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CHAP. and proving an apt instrument, as far as politics were concerned, there were successive grants to him of the office of Lord Keeper-till the 29th of May,- till the 6th of July, and till the Feast of All Saints;-he, on each occasion, going through the ceremony of returning the Seal into the King's hands, and receiving it back again for the extended time.*
His incompetency as a Judge.
But, at last, the complaints of the suitors and the public voice, which even then could not long be entirely disregarded, required that some new arrangement should be made to despatch the judicial business of the Court of Chancery, for which the Lord Keeper, with all his plausibility, had shown himself to be quite incompetent. He contrived to get through Easter and Trinity terms by postponing the hearing of causes, and taking time to consider his judgments, and pretending that it was necessary for him to leave the Court of Chancery that he might sit in the Star Chamber, or attend the Council. The long vacation came to his relief; but Michaelmas term was approaching, and he himself, with his usual discretion, begged that he might be permitted to resign.
The Protector had no longer any choice; and, on the 23d of October, 1547, before All Saints' day arrived, Lord St. John resigned the Great Seal into the King's hands at Hampton Court; and it was delivered to RICH, with the title of Lord Chancellor.†
Lord St. John, after his resignation, remained true to his party till the Protector's fall was certain; and then going over to Wriothesley, attended the meetings of the Executors, held in Ely Place, which brought about a revolution in the government. He hesitated for a moment between the rival chiefs of the victorious party, but seeing that Dudley Earl of
*These are the only instances I find of the Great Seal being granted for a term certain, the grant where not during pleasure, having been for life or upon a contingency, such as the illness or absence of the Chancellor.
"Idemque Dmns Rex de avisamento et consensu precarissimi avunculi sui Edwardi Ducis Somers. prne sue Regie Gubernatoris et Regn. et subditor. suor. Protectoris cetmq. consilm surum, tunc et ibidem Sigillum illud in baga prca ut erat inclusum spectabili et honorabili viro Rico Riche militi Duo Riche custodiend. utend. et exercend. tradidit et libavit ipsmq. Ricum Riche Cancellarium suum Anglie adtunc et ibidem fecit, &c."- Rot. Cl. 1 Ed. VI.
Warwick was the more powerful, he joined in those measures which drove Wriothesley from the Council, and broke his heart.
The Ex-Lord Keeper was rewarded with the office of Lord Made Lord High Treasurer, which he contrived to hold under three successive reigns, while there was sometimes a Protestant and sometimes a Roman Catholic Sovereign on the throne, and while many of his colleagues were disgraced, imprisoned, beheaded, or burnt.
In 1551 he showed his aptness for office by presiding, as Presides at Lord High Steward, on the trial of his benefactor the Duke of Somerset, who, having escaped from the great peril which Somerset. first assailed him, and having been pardoned and discharged from the Tower on paying a large fine, had again incurred the resentment of his rival, now become Duke of Northumberland, and had excited great jealousy by the marks of returning favour bestowed upon him by the youthful King.
His death was therefore determined upon. On the 17th of October, 1551, he was committed to the Tower on a charge of treason, and he was brought to trial, before the Lord High Steward, on the 1st of December following. According to usage, Rich, the Lord Chancellor, ought to have presided; but, although he had given an opinion upon his guilt in the Star Chamber, he managed to throw the odious and unprofitable task of trying him upon Paulet, who, having been before made Earl of Wiltshire, was now gratified with the title of Marquess of Winchester.
The trial took place in Westminster Hall, the Lord High Steward "sitting under the cloth of state, upon a bench between two posts three degrees high."
The only evidence produced consisted of the written depo- Rulings at sitions of witnesses who could not be brought to state more than that Somerset had engaged in a plot to imprison the Duke of Northumberland, the Marquess of Northampton, and the Earl of Pembroke. An objection was made by the prisoner, that these three ought not to sit as Judges on his
* 1 St. Tr. 518.
