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May 1.

1621. Disposition of

Great Seal

when taken

from Lord


July 10.

Dean of

ster, Lord

His gene




THE Great Seal, having been delivered up by Lord Bacon at York House previous to sentence being pronounced upon him, was brought to the King at Whitehall, and there he immediately ordered three commissions to be sealed with it in his presence,-one addressed to Sir Julius Cæsar, Master of the Rolls, and certain common-law Judges, to hear causes in the Court of Chancery, -another to Sir James Ley, Chief Justice of the King's Bench, to preside as Speaker in the House of Lords, and the third to Viscount Mandeville, the Lord Treasurer, the Duke of Lennox, the Earl of Pembroke, and the Earl of Arundel, to keep the Great Seal, and to affix it to all writs and letters patent requiring to be sealed.*

This arrangement continued above two months following,when, for reasons which we shall hereafter explain, the Great Seal, after having been held during a period of sixty-three years by six successive laymen bred to the law, was, to the dismay of Westminster Hall and the astonishment of the public, delivered to an ecclesiastical Lord Keeper, JOHN WILLIAMS, Dean of Westminster and Bishop of Lincoln elect, a man of sharp natural intellect, of unwearied industry, of great scholastic acquirements, free from considerable vices, but not distinguished for any very high qualities of head or heart,-who, by a sort of frolic of fortune, was suddenly placed in the very situation for which Bacon, singularly well able to perform all its duties, and with many advantages from birth and connection, had so long plotted, before he could reach its slippery eminence.

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The principality of Wales boasts of Williams as one of the most illustrious of her children. He was of the true Cambrian race, being the son of Edmund Williams and Anne

*Rot. Cl. 19 Jac. 1. p. 13.

Wynne, daughter of Owen Wynne, Esquire, with genealogies reaching, through Llewellyn, King Arthur, and Caractacus, to Adam. He was really of a respectable gentleman's family, who bore upon their shield three Saxons' heads, which, when he was made chief of the law, gave rise to the following distich :--

"Qui sublime fori potuit conscendere tignum,

Par fuit hunc capitum robur habere trium."




He was born at Aberconway, in the county of Carnarvon, His school on the 25th day of March, 1582. He was educated at a grammar-school lately established in the town of Ruthin, and is said to have there made great proficiency in Greek and Latin, although as yet he had very little acquaintance with Sassenach.


In his sixteenth year he was sent to St. John's College, He is sent Cambridge, and put under the care of a countryman, Owen to CamGwynne, one of the College tutors; and all the Welshmen at the University are said to have been proud of his learning. "One thing put him to the blush and a little shame, that such as had giggling spleens would laugh at him for his Welsh tone. For those who knew him at his admission into St. John's society would often say, that he brought more Latin and Greek than good English with him. This also plucked advantage after it; for it made him a very retired student by shunning company and conference, as far as he could, till he had lost the rudeness of his native dialect.” * He studied four years before he took his Bachelor's degree, His extraduring which time, with intervals for attending chapel, hall, industry. ordinary and lectures, he is said to have read daily from six o'clock in the morning till three the following morning; for "from his youth to his old age he asked but three hours' sleep in twenty-four to keep him in good plight of health."† He was very temperate in his diet, keeping, like all good Protestants, long after the Reformation, Lent and fish-days as

Hacket, 7. "There are few of our Welsh youth but at their first coming abroad would move almost any man to laughter with the native tone of their voice, and by pronouncing all their English as if they spoke it in a passion; and thus it was with our youngster."— Philips.

† Ibid.


CHAP. rigorously as the Roman Catholics. Having taken his Bachelor's degree with great applause, he was soon after elected a fellow of St. John's, a royal dispensation of some Bachelor's statutes, which stood in his way, having been obtained at the degree. request of the College.

Takes his

Master of

Parish priest.

Chaplain to Lord Chancellor

His diligence continued unabated during the three years "while he was running his course to the degree of Master, a time of loitering with too many. He surrendered up his whole time to dive into the immense well of knowledge that hath no bottom. He read the best, he heard the best, he conferred with the best, exscribed, committed to memory, disputed; he had some work continually upon the loom. And though he never did so much in this unwearied industry as himself desired, he did far more than all who did highly value him could expect. All perceived that a fellowship was a garland too little for his head, and that in that merit his pace would quickly go farther than St. John's Walks." *


Having taken orders, he accepted a small living in Norfolk, which he exchanged for another in Northamptonshire; still residing at Cambridge, and being deputed to manage the important affairs of his College. In prosecuting an application for a licence to hold lands in mortmain, he attracted the notice of Lord Chancellor Ellesmere; who, hearing of his University reputation, observing his shrewdness, and having heard him preach, took him into his service as one of his domestic chaplains.

