to require in her name that the disturbers of the public peace should disperse, and that the law should be obeyed.

This was a service by no means free from danger, for it was well known that Essex had for some weeks been collecting under his roof many desperate characters who had lately returned from the wars in Ireland and in the Low Countries, and who were likely to pay very little respect to civil magistrates, however exalted their station. The Lord Keeper proceeded on his mission with great firmness, being preceded by his purse-bearer carrying the Great Seal, and followed only by the ordinary attendants of himself, the Chief Justice, and his other companions.

Arriving at the gate of Essex House, a little before ten in made pri- the forenoon, they were refused admittance. They desired that it might be intimated to the Earl that they came thither by the express command of her Majesty. He gave orders that they should be introduced through the wicket, but that all their attendants, with the exception of the purse-bearer, should be excluded. On entering, they found the court yard filled with armed men. The Lord Keeper demanded in the Queen's name the cause of this tumultuary meeting. Essex answered, "There is a plot laid for my life; letters have been counterfeited in my name, and assassins have been appointed to murder me in bed. We are met to defend our lives, since my enemies cannot be satisfied unless they suck my blood." The Chief Justice said, the Queen would do impartial justice; and the Lord Keeper desired Essex to explain his grievances


in private,when several voices exclaimed, "They abuse you, CHAP. my Lord; they are undoing you. You lose your time." The Lord Keeper, undaunted, turned round, and putting on his hat, in a calm and solemn tone, as if he had been issuing an order from his tribunal,—in the Queen's name commanded them upon their allegiance to lay down their arms and to depart. Essex entered the house, and the multitude, resolved to offer violence to these venerable magistrates, but divided as to the mode of doing so, shouted out, "Kill them, keep them for pledges, throw the Great Seal out of the window." A guard of musketeers surrounded them, and conducting them through several apartments filled with insurgents, introduced them to a small back room where they found the Earl, who was about to sally forth in military array to join his friends at Paul's Cross. He requested that they would remain there patiently for half an hour, and himself withdrawing, ordered the door to be bolted, and left them as prisoners in the care of Sir John Davis and Sir Gilly Merrick, guarded by centinels bearing muskets primed and cocked. Here they remained for some hours listening to the shouts of the insurgents and the distant discharge of fire-arms. They frequently required Sir John Davis to allow them to depart, or at least to permit some one of them to go to the Queen to inform her where they were; but the answer was, "My Lord has commanded that ye depart not before his return, which will be very shortly."


They were at last released by the intervention of Sir The Lord Ferdinando Gorges. He had accompanied the assailants Keeper liinto the city, but there being no assemblage of citizens at Paul's Cross as had been promised, -the Sheriff, on whose aid much reliance was placed, having refused to join them, — Lord Burghley and the Lord Admiral having arrived with a considerable force from Westminster, and a herald having proclaimed the leader of the insurrection a traitor,-he saw that the enterprise was desperate, and he thought only of his own safety. With this view he asked authority from Essex to go and release the Lord Keeper and the other prisoners, representing that for their liberty they would undertake to procure the Queen's pardon for all that had happened. Essex consented to the release of Chief Justice Popham upon his on


CHAP. tering into such an undertaking, but positively required that the others should be detained as hostages. Gorges hastening to Essex house reached it about four in the afternoon. Being admitted to the presence of the prisoners, he offered Popham his liberty on condition of his intercession and good offices; but the Chief Justice magnanimously refused the offer unless the Lord Keeper should be permitted to accompany him. After some consultation Gorges concluded that the best plan for himself would be that he should forthwith release all the four, and, accompanying them to the Court, leave Essex to his fate. Accordingly, pretending that he had authority to that effect, he conducted them by a back staircase into the garden on the bank of the river Thames. Here they found a boat which they immediately entered, and by a favourable tide they were quickly conducted to the Queen's palace, at Whitehall. They had hardly got clear from their imprisonment when Essex himself arrived at the spot where they embarked, having returned by water from Queen Hithe, after all his friends in the city had deserted him. His rage was excessive when he found that his prisoners had escaped; and now despairing of success or mercy, he resorted to the vain attempt of fortifying his house, and resisting the ordnance brought from the Tower to batter it down.


of Essex

Feb. 19. 1601.

His trial for high


The Lord Keeper remained at Whitehall with the Queen till news was brought of the surrender of Essex, and then he sorrowfully took leave of her. She had behaved with the greatest composure and courage while danger existed, but she could not without emotion give directions for bringing to trial for high treason the unhappy young nobleman, who, notwithstanding all his faults, had still such a strong hold of her affections.

The trial speedily took place in the Court of the Lord High Steward in Westminster Hall. The Lord Keeper, not being a peer, was spared the pain of joining in the sentence of condemnation; but he was summoned as a witness. Trials

Some accounts are silent as to the magnanimity of Popham; but Camden's contemporary testimony can leave no doubt upon the subject. "Comes annuit ut solus Pophamus Justitiarius liberetur, qui cum liberari nollet, nisi Custos Sigilli una liberatur, Gorgius liberavit singulos, et cum illis per flumen ad Regiam se contulit.”- Camd. Eliz. vol. ii. p. 225.

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