CHAP. trial, the charge being for practices against them; but the Lord High Steward ruled that "no challenge lies against a Peer of England, who, giving his verdict, without oath, on his honour, must be presumed to be absolutely free from favour or affection, hatred or malice."
the Marquess of
The prisoner required to be confronted with the witnesses; but he was told that, according to well-considered precedents, "where the King was concerned, the written depositions of witnesses taken privately by the King's Council, in whose good faith, impartiality, and cunning the law reposes entire confidence, were sufficient."
A difficulty still remained, supposing the witnesses were believed, to make out the plot to be treason. Although the counsel for the Crown argued, "with much bitterness," that it was clear treason, Northumberland himself declared he would never consent that any practice against him should be reputed treason.
The Lord High Steward decided, that "if it was not treason, it was felony." Thereupon all the Lords acquitted Somerset of treason, a majority found him guilty of felony, and the Lord High Steward sentenced him to be hanged.*
Burnet says, "it was generally believed that all the pretended conspiracy, upon which he was condemned, was only a forgery; and, indeed, the not bringing witnesses into Court, but only the depositions, and the parties sitting Judges, gave great occasion to condemn the proceedings against him.”† But, according to the notions of the times, the Ex-Lord Keeper was not much worse thought of for this specimen of his judicial powers, and he continued to enjoy a pretty fair reputation.
On the death of Edward VI. he first took part with Lady Conduct of Jane Grey; but, by the unerring instinct which ever guided him, he was the first to leave her party, and go over to Queen Mary, who was so much pleased, that she forgave him, and renewed his patent of Lord High Treasurer. During her reign he remained very quiet, and taking ex† 2 Burn. Rep. 186.
cession of Queen Mary.
* 1 St. Tr. 520,
ample by the fate of Cranmer and others, he conformed very rigidly to the reigning religion, and without actively urging persecution, would by no means run any risk of giving offence by trying to restrain or soften it.
On the accession of Elizabeth he avoided the scandal of an abrupt change of religion; but he soon fell in with the system established by her; and though she placed all her confidence in Cecil, she allowed the wily old courtier still to enjoy his place of Lord Treasurer till his death in 1572, when he was in his 97th year, and had 103 descendants to attend him to the grave.
It was shortly before his death that, being asked "how he His death did bear up in those dangerous times wherein great alter- and chaations were made both in Church and State," he returned the noted answer, 66 By being a willow, and not an oak." No one, however, will be seduced to follow his example who has any regard to posthumous fame, for his existence is now known only to dull biographers, genealogists, and antiquaries, and is discovered only to be contemned; — while the name of Sir Thomas More will continue to be familiar as household words in the mouths of all Englishmen, and will be found honoured and revered to the latest generations.*
The Marquess of Winchester married Elizabeth, daughter His deof Sir William Capel, Lord Mayor of London, and by her had four sons and four daughters, who were all married, and left a numerous progeny. His descendants distinguished themselves highly in the civil and military service of their
Sir James Mackintosh, when speaking of "the versatile politicians who had the art and fortune to slide unhurt through all the shocks of forty years of a revolutionary age," says, "the Marquess of Winchester, who had served Henry VII., and retained office under every intermediate government till he died in his 97th year, with the staff of Lord Treasurer in his hands, is perhaps the most remarkable specimen of this species preserved in history." But more scandal was excited in his own time by William Herbert, whom Hen. VIII. created Earl of Pembroke. Having followed all the fantasies of that monarch, and obtained from him the dissolved monastery of Wilton, he was a keen Protestant under Edward VI., and one of the first to acknowledge and to desert Queen Jane. Mary having restored Wilton to the nuns, he is said to have received them " cap in hand; but when they were suppressed by Elizabeth, he drove them out of the monastery with his horsewhip, bestowing upon them an appellation which implied their constant breach of the vow they had taken.
1 Mackintosh's History of England, vol. iii. p. 155.
CHAP. country. The sixth Marquis was, in the reign of William and Mary, created Duke of Bolton. After a succession of six Dukes, this title became extinct in 1794, by the death of Harry Duke of Bolton without male issue; but the Marquisate was inherited by the father of the present gallant representative of this illustrious house, who, lineally descended through males from the Lord Keeper, is the premier Marquess in the peerage of England.*
*See Grandeur of Law, p. 15.