There is a story of his having made his fortune by pleading a cause before the King, respecting the right of his parishEllesmere. ioners in Northamptonshire to dance round a Maypole; when he is supposed to have pleased James so much by his learning and eloquence, that he was made a royal chaplain, and placed in the career of preferment which conducted him to the woolsack. But Hacket is silent respecting this introduction to greatness; and as it is even inconsistent with the authentic narrative of the friend and biographer of Williams, it can only be noticed to be rejected as spurious.

Before taking up his residence at York House, the Chancellor's chaplain was allowed to complete the year for which

* Hacket, 8.



Picks up a smattering

of law.

he was serving the office of Proctor in the University of CHAP. Cambridge; and he added to his reputation by his energy in enforcing discipline, and his learning in conducting dispu- His favour tations. Being transferred to London, "he was now in a with the nest for an eagle." He had an excellent opportunity to Char.cellor. advance himself, and he made the most of it. Not only did he say prayers and preach before the worthy old Chancellor, but he constantly attended him wherever he went, and insinuated himself into his most intimate confidence. He even sat by him in the Court of Chancery, as well as in the Star Chamber; and "to climb Els Koλπov τηs ↓ʊxns, into the bosom of his master's soul, he picked up, in a short space, some gleanings, in his own modest words, in the knowledge of the common laws of the realm; but, indeed, full sheaves, if his acquaintance might be believed, having read 'LITTLETON'S TENURES,' the DOCTOR and STUDENT,' and somewhat else like unto them at hours of relaxation, and furnished himself with no little quantity of that learning, by discourse and conference, and inquiring after some cases how they sped in the Courts of Justice. When he was at a non-plus, he respited that difficulty till he met with Sir John Walker (afterward Lord Chief Baron), whose judgment was most agreeable to his genius."†

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Hacket thus concludes a long vindication of his hero, illustrated by examples of ecclesiastics who had gained renown by their skill in the civil and canon law. Why might not Mr. Williams examine the cases, reports, and maxims, of our municipal laws to be expert in them? Both being egged on to it by the happiness of his attendance in the Pretorian Court, where he might learn much and labour little for it, and making it the recreation, not the intermission, of his proper studies. The Lord Chancellor did highly countenance him in it; and was so taken with his pregnancy, that at his leisure times, both for his own solace and his chaplain's furtherance, he would impart to him the narrative of some famous causes that had been debated in Chancery or Star Chamber. What could not such a master teach? what could

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Employed by Chan

cellor to read for him.

Is allowed

to dispose of Lord Chancel

siastical patronage.

not such a scholar learn? Socrates says in Plato-of Alcibiades, that he gloried in nothing so much as that he was ward to Pericles, and brought up under him. Neither had this chaplain a more graceful ornament to show, in the eyes of the world, than that he was disciple to the Lord Egerton."*

By degrees, he was employed by the Chancellor to read weighty petitions, and to assist him in extracting the material facts from voluminous depositions. At first, there was great jealousy of him among the secretaries; but in a little while they did their utmost to put him forward, and "none of his fellows had cause to repent that he rode upon the fore horse; for he was courteous and ready to mediate in any cause, and he left all fees and veils of profit to those to whom they did belong. The lookers-on did mark, that his Lord did not only use him in his most principal employments, but delighted to confer with him."†


The ecclesiastical patronage of the Lord Chancellor was placed very much at his disposal. "They were godly men lor's eccle- whom he obliged, and such as had waited long in the Universities, and fit to be called forth to use their talents." Meanwhile, he by no means neglected his own interest. obtained the fine living of Waldegrave, in Northamptonshire, in addition to Grafton, with stalls at Lincoln, Peterborough, Hereford, and St. David's. His panegyrist § defends his pluralities by the quotation, Quomodo liberalis esse potest, qui nihil plus acquireret, quam quod sibi ad victum necessarium sufficere queat? ||


favour of King James.


by Prince Henry.

He likewise took his turn in preaching before the Court, pleasing James by his adhesion to the courtly doctrine now so much in vogue, that subjects hold their liberties and their property at the will of the Sovereign, whom they are bound, in every extremity, passively to obey.

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What is more to his credit than pleasing James, he is said to have given high satisfaction to the admirer of Raleigh, -Prince Henry,—who, having heard him preach at Royston, "took great notice of him as an honour to Wales, and gave † Ibid.

* Hacket, 28.


§ Ibid.

|| Ibid. 30.